Twelve Years Driven
On the evening of Saturday, February 18, 2012, I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing the come-out, debut performance of Twelve Years Driven, a hot new band out of Houston, TX who bring thunder and fire to the stage as well as their instruments and their hard-rock attitude. They are a big band, for a five-piece, and seeing them play at the 19th Hole it just looked to me like they could have played on an even larger stage instead. For their very first show ever, the results were quite impressive. Their playing was solid and tight, you could tell how much time these guys must have spent in practice; their stage presence reflects experience; and the lights, lasers and fog were used in just the right proportions, not overdone but not like they were scared of it either. And their set was long! They played a dozen songs, fully 45 minutes at least, which would be a lot for a headlining band and certainly much more than you’d expect from a brand new band opening for the well-known Hollister Fracus. The entire thing seemed so professionally produced and very well executed, something else you wouldn’t expect for the first time out. So many things can potentially go wrong during a concert performance, but for Twelve Years Driven that night, nothing did.
Seriously, I did not expect the show that I saw. When TYD guitarist Larry Gilstrap first invited me out a while back, I thought, ‘sure, guys just put together a band, they got their first gig, they’re excited, few of their friends will probably come out, might be a pretty good time. They’re probably lame, but it’ll be fun.’ My expectations were not terribly high. What we got, though, was a sonic extravaganza of epic proportion, a well-executed and high-powered exhibition of musicianship that will be talked about for a long time to come. I said they played a dozen songs; they could easily have played a dozen more. The enthusiasm on and off that stage never wavered, they captured the crowd from the opening guitar licks and never let us go. This show was so well played that, had it played instead at the Toyota Center in front of 17,000 people, it would have played exactly the same - and been just as successful.
One of these days this band will be there, and when that happens it’ll probably be pretty hard to get interviews with them. That’s why I’m glad we all sat down at Buffalo Wild Wings over by Willowbrook Mall the other day and shared some conversation over draft beers and lunch, before they become so huge as to be inaccessible to the common rock journalist. Larry and I were joined by bass player Mark Powell, drummer Mark Sebren, and other guitarist Adam Simmons to talk about the band, where they’ve been, where they’re going, who they like, what they think sucks, etcetera. What follows here is just a portion of the lively exchanges we had:
Rivethead Magazine: Tell me how Twelve Years Driven got its start? What brought you all together as a band and where did you get your name?
Twelve Years Driven: It really started in like 97 or 98. Mark and I (Adam) were in a band called Chronic, and Larry came out to see us play, we got the vibe, fired our singer and kinda came together after that. We rehearsed for about 15 months, and then at one point we all kinda decided to call it quits. We just weren’t getting to where we needed to be musically, and we couldn’t find a vocalist, we kept getting all these 80s metalhead retreads, and we wanted to be more progressive. It just wasn’t working out, so instead of putting it out like that and compromising our vision, we walked away, went back to our regular lives. Then in April 2010, I called Larry started talking about doing music again. We looked up Mark (Powell) and two years later, here we are with Mark (Sebren) and Robert. We had never come up with a band name the first time around. I had an old Bellaire that I was having restored. I told my friend doing the work about how it had been twelve years since we played. He randomly spouted out “Twelve Years Driven” and it stuck.
RHM: There was a tremendous turnout for the 19th Hole debut show. What was it like when you looked out from the stage and saw all those people?
TYD: (all smiling widely) Absolutely awesome! There was a lot of energy, we had a lot of supporters there, people who hadn’t even heard us play yet! We’d been putting the word out, inviting some people to come out and see us, but man we sold 100 T-shirts before we ever even took the stage! So much support! Such an incredible response! We’re really grateful to everybody who was there to see us play!
RHM: I was not prepared for the spectacle that was presented the other night. The debut show was not only well-practiced and well-produced, but rather long, too. How long has it been in the works, and did you try to keep the music more or less secret until it was just the right time to unleash it?
TYD: It wasn’t really any kind of secret, but there’s only so many people that can fit in the practice room, you know? Yeah, we’ve been working on this for a long time. All the songs are original, and some of them go back to the old days when we were jamming twelve years ago. That the old stuff goes so well with the new stuff that we’ve written says a lot for our consistency. You can’t tell what’s old and what’s new unless you already know. Then for the last month we quit the writing process and rehearsed what was on the set list, and in order. We wanted to sound as tight and good as we could. We started inviting more and different friends over to the practice room right around then, too. Get ourselves used to playing in front of people again, I guess. And we told a lot of people beforehand. Gotta give the people credit, we told them about the show, and they came out in force! We’re glad it went so well! We also owe a lot of gratitude to Hollister Fracus for the chance to play, too. We go back a long way with those guys and there’s a lot of mutual respect there.
RHM: Listening to your music the other night, I heard influences ranging all the way from the Union Underground to Five Finger Death Punch to Rush. Is this accurate, and is there anybody else you want to credit for your overall sound?
TYD: Wow, you heard all that?! (general chuckling) We must be pretty good! No, we like a lot of different stuff, and we try to put something from everything into our music. Sevendust, Alice in Chains, old 311, Staind, Avenged Sevenfold, Deftones, Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle, Disturbed, it’s all in there somewhere. But when you talk about influences, it’s never a one word or a two word answer. There’s always so much going into it, and you’re bound to leave too many of them out.
RHM: What about the current state of the Houston ‘scene’?
TYD: Oh, it’s horrible. Horrible. There’s not a lot of bars that you can actually play original live music in. Most of them are hiring cover bands, ‘tribute’ bands, because they just want people to come out and drink a lot of beer and listen to the same top 40 bullshit that they know and remember. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of people out there interested in hearing live original music. There’s some places you can catch good shows, but not as many as there should be. And some of the bands playing original music that are out there working our scene lack originality and personality. Lots of them sound basically like Black Sabbath rip-offs. Jason from Hollister Fracus said it best…that if we could get four or five more bands like ours, then hard rock/alternative metal might have a real chance in Houston. That ain’t to say that there aren’t any good local bands out there, but there’s a lot of crap too.
RHM: What other local bands do you think are making moves right now?
TYD: Decimation Theory for sure! They’re playing March 23rd at the Verizon Wireless Theater. One of the feedbacks we got from our show was that we were heavier than some people expected. We don’t think we really are all that heavy, not compared to somebody like our friends in Epic Death, Decimation Theory, or any of the other thrash/death/black/speed whatever-metal that’s around. There’s too many labels on music. There’s a few more good bands around, too.
RHM: Are there any plans in the works for a Twelve Years Driven CD release? You said after the show that everybody was asking you for one.
TYD: Yeah, actually, that’s our next first priority. Up until now we were mostly worried about the show, about pulling it off without too many mistakes, and we haven’t really been able to spend any time in the studio. We’re not sure yet either if we’re going to do a full-length CD or just like a 5 song EP or something. We have enough material to do a whole album, of course, but there’s the whole financial aspect to think of too. It’s expensive to get into the studio, but the whole show the other night and the t-shirts, all that, goes not only to helping get the word out but also to funding things like studio time. But yeah, getting something out there, like a 3 to 5 song EP or a full album, either way, that’s our next big thing. We’ll let you know when we get started!
RHM: And Rivethead will review it when you get done! In the meantime, do you have any shows coming up that you want to tell us about?
TYD: (quiet pause) um…no.
RHM: Are you ever going to play out live again? Or did you just, like, come out to do one show and then quit? Hang it all up and go back to your jobs?
TYD: Yeah, see you again in twelve years! We actually talked about that, going out and doing this one show and then quitting again, but we weren’t serious. No, we actually haven’t pursued another show yet, we wanted to put all of our energies into this one and not be distracted, but yeah, we’re sure to play another show somewhere, sometime soon. Those are kind of our two main priorities right now, the studio being one, the next show being the other. Now that we got this show under our belt we feel a lot stronger. We had forgotten over the years what it was like to be onstage playing in a band, but it all came flooding back the other night just being involved with that magic. Very little about being in a band is actually playing music, but just living in that moment for 45 full minutes, that incredible rush, that makes it all worth it. We’ll let you know when we schedule another show so you can help us spread the word.
RHM: Where can people find Twelve Years Driven on the Internet?
TYD: Well we’re on Reverbnation, and Facebook right now. And I guess now we’re on Rivethead too! By the time you publish this article, everyone should be able to find us at www.twelveyearsdriven.com also.
Twelve Years Driven is:
Adam Simmons, Guitar
Larry Gilstrap, Guitar
Mark Powell, Bass
Mark Sebren, Drums
Robert Rice, Vocals
The 00 Birthday Bash and Memorial
22 JUNE 2013
By: Wes Dodson
Special to Rivethead Magazine
Prior to his untimely passing back in May, David Welden Roberts had expressed to family his wish for a memorial jam as opposed to traditional funeral services.
Promoters George Hogan and James Robayo, the dynamic duo behind the Pack of Wolves Entertainment Agency, stepped up to assist the Roberts family in seeing that this last wish was honored.
Facilitated by Maverick’s Saloon in Conroe, a memorial service would start out the evening, followed up by a cascade of local talent which also served to double up as a previously planned birthday fiasco for Torrid Complex vocalist, Jack Sorenson.
What started out as a celebration of Welden’s memory would turn into a celebration of life through his friends, family, and the music he held so very near to his heart. He would have certainly been most honored by the efforts and labors of all involved!
Following an hour long remembrance and an impromptu, two-song acoustic warm up from Geoffrey Floyd, the lights went down for an energetic, half hour opening set from the Dayton, Texas trio, Fighting With Silence.
As 9 p.m. rolled around, so began the live broadcast of Rock 101 KLOL’s The Grind, hosted by metal-mogul, Tommy D Kat.
You know, I gotta tell ya… that guy is as much a rock star as anyone out there holding a guitar! I watched Tommy as he skillfully demonstrated before a bedazzled audience; perform the amazing, overflowing Bulgarian Ashtray Trick right before our very eyes!
Surrounded by babes and clouds of cigarette smoke, there were times in which Tommy certainly reflected the glittering, celebrity KLOL alumni of yesteryear, such as Outlaw Dave, and… Greggo!
However, it was also because of Tommy D Kat that your humble narrator would first observe the terrible, debilitating affliction suffered by those who are rendered hopeless by playing Candy Crush!
Poor Tommy… Poor, poor Tommy…
Next up on the menu that evening was Mechanisms Of A False Reality, a teeth-gnashing, die-cast metal foursome out of Magnolia that we have been privy to since their infancy.
I was quite pleased to discover how much these guys had tightened up the gears since the last time we saw them at a Garage Mahal function with Epic Death back in May of 2012.
Nathan, Robbie, Chris, and Pinky have sure as hell added a high-end performance package to an already finely-tuned engine; even spit-shining the chrome trim that adorns their street-slammin’, overhauled metal machine known as Mechanisms Of A False Reality!
I’m willing to place a friendly wager on these guys making an institution out of their name if they keep at it!
Okay, so it isn’t exactly an oversized tattoo of the magazine logo on a lower extremity, however, we justly warrant the need on occasion to make our Supreme (meat lovers) Editor-At-Large (pizza) feel sorry for us… which he never does.
Therefore, such notion of my wilted, crispy, gnarled corpse collapsing sideways out of my truck in the venue parking lot draws not so much as a wee contortion about the oft-imagined, superimposed harelip adorning our benevolent Editor’s grimaced, Elvis Presley snarl.
He doesn’t really sport a harelip; I only picture him with one during his empathetic denials of my sufferings.
And as these things oft happen, we find ourselves running behind in our commerce, therefore missing the start of the 6 p.m. memorial. I had that morning drafted a two-paged eulogy for our departed comrade and now found myself in search for a spot between bands to deliver it to attending family and friends.
They say an apple never falls far from them tree. In life, Welden was an undeniably phenomenal talent behind a drum kit. One could go so far as to say he was a rare prodigy even among seasoned musicians.
And now his son, Caleb, follows close behind those footsteps as drummer for Torrid Complex, a four-piece, Texas metal outfit out of Conroe… and the next band up on the bill.
Event organizer George Hogan sat a couple of barstools onstage for the eulogy recital. While sharing those tattered, aging memories of years past, Caleb would stop what he was doing to sit at my side as I concluded my public farewell to his father.
Something about Caleb Roberts almost immediately struck me as oddly… familiar. I have yet to put my finger on it, be it last time I saw him (in 1996) he was still in diapers! Yet something about him kept gnawing at me… at times it was as if we had known each another a long, long time ago.
As I write this, I might venture as far as to say that there is little doubt that Welden was indeed with us that night, honored by this gathering of friends and loved ones and watching over his son. I am left with the impression that he would have been very, very proud….
Taking to the stage, it was evident that Torrid Complex commanded the attention of all with a fiery, bowel shaking wall of sonic thunder that conquered first and didn’t bother with questions later! These four guys were vicious!
Offstage they came across as down home, friendly guys that were firmly grounded in reality, a quality that lots of young bands tend to be void of now-a-days. As TCX drove their set home, it became apparent that the apple indeed falls not far from the tree! Watching Caleb perform makes it difficult to deny talent being a hereditary trait!
From what I’ve witnessed, if Torrid Complex are groomed and managed properly one might expect to see them doing bigger and better things in the very near future!
Do any of you folks remember the 2005 Wes Craven film, “Feast”, starring Henry Rollins?
Remember the character who played the bar owner, Bossman?
VIBE: MEAN, STONED, AND HORNY
LIFE EXPECTANCY: REGULAR OR EXTRA CRISPY… (?)
“A solitary glimpse of the towering, foreboding figure that is Shaving Susie front man, Chris Cook, is proof beyond any damned doubt that Bossman and Chris Cook are indeed the very same damned person!”
Wes Dodson, Rivethead Radio
I first became aware of the Alvin-based (extra crispy) 5-piece, Shaving Susie, when their name first appeared on a flyer for the deadhorse DVD release party at The Engine Room this past year.
Their appearance at this function was something of a special treat for me, as I’ve been kinda itchin’ to see ‘em for a spell.
Go ahead! Grace your ears with the raucous, Southern-styled jubilee, “Hillbilly Moonshine”. Or… if’n you like it extra thick an’ spicy, the track “Louisiana” provides an easy affirmation that these down home country folk deliver up an unlawful, seriously overloaded, 12-yard dump truck full of some of the meanest home-grown, full-throttle, ass kickin’, bona fide, deep fried Southern metal to be found in these here parts!
If I’m lyin’ I’ll be go to Hell!
If a wholesome country blend of Skynyrd, SRV, and Pantera meet to your likin’s, then you’re hard pressed to find a better bang for that silver dollar in your pocket than a live Shaving Susie performance… anywhere!
It is good policy to avoid the circling, predatory sharks that fish the weekend roadways, feeding off of the impaired baitfish and surrounding plankton in the small hours. As it were, that policy would regrettably force us to miss out on the last band of the evening, a Houston power-rock outfit called, Power Rage.
Axe slinger Spider Naragon, drummer Benny Witt, bassist Jared Kee, and guitarist/ vocalist G-Man had kept us in pleasant company for the duration of the evening. It was something of a disappointment to depart Conroe prior to their set, but we adhere to the rules that we live by in effort to rock another day… self-preservation, if you will.
Power Rage would be the most gracious of folks to hang out with that night. The misses and I were quite fond of the company of Spiders wife, Tracy… who, if I’m not mistaken also serves as the band manager.
And, in some Twilight Zone case of spooky weirdness, drummer Benny Witt had previously (and unknowingly) purchased Welden Roberts’ signature white drum set from a pawn shop!
What are the odds of that?
By some cosmic twist of fate, Welden’s former workhorse of a drum set made a coincidental appearance at his memorial!
We promise to make up this missed performance to Spider and company somewhere down the road. But in the meantime, a great big muchos gracias to Power Rage for being the really cool sons-a-bitches that they are!
And as the clock struck Witching Hour, the misses and I started a-scoochin’ towards to the front exit…
Once outside, we passed a man on the sidewalk who boldly professed…
“I have perfect nipples!”
Intrigued, I stopped to ask, “Both of them?”
“But, surely you must have a preference. Which of the two do you prefer?”
“Mind if I take a picture of it?”
I pulled my camera out of its case for this one last, strangely deserving photo op.
“Okay, now squeeze the motherfucker.”
*** CLICK! ***
While this had absolutely nothing to do with what had transpired at Maverick’s this night, it did provide the misses and I with one hell of an entertaining, if not perplexing, “What the fuck was that?”, as we departed the Montgomery County Seat for a more familiar realm.
FIGHTING WITH SILENCE
MECHANISMS OF A FALSE REALITY
ROCK 101 KLOL
PACK OF WOLVES ENTERTAINMENT AGENCY
MAVERICK’S SALOON – CONROE, TEXAS
Photos © Wes Dodson
David Welden Roberts RIP 1970-2013
Owl Witch took the stage next. Even before we got to the show I was fairly sure that Owl Witch was going to be the best band on the bill because David Rivera plays guitar for them. David Rivera goes back a long ways with Rivethead; his old high-school band Sacrium was one of the first bands I ever wrote about for this paper clear back in January of 1990. The Owl Witch set was solid, well-practiced, and front man Ryan Salazar knows very well how to work the crowd into a heated metal frenzy. Featuring a 7-foot tall smoke-bellowing Witch of a stage prop, this band used lights, sound, and fog to create a very thrashy ambiance! Salazar sings very much like Paul Baloff (from Exodus), bass man Angel of Death Martinez celebrated his birthday on-stage to the roaring approval of the tightly-packed crowd, and Rivera’s guitar work was nothing less than exceptional. New drummer Mad Mike, only 19, had played with the band for about a week prior to this gig, but his beats were dead on and his execution was without flaw. Like I said, walking into this show I was sure that Owl Witch would be my favorite, and I held this opinion right up until the time when….
Cruxiter launched into their first song. I had kinda moved away from the stage by this point, pretty sure that I’d already seen and heard all that I really came to see and hear, quite honestly I was starting to think about going home, but as soon as Cruxiter stepped up and started playing, I was hooked. Their triple-guitar-bass-and-singer lineup formed a solid wall across the front of the tiny White Swan stage, I remember hoping to myself that they didn’t move around very much, lest they knock each other off into the pit, and then their singer let out a long, high-pitched scream that immediately brought forth images of Rob Halford to my mind. I had seen this guy walking around in the club, and figured from the way he was dressed that he was either the lead singer of the headlining band or one of the biggest metal posers I’d ever encountered. Perhaps both. But when he opened up and let loose, my eyebrows raised and my jaw dropped slightly. At last, a singer who can actually sing! I moved closer to the stage, driven back slightly by the over-amplified power of the three-pronged guitar assault, but stood my ground and banged my head through what turned out to be a remarkable set of good heavy tunes. Cruxiter’s influences are apparent; these guys get down with some old-school metal and you can see and hear everything from Maiden, Sabbath, and Priest (lots of Priest, not a bad thing) in their music. It’s much heavier, though, and faster than any of those bands, as if it were rolled in some European death metal and served with a garnish of Texas over the top.
By the end of this thundering mayhem it was nigh on two o’clock, and as the crowd thinned and the house lights came on, I wondered at the fact that the entire building had not reverberated into collapse, so heavy had been the wallop it sustained. Both Angel from Owl Witch and Lordslady Elizabeth, wife of DJ Metal Lord from the Throne of Metal radio show, enjoyed the hoopla surrounding their birthdays tremendously. No one knows quite what became of Angel after the show, but we sure hope he’s allright!
December 10, 2011
Rudyard’s British Pub
by Andrew C
Houston is a city that is positively teeming with talented musicians. There are more bands and excellent players out there today than there ever have been before, and although the scene is more spread out these days, less connected and entwined than it used to be, it still thrives and produces music that never fails to captivate. Our metal scene, no longer confined to the inner loop, now stretches all the way from Clear Lake to Conroe and beyond. Our sounds are heavy and solid, our music beyond compare.
One band that has captured the attention of Rivethead is Burn The Boats. They are a four-piece who are making a lot of noise on the local scene, and they have a show coming up this weekend at Rudyard’s British Pub opening up the night for Black Tusk, Monstro, and Kyng. Comprised of vocalist Stevie Sims, guitar player Charles Sepulveda, bassist Floyd Willis, and drummer Brandon Newton, BTB has a sound that is fast and tight, unique in structure and composition, and entirely refreshing to listen to. They have not played out since last April, but their song “Release the Kraken” has received much attention of late and has been featured on the ‘Throne of Metal’ internet radio show hosted by Houston’s own DJ Metal Lord on hardrockradiolive.com to a very enthusiastic response from listeners around the world. They are looking to release their first demo EP sometime early in 2012.
Stevie Sims and Brandon Newton
"People have said that our sound is unique, that we don’t sound like anyone else. I think the fact that we focus more on the song, than the complexity of the riffs is what makes us stand out,” says Charles. “You can definitely hear Metallica, Maiden, Sabbath, Motley, a whole slew of different bands and styles. I grew up listening to bay area thrash. That’s what spoke to me the most. Of course I started with Kiss, moved on to Sabbath, and once I heard Metallica, it was all downhill from there. The four main songwriters that have influenced me are James Hetfield, Dave Grohl, Jason Bieler, and Robb Flynn. Each one of those is a different facet of my songwriting. Combine that with the influences Brandon, Stevie and Floyd bring to the table and what you get is BTB.”
Growing up around the old H-Town scene has definitely had a positive effect on the music of Burn The Boats. Charles recalls: “My first exposure to the underground was through shows at the Axiom. My very first show there was the Crumbsuckers show, and I was hooked. All of the legendary bands that came through town left an impression, but seeing the locals rise through the ranks is what opened my eyes. When you’re young and naïve you don’t realize that the bands up onstage are just like you. So the first time that I saw deadhorse play on January 21st, 1989 was mind blowing. I was there for Sacred Reich as I absolutely loved their debut and didn’t care to see anyone but them. But the opening band just stole the show. I immediately went and bought the demo, and haven’t stopped listening to them since.”
All is not lost around Houston these days, though. I asked Charles what current bands he enjoys and would like to watch or play with, and his response was quick and certain: “Carry the Storm is an amazing band. Killer musicians, but with a distinct sense of melody. Dead Mineral are just phenomenal. Their use of dynamics is incredible. They can bring it down, and even in those quiet moments, you can feel an underlying intensity…then when it builds to a release, that feeling is sustained, and is bludgeoning. I would love to play another show with those guys. Defending the Kingdom is another band that comes to mind. We played with them a couple of years ago, and they blew me away. Dissonant and heavy. Very, very cool!”
We then went on to discuss “Release the Kraken” which is mentioned above and is the song for which the band is currently best known. I wanted to know how the song came about, what inspired it, and where he thinks the song is going to take the band. Of course BTB is not a one-hit wonder, all of their songs are solid, but everybody has to have a break-out hit and it is Rivethead’s belief that “Kraken” is that song for BTB. “I had that intro and verse riff for, I want to say, over 10 years. It was the third song that I showed to Stevie and Floyd, and between the three of us, we arranged it, and fleshed it out. Stevie wrote the lyrics after watching the old version of Clash of the Titans. It was immediately apparent that it was a killer tune. Over time we refined the arrangement, and it became what it is. I like to think of it as a 3 minute sampler of what BTB does. A little thrash here, a Motley riff there, a doom part as well, with a melodic solo to end it.” Charles says he thinks the song is really going to take the band to places it has never been before. “We will be releasing a Kraken 7” through Cutthroat records,” he explains. “It will be a split with Texxxas. We’ll have a record release show for that sometime in the beginning of 2012, and the plan is to release an EP soon after that.”
As to the upcoming show this Saturday, Charles simply hopes that the show goes well, that the music is well-received, and that everybody has a good time. “I’d say come out if you want to hear some killer tunes, and have some fun. We’re not out to reinvent the wheel. It’s about having a good time with your friends, and enjoying the moment. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow, so you might as well enjoy the present.”
Floyd Willis, Burn The Boats
11/12/11 BFE Rock Club
by Andrew C
Wow, what a show this was! Everything that one could expect from a metal concert was here to be found. Screaming guitars, screaming singers, screaming hot chicks, at least a few, yeah, all of this and more could be found going on at the BFE Club off Jones Road this past Saturday night at the Exposed Music Festival. This event was superbly hosted by Jennifer Arroyo, aka Ms. JennCity, who when she’s not hosting metal shows is otherwise known as the bass player from Kittie. If anyone doubts that metal has any real relevance or bloodline down here in
It was not, in all brutal honesty, very well attended. But it was very well performed, as each band (at least the ones that I saw) played their sets just like they were up in front of 15,000 people, instead of the maybe 50 or so, tops, who were on hand to witness the devastation. I saw five bands in total, of the something like nine that were in the lineup, and though one or two left me a little cool, none of them sucked and a couple of them were pretty goddamn good, I’d have to say!
Of the bands I saw, probably the most surprising sounds of the night came from Failed to Reason. Their lead singer is this tiny little chick, probably like 17 years old or so, sure as hell not old enough to be fronting a working metal band, to say nothing of even getting into the club in the first place. When she first stepped up for the sound check while the band situated itself onstage, I almost had to chuckle a bit, thinking this poor cute little thing is about to get eaten alive. Then they finish the sound check, the first song starts, and she turns around and screeches hard into the mic like some half-dead, blood-starved banshee! That raised my eyebrows right there, and then through the course of their set she had occasion to hit a remarkable range of vocal tones, sounding like everybody from a really heavy Kelly Clarkson or Kesha to a really convincing Brett Hoffmann, who sings for Malevolent fuckin’ Creation, y’all. And she could bang her head pretty hard, too! This little singer chick might have looked like something out of one of them pre-verted online websites like teen heaven dotcom, but she sounded like something lifted straight up outta the bowels of Hell! I don’t know who she is. I should have talked to her after the show. I didn’t get any pictures either. I kinda suck at this whole rock journalism thing sometimes. But I’ll at least look up Failed to Reason on Facebook and Reverbnation, and get back with more show dates for them. They’ll be an interesting band to watch for in the future.
The set I was really there to see, though, and which I did get a few pictures of, was that of Epic Death. Some months ago, when I still lived up in Denver and was just getting reacquainted with Rivethead, the H-town scene, and the entire notion of doing the whole music-paper thing again, I was scanning Reverbnation for any and all bands that were out of Houston, in the interest of becoming reconnected with these parts after 20 years of living at a much more Mile High altitude. One of the better ones I came across was Epic Death, who stood out to me for the deeper, more melodically intricate but intensely heavy type of black metal that they play. They had two songs up, so I listened to them and made myself a fan on their page. Ever since then I’ve been looking forward to this show, living on the two tracks I had, ready to see what else they could bash my head with, and the finally here we were! If you’ve tuned into our latest Rivethead Radio Podcast then you’ve heard our interview with Becky Dorsett, aka Mistress Demona and keyboard goddess of the band, and if you haven’t yet tuned into our podcast, then that’s your bad. Go listen to it. Now!
So here’s Epic Death onstage, I’m moving closer to the front, and of course I’m expecting to hear numbers that I don’t know cause you can’t fill out a set list with just two songs. The lights are set way down low, at first, and then they come up with this wall of sound that transposes itself into musically identifiable structure, and becomes their first number ‘Karma’. From there they led into ‘Vendetta’, one of the songs that is up on Reverbnation, and then came four songs in a row, ‘Eye of the Storm’, ‘Attack’, ‘Feed’, and ‘Dark Age’ that I had totally never heard before, but found them very easy to bang my head to. Black metal in its truest and darkest incarnation! Next came the other track on Reverbnation, ‘Screams From Valhalla’ which I’m blushing to say they took a moment to dedicate to me, Andrew C! So from now on, when I hear ‘Screams From Valhalla’ by Epic Death, I’m gonna think to myself, “hey, that’s Andrew’s song!” and I will smile. After that, lead singer Dennis Dorsett, aka the Guitar Vamp, passed the mic over to the insane guitar player Jason Mancuso, aka the Lycan Shredder, whom Dorsett claimed could do a passable Bon Scott, so he could close the set with a ripping heavy cover of AC/DC’s ‘Dirty Deeds.’ They ended their night with an extended outro that sent all of us, Jennifer Arroyo included, staggering away from the stage front dazed, and rocked. When they were done, as they were breaking down the gear, I snagged up a copy of their set list for purposes of reference. That’s why I know what all songs they played!
Both I and this publication owe thanks to Becky Dorsett and the whole band for the show hookup here. She had sent me free tickets many weeks ago, right after I hit town, and even though neither of my photographer friends were able to make it, I still had a great time and got ‘Exposed’ to a lot of very cool heavy music. It was a pleasure to meet you, Epic Death! We’ll be keeping current with the happenings of this band, as future show dates come up you will read about them here on the pages of Rivethead!
This only leaves Man Meets Fate and Deep 6 to make mention of. Although neither of them was lame, I did personally find Man Meets Fate to be somewhat thematic, almost commonplace amid the accepted paradigms of the genre. They played a very competent and slamming set, but one which lacked uniqueness in my eyes; they didn’t seem to offer anything that set them apart from all the great many other metal bands out there. I didn’t hear very much ‘fuck you’ in their music, that’s all I’m saying. Now, the folks in Deep 6, on the other hand, had plenty of ‘fuck you’ to their music and seemed to have a great sense of humor to go along with it. At first I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like them, and even now I’m not really sure how much I dig that chick’s voice, but by the end of the set I had more or less changed my opinion and found myself wishing they would do more songs. Their metal-redeaux cover of the old
All in all, I have nothing bad to say about Exposed Music Festival, except that it was rather poorly attended. That’s on y’all! We’ve been putting the word out for weeks! If you weren’t there, your loss. Rivethead had an ass-kicking Saturday night!
Houston underground metal report
by Brett Stevens
Underground metal was a creature of the 1980s, although it thrived from 1983-1994.
Like punk music and indie rock before it, it was "underground" meaning off the big six major labels, outside the corporate record stores, and not mentioned in the mainstream press. Generally, the furthest any store, journalist or label went was something like Slayer, which had clean vocals (sung/shouted) and discernible links to the more extreme works by Judas Priest and G.B.H.
Underground metal was a revolt against both this condition and the sterility of the late Cold War, when people were so afraid of nuclear holocaust they stayed away from any greater metaphysical, spiritual or even cultural meaning, and focused on the most vapid and "safe" activities possible. During the 1950s-1970s we had bombers and cruise missiles, but in the 1980s we had supersonic intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) loaded with multiple independent re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) that blanketed cities like fission cluster bombs, erasing whole patches of the landscape. We were told we had seven minutes of warning
It was a terrifying time; people clung to dogma ("freedom" in the west, "equality" in the Soviet bloc) and tried to block any greater meaning out of their heads. Meaning started two world wars and could get you killed. Being really happy for blue jeans, cable TV and a fat paycheck was safer than bread. This vapidity produced a type of pop culture that was both saccharine and aggressive, emphasizing shallow emotions at the same time it pressed people onward to become part of the machine, to work hard and join the flow. Underground metal threw all of this back in its face.
United by the slogan "Only death is real," underground metal as an artistic movement sought to remind people that all the crazy distractions, entertainment, politics and economics that filled our news and minds were distractions from the real agenda, which was having a meaningful and purposeful life. These new death metal and black metal bands entirely subverted modern society by pointing out that its materialism, while "safe," was a void of meaning that left people starved, neurotic and desperate.
Started by the unholy triumvirate of Slayer, Bathory and Hellhammer, this new style of music used fast tremolo strumming to make more complicated riffs than could be attempted in the pick-happy styles of music at the time. As a result, these bands began to cram more riffs than ever before into each song, and the art of songwriting became finding a way to stitch these riffs together such that they made sense, and after you heard the change between riffs, a bigger picture of what was going on formed in your mind. Like so many things, it's easy to do but difficult to do well.
Houston has always had a hand in the underground metal scene. Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (DRI), a thrash band, started out in the Alief area (SW) before moving to San Francisco and getting all arty. Imprecation, who create a brand of blasphemous music that sounds like an occult version of Slayer played underground, formed the backbone of the underground back in the 1980s. Dead Horse mixed thrash, death metal, country and punk to make a goofy but enigmatic type of heavy music.
Almost thirty years later, the descendants of these bands are still raising hell. While the Cold War is over, a new form of oblivion is upon us as we ignore overpopulation, ecocide, political instability and the collapse of nation states now that they are no longer held in check by the Capitalist-Communist struggle. Our society is still just as in shock and checked out as it was then, and these bands are helping raise the hell needed to keep people awake:
* Morbus 666: With former and present members of Imprecation, Adumus, Bahimiron and Dark Reign, this band has a pedigree stretching far into the past, but a very current sound. This is raw black metal in the style of older Gorgoroth or Darkthrone, but with a gritty underlying hostility that no black metal band has managed for almost a decade.
* Blaspherian: With members of Infernal Dominion and Imprecation at the helm, this band aims to resurrect the kind of doomy blasphemous death metal that Obituary, Immolation, Incantation and Deicide made famous. The result is a sound that moves earth and sky with primitive but well-organized streams of riffs, making for an experience of descent into oblivion.
* War Master: In tribute to the ancient Bolt Thrower recordings that popularized the name, War Master make old school death metal with grind influences, but have updated the sound with adept technicality and a sense of melody hidden in the eaves in the style of early black metal bands. The result is easy to like but challenging at the same time.
* Imprecation: The 1990s innovators who sounded like a cross between Morbid Angel and early Incantation are back, recording new material, and playing shows. Their occult hermetic approach and interesting musicianship have won them many fans, and their classic Theurgia Summa Goetia has been re-released to the delight of many.
We are in a new era of nu-metal, metalcore, and indie metal but the old school refuses to die, in part because we need it like ever before to break out of our stupor. While the trends come and go, some remain true to their ideals, and they form the backbone of Houston's underground metal scene.
AFTER THE KNIGHTMARE
by Wes Dodson
with an assist from Andrew C Schlett
It was the fall of 1987. A friend had encouraged me to move to Houston and share a small, one bedroom efficiency apartment with her on Jones Road. With that, your humble narrator boarded a Greyhound bus and would forever leave behind what was certain to be a dead end life in Podunk, Texas. The same young lady would also introduce me to her friend (and Success bassist), George Garvin. I would forever be indebted to George for being the person to introduce me to a dark and sinister Mercyful Fate album called, “Don’t Break The Oath”. As a result, I would go on to become a passionate Mercyful Fate/ King Diamond devotee for much of the following decade. In November 1989, King Diamond brought his haunted house theatrics to Houston in support of his fourth solo record, “Conspiracy”. It was at this show that I first set eyes on a band called Knightmare. They performed a short, nervous, and near forgettable opening set that night. One thing that did capture my attention however, was guitarist, Cheryl Hill. As opposed to the majority of local players I had previously seen around town, Cheryl struck me as a genuine performer. I went on to closely follow and support Knightmare until their demise in the spring of 1991.
Not long ago, I discovered that Cheryl, who had long since changed her name to Astrum Lux Lucis, was currently fronting One World (R)evolution out of Austin; while her former band mate, Chris Harris, was playing guitar in the Houston-based four-piece, Crank Case. With a little effort, both bands were soon booked together for a show in Houston, a show which would also serve to reunite the two former band mates on the same stage for the first time in over two decades!
In the days leading up to the slated One World (R)evolution/ Crank Case gig, I had the opportunity to talk with Astrum and ask her to reflect back on the olden day…
Rivethead Magazine: What do you most remember about the Houston music scene of the late 1980’s?
Astrum Lux Lucis: It was awesome! In fact, since then I’ve been all over. I’ve been to Florida, New York, California… lots of places, you know? To this day [Houston] was the best music scene ever!
Rivethead Magazine: Which Houston bands do you remember rubbing elbows with back in those days?
Astrum Lux Lucis: The few that I remember are Strutter, Prophecy… and Winter. That was a long time ago! The memory is kinda… vague [laughs].
Rivethead Magazine: Tell us a little about the origins of Knightmare.
Astrum Lux Lucis: We actually originated in New Jersey in the winter of 1988. I hooked up with Paul Pietro, who was the original singer, and the two of us got together in my basement to write songs. My parents were getting transferred to Houston, and [since] the music scene wasn’t too happening up in Jersey, I decided I’d come with them and see what Houston was all about.
I think I found drummer, Paul St. Clair, first; then (bassist) Bob [Bitter], and then (guitarist) Chris [Harris]… who was a longtime friend of mine. We went to high school together in Florida. So, I bought him a bus ticket and he came out to Houston. The next thing we did was try to get Paul to move out. He came down for a little bit and we recorded our first demo with him (1989), but he ultimately went back to Jersey because he didn’t want to be away from his family and all that stuff.
So, we were without a singer for a little bit [before] we found Kelly Kasparek. Kelly had quit a band he was with in Austin and moved to Houston to join our band. We did a two-song demo (1989), then later on, a four-song demo (1990) as well.
We had pretty good success with Kelly as our front person. We managed to open up for Crimson Glory when they came through town… and of course, King Diamond. We went to New York to do the CMJ Festival in 1990. We had been talking to Q-Prime Management, and I guess they had given Kelly some feedback on his vocals... and he didn’t particularly like it. He started going down this path of: “I suck… I can’t sing!” When we came back from New York he just disappeared. No one knew what was going on with him and things just slowly dismantled from that point.
And so it came to pass… the long awaited day was finally upon us! The misses and I made our way down to the Rivethead Magazine Corporate Annex to meet up with the big guy (i.e. the head honcho); The Big Cheese. Rivethead Magazine editor-at-large, Andrew C. Schlett.
(The “C” is for Los Quesos Gordo, in case you were wondering).
Following a pleasant lounging with covert industry insiders, the decision was made to carpool to the show. This idea, while okay in theory, required the misses and I to crawl up into the bed of a lime green, Bondo-blotched 1978 Chevy Luv pickup truck; complete with a peeling ‘I ♥ NY’ bumper sticker, and a bizarre Nativity scene air brushed on the tailgate. We were later told that the previous owner of this hideous moving violation was some scary Mexican gangster dude known only as… Fat Nigga Carl.
The stars were out that night, so the ride to the venue was actually rather quite pleasant. Even if the wind was blowing us all around to Hell and back, it seemed to be the perfect time to take a moment for some personal reflection:
“Hmmm… When was the last time I rode in the back of a pickup?”
Well, let’s see now… that would have been when friends and I made a hasty getaway from a mob of armed black militants at the Gary Graham demonstrations in 2000…
About that time, our beloved editor et al runs over what I can only imagine to be a large head of livestock (maybe it was a speed bump); catapulting the better half and me into orbit just long enough to make a couple of celestial observations. My twisted, contorted frame slammed back down into the bed of the truck with such force that all I could do was lay there and mumble… “Who in the hell is Fat Nigga Carl?”
Despite an unremarkable turnout that night, which sadly remains a Houston tradition, both One World (R)evolution and Crank Case delivered top notch, spirited performances. While Astrum belted out a shiny set of finely crafted originals, Chris went above and beyond our expectations with nothing less than blazing fretboard gymnastics.
Shortly after midnight, Rivethead Magazine sat down with Astrum, Chris, and original Knightmare bassist, Bob Bitter, for a brief but candid look at past and present…
Rivethead Magazine: Astrum, what are your thoughts on the modern talent pool in your home base of Austin? How is One World (R)evolution received there?
Astrum Lux Lucis: I think we’re received pretty good. We have the same twenty people come out for each show [laughs]; I guess we’re doing some good. I’d like to try and figure out how to get the rest of Austin there! But, we’ve only been playing [out live] since March, and we’re trying to keep it to once or twice a month in Austin so that we’re not over saturating. I mean, for the most part I think we’re doing good. We’re slowly growing our base. Talent pool? If you’re talented, you usually don’t stay in Austin. You get together with other talented people and form something; you start building your regional thing and then boom, you’re gone… or you’re a hired gun.
Rivethead Magazine: Crank Case takes its style and theme from old school greaser rock, but it sounds different from any other greaser rock I’ve ever heard. What is it that sets Crank Case apart from other bands in that genre?
Chris Harris: There’s a lot more dirt. I come from basically a metal background, so like for me to even be in this band is kinda weird for me. I have to play more pentatonic and less shred style, which I was kinda used to. The Crank Case thing… everyone basically had old, hot rod styled cars. Shawn had a ’68 Plymouth, Roger has a ’55 Ford, and Greg has a 1964 GTO. It was more like a car club-type thing. I don’t know about us being greaser rock [per se], but I do wanna cut my hair and grease it back [laughs]!
Rivethead Magazine: Bob, give us some background on the years following your departure from Knightmare.
Bob Bitter: Well, after leaving Knightmare I played in a number of bands. Most notably, I played in a band called Syko Billy. If people see me today, they probably remember me more from my time with that band. I played with Roy Gonzales on and off for the next decade in several incarnations of Syko Billy… and a band called Chemistry. [That was] pretty straight forward 80’s fusion/ metal stuff.
I moved out of Houston for about ten years and moved back about a year and a half ago. Before I left I played in a band called The A.D.D. Players and kinda went back to my roots. I started in the punk rock scene. So, from about 1981 till about the time I joined Knightmare, I cut my teeth in playing punk and thrash.
I played in a punk band early in my career called Vex, and it still has a cult following today. I played in a thrash band at the beginning of the thrash movement called Despair Incorporated… playing fast as lightning, at speeds where you can’t even discern what the rhythm is!
Sad to say the most successful band that I’ve played in since then was an outlaw country band called Wicked Brew. We played often and got paid well. It was very unrewarding.
Rivethead Magazine: Astrum, give us the skinny on the One World (R)evolution debut, “Transitions.”
Astrum Lux Lucis: “Transitions” was actually a compilation of all my stuff I did under [the name] Cheryl Hill. I hit forty and had this crazy mid-life crisis and all this stuff. I changed my name. It was like, okay… obviously I can’t do Cheryl Hill things anymore because I changed my name and I’m not that person anymore.
So, I put together One World (R)evolution, which at the time was me, myself, and I. The people I was playing with in Austin were hired guns and I just couldn’t afford them anymore. That just kinda flopped and I became this acoustic person for a bit.
I tried to make a comeback, so I put together some of my ‘greatest hits’ from the Cheryl Hill days and put out a compilation album called “Transitions” under the new band name. I tried to get some players together at that point and just ran into the same stuff I’d been running into for twenty, thirty years: Two people are serious and three aren’t. If not everybody is serious and on the same page, then you’re only going to get as far as your weakest link. My dream is to be a rock star… and I’m gonna die trying!
Rivethead Magazine: Chris, how has your approach to playing the guitar changed since the old Knightmare days, or has it even changed at all?
Chris Harris: It’s changed a lot. I think by the time I’m ninety I might be pretty good! Actually, I do practice a lot... A lot of the styles have changed; a lot of the bands that I listen to have changed, a lot of the players that I absolutely idolize, like Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads… Neal Schon will be in there... Gary Moore, of course. But, there was a time when I got more into bands like Anthrax, Metallica, and stuff like that. Then, I kinda grew away from that. Bands like Metallica… I idolized; the first three albums were incredible. Then, they really went downhill. Guys like Yngwie Malmsteen I really loved. The first two albums were incredible, but now, like to hear one of his new albums… it doesn’t really affect me. A couple of bands that stayed in there were like: Queensryche, Pink Floyd… I’ve always loved David Gilmour. Jimmy Page, of course… Led Zeppelin. Any song but Stairway To Heaven, or anything they play on the radio. Like, I’ll listen to the album, but not the songs they play on the radio. I think people that listen to the radio are missing out on a lot because they’re only hearing the hits. Nine times out of ten the rest of the album is better.
Rivethead Magazine: Bob, you’re currently working with a project called Pond Water. Tell us about that and when might we expect to see something released.
Bob Bitter: I played with Derek Pistoll in The A.D.D. Players before I left Houston. When I came back I just wanted to put a band together that focused on my music. I wanted take this body of work that I’ve done and put it together in a band. I think if we pull it off, it’s going to be a nice addition to the music scene here in Houston. There’s no band that would sound like us.
Pond Water is kind of a… and I don’t think it’s describable, but if you took Deep Purple, Bad Religion, and Primus and kinda blended it all up into a musical style it’s kind of where we’re headed. We’re fast, but we’re technically proficient. Hopefully we can start recording in February.
That Knightmare was a huge influence on me in the earliest days of my adoration for local music is one thing. But, what is perhaps even more inspirational is to see these guys still going at it, and going at it hard, twenty years after the fact!
There is no finer example than our embrace with music being a rich and lifelong experience… if only we continue to believe in it!
“Music is the religion.” – Michael Haaga