"When you listen to the best heavy metal, you’re looking at the facade of the church of Notre Dame," Blind Oath guitarist Mitch Gilliam said. He’s a dude interested in big ideas, and he thinks heavy metal might just be the biggest one there is.
"It’s really a fractal form of music. It’s incredible. It’s fucking brotherhood, it’s perfection," he said. "And also, it’s expressing the willingness to burn it all to the fucking ground."
It’s been an auspicious three months for Blind Oath since their first gig opening for riff wizards Night Demon at the Vanguard last August. Next up, Blind Oath is set to play Mercury Lounge on Nov. 25, sharing a bill with metal scene vets Silver Talon of Portland, OR.
Blind Oath’s only release to date is the four-song cassette EP, Demonstration MMXVIII, on Horton Records and Cult Love Sound Tapes, but they’re setting their sights on recording a full-length album.
Gilliam’s brain is an insatiable, hyperadaptive, data-crunching anomaly, fueled by El Burrito and rock records, and sustained by the blood pumped from his puppy dog heart. He’s a prolific, virtuosic juggernaut of creative will, and Blind Oath is one of the creations he’s most pleased with.
He began crafting sick metal riffs in his head as a way to help him fall asleep. "It was this weird form of meditation," Gilliam said. "I would write the bass part, the drums, and the guitar and everything and visualize it." He says this in such a casual manner, as if this epic twilight metal vision-boarding is something all of us know how to do.
"I just had this vision of making this band," he said. So he showed Rob Gutierrez what he’d written. Gutierrez was Gilliam’s bandmate in the metal cover band Dr. Rock Doctor, as well as the live karaoke act, Satanico & the Demon Seeds.
"We call him ‘Dr. Rob’ for a reason," Gilliam said. "He can learn any song on guitar in a pinch, and he was the impetus for turning my initial ideas into full-fledged songs." Gilliam’s songs were so good they warranted starting a band, but he and "Dr. Rob" were still three musicians short. That’s when they began tapping their friends.
Stu Hetherwood, who Gilliam describes as "a rare sort of drummer," was recruited for his versatility and competence across numerous gradients of heaviness. Jake Don’t (née Jacob Fuller) was enlisted to play bass, on the strength of his impressive technique. Eric Miller was chosen as the vocalist, and although he’d never been in a band before joining Blind Oath, his pipes had already caught Gilliam’s attention at Satanico & The Demon Seeds shows, where Miller was a known crusher of heavy metal karaoke.
Musically, Blind Oath is a whirlwind of heavy metal styles. "Spectral Attack" opens with a churning, spiraling slurry of Ginsu-sharp hack-and-thrash. The precision-calibrated, spitfire shred leads of Gilliam and Gutierrez sound as if they’re melodically handcuffed to one other, a berserker battle cry of guitar-wielding rogues, enemies of the state ensnared in some futuristic, dystopian prison. The leads are so groovy and melodic at their core, imbued with that strange, aural umani that makes you sing along with a guitar riff like "Smoke on the Water," even when you know damn well guitar riffs don’t have lyrics to sing along to.
Just as this sub-eleven-second earworm of an intro sinks its nasty fangs in, the key changes, and then for five final seconds it shapeshifts into a launchpad for the song’s galloping, filthy main riff. The song is a scoundrel, dripping with crust-punk defiance. It’s an exultation and call to arms, a foul sapling grafted from the spirit germ of great heavy metal.
The song’s gruff, declarative vocals recall a striking connection to Rob "The Baron" Miller, singer for trailblazing anarcho-punks Amebix. Though both singers share last names and uncanny similar vocal mannerisms, Eric said he had never even heard of Amebix. Coincidence? Or are they both psychically linked via astral Miller Time?
"This band is so marked by synchronicity," Gilliam said, before regaling with more "Twilight Zone" moments, starting back when Blind Oath was little more than a twinkle in his third eye. Considering the amount of overtly occult-related content in the band’s lyrics, the fact that eerie paranormal phenemona follows them around seems pretty on-brand.
But the point—the one Gilliam keeps coming back to—is that the point is metal. It’s both the message and the codec. Metal snugly encompasses the things in life he loves most, and since the mere thrill of playing metal picks up its own tab, he sees within it the magical essence. It all clicks.
"I just wanna make the best heavy metal possible," Gilliam said.