The most promising metal act in town is not staffed by tattooed, beer-guzzling, sweaty men in their late 20s/early 30s. Amanda Castillo, Channing Concho and Melynda Montaño draw their inspiration from the ’80s metal that infected their childhoods.
They don't tower; the tallest is 5-foot-1. They aren't ancient; all three turned 21 this year. "This one will take you back to 1982, before we were born," they've been known to shout on stage, eliciting groans from older audiences. But they are tattooed (each sports a version of the Suspended logo), they do guzzle beer and they get their sweat on with the best of them. Suspended puts on one of the tightest, rockingest, ass-kickingest shows in town.
Axwoman Castillo wields her instrument with authority on stage, her hair a mighty blur as she headbangs with one leg on the monitor. Drummer Concho ticks away, her double-bass like clockwork, relaxed and comfortable. Montaño's death growl is unmatched by any, fierce and high-pitched with wicked sustain.
"When I first started trying to do it, I didn't know how to growl," she says. Singing along with her car stereo coupled with plenty of smokes gives her all the phlegm she needs to get the job done, she laughs. "It's so cute," says Concho. "When you hear her trying to growl or scream from before, it's like a little tiger when they barely start to growl. She's all growed up now."
Castillo handles most of the songwriting, her intricate lines and screaming guitar solos harkening back to another era of metal. But the Suspended players aren't too fond of what's happened to the genre these days, calling NuMetal boring, simple and cloned. "It's stuff I could play with one hand," says Castillo.
They've been a band since their days at West Mesa High School four-and-a-half years ago, but they've only played the clubs in Albuquerque for the last two years or so, having spent the first part of their career at house parties, and in Grants and Budville, N.M. They've been in such high demand these last few months, they haven't had to go out of their way to book shows; the shows come to them.
They've also bumped their name into scene consciousness by being part of the 2008 New Mexico Rocks Calendar, an endeavor that took some doing for these pinups, who on stage or off don baggy jeans and overlarge faded black T-shirts of their favorite bands. Concho had to convince Castillo and Montaño, who are almost never seen wearing makeup in public—much less a dress. "That's not metal," was Castillo's first reaction. But the trio eventually conceded, as all the cash from the calendar goes to APS music programs, which all three took part in throughout high school.
You'll find even those without love for thrash metal in the audience of a Suspended show, though there are plenty longtime players there, too, offering their respect.
"We're good friends with Anesthesia, Torture Victim and The Ground Beneath, and they always call us their little metal sisters," says Concho. The metalheads of Suspended don't mind being women in a genre that doesn't usually flaunt a lot of XX chromosome-carriers. "It's awesome to know we can kick dudes' asses and play better music than them sometimes," Concho finishes.