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Spiritual rocker

Tom Jackson • Feb 24, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Heavy metal guitarist Scott Von Heldt, a Sandusky native, sports the beard and tattoo you might expect in a heavy metal musician. And if he looks like a guy who has played onstage with a member of Korn, it’s because he has. His publicity photos show him holding an electric guitar, and you’d probably expect that, too.

But not every heavy metal musician has himself photographed in a lotus position, apparently levitating in midair. If Sufi heavy metal music ever becomes a hot trend, Heldt can say he got there first.

Heldt, 40, known as “SVH,” was a fixture for years in northern Ohio music, playing in bands such as Vatican, Theater of Madness and Kurai.

In 2002 he relocated to Los Angeles, a move that has helped in his career. He toured with a member of Korn, Brian “Head” Welch, playing dates in the U.S. and several European countries.    “I got to play arenas and things I’ve always dreamed of” Heldt said.

He’s also released a new heavy metal EP, “Breaking the Broken” under the Kurai name. It’s available at all of the usual online music outlets. The bass player from Mudvayne, Ryan Martinie, performs on the album, as does drummer Abel Vallejo.

But Heldt is also showing off his spiritual side these days, even as he pursues his rock music career. In fact, he’s combining the two pursuits.

His new book, “Mind Over Metal,” offers “a philosophical and spiritual approach to musical mastery for the aspiring musician” and is informed by Von Heldt’s study of the western brand of Sufism, a mystical spiritual system originally rooted in Islam. Von Heldt’s website, scottvonheldt.com , describes him as a “musician, author and holistic healing practitioner”

Von Heldt said he moved to California to become a rock star. He’s still pursuing music, but the definition of success has changed.

“I guess what really changed for me is what being a rock star really means” he said.

Back in Sandusky, “I would go from bar to bar and drink a lot, really got myself into precarious situations,” he said.

Von Heldt said he began exploring his spiritual path when he came across a book, “The Mysticism of Sound and Music” by Hazrat Inayat Khan. The book argues that music is an expression of the harmony of the entire universe.

“Every part of our life can be and should be musical in some way,” Von Heldt said. “The harmony within is really what keeps life on a positive path”

He says he isn’t telling everyone else not to drink.

While his hard-partying days are over, “I like to drink a glass of wine now and then,” he says. And if someone wants to have a couple of beers after a show, “I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with that”

Heldt’s positive path doesn’t mean that he’s playing mellow, soft music. A listen to his new EP, “Breaking the Broken,” featuring Von Heldt’s songwriter, guitar and lead vocals, reveals a muscular heavy metal sound.

“I’m still young at heart. I still have some aggression in me” Von Heldt said.

Heavy metal music is a powerful means of expression and can be used for positive ends, he said.

Von Heldt’s old friend and former Kurai band mate, Toledo resident Matthew Bennett, says he has heard changes in Von Heldt’s music.

It’s driven more toward getting the message across rather than trying to dazzle other musicians with technicalities, Bennett said.

“It is much more straightforward. It sounds more mature. If I were still writing original music, I’d probably be going down the same path as Scott” he said.

The new record also shows Von Heldt has taken advantage of the better production technology available in Los Angeles, Bennett said.

“It’s massive. It’s enveloping. It’s a beautiful production” Bennett said.

Von Heldt has begun a new monthly column at a popular heavy metal news site, skullsnbones.com  .

He also has launched a website at svhmusicinc. wix.com/svhmusicinc   to help musicians develop artistically and spiritually. The site includes a “Holistic Musician” shop that offers herbs and vitamins.

Von Heldt said he’s trying to use what he’s learned to help others.

“When you’re on the road you don’t eat very good, you get colds easily” he said.

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