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BENEATH THE STARES prog metal rock band emanates experimental experience

I attended the Dame Nation Redux 2010 show held at The Portage Theater recently primarily to catch the 4-piece progressive metal rock band Beaneath The Stares, the latest collaboration between four seasoned rock musicians that is only about a year also afforded me a glimpse of the effort to promote female-fronted rock bands here in Chicago. It is a cause most worthy of note. Beneath The Stares (also known as "BTS") opened the show which included several other "femme metal" bands such as Wicked Soul, F.H.O.D., Deadmanswake, Circle Of Fate and A.D.D. (aka Analog Digital Disorder). The show was emceed by celebrity guest host Metal Sanaz, an emigree from Iran-turned-rock-music-journalist, that has a cult following on the metal rock music scene. The crowd was a little thin considering all the promotion that was done for the show, but those in attendance were definitely enthusiastic about the bands and music flowing from the stage. The acoustics in the theater were not the greatest which hampered the audible clarity of the music being performed and a fog machine that tended to obscure the view of the band on stage with billowing clouds of whiteness, making the task of photography by my partner on this assignment, LeAnne Zimmerman, somewhat of a challenge.

Beneath The Stares, fronted by the "slightly Grace Slick styled" vocals of the dark-haired-red-streaked beauty, Lisa LoGrasso (former member of the bands Stunato, The 28th Day), is a rock music force that is rapidly establishing itself here in the Chicago metal music world, even to the surprise of the band members themselves. Combine the seriously-stellar 25 years of cultivated lead guitar talents displayed by the deftly skilled, quiet and reserved Erik Oldman (former member of the bands Avernus, Stunato, Radar, Sons of Ra), the flamboyant 6-string bass guitar work (yes, I said a 6-string bass) bordering on the jazz-rock approach of a "Jaco Pastorius gone wild" by the physically imposing YES-influenced and prominently-tatooed Yorg Rinker, and the well-traveled percussive skins and incessant rhythmic beats of 20+ year drummer Bill Hamning (former member of the bands Urn, The Electric Hellfire Club, Avernus) and you have a set of musicians that as the bassist Yorg puts it, takes a "democratized approach" to their musical artform. Each and every member giving their equalized input on the culmination of expression via musical short, they work very well together... and its obvious in watching them during the course of a show how intimately they interact with one another's musicality. Their sound borders on, what I call, an "experience of the experimental"...each band member seeming to drive onesself to the edge of expressive chaos and then abruptly retreating from that tonal abyss with chordic motifs that continually adds texture to their material.

Lisa LoGrasso, besides being just eye-candy for the band, adds a distinctive coloratura (an Italian word literally meaning "coloring") to the group's sound by singing a half-step up or down on the chord pitch of the guitar lines. It makes for a very original sound much to the benefit of the band. Erik's guitar playing noticeably enhances Lisa's vocalizing, as at various times Oldman plays his lines very fluidly with a minimalist quality (along with the rhythm section) to showcase LoGrasso's voice. This was best displayed on the last of their set of five original songs on a tune entitled "Tropic Of Cancer II: Sono", which I considered their best of show...the opening guitar riff on this one knocked me out and was a great song for showcasing the skillset of this band. They opened with an energizing tune "Guilty Bystander" with Lisa using a wireless microphone that allowed her to be very animated on stage (which as she told me she attributed to "being Italian"), making her a pleasure to watch as one could tell how "into it" she was. LoGrasso was definitely charged for the show...her voice easily carried over the wall of melodius guitar sound. The tune also featured lead guitarist Erik Oldman doing a very haunting guitar riff that sounded to me like it was based on an eastern Indian sitar-laden raga. It looked to me that they had Hamning's drum kit set back a little too far on the stage, making it at times hard to hear him, being occasionally swallowed up by the guitars. When Bill did make himself heard, there was no denying the drumming was an integral part of the hard driving rhythms to rock you out. Watching bass player Rinker at work on his 6-stringed instrument one got the feeling that the word intensity was synonymous with the name Yorg. Ha! Then they went right into "Tropic Of Cancer I" which offered a tune with nuanced levels of volume, sometimes soft and then just the opposite. The third tune in the set was "Forging For A Plan", then the self-named "Beneath The Stares" where the vocals are initially flat but then it works its way up into a mantra of melody that offers a counterpoint to the guitar lines which are constantly alternating between heavy guitar riffs and a subdued rhythm section accomodating Lisa's lyrics and vocals. I'd like to mention here that the lyrics themselves in many of the songs are deep if not dark and add depth to the performances. The fourth and next to last tune called "Mood Swings" which is one of the songs on their CD sampler, exemplifies the band's description found on the Rockbill that was handed out at the show which states, "Beneath The Stares comes from the tradition of adventurous, dramatic, cohesive well-crafted songs in the style of Queen and Genesis, balanced with memorable hooks in the style of Muse, the ambiance of Radiohead, the artistic sensibility of Bjork and the pummeling rhythms and blistering guitar-work reminscent of Opeth." That's a pretty good synopsis. So, believe me when I say, what's waiting for you out there in the dimly lit rock venues of Chicagoland when you go looking for a new metal music experience, is the discovery of a unique approach to progressive metal rock...if you look hard enough you'll most definitely find it in that dark corner over there man, OVER THERE...Beneath The Stares. 'Nuff Sed.

Next Show:
November 6, 2010 9PM
Ye Olde Town Inn
18 W Busse Ave
Mount Prospect, IL 60056

Lisa LoGrasso-lead vocals
Erik Oldman-lead guitar, vocals
Yorg Rinker-bass guitar
Bill Hamning-drums




Here is a video of Beneath The Stares performing "Guilty Bystander" at Dame Nation Redux 2010:

Here is a video of Beneath The Stares performing "Tropic Of Cancer 2:Sono" at the Elbo Room Chicago:

(source:,, photo from dame nation redux 2010 by LeAnne Zimmerman)

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