When Indianapolis doom trio The Gates of Slumber broke up last September, I eulogized the band for the metal blog Invisible Oranges. In that piece, I reflected on the Gates' long reign as Indianapolis' finest metal export, and I mourned the void their absence would leave in the local scene. I couldn't have imagined at the time that I'd ever have to write an obituary for a member of the band, but on April 5, bassist Jason McCash passed away at his home in Indy. No cause of death has been publicly confirmed. McCash was 37.
McCash's crushing bass tone was a hallmark of the Gates of Slumber's sound. Unlike many metal bassists, he was always presented right at the front of the mix, and his work on songs like "God Wills It" and "Conqueror" helped form the blueprint for today's thriving generation of American traditional doom metal bands. 2008's masterful Conqueror LP in particular represented a turning point for American doom, and the bass performances throughout that record are spectacular. McCash's presence was also felt on the live stage, where he and drummer Bob Fouts formed a rock-solid counterweight to Karl Simon's more flamboyant guitar playing and singing.
"He had a killer tone with a unique style and always came up with new and interesting bass lines and counter melodies," Fouts said of McCash's contributions to the band. "For [The Gates of Slumber], he was irreplaceable."
Chris Bruni, whose Profound Lore label released Conqueror, remembers McCash as one of the true good guys of heavy metal.
"He was one of the true doom metal enthusiasts and visionaries today who supplied one of the most massive bass tones you'll ever hear," Bruni wrote in an email. "Yet with the doom metal grandeur he brought forth, he was such a humble, down to earth person, and one of the nicest and most sincere people I've had the pleasure of knowing and working with."
Everyone who met McCash came away with pretty much the same impression as Bruni. Metal critic Kim Kelly called him "one of the kindest, most genuine people on this earth" in her poignant remembrance for the Roadburn Festival's website.
Whenever I ran into him at a metal gig in Indianapolis — which was often — he was eager to chat about whatever band shirts we happened to be wearing that night. I'll always remember how often he smiled at Gates shows, as if he could never totally get over how cool it is to be in a room full of people who came to see you play music.
When the Gates split up, McCash remained close with his former bandmates. "Jason and I have always had an inseparable bond. We could never stay too mad for too long," Fouts told me. "[He] was absolutely the best friend I had on this earth."
Simon offered a similar sentiment in a Facebook post he wrote to close the door on the possibility of a reunion. "My best friend died last night ... I've lost a brother."
In McCash's death, Indianapolis has lost a brother too, and so has heavy metal. Both will be poorer for his absence.
McCash is survived by his wife, Bridget, and their three children. "He loved his wife and kids more than any male role model in my life that I had ever seen," Fouts said.