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Brooding hardcore fans with blue bandannas in their back pockets rub shoulders with longhaired death-metal men and skinny, fashionable high-schoolers in white belts when Job for a Cowboy is about to go on at the PHiX. Typically, the hardcore crowd hates the self-indulgent nature of heavy metal, the metal kids think hardcore is too serious, and both mock the scenesters for lack of musical taste. Yet all three groups are packed like sardines into the Grand Avenue art gallery.
When pounding drumbeats fill the room, the scene's melting pot squishes toward the small stage, where five guys in girls' jeans and tight band tee shirts are holding their instruments and staring at the floor. They launch into "Entombment of a Machine," embarking on a 30-minute onslaught of blast beats and heavy, squealing guitars -- all done at breakneck speed. The entire crowd looks excited, but it's easy to pick out who's who; the hardcore kids unfold their arms and flail them about, the metalheads immediately head-bang, and the scene kids nod along in approval.
They're all here because Job for a Cowboy offers what the Phoenix heavy music community wants: serious music played by lighthearted musicians. They make melodramatic "metal" faces, bust out ninja moves, and indulge in scene commentary onstage. Guitarist Andrew Acurio tries to infuse fun into his band's metal tirade by imitating the vocalist from Incantation. After each song, in a deep, gravelly voice, the 17-year-old quickly says, "Hell-fucking-yeah."
The Glendale quintet may look like scenesters with shaggy emo haircuts and tight pants, and may mock metal greats, but this death-metal band is for real. Merging hardcore into its death-metal style, Job for a Cowboy's unique sound is characterized by vocalist Jonny Davy's signature pig-squeal scream and drummer Elliott Sellers' tremendous speed and barrage of blast beats. It's no wonder established artists like Crematorium are singing the band's praises.
Job for a Cowboy formed in December 2003 with Davy, 18, and guitarists Acurio and Ravi Bhadriraju, both 17. The three went through five different bassists and drummers, but finally found Brent Riggs, 17, and Sellers, 16. Acurio and Davy spotted Sellers performing with his old hardcore band, Lifeless Embrace. Once they saw his creative use of drum triggers, they sought him out. Sellers agreed to join, but there was one little problem -- he wasn't into metal.
"Honestly, when I was first introduced to crazy stuff like Daughters and Locust, the really noisy stuff, it scared the shit out of me," he says. Now, he dons an Animosity shirt and says he can't get enough of the new Beneath the Massacre disc.
Acurio says he loves the album, too, but would never want to be in a band with a stereotypical extreme music name like Beneath the Massacre. "I hate names that come off too serious, with blood and dying," Acurio says. "It's just so generic."
Instead of going the slaughter route with their name, the teenagers opted for something fun that Davy says is a gimmick, because all of the members are Arizona natives. The downside is that occasionally people mistake Job for a Cowboy for a joke band.
"[People at shows say] 'When I heard your name, I thought you were going to be really shitty, but you turned out to be not that bad,'" Sellers says.
Sellers is overly modest. Nearly 100 fans lined up to buy the band's shirts before doors even opened at a recent California show, and on MySpace.com alone, Job for a Cowboy has more than 13,000 friends.
"If MySpace closed down, we'd be fucked," says Davy. Since June, many of those Net friends have been messaging the band to pre-order its upcoming EP, Doom. That certainly puts extra pressure on the band, and yet Acurio's only worry is if the record is heavy enough to live up to its title.
Don't worry -- the record is crushing. These six tracks could easily annihilate a small village. "Knee Deep" would do the most damage, though, with nonstop blast beats that pause to accentuate the tail end of guitar sweeps. "Suspended by the Throat" also includes a kick-drum pummeling, but notably incorporates dark, heavy hardcore breakdowns balanced out on the metal side with squealing guitars and dramatic solos -- very Between the Buried and Me. The songs on Doom, with their sheer speed, focused use of cymbals (especially on "Entombment of a Machine") and feverish guitar solos, garner the death metalers comparisons to Bodies in the Gears of the Apparatus, and Ed Gein.
The band doesn't care if listeners pick up on the influences, but there is one thing Job for a Cowboy wants them to take away from its music. "We just want kids to listen to it and say, 'I can kill someone to this,'" Acurio says.
Job for a Cowboy's deliberately evil sound, with its grind guitars, death metal and hardcore drums, and unique guttural vocals, has quickly caught the attention of record labels specializing in heavy metal, hardcore and metalcore. Abacus/Century Media (Sworn Enemy, Glass Casket), Pluto Records (As I Lay Dying, HORSE the Band) and Lifeforce Records (Caliban, All That Remains) have already come calling.