And even as hip-hip, EDM and Americana ascend the hierarchy of musical tastes that define this high desert town, stalwart heavy metal acts continue to provide the sound that local audiences crave. If you doubt the truth behind those words, have a word or two with Steve Civerolo, founder and lead guitarist of heavy metal maniacs The Ground Beneath. Long known for shows and recordings that combine the blistering accuracy of profound playing with riffage that is capable of shredding even the heaviest of musical structures into elemental basics, the band is the ultimate power trio formed by the combination of wizard-like forces wielded by Civerolo, Hunter McCoy on bass and Louie Tartaglia on drums.
After a three year hiatus initiated by an injury sustained by Civerolo when he banged his head relentlessly and too goddamn hard for a number of years—resulting in a compression fracture to several vertebrae in the guitarist's neck—the band is back and getting ready to record a new album. They're also playing out for the first time in a few years and will open for Marc Rizzo (Soulfly, The Misfits) when the legendary axeman gigs at Burt's Tiki Lounge (515 Central NW) on Friday, Jan. 27, at 9:30pm.
Civerolo stopped by Weekly Alibi last week ahead of a trip to El Lay, to discuss these latest developments. Here is what he told us as the triumphant return of one of Burque's heaviest acts, like the end of winter itself, loomed on the horizon.
Weekly Alibi: For readers that may not be familiar with your oeuvre, tell me a little bit about The Ground Beneath.
Steve Civerolo: The Ground Beneath was something that started when my old band fell apart. Being the OCD control freak that I am, I didn't want to cancel the shows I had been booked to play, so I just came up with a new band … about two days before the first gig! After that, we never really stopped. We did about 90 shows a year for about 10 years. Right after I turned 21 [in 2005], we just floored it.
“I've got $5 tickets available for the show. For that price you can check out some of the most badass metal around. All of us are human beings with mortgages, so come out and support us. Oh, and if you're complaining that there aren't any good shows coming through town, it's probably because you didn't show up to our last gig.”
What kind of music is associated with The Ground Beneath?
What it's all about is Southern rock and heavy metal. It's definitely heavy music; there's no screaming though, it does involve singing and an innate attention to melody. There're several great bands we rip off, the most notable among them being Black Label Society and Corrosion of Conformity. It's beard rock! We have a good time and people really dig what we do. It's gonna be a really good year for metal fans in Albuquerque.
What led to your reformation, revisioning and resurgence?
Two years ago, I broke my neck as a result of years of head-banging, bad posture and bad [personal] decisions while playing. I had to recover from that. About six months ago, a surgeon I worked with at a hospital Downtown told me he wanted to start a career as a rock musician. He sought me out, hired me to write his music and get a recording going. His name is Mike Lightning. The Ground Beneath guys, me included, are basically his band. Basically, he forced all of us out of retirement to do his project, his record. But more importantly, he encouraged us to start playing again. Essentially, we went from doing nothing in music to having two full-blown records in the works. At the same time, I started a booking and management company, so it all seemed to be a natural progression back toward the music. I booked some shows for Marc Rizzo of Soulfly, so the whole damn thing is flying, now.
Where are these recording projects taking place?
Well, we're recording both albums here, but we'll probably master and mix in LA. We [the band plus Mike Lightning] leave tomorrow night for the National Association of Music Merchants Show in Anaheim, that will be one of the places we start marketing our re-tooled products.
After NAMM, you've got a gig here in Burque at Burt's. Tell our readers about that.
There's a dude from New Jersey, also named Steve, playing. He goes by the name Oraculum. He's a solo instrumental guitarist who is mind-blowing in concert. He's the opening act, traveling with Marc Rizzo, the headliner. Rizzo is a good friend, and I'm a long-time supporter of Soulfly. He's touring to support a new album that is very technical, along the lines of Joe Satriani. He's probably the most underrated guitarist in the rock world right now. Local metalheads Anesthesia are also on the bill.
Are you mostly going to be playing works from the new album?
We might play a little bit of new stuff, but I put out a Twitter poll about a month ago to see what people wanted on the set list … We're going to focus on work from our first three albums.
Anything you'd like to tell Burque's army of metal maniacs?
I've got $5 tickets available for the show. For that price you can check out some of the most badass metal around. All of us are human beings with mortgages, so come out and support us. Oh, and if you're complaining that there aren't any good shows coming through town, it's probably because you didn't show up to our last gig.