Singer of Ohio Christian death metal group dies and bandmates carry on in his honor
The biggest hit in our little company’s history has been our COVID-19 free guitar pick giveaway. The 5,000 responses have been almost entirely positive, in the spirit of the good vibes we were hoping to spread while we do a little marketing.
But because of the seriousness of the times, there have also been moments of real humanity. With so many newly out of work and struggling, several have indicated that getting an envelope with a buck’s worth of picks and stickers means a lot more to them than it should. One single mother wrote from her motel room, where the virus has contributed to her new homelessness. She sent photos of her son and daughter playing their instruments, and it broke our hearts.
Then there are the people who send musical performances. These range from hilariously endearing (one daughter sent a YouTube of her dad singing along to “A Horse With No Name”) to surprisingly great (a UK guy violated our North America-only policy and I’m so glad he did because his band the Suncharms from Sheffield is lovely.)
So far the story that got to me most comes from Southwest Ohio. Ed Ritter, the guitarist for a group whose genre can only be described as “Christian death metal” wrote looking for some picks. His band is called — are you ready for a perfect name? — Altar of Bedlam. That alone would’ve put a smile on my face, but then he included some videos, which are so much better than one would expect. The band played at churches and at regular venues around southern Ohio.
But this is where the story takes a sad turn.
Altar of Bedlam’s singer, Judah “JB” Spears, died yesterday. He was only 43. Ed’s son, who is the group’s bass player (of course he is), will now become its lead vocalist as well.
Ed told the Rock and Roll Globe that Spears’ demise came suddenly. “Last week we were all jamming and hanging out. This week he went to hospital and septic blood took him.”
Indeed, Judah’s personal Facebook page is filled with hope for his musical future. In February, he described some struggles in their drummer’s financial life and said the band was going to take a short hiatus for Judah to work on his solo EP.
“So I’m going to refocus on a new project 100% totally done by me,” Judah wrote to his friends. “Drums, bass, guitars, vocals, production and design. Yes, I’m going back to my Christian Rock roots on this one. I’m going to record an EP. I like the ideal of Apocalyptic Metal/Alternative.”
Don’t you just get the strongest sense of what his music meant to this guy?
Bandmate Ed Ritter told the Globe, “JB was the kinda guy who’d do anything for someone. He was very family-oriented, and a best friend to whoever he was friends with. He was doing albums for charity. All proceeds from the album he didn’t get to finish because of his death will go to the Heart Association.”
This guitar pick project has done more than triple our sites’ likes on Facebook. It has provided a tiny ray of sunshine in the lives of 5000 guitar players imprisoned in their homes. But it’s also reminded us, here in New York City as these giant bags of envelopes go out to Idaho and Kansas and Kentucky and Alabama, how connected we all are not just by virology but by music.
Every time someone requests the two free guitar picks, the Globe sends a confirmation email with one of Mike Reiter’s amazing original photos of The Clash. It has blown our minds to see how many people, from bluegrass mandolin players to 12-year-old shredders, appreciate The Clash. This is the highest purpose of music. To bind us to one another. And what better time to do so than when the world has shut its doors and is standing at least 6 feet away.
Judah Spears’ funeral will be broadcast live on the Morgan and Nay Funeral Home Facebook page on Wednesday from 12p to 1p EST.
VIDEO: Altar of Bedlam perform their song “War of Heaven and Hell” on 2/22/20