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Softie metalheads electrify ethics

Most bands take the whole “about” section on their MySpace pages less than seriously. You know, listing nonsensical stuff like “Chevy Chase, yeah!” or “Now in Technicolor.” Jacksonville’s sweetheart of the vegan metal scene, Staring Daggers, however, takes it quite seriously, stating in theirs, “This profile is maintained via 1990s laptop.”

OK, so Steve Schwadron, guitarist and a UNF advertising senior, admitted that the laptop broke, so that statement might no longer be true, but the quartet bleeds analog. Get this — the group’s only release, an unnamed collection of four songs, exists solely on a cassette tape medium.

Daggers, dedicated to melting your face off and rejecting all animal products since early 2008, executes all of their musical endeavors with a do-it-yourself philosophy.

“We record everything ourselves,” Schwadron said. “[We] screenprint our own shirts, dub our own tapes, make the packaging ourselves …”

The all-vegan, hardcore outfit, besides Schwadron includes (non-UNF students, but we like them anyway) drummer Quinn Messner, bassist James Siboni and vocalist Jeremy Atkins.

One might not immediately suspect compassion to be the substance coursing through a band’s proverbial being upon first glance of their shirts’ images: Russian mystic/widely accepted madman Rasputin. But not only does this infamous man’s image lie in white ink form center stage, but a halo of daggers (of course!) adorns his head. Are your eyebrows knitted yet? Chill out, Granny, and read on.

The band takes a radical, switchblade-studded approach to tackle the benevolent subject of their preaching, veganism. Take for example, their fervid anthem, “Bloodmouth.” In the first 20 seconds or so, sludgey guitars clomp along simultaneously with whomping percussion and brutal cries, kind of like slow, heavy, elephant footsteps. Then the pep pills kick in, and the rest of the track jerks ablaze.

I’d lie if I said I could decipher each piece of poetry Atkins spews, but after a quick glance of their cassette’s liner notes, the song’s true meaning surfaced. “Thou shalt not kill/ The words mean less to you now/ Your hapless circumstances leave a foul taste on your tongue/ The blood spilling from your mouth/ That’s not my idea of romance.”

Yeah, pretty sobering stuff. You got that, omnivores?

Despite the band’s overall adoration for skateboarding and metal, the four guys’ total abstinence from meat, dairy and other animal products from their lives remains their most resonant message.

“Truly, I believe it’s just a positive thing to do in any aspect,” Schwadron, a three-year vegan vet said about the band’s chosen lifestyle. “And it feels good to be vegan, physically and mentally. You know you’re doing a good thing.”

The headbanging foursome houses a strong background in hardcore punk (Messner played in the surf-punk group Skate Korpse back in Buffalo, N.Y. and Siboni currently plays with local metal band Casey Jones), so it makes sense they secured a practice space last spring, you know, to keep the neighbors happy. Daggers shares Warehouse 8B, a unit off Talleyrand, with fellow local artists squid dust and Joey Temptation, throwing frequent DIY shows and parties in between mastering their rollickingly abrasive vegan prophecies, preachin’ the good word.

“I knew a few of the guys were vegan/vegetarian, but I didn’t know that they were pushing a vegan message in their music,” said David MacKinnon, a UNF English adjunct professor. “I’m behind them 100 percent in that regard, though, and if they only manage to convince a few people to think about the kinds of volume of toxins they consume daily, they’re doing their part.”

Care to ditch the dairy for a night and mess up your hair? You can catch the boys of Staring Daggers at 8 p.m. Dec. 11 at The Pit. Kids Like Us and Legacies play, too.

Check the Spinnaker’s Twitter for updates.

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