At first it's only drums. You can't hear the 20-piece orchestra or the singers at the back of the stage. Not the grand piano, nor or the wailing guitar. Instead, the double bass drum pedal and wildly crashing cymbals have taken the Spokane Falls Community College's music building auditorium hostage. As the night's rehearsal continues, Age of Nefilim drummer Devon Jensen attempts to soften his grinding metal sound. Other musical parts begin to emerge. Chorale director Nathan Lansing, leading the group from the center, does his best to keep it all together.
This is the first practice for the live concert recording taking place this Saturday. The music isn't terribly complex — a lot of whole notes — for the orchestra and choir; they're there for ambiance. But the counting is made nearly impossible tonight, as they can't hear one another. Musicians are lost and confused in a sea of black notes on a white page. Age of Nefilim, on the other hand, plays its extremely technical and noodly parts from memory, choosing to play without frontman Matt Lefebvre's roaring vocals just for the evening.
The rehearsal is going better than expected.
"This is the first time I really believe this thing is going to work," says SFCC Audio Engineering/Jazz Presents advisor Pam Meyer halfway through the practice.
Thankfully, the full drum kit won't be there for the actual performance on Saturday. Instead, the college is renting an electronic drum set. Guitars and bass will be plugged into recording equipment instead of amps. A usual Age of Nefilim show, like the one that killed at this year's Volume, is far louder than what's about to transpire. And it's supposed to be different.
"I will bet all of my body parts that something like this has never happened in Spokane before," says guitarist Josh "J" Rodriguez after tonight's rehearsal.
This year's Uncharted Territory, which paired the Spokane Symphony with local electronic, hip-hop and folk bands, came close. But Saturday's show will include original music specifically written for orchestra, choir and a metal band. This is a school-sanctioned event, but no one is getting paid. The band members don't even go to SFCC; it was friend and audio engineering student Anthony Stalker's idea. Stalker, also in the local metal scene, asked Meyer if a metal collaboration would be possible. The answer was maybe, but other faculty had to be consulted first.
"I immediately said 'Yes,'" says orchestra director Shelley Rotz, who is playing violin for the concert but admits she doesn't listen to metal. "I love collaborating, and this is an important thing for our students to learn how to do, to work with other kinds of groups and genres."
Of course, there were naysayers. One teacher from another department told administrators that metal was too dark; that it was something the school shouldn't get behind.
"This was my decision," says Meyer. "I fought for this and then these guys did everything themselves."
More than a year later, it's finally happening.
This music is far from standard death metal. Its thick, space-age textures could have blasted from a video game. If anything, it celebrates life. The compositions come from the mind of frontman Lefebvre. He says the pseudoscience book The 12th Planet, which espouses that aliens exist in our solar system and helped populate Earth, heavily influenced him. Song titles like "Dredging the Swamps" and "Dimension and Timelines are Interwoven" tip off listeners to the concept.
"There's enough satanic music out there already," Lefebvre says. "We're making music that's more so popular in Europe."
At the concert, which will also include a light show, the five-piece is releasing its first full-length album, Cataclysm in the Land of the Watchers. Its 10 tracks also will be played at the show, and the plan is to release the original and live recordings as a double set in the coming months.
Age of Nefilim has been a band for more than a decade, but there has been some turnover in recent months. They've gained a new bass player and drummer and fresh motivation.
"We're having fun at rehearsal again," says Traci Barringer, the band's badass keyboardist.
Tonight's practice took a lot out of them. After everything is loaded and locked in their cars, the band heads to Mootsy's, their favorite local haunt.
"We hope this show can open up some doors for us and other musicians in Spokane," Lefebvre says.
"I've waited my whole life to do something like this," Rodriguez says. ♦
Age of Nefilim live record performance with the Spokane Falls Community College orchestra and choir • Sat, Nov. 7, at 7:30 pm • $10/$15 day of, $7 with SFCC student ID • All-ages • SFCC Music Building auditorium • 3410 W. Fort George Wright Dr. • 533-3741