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Artists: Middle Pillar Presents: Sumerland



Native Portlanders remember the days in which the rent was cheap, the music scene was thriving with talent, and the underground scene was a haven for artists with big dreams. In the 90's, it seemed that anything was possible for those in their 20's and early 30's. Portland's nightlife was diverse. There was a movement of neo-tribalism, paganism, and magic. The clubs and cafe's were filled with fairy folk, shamans, goths, trippers, and bohemian philosophers. Carlos Castaneda, Terence Mckenna, Timothy Leary, and Phil Hine were household names amongst them. Before the internet, the artists of Portland, Oregon read books when they were not out on the town to see Hitting Birth or some new underground band that would be performing at the legendary rock club Satyricon.

It was in the midst of this movement that Sumerland formed as a band. In 1995, singer/ songwriter Dorian Campbell recorded his first demo and called the band Sumerland. The name was inspired by a particular musical passage from a record by the European goth band Fields Of The Nephilim. On their album Elezium, there was a transitional passage between the two songs Wail Of Sumer and There Will Your Heart Be Also. It was this piece of music that enabled these visionary seeds to take root. The hope was to create a more sophisticated alternative to the Grunge that dominated the charts at the time.

It didn't take long to find like minds. There were early incarnations of Sumerland, but the band didn't really come into it's own until Enrique Ugalde, Marshall Serna, and David Katsonas joined as the core members in '98. The songs grew organically over a long time. There were epic, sweeping ballads that would suddenly shift and go some place unexpected. There were whimsical, poetic narratives in which women were turned into mythological creatures and worshiped. Some of the songs were dark, fierce, tribal rituals with thunderclap percussion and complex poly rhythms that would climax into a frenzy of tribal bliss. There were soundscapes that emerged from psychedelic trance in a midnight forest. Dorian's twelve-string acoustic guitar was played more like a hammer dulcimer, with chiming arpeggios. His voice was a raw baritone similar to Nick Cave, David Sylvian, or Leonard Cohen.

For six years, Sumerland played all over Portland and other areas of the West Coast. They toured with Sol Invictus and opened for The Church. They managed to put out two records on no budget with an old pc computer, a few microphones, a few beers, and a strong belief in the artistic process. SIVO and Imaginary Ways are the fruits of these endeavors, a poignant reflection of that magical era in the Pacific Northwest. There are limited copies that remain.