Greg Layman has been a part of the Long Island underground metal scene for decades. He has seen it in better days. And he knows, right now, it is suffering.
“That’s what we’re trying to work on,” he says. “To change.”
When Layman says “we” he means…well, a couple things. “We” refers to Paragon Records, the extreme metal label run by Layman and fellow Islander Mike Zanchelli, which releases music from such cross-continental obscurities as France’s Aldaaron, Serbia’s Kozeljnik and LI’s own Dimentianon (for whom Layman used to play guitar, and Zanchelli is still a member). “We” also refers to the Long Island Death Militia (or LIDM), the Long Island chapter of the New York Death Militia (NYDM): a locally based organization with tentacles around the world (including chapters in places like France, Greece and Canada), built on a love of underground metal—genres like black metal, death metal, grindcore, crust, doom—with the intention of supporting and fostering the scene.
The NYDM was started in 1987 by Will Rahmer, frontman of Yonkers-based death metal band Mortician, and fashioned after motorcycle clubs—there’s a hierarchal structure with numerous titles (president, vice president, captain); new members start as “prospects” and are then “patched over” when they have proven their dedication. “You have to be willing to put time and effort into it,” says Layman, the president of the Long Island chapter. According to him, there are currently more than 1,000 NYDM members worldwide, including 36 in the LI chapter.
This weekend—August 13 and 14—members and non-members alike will descend on Yaphank’s Black Rock Tavern for the 2010 edition of the New York Death Militia Annual. Presented by the NYDM and LIDM chapters, and sponsored by Paragon Records, the two-day event (featuring four bands on Friday and nine bands on Saturday on an outdoor stage) will host a variety of black, death and thrash acts from the Tri-State area, including Morbid Visions, Bloodfest, Viaticum, Plague Legion, Blood Obsession, Ominous, Grotesqueuphoria, Agrath, Corpsefier and more. A $5 admission gets you in each day and includes buffet access (all NYDM members get in for free). There will also be merch tables from all bands as well as from Redrum Records and Paragon Records.
For the NYDM and the local scene, this weekend has been a long time coming: To help finance the event, they have held three fundraisers at Duff’s Brooklyn, a metal bar in the hipster-friendly zone of Williamsburg. Layman notes that the NYDM regularly does fundraisers for its events and its members: for friends in trouble, if a NYDM member has medical bills he or she cannot handle. “There isn’t anybody who supports us,” he says, “so if we don’t support ourselves, and keep the scene going, no one’s going to do it for us.”
The NYDM Annual started out as a barbecue by day and a show by night, but this year, the food, booze and music will be combined into one massive party, open to all. According to Layman, three nearby hotels have already been filled for the event and, “We’re working on the fourth one right now.”
Layman notes that the Black Rock welcomes the NYDM. “In the past when we’ve done metal night, we’ve actually drank them out of beer,” he says. Moreover, he says, the metal crowd is a generally peaceful one—while the dance and hip-hops crowds have occasionally brought with them violence, says Layman, “We don’t have that problem.”
For Layman, it is always about supporting the music. And the music is always metal.
“Metal is different than a lot of other music,” he says. “A lot of other music, people take it on a smaller level, it’s not as personal. People who get into metal, you’re either into it or you’re not, and I find that people who get into it, it’s their life.”
Layman knows this firsthand.
“It’s my whole life,” he says. “It’s everything in my life.”
Aug. 13 and Aug. 14. Black Rock Tavern, 450 Main St., Yaphank. 631-345-6000.