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The Sound

Aren’t We All wants to shatter your misconceptions about metal


Aren’t We All plays House of Bricks on Friday, June 28 with Polkadot Cadaver, One Eyed Doll and Exotic Animal Petting Zoo.

Aren’t We All plays House of Bricks on Friday, June 28 with Polkadot Cadaver, One Eyed Doll and Exotic Animal Petting Zoo.

It’s easy to close your eyes, conjure up the mental image of a local metal show and see a lead singer leaning over the front of the stage, foot on the monitor, neck bulging with effort as he screams and howls his way through the set. And to be sure, there are plenty of bands — and plenty of fans — who appreciate just that aesthetic. It’s a mentality that the band members of Aren’t We All have had trouble branching out from themselves.

“I’ve been in local bands in this town ever since I was a little kid,” said front man Mike Farrell. “Every time they find out I can sing, but then they find out I can scream, and it always goes back to that.”

But if you think that’s everything that local metal can be, Aren’t We All would like to make your acquaintance. The band is centered around the premise that metal can be melodic and evocative, while still delivering the volume and weight of, well, metal. And the band’s whole approach starts with its timekeeper.

Drummer Mark Boals is a second generation drummer, descended from Iowa rock royalty. His father — the senior Mark Boals — served as the drummer for local legends Tommy Tucker and The Esquires (later Tommy T’s Federal Reserve) and was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years now,” said Boals. “When my mom was pregnant with me, Dad made her lay in his bass drum, and he was there just kicking it out. He said, ‘I’m making a frickin’ drummer no matter what.’ ”

Over his four decades of work, Boals has developed his sound with an eye on dynamics and the ability to tell a story through percussion.

“I use a melodic approach to my drumming,” he explained. “I like using higher tones instead of just ripping. As a drummer, when your band plays quiet, you have the opportunity to make the prettiest sounds.”

Those sounds were put on hiatus over the winter. After playing its last show of 2012 in November, Boals underwent surgery to replace both of his knees. The comeback has been a long and arduous process.

“I’ve been working my ass off to rehab,” he said. “I feel like Adrian Petersen coming back for my first run. I’ve been doing a little research, and I don’t think there’s a heavy metal drummer that’s gone through what I’ve gone through and made the stage again. There’s definitely some anxiety there. But I’m not going to go on stage and make a fool of myself.”

Now, nearly eight months after its last show, Aren’t We All is ready to get after it.

“(The layoff is) kind of re-invigorating,” said guitarist Ben Shields. “We kind of get tired of some of the old songs, because we played so many shows. So taking the time off then coming back to them makes everything not so stale to us.”

While Boals recuperated, the rest of the band members kept themselves busy in other ways. They’ve worked on writing new material and shot a music video over the spring. With all its members in place and ready to go, Aren’t We All is ready to get back to what it does best.

“This is the first band I’ve been in that I can say I’m really, truly proud of,” said Farrell. “And I want to get back into the Des Moines scene, because I love it and love being a part of it.” CV

Chad Taylor is an award-winning news journalist and music writer from Des Moines.

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