Oakland's Saviours prove they're metal
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It was dark and stormy the night I journeyed to Oakland to meet the Saviours — a perfect weather match for their music, which I've had on constant ear blast since picking up their Tim Green–<\d>produced debut, Crucifire (Level Plane, 2006). These guys are fucking serious. They proffer fierce, hard-driving metal so metal you could pronounce it me-tal, spreading their gospel with lyrics such as "All crosses burn into the sky, and their ashes fall to serve as hell's floor." Live — forget it: heads involuntarily bang when the Saviours unleash their thunder.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I knocked on the door of the Saviours' lair (the Telegraph Avenue digs of singer-guitarist Austin Barber, guitarist Dean Tyler Morris, and drummer Scott Batiste). A giant, fiery pentagram? A life-size diorama of Slayer's Reign in Blood album cover?
Actually, it was a pretty normal apartment, all things considered. Barber, Batiste, and Morris were chilling around a coffee table that displayed evidence of a post-Thanksgiving weekend winding to a boozy end. (Bassist Cyrus Comiskey, the only member who doesn't live there and who also plays with Drunk Horse, was stuck at work.) We settled in to chat about the band and expand on the latest update posted on their Web site, www.killforsaviours.com:  "We're writing new songs and partying."
The members all have pre-Saviours history: Barber and Batiste played in screamo outfit Yaphet Kotto, while Batiste and Morris have known each other since junior high.
"Me and Scott had the idea to start the band a couple of years ago. We got together, started jamming, and we were on tour a month later," said Barber, who at 24 is the youngest Saviour and the only one who isn't from Santa Cruz. (He hails from Fort Smith, Ark.) "We just wanted to start a killer heavy band. Now we're trying to chill out and write a new record — and not play very many shows until spring."
Their music may visit dark places, but the guys share an easygoing chemistry that extends to their songwriting technique.
"Pretty much everything starts with something that Scott writes, and then everybody adds to it until we decide it's done," Morris said. "A lot of times he'll do stuff musically that I would never do, so of course it makes me think about something new and forces me to figure out a way to work myself into it. Everybody does that — Austin does that with his parts, and Cyrus does that with all his bass parts, and Scott does that with the drums too. It's very collaborative."
Batiste added, "This band's pretty amicable. Like, at the end of 42 days of tour, we were all hanging out and drinking and not sick of each other."
The Saviours have also found support in the Bay Area metal scene, where peers include High on Fire and Green's band, the Fucking Champs. Of course, they're also fans of the genre gods: Slayer, Black Sabbath, and Metallica. The anti-Christian imagery that appears in their lyrics and album artwork is owed to Barber, who grew up surrounded by conservative types. In other words, he's not a Satan worshipper.
Christianity, he explained, "has always been such a bummer in my life. I just always identified with the dark — partying, do whatever the fuck you want, just living your life. And they're trying to not live life. All that shit's representative of doing your own thing, and fuck everybody else."
Doing their own thing is important for the Saviours, who said they'll never hook into Ozzfest-style bullshit. They've just settled into a new practice space and have plans for a live album (possibly to be recorded at their upcoming Hemlock Tavern show) as well as their next studio full-length, which will be "an extension of the first album," Barber said.
"It's gonna sound different, though, ’cause we only have two guitar players now and we used to have three," Morris noted. (Fifth member Mag Delana, a Yaphet Kotto vet, left the band after Crucifire was recorded.) "I think the songs are getting more intricate."
"They'll also stay kinda raw, though," Batiste added. "Consciously, we try to stay simple."
Though they joke that they only do "extreme tours," owing to past jaunts that saw them navigating icy highways in the Midwest and sweltering in East Coast summer heat, the Saviours are eager to hit the road next year. This year they traveled across America playing songs from Crucifire and their 2005 EP, Warship (Level Plane), recorded soon after the band formed, and they've picked up fans everywhere.
In New Orleans, Barber recalled, "We were partying all night after the show. I'm out front eating some food, and I hear our band blasting out of some car. And it's the sheriff — literally the sheriff of New Orleans. He's all, 'Fuckin' Saviours! Aaaah!' Just screaming at me. He was blasting our CD from the cop car. It was fucking awesome."<\!s>
With California Love
Dec. 29, 9:30 p.m.
1131 Polk, SF