Awake the Suffering still answers to a higher calling
By Steve Wildsmith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
No matter the stumbling blocks, Blount County boy and metal guitarist Jason McMahan keeps forging ahead.
His band, Awake the Suffering, has been through more band member turnovers than Karl Malone. But through it all, McMahan has remained true to his vision of the band as a ministry for God and an outlet for some skull-crushing rock.
“It’s still the calling,” McMahan told The Daily Times this week. “I’ve felt like throwing in the towel or running the white flag out there and saying I’m done, but I can’t. It’s like I don’t have a white flag to throw in, because God’s never given up on me, so I can’t give up on this. That calling is still strong and still there.”
Make no mistake: As hard as the band rocks and as fast and furious as the members play, they still see what they do as a ministry. Not an in-your-face, accept-Jesus-or-face-the-hellfire sort of evangelism, but a ministry all the same. The project evolved out of McMahan’s personal salvation; as a teen, he embraced Satanic metal and spent his time reading about serial killers. Once he found Jesus, his spirit was cleansed, but his love of metal remained.
Along with bandmate and longtime friend Brian “Fuzz” Gibbs, McMahan tapped into such secular hardcore sounds as Rage Against the Machine, Tool and Korn, but the band’s lyrics emphasized salvation and a better life through Christ. Throughout the years, McMahan and Gibbs have kept Awake the Suffering local, God-centered and brutal-sounding, and now they’ve shifted gears once again.
“Fuzz is now playing guitar and singing,” McMahan said. “He wanted to try it out, and it’s worked out real well, so we’ve been playing without a bass player, and we’ve got two guitars going again.”
They’ve also got a new drummer on board: Kenny Spires, who wore down McMahan asking to be a part of the band. The only regret McMahan has is not giving Spires a shot earlier.
“He’s a machine; just phenomenal,” he said. “His double-bass isn’t just fast; it’s powerful.”
And Gibbs’ vocals are more guttural and lower in pitch, giving the new Awake the Suffering material — which will get something of a workout on Saturday when the band performs at Alnwick Community Center — more of a death metal feel. Which is ideal, considering the name of the new record on which the band is working is “The Doom of Satan.”
“It’s real tight, and there are a lot of third-part harmonies,” McMahan said. “It’s neat in its own little way, and different.”