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Shadows Fall

Shadows Fall drummer Jason Bittner is a busy man. It has been years since he has had a significant break from the record-and-tour, record-and-tour cycle that is the life of a national metal act. But he is not complaining. On the eve of his band Shadows Fall’s first major-label release for Atlantic Records, things are just starting to get exciting. “It’s still a little surrealistic to me right now,” said Bittner just before a sound check on the first stop of his band’s tour with Stonesour and Lacuna Coil. “I haven’t really had time to take a look back. Right now we are full-blown into tour mode.”

Bittner says the most noticeable thing the band’s record deal has afforded them so far has been time to craft their latest album.

“With the type of music we play, which is not commercially viable music, it’s not about making money. It’s about surviving. That’s why the schedule has been write record, record a record, go back out on tour. Fortunately, with signing to Atlantic, we had last year to spend on writing the best album possible and not ask, ‘Gee, are we going to be able to pay the bills?’ ”

During the recording process for Threads of Life, Bittner says, his drumming, which has been incessantly praised in trade publications, became more focused thanks to producer Nick Raskulinecz. “We went in a more professional direction. It’s not all about me and where I sit in the song or whether or not I get a cool drum fill in there. We concentrated more collaboratively, to write the best possible songs.” But that is not to say that he didn’t punish the skins in classic Bittner fashion. “Believe me, there was a lot of room for drumming on this album, and there certainly are a lot of my moments on this album.” Bittner notes that he has been working on an album with Burning Human as an outlet for his more self-indulgent drumming.

Regarding his status as a fixture in the metal press and his alleged status as drum idol, the former New York state employee says he is not exactly comfortable with it yet. “To be called an idol . . . I don’t take it seriously at all. I might be an influence on a kid, and that means the world to me, but I don’t consider myself a drum idol. I am lucky with the respect I earned since I was playing Saratoga Winners in 1987.”

In spite of his busy schedule, there is one place Bittner says he has to visit when the tour bus rolls through Albany. “I am going home. It’s only 15 minutes from the venue in Rexford. I’m going to spend my day at home—do laundry, spend time with the cat, catch up with mail, spend time with my wife—and then I might go back home for a short time after the show.” Don’t worry, all you die-hard metalheads out there. While thanks to this hometown show Bittner may be getting a special gift in the form of cuddle time with his cat, Shadows Fall fans will get a gift of their own: The show will serve as an album-release party, and fans will be able to purchase Threads of Life a day early.

Shadows Fall will rock Northern Lights (1208 Route 146, Clifton Park) this Monday (April 2) at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $15. Call 371-0012 for more information.

—David King

Dogs of Desire

The classical music thrives on its warhorses, compositions that are decades old or even far older. Yet each of them is a product of its time, reflecting the prevailing philosophies, politics and, of course, music.

The Dogs of Desire, a chamber ensemble drawn from the ranks of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, have for the past decade commissioned from and performed works by living composers who share a sensibility with those composers of the past. They’re listening to—and often performing and writing—music with a pop-culture pulse. They’re as familiar with James Brown as with J.S. Bach.

The result is music doing what any of the arts ought to do: creatively redefining our environment and opening the audience to unexpected possibilities.

Seven current composers offer seven world-premiere performances tomorrow (Friday) at the WMHT Television Studio in the Rensselaer Technology Park.

This unusual location was chosen to accommodate the multimedia nature of some of the works, in which the composers collaborated with videographers to add images to the sounds.

Fans of the Dogs will recognize the names of most of the composers. “These are people we like to work with,” says conductor David Alan Miller, “because they understand what the Dogs are about.” As previous concerts have demonstrated, the Dogs are all about exploring old and new sounds with a wry, intelligent hipness.

Those old sounds might include parlor songs, which lately are a fascination of David Mallamud. His piece, titled Parlor Songs, is, as he describes it, “a collection of songs written in the style of 19th century American popular music. Before ragtime, before jazz, before the phonograph made music more accessible, popular music was performed by middle-class amateurs in the parlors of their homes, hence the name parlor song.”

Or it might be the concept behind James Joyce’s “Ulysses”, itself inspired by an earlier saga. Composer Evan Hause is another Dogs regular, and this time, says Miller, “he’s giving us another act of his Queens opera.” With Hause himself cast as the work’s protagonist, “it’s all about his experiences walking from work to his home in Queens. Evan is a protégé of William Bolcom, and the piece is packed with pop-music references. It’s like a pinball game, bouncing around the board.”

New to the Dogs is John B. Hedges, who is the son of a rock bass player and is himself a member of the Philadelphia-based funk group Scrapple. “His piece is a James Brown homage,” Miller explains. “He says he idolized Brown and spent hours learning how to sing his phrases.”

Thanks to his work at RPI, Neil Rolnick has been a dynamic area presence for many years. His multimedia piece for this concert celebrates the George Washington Bridge, which he can observe from his Washington Heights studio. Notes Rolnick, “While the bridge is an icon of New York City, it’s also a close neighbor I’ve gotten to know more intimately than do tourists and travelers. The walkways across the bridge are noisy and gritty and full of people and cars, but it’s urban grit suspended high above the majestic Hudson River, with fresh air and endless vistas mixing with the exhaust and city rhythms. And from the parks beneath either end of the bridge you get a sense of the pastoral beauty of the setting, smack in the heart of one of the world’s biggest and noisiest cities.”

Other works on the program are by Dorothy Chang, who is a composer-in-residence with the ASO, Ken Eberhard, and Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Moravec.

The Dogs of Desire will perform at 8 PM tomorrow (Friday, March 30) at the WMHT Television Studio (Rensselaer Technology Park, 4 Global View, Troy). Tickets are $25. For reservations and info, call the Palace Theatre box office at 465-4633.

—B.A. Nilsson

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