South Bay metal musician Eric Netto has lots of tattoos, but the one he seems most proud of is on his lower right leg. It's adorned with the logo for Cult of Melancholia, the local metal collective he co-founded with members of bands he's part of. The logo consists of an ancient deity holding weights containing the sands of time - each weight equally heavy in burden.
The collective formed three years ago out of efforts to consolidate the promotion of a number of these local acts.
"All of our bands were sharing members, equipment, and practice space, it just made sense," Netto says. "We're not trying to grow it as a label or anything like that. It's just something we can all stand behind and say, 'This is what represents us.'"
Netto plays guitar in progressive black metal band Lake of Blood and fast-paced punk-metallers Doctorshopper. He also handles vocal duties in Public Confession, another punk-metal band on the label.
He is proud of the fact that, whether it's the sprawling soundscapes of Lake of Blood's 2013 release Omnipotens Tyrannus, or the blistering punk noise of Doctorshopper's 2012 album Degenerate Utopia, there is greater ambition beyond, say, worshiping the dark lord.
"When Lake of Blood started getting serious in 2008, the L.A. metal scene was into the attitude of being raw and true... playing ugly and aggressive music about Satan," Netto says. "We weren't really about that. We've never been so much about image, attire, or having to rep a certain scene."
Cult of Melancholia puts as much care into the visual presentation of their releases as they do into their music. Their site describes them as a "visual and aural process group."
"When we began approaching Cult of Melancholia like that, it felt like it was going to be more important than just being an avenue for us to release our music," Netto says. "We still see buying new music as an engrossing experience. In metal there's still a demand for something that visually attracts someone in a certain way."
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The collective's webstore shows that visual aesthetic at play. The color scheme is mostly simple, usually black-and-white. But the imagery is greatly detailed and incredibly haunting.
"When we give an artist our music and lyrics, we just tell them to do what they feel and what comes into their mind," Netto says. "We feel that when you leave your music open to interpretation like that, it inspires great imagination and art from the listener. In the end, the art always contributes strongly to the overall expression and sets the mood."