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Transcendental Metal-tation

Sons of Huns Explore Other Worlds

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WHEN SONS OF HUNS drummer Ryan Northrop sent their new album to well-respected metal label EasyRider Records on Friday afternoon, he didn't expect they'd have a record contract on Monday.

But that's what happened, and November 29 brings the release of the Portland band's first full-length. Putting to wax their driving mix of stoner rock and speed metal, Banishment Ritual isn't an album of studio trickery.

"I mean, we're a three-piece, so I didn't want to do a whole lot of stuff that we're not going to pull off live," says guitarist Peter Hughes. "We kept it pure... because there's not supposed to be a lot of extra stuff in there." It's a natural move—and the right one, given that their allegiance to no-frills rock music is what has earned Sons of Huns such a large fanbase.

While Hughes and Northrop note the obvious Black Sabbath influence, they also mention classical, jazz, late '80s thrash metal, and early '80s Southern California punk as steps along the path to becoming Sons of Huns. It's perhaps this range of influences that has allowed them to open for a wide variety of acts, extending from Poison Idea to Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, Andrew W.K. to metal-head comedian Brian Posehn—a wonderfully odd assortment that they feel flattered by. "We love playing to more eclectic audiences," Northrop says. "I think it speaks to how well we try to play our music and what other people's interpretations of that is."

Their broad influences don't end there. With a bit more of a transcendent inclination than your average metal band, they note H.P. Lovecraft, acts of magic, alien connections, meditation states, and Ray Bradbury as thematic and lyrical influences. Hughes and Northrop speak to the cleansing effects and cathartic release of playing music loud, as Northrop explains what a banishment ritual might involve: "Expelling the things you don't want in your life and accepting the things you do."

Most of Banishment Ritual's 43 minutes are made up of this unrelenting catharsis, but the album also has Huns' first mellow moment. Working as an intermission track, the bluesy instrumental "Waking Sleep" seems an unexpected turn. "I just thought there had to be something there that was a break," Hughes says, "that way it takes it down, gives you something to relax to before you put on the next one and get pummeled again."

With Northrop's dad—a professional jazz guitarist—taking lead guitar duties for the song, the track nods to their less obvious influences. "We've had some blog reviews where people are like, 'What are they trying to do with a slower song?' But we don't really think we're trying to throw anyone for a loop," Northrop says.

Having all been friends for years, the three members of Sons of Huns work as a close, collaborative group. "We're pretty big fans of each other," says Northrop. "When we write together, we're all definitely pretty enthusiastic about what each of us brings to the table... [and] are all on the same page with what we like to listen to and what we want to be."

Given this level of closeness, the fact that bassist Shoki Tanabe is leaving the band for two years to teach in Japan would appear to be a pretty big blow. But both Hughes and Northrop look at the change from the perspective of supportive friends. "It's super sad, but this is a new chapter in his life, so we gotta let him do what he wants to do," says Hughes. "And I'm excited for him in that respect." Taking over on bass duties is Aaron Powell from the heavy-psych group Belt of Vapor, a band that Huns have toured with in the past and respect as a seminal Northwest group.

This week's record release show with Gaytheist takes place on Saturday, November 23. While fans can get excited about Banishment Ritual's release in colored, limited-edition double vinyl, the numerological implications of 23 are what intrigue Hughes most about the show. "It's a big time of change," Hughes says. "Twenty-three is a weird number, if you look into it. When Ryan brought up this date [I said], 'Gaytheist is the 23rd? Oh yeah, that's when the record's coming out.'"

"It feels like there's a lot of positive energy leading up to releasing this album," Northrop says. "We're just excited and glad that people want to hear it."

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