Mahnhammer returns to the scene with a new direction

Those tectonic riffs. Frontman Micah Hembree’s sinister swagger. It is no wonder local sludge-metal act Mahnhammer was one of Tacoma’s premier hard rock acts this time last year. But Mahnhammer abruptly called it quits as 2011 drew to a close, with drummer Chris Roxx squarely to blame. “It's all my fault,” he joked, recently, perched behind his kit at the band’s Dome District practice pad. “I somehow stumbled onto a job opening at the Ritz Carlton in St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands. And so I went to explore that.

“'I lived on the island in a really weird situation, on a very weird island for about four months. It didn’t really work out the way I wanted it to, so I came back.” A few months later and the mighty Mahnhammer has reloaded. The band – also guitarist Shawn Lanksbury and bassist Sean Horst – will play a big comeback set on Oct. 25 at the New Frontier Lounge, one that will showcase a streamlined sound and a few cuts written since last year’s CD - Above the New Frontier. But as excited as fans will be for the band's return, they will also notice someone conspicuously absent from the stage: guitarist and resident wild man, Dave Takata, who left Mahnhammer to focus on two of his other bands, C.F.A. and Argonaut. “What they're doing now is a totally new direction,” Takata said, also citing the need to simplify his creative life. “Having me in their band would be like having this really antiquated obstacle. They’re trying to grow, and I’m doing Black Sabbath riffs. I was just too lazy and frustrated to want to stay in the band.”

All involved describe the parting as amicable. But Takata’s former band mates agree that Mahnhammer’s sound and dynamic have changed in his absence. The quartet has been practicing “Molecularize” and “It’s in A Lake,” two new cuts that hint at a more prog-rock direction (think Mastodon, not King Crimson.) “The newer songs that we’re writing, they are a little more technical,” Hembree said. “We’re at a space where we can actually expand on those techniques that we want to do as opposed to how we feel like we should sound.” “This is no slam against Dave,” Salisbury said. “But he likes meat and potatoes. He likes to keep it simple. In a way, he acted as a breaker against my tendencies, which are to be complicated to everybody’s chagrin.” “I’ll still stop you,” Roxx chimed in, laughing.

“Right, not that it became this flood of prog-rock or anything,” Lanksbury added. “Now there’s less of that natural balance of Dave against me and the sort of push and pull in that dynamic. Now there’s a little more freedom for me. But I’m also mindful of the fact this is still Mahnhammer. This is still a certain kind of band with a certain kind of sound, and we’re gonna make it surprising in the right ways.” Furry Buddies and Argonaut are also on the bill. Costumes are encouraged, and there will be a celebration for Argonaut and Mico de Noche bassist Chad Baker’s 40th birthday. Music starts after 9 p.m. You must be 21 or older to get in and cover is $5; (253) 572-4020 or http://www.thenewfrontierlounge.com for further details.

Check our Daily Mashup blog for video of Mahnhammer and samples of the band’s new songs at http://www.tacomaweekly.com.

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