At first glance, the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) seems comedically juxtaposed against the sludge metal sound of Inter Arma, but a closer look at Richmond’s rich history of metal music, and its central role in the metal and punk scene makes it clear why this is such a good fit.
“Richmond is a huge metal and punk capital,” said Andrew Cothern, communications manager for VTC. “We really want to share that with the traveler.”
VTC is releasing four videos in conjunction with Overcoast, an international music, and sound studio, as a part of their Overcoast Sessions series. “The real purpose was to showcase more genres,” said Cothern. “When you think about Virginia you think of country and bluegrass, and while we do have amazing country and bluegrass musicians, we also have a lot more.”
Overcoast PR/marketing coordinator David Waltenbaugh grew up in Richmond and has been a fan of the metal scene for most of his life.
“One of the things that not a lot of people know is that Richmond has a really, really incredible reputation for heavy music,” said Waltenbaugh, “Dating back to hardcore and punk bands in the 80s.”
Internationally known metal band GWAR got their start in Richmond in 1984, achieving mainstream notoriety in the 90s and a dedicated cult following. Grammy-nominated metal icon Lamb of God is also from Richmond, one of the most recognizable names to come out of American metal. Despite its Southern roots, Richmond’s sound is a fusion of metal, punk, and rock, it’s an amalgamation of varied music cultures, far from the Virginia stereotype of bluegrass and Americana.
“When you meet someone from New York and you say you’re from Virginia, I think they automatically assume you play the banjo,” said JL Hodges, creative director and one of the founders of Overcoast Music. “But in every genre of music, Virginia has a wealth of talent.”
Overcoast shot and filmed Inter Arma live on-location in the Byrd Park Pump House, a 140-year-old stone building on the bank of the James, an epic example of late-19th century Gothic Revival architecture. Inter Arma performed on a raised platform of brick and stone between canals of rushing water, the mess of wires and soundboards a further contrast against the traditionally off-limits historical site.
“Most people have never been in there, certainly never played music in there,” said Hodges. “You feel like you’re in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ lair, Splinter is watching over everyone.”
Despite the unrelenting cicadas, an audience of only a handful of crew, and the 90-degree early August heat, Hodges said that Inter Arma played “An Archer in the Emptiness,” from their latest album Paradise Gallows, like they were in front of a sold-out crowd.
“One of the things that blew me away was that Inter Arma played an eight-minute song, and they did it in the first take,” said Waltenbaugh. “In the very end of the video, as it fades over to the Virginia is for Lovers [sticker], you can hear the drummer, T.J., go ‘Well, I guess we’re done here,’ and they just packed their stuff up and left.”
Overcoast Sessions plans to release 12 episodes featuring a variation of music and genres. Four of the videos will be produced in support of the VTC, an effort to showcase diverse Virginia music and venues.
“The partnership with VTC was one that was a pretty natural partnership,” said Waltenbaugh. “In addition to focusing on the performances themselves and the artists, it’s always been a goal to have them in interesting locations.”
“There are a lot of really cool video series here–like Good Day RVA, they do it really well, and there’s another one that my friend Scott Lane does called RVA Track,” said Hodges. “We were always trying to find ways to make what we do be slightly different.”
“It’s a good thing for a big tourism council to be associated with something like what we’re doing,” said Hodges. “What we’re doing is, for lack of a better word, non-commercial. Most of us were musicians, and are musicians, and we have this opportunity to create a platform for really talented people.”
You can catch Inter Arma in Charlottesville at The Southern on March 9.