If the scull-cap crowd at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn is any indication, they’ve struck a cord in the Orthodox world.
“Some of them like metal, some of them don’t like metal,” bassist Getzy Edelman, 27, said of the audience, which included one of his younger sisters (he's one of eight siblings) and innumerable friends from the neighborhood. “But they definitely like us.”
Technically, Edelman is a rabbi, from an old-line Lubavitch family with deep roots in Russia. In Crown Heights, they call someone with his pious lineage ghezhe — Lubavitch slang for Hasidic nobility— though thrashing through a death metal breakdown onstage at Hank’s on a recent Saturday night, it was hard to imagine Rabbi Edelman and his bandmates could look less ghezhe if they tried.
“I have a rabbinical degree, but it means jack,” Edelman said. “I haven’t really been religious since I was 15, but my dad’s a rabbi, so it seemed like the thing to do.”
Just a few years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine a death metal band — any death metal band — building a following in Crown Heights, a neighborhood long dominated by Caribbean immigrants and Orthodox Jews. But cheap rents and a growing cadre of new young residents make their presence here less alien than it might have once seemed.
"I think when we met you for the first time, we were like, ‘you used to be in a metal band?’" Lowenstein said. "We were just laughing it up."
They spend holidays with religious relatives, and share a plates of homemade Jewish food at band practice. Lowenstein even played his first hardcore shows at community open-mic for Lubavitch kids, flailing through sets of religious Jewish melodies called niggunim he and a pal had reworked into metal songs.
“I think it just goes to show you the lengths that we went to have some kind of metal outlet,” Lowenstein said. “Here was this stupid f—ing open mic, and we would show up with two guitars, no bass, no drums, no vocals, and we would just play.”
What's more, all four of them still live in Crown Heights, if not in the Crown Heights of their childhood.
“This is just the only part of New York I’ve seen New York through," Bruck explained of his bandmates’ decision to stay in the geographic nerve-center of a community they’d otherwise rejected. "Since I was six years old and came here for the first time to see the Rebbe” — the sect’s late spiritual leader — “and he told me I’m going to grow up to be a very hasidishe yid...”
“...Ah-meyn!” The others exclaimed in unison — half ironically, since Bruck is far from the community’s ideal of a pious Jew, and half out of habit.
“When you’re from Lubavitch, you’re never really far from Crown Heights,” Edelman agreed. “The first time I came here, I felt like I was home already.”
Sonja Sharp • DNAinfo