A guitarist and co-founder of one of the Twin Cities' most nationally renowned metal bands, Justin Lowe of After the Burial, was found dead Tuesday near the St. Croix River after his bandmates said he had “fallen into a very broken state of mind.”
A hiker found his body below the Arcola High Bridge, aka the Soo Line High Bridge, a historic railroad crossing from Minnesota to Somerset, Wis.
Lowe, 32, formed After the Burial with his White Bear Lake High School classmate and fellow guitarist Trent Hafdahl in 2004. They went on to make four albums, three with Los Angeles metal label Sumerian Records working with producers and engineers from the Pantera and Meshuggah camps. The latest, 2013’s “Wolves Within,” earned a four-star review from AllMusic.com. They also toured with the likes of Disturbed, Hatebreed, Trivium and the Warped Tour and were scheduled to appear at the Skyway Theatre next weekend on the Summer Slaughter Tour with Arch Enemy.
Part of what defined ATB’s extreme sound was Lowe’s and Hafdahl’s use of unique eight-string guitars, with two thicker strings for an extra low low-bottom.
In a 2013 interview with the Star Tribune, timed to the band’s appearance at the Pizza Luce Block Party, Lowe said, “We’re just always experimenting and trying to come up with new ways of pushing the boundaries. It’s a big part of what this band is about.”
Lowe abruptly quit ATB in June during recording sessions at the Machine Shop in New Jersey. He made his grievances public in a long, paranoid-sounding posting on Facebook that began with, “I’ve been set up guys by something more powerful than law enforcement, and it’s bad.” It went on to accuse his bandmates, manager and record label of conspiring to destroy “data” (presumably music) on his laptop, and it cited sexual abuse in his youth as part of his troubled state of mind.
Lowe’s bandmates posted a note June 25 on Facebook that read, “Justin is ill, and right now he needs more than ever to be shown that the world is not against him.”
“This is a very sad and hurtful situation for us to grasp, and unfortunately it is one we still don't fully understand. Our dear friend, our brother onstage and off, has fallen into a very broken state of mind. A state that, despite our continued efforts, we have been powerless to get him out.”
Lowe had been reported missing Saturday. St. Croix County Chief Deputy Scott Knudson told the River Falls Journal that foul play was not suspected, and the cause of death appeared to be from a fall. Lowe’s vehicle was found on the Minnesota side of the bridge.
Reaction to Lowe’s death was spreading fast throughout the Twin Cities music scene and national metal websites. Eric Lovold of the Alarmists, a childhood friend of Lowe’s, said on Facebook, “I can't possibly explain my friendship with Justin Lowe. He was such a unique person and changed my life in so many ways. I loved him like a brother.”
The metal blog Loudwire posted the sad news with the note, “Our condolences go out to his family, friends and bandmates.”