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HARD SYMPHONY

Metalheads Betrayed by Weakness blast onto contest's big stage
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Steve Lewis, vocalist for Portland metal band Betrayed by Weakness, emotes in a parking lot while guitarist Reuben Valdez (left), drummer Tim Huber and bassist Adam Clausen (right) silently contemplate wreaking musical havoc.

Tim Huber sums up the attraction of his music simply. 'Instead of going into the street and punching a person and going to prison, you can go to a live show and get your energy out in a positive way,' says the drummer for the Portland metal band Betrayed by Weakness.

'Mosh' Josh Curtis, the band's No. 1 fan, echoes that sentiment as he sits outside Tonic Lounge on Sandy Boulevard Monday night. A gentle giant, Curtis polices the band's inter-gender mosh pit, protecting women and smaller guys from bodily harm all the while encouraging a healthy level of slamming.

'It's a lot better than going out and beating the (expletive) out of people who really deserve it,' he says.

Lest you think the band and its fans are merely paroled felons trying to avoid a trip back to the big house, both the group and its admirers are steeped in musical knowledge and opine about genres from classical to ska to electronica. Despite their universal tastes, however, fans like Curtis maintain nothing's more real than metal.

'It's not that whiny (expletive) you're hearing on the radio,' Curtis says, adding that he considers Betrayed by Weakness an above-average band. 'They're more like classical music, deep music. It's like a hard symphony.'

BBW is about to go on stage at Tonic as part of Project Independent, a nationwide unsigned metal band contest, the winner of which will get a nationwide tour, a recording package and mounds of gear. The P.I. folks are also filming a documentary series called 'Living Loud.' Last year, BBW drew more than 4,000 online votes in the contest, and hopes to go all the way this year.

Formed in 2009, Betrayed by Weakness features Huber along with Reuben Valdez on guitar, Steve Lewis on vocals and Adam Clausen on bass.

Huber draws on metal, jazz-fusion and classical music for inspiration, while the highly versatile Valdez cites bands from the Psychedelic Furs to Sepultura among his influences. Clausen counts Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as well as Billy Sheehan among his bass heroes. Meanwhile, Lewis, who uses a guttural singing approach, is a Pantera fan.

There's a bit of a glitch in the evening as two of the bands on the bill fail to show, clearly irritating Project Independent organizer Jeff Totten, who's from Torrance, Calif. However, he's pleased that BBW showed, as well as Beside the Abyss, a young metal band from Battle Ground, Wash.

Right before BBW takes the stage, Metal Sanaz, the showcase's internationally known hostess, praises the band for getting the word out about the show and adds she herself was baptized into metal at age 7 when her parents took her to a Black Sabbath show.

'I made them leave after one song,' she says with a laugh.

However, she eventually became enamored of the music and its practitioners.

'Metal is a family,' she says. 'It's helped me through so much in my life, good times and bad times. Metal is a healthy drug for getting your emotions out.'

Crushing complacency

In his patented growl, Lewis leads the band through one melodramatic song after another as the 40 or so BBW fans in Tonic mosh. Fortunately for a certain music reporter unable to understand his growling, Lewis has been kind enough to write the lyrics to the band's final song, 'Complacency,' a reflection on our country's oil-driven wars and ways.

Here's the song: 'The Anti-Christ now arises/From a world that will soon decease/His poetry will enslave a nation/Now there's no hope for peace!'

Ouch! This band is clearly not aiming to get its songs on the TV series 'One Tree Hill' anytime soon.

'We're about rising above negativity,' Huber says, listing alcoholism, violence and greed among the traps life lays for those who, well, are betrayed by weakness.

It's a band that eschews any perceived laziness. Take Valdez, who's not afraid to slay a sacred metal cow, like Metallica's Kirk Hammett.

'He's a sloppy player,' Valdez says. 'I tend to frown on his solo style.'

The classically trained Valdez prefers the late Dimebag Darrell of Pantera, and adds he himself likes to create thoughtful, well constructed solos.

Meanwhile, Clausen says he's a melodic bass player who can lock in with Huber.

'He can come up with a drum-line and within a couple of seconds I can come up with something workable,' he says.

The verdict

After the show, Totten praises the band and says he'll recommend them for a possible sponsorship deal with a liquor company. In an interview, he calls their music 'above average,' but says they need work on their show, maybe add a little more theatricality and visual appeal. It also sounds like he wants to work with Betrayed by Weakness.

'If that's the only thing that comes out of this, then our trip to Portland was not a waste of time,' he says, adding: 'Mission accomplished.'

Betrayed by Weakness will share a bill with Alpha Fixation, Sisyphean Conscience, A Blinding Silence and Across the Sun at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, in Branx, 320 S.E. Second Ave. Halloween costumes encouraged. $10. Info: 503-234-5683, www.betrayedbyweakness.com. Starting Dec. 1, the band is seeking online votes in the Project Independent contest. Info: www.projectindependent.net.