Smooth Sailing
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Smooth Sailing

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF
Band Metal Punk


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Few genres of music are as plagued and blessed with passionate fans as metal. Rhetorical debates about what constitutes "real" metal just come with the territory, as do arguments about which era of an iconic act is best. When Iron Maiden revealed their set list last week for their summer tour (which hits our own White River Amphitheater on Tuesday, June 22), the comments section of the blog lit up with furious debate about the abundance of newer selections and the conspicuous absence of classic anthems like "The Trooper" and "2 Minutes to Midnight."

The passion and seriousness a metal fan brings to the table is equaled by the musicians onstage, including some members of the black- and death-metal subgenres who feel the need to prove how earnestly evil their music is. A quick perusal of album art is all it takes to remind oneself how important such an image is to many artists.

However, Seattle is seeing a refreshing infusion of technically dazzling acts who understand that while forging metal might require a sharper skill set and a bigger rehearsal commitment than your average punk or pop band, it doesn't have to be mired in doom and dread all the time. Bands like Evangelist (who claim both Frank Zappa and Carissa's Wierd as influences, and brandish song titles such as "Fondled by a Wood Chipper"), Super Happy Story Time Land (who pen shred-happy songs about unicorns and fishing trips with Dad), and the Botch-influenced, brilliantly named Smooth Sailing are cranking out impressively executed progressive metal that eschews the grim image other acts seem to view as mandatory.

"With metal, people take things very seriously," says Smooth Sailing guitarist and vocalist Chris Elizaga. "And we're all very happy, giggly people. We didn't want anything to be serious about the band except for the music." Indeed, Elizaga and his five bandmates might occasionally go by goofball monikers like Brando Suave or Paddy Cake and show up to gigs in identical suit-and-tie combos, but the firestorm they unleash is anything but slapstick. At a recent matinee set at the Sunset, they left everyone in the room looking stunned and happy with their bionic hybrid of watertight hardcore and gorgeously complex interludes, a combination that was not arrived at on a whim. Despite the seizure-provoking light show that accompanied their performance, joke rock this is not.

"When we originally started out, we were all playing entirely different types of music," explains Elizaga, who points to the band's jazz- and alt-country-oriented drummer Brandon Elizaga as just one bizarre seed of their origins. "We wanted it to be as crazy as it could be without being metal. But at the same time, we were all really into soundscape-type stuff like Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It took a whole lot of experimentation 'til we found something that sounded like 'us.'"

Smooth Sailing have a four-song EP under their stylish belts; their full-length debut is slated to be recorded this summer at Houdini Street Studios with engineer Dave Green. Their next show is part of the Metal Summer Slam! at Studio Seven on Sat., June 19, along with Super Happy Story Time Land and seven other local bands (the show starts at 4:30 p.m).

Bellingham's Dog Shredder is another band quickly on the rise that maintains a healthy sense of humor, but with a clear commitment to unleashing some of the most intricate and uncompromising hardcore-influenced metal they can muster. "I would say that making good music is by far our first priority," says vocalist/guitarist Josh Holland. "Not taking ourselves too seriously is a very close second. Metal music is an extremely powerful medium, and I have never thought that there was anything 'evil' about it, to be honest with you. It's always been more about positivity and community for me. And for fuck's sake, look at Disturbed. Who wants to be them? Lighten up, guys."

Dog Shredder recently wrapped recording at the Toadhouse in Portland with noted producer Adam Pike (Red Fang, Black Elk, Icarus Line). The two tracks they've shared thus far are brutal beauties, both epic in length and scope and bristling with whiplash-inducing time signatures, harrowing vocals, and a blur of technical finesse that in the studio must have been like trying to pin down a swarm of cracked-out fireflies. They have two nicely stacked gigs lined up at the Comet this month: this Wed., June 16, with Akimbo, Lords, and Rad Touch, and less than two weeks later, on Fri., June 25, with Helms Alee, Giant Squid, and Lozen.

Fans of Dog Shredder and Smooth Sailing's sound and bemused outlook should also toss Grenades into the ones-to-watch file. Formed by ex–Schoolyard Heroes drummer Brian Turner and several former members of Kane Hodder, they also exhibit the ubiquitous influence of Botch, but with a good dose of dirty swagger and swing that sweetens things ever so slightly. Laughter is also a key component of the mix. "To us, a sense of humor is important because that's just who we are," affirms guitarist Eric Christianson. "At times our [press] interviews have turned into David Cross comedy bits. Our music, on the other hand, is directly related to what we have on our turntables. I feel bands that take their 'evil' point of view too seriously can come off as pretentious...We're more interested in the personable." Fittingly enough, Grenades play with Dog Shredder next month in Bellingham, at the Cabin Tavern on Sat., July 24. - Seattle Weekly

“Holy Shit! I can’t believe I just witnessed that” were the only words my brain could string together after seeing Smooth Sailing last Thursday at the Galway Arms. The show was the first night of an 11 cities in 11 nights tour for Seattle metal bands Smooth Sailing and Into the Storm.

Starting the night off was The Keeper, a band that I’ve been meaning to see for quite a while now and with them calling it quits in the very near future I figured I’d better get my ass down to the Galway Arms to finally check them out before it’s too late.

I knew The Keeper would put on a good show, but it ended up being a fucking sick show. Lead singer Andrew Chapman took it upon himself to make the entire venue (including outside) his own personal stage. It’s a breath of fresh air watching a front man say “fuck you” to the typical act of standing and screaming from the stage. I know it caught the attention of everybody in the room, and left them asking themselves, “What will he do next?”

This was the Keeper’s third to last show; their final show will be on September 24th at the Comet Tavern. Be there, and if you can’t be there, fuck that, figure out a way to get out and pay your respects to a great local band that is calling it quits way too prematurely.

Next up was the band Mountainss. A two piece Seattle band consisting of a drummer and a bassist, playing some pretty experimental/technical jams with moments of insanity. This band was no Lightning Bolt but enjoyable none the less.

Playing third was Into the Storm. I was pretty excited to check these guys out, I loved the video that Jerry put up (check it out HERE) and I was really digging their album (which you can download for free from their MySpace), but on this particular night they did not appear to be firing on all cylinders. They still played a killer set, and I like the direction their music is heading with the experimental effects and samples, but with multiple obvious screw ups, and an off putting finale that included their bassist sitting on a bar stool watching from the side, it left a little to be desired.

Closing the night was Smooth Sailing. If you’ve seen these guys before I could probably end the review right here, because you already know where I’m going with this. They were absolutely fucking incredible. I don’t think I can describe them musically any better than Nik did already: “mathy and ferocious like Botch, riffsavage like more recent Cave In, melodic like Caspian, and most importantly downright punishing like metal is supposed to be”. That alone was enough to entice me to show up at the venue an hour early, but after seeing them live-- I just might be there 2 hours early next time (and there will be a next time, and a time after that, and a time after that….you get the picture). The band consists of 5 members, 2 guitarists, 2 bassist and a drummer…there’s a lot more I could say about these guy’s live performance but I’ll let the videos below speak for themselves. - Seattle Rock Guy dot com

Smooth Sailing- If you are a lover of metal, then you HAVE to check out this heady fucking prog metal band (I always like to curse when talking about metal). The level of talent is astounding, from the lighting speed chord changes and the blast beat tempos, its such a cohesive art form to watch live. Its chaos and optimism all at the same time. It’s melodic to a complete onslaught of the senses … simply its an eruption of beauty. - Seismic Sounds

Smooth Sailing
In gestation: The fast-rising progressive metal band’s first album
Release date: Early April
How they approached their recording sessions: “Our friend Dave Green, who engineered the record, had the great idea to do
each take as an entire set,” says front man Chris Elizaga. “Each time we would play through the record in its entirety without gaps or pauses. It turned out to be a bit more exhausting than I expected, but we definitely came up with a great sound. While we were tracking guitars, [guitarist] Patrick Oiye would walk into the studio and turn into someone called ‘Tricky Bighouse.’ It was a bit confusing, and I must admit that I was kind of afraid of Tricky. He liked to live fast, and his intensity really came out in his guitar tracks. I haven’t seen Tricky since.” - City Arts Magazine


"xoxo" Full Length- April 2011
"Smooth Sailing" EP - April 2009



Smooth Sailing is both the calm before the storm and the raging torrential downpour of the hurricane that follows. Smooth Sailing is a six week climb to the top of the tallest mountain you can find, and in the moment of greatest triumph as you reach the top, you turn around to see a raging forest fire pursuing you. Then, as you hurriedly climb down the other side to escape, you are faced with a hungry, rabid pack of wolves. Smooth Sailing is the fight between yourself and those wolves. It is the fight to stay alive.

Not many bands can sonically conjure up such vivid imagery. Using phrases of sheer ethereal beauty, followed immediately by ferocious low-ended riffs, then topped off with just enough (not too much) shredded guitar line, Smooth Sailing does exactly that. The Seattle-based sextuplet has been bringing their brand of sonic story telling around the great northwest and west coast since 2009, incapacitating the weak-willed and capturing the hearts of kindred spirits wherever they play. Too metal to be a punk band, and too punk to be a metal band, they fit happily some where in between the two, in a niche that is far more creative than either. Driven by the ferocious, precise and complex pounding rhythms supplied by the drums of Brandon “brando suave” Elizaga , this kind of power needs two basses to guide it home. Jake “stonewall” Vice and Ryan “Ryan” Adams are just the two brave souls to supply that artful, rumbling guidance. The high end of the auditory spectrum is caressed by nimble fingers on the sweat-blessed guitars of Patrick “Chu Che” Oiye and Christopher “St. Romald Anferny” Elizaga, who also provides his Hawk-like screech of a battle cry to round out the auditory soundscape. Finally, to add just the right amount of visual ambiance to the live show, are the seizure inducing, colorful and smoky lights of effects whiz Tim “Timber” Keener. These six have spent the better part of their lives conditioning themselves for optimum performance and will deliver every time, without fail.

It's this strong delivery of intelligent and un-pretentious, metal-influenced rock that is gaining Smooth Sailing the acclaim that they so deserve. Popular Seattle music bloggers and columnists are abuzz with praise for the boys. “…The record, in it's entirety is a sonic assault on the senses. The production values are incredible and really capture the intensity of the band's live set…,” says of Smooth Sailings forth-coming full-length entitled “xoxo.” “…Progressive metal at it's finest,” says rock columnist and radio host Hannah Levin.

With the aforementioned full-length record “xoxo,” due out on april first and a west coast tour to follow, spring 2011 belongs to Smooth Sailing. Spring means the last violent shudders of winter have been released and life once again begins to take hold. One wouldn't find a better season than spring to bear witness to the representation of that same tragedy and triumph in song. A representation brought to you by masters of their craft, Smooth Sailing.