Montana, with all its natural beauty and pioneering spirit, retains some shadowy history—labor exploitation, unforgiving weather and outlaw groups like the Vigilantes whose origins remain shrouded in mystery. This lawless isolation has always lent itself easily to, say, old-time country music. But perhaps it’s not a stretch (considering the harsh existence of the old West) for a heavy metal rock band like Missoula’s Sunder to have the same inspiration.
Clearly the word “sunder” (meaning to break or wrench apart violently) is perfectly apt for driving metal riffs that tear through the sound barrier at pounding intervals. But “sunder” is also, according to the band, embedded in legend along with 3-7-77, a vigilante warning that Sunder has resurrected as its own symbol.
“I think a lot of bands flounder around without having something to identify with,” says singer/guitarist Derek Mascorella. “We found it in Montana history.”
Before Sunder’s 1998 inception, Mascorella and songwriter Tod Williams recorded songs on a 4-track, with Mascorella playing the instruments and Williams scribing lyrics, most of which were anchored in an idea of Western narration and thoroughly researched during his time at UM. This crossbred kernel of hard rock and hard history eventually grew into a Sunder lineup including drummer Brandon Zimmer, guitarist Matt Ranta and bassist Andy Sewrey.
Aside from Williams’ unique role (solely writing, never gracing the stage), there’s the added peculiarity that Sewrey lives in Seattle. In fact, he’s lived there since Sunder’s genesis, making practicing a little difficult. It’s part of the reason the band only just released its first full album.
The eponymous release, which came out at the end of last year, is hard rock to the max and fairly slick. But Sunder seems most proud of what it took to get to this point and that philosophy permeates their lyrics: “Hear me workers of Montana/This is your land/protect it/kill for it, die for it.”
And whether you like heavy rock or not, Sunder’s music is accessible via its subjects. “We’re talking about life in the West,” says Ranta, who like his bandmates grew up in small towns across Montana. “A life that thousands of people understand.”
“Montana is a place that protects its freedoms,” adds Mascorella. “It’s hard here, but that’s the whole point.”
Sunder rocks The Other Side Saturday, April 23, at 10:30 PM. Tickets cost $5 for 18–21 and $3 for over 21.