heavy metal

It’s rare to hear of an orchestral-arranged melodic death metal coming from the United States. It’s even rarer to conceive of that band coming from a place like Chicago, which is barely even thought of in heavy metal, much less this style of heavy metal. Yet, armed and dangerous with a ten track debut record “Fires of Life” is Starkill, Chicagoland’s newest heavy metal band, determined to take what is commonly thought of as a European sound and make it their own.

Nine consecutive weeks on tour with only two days off. For those doing the math, that adds up to sixty-one shows in sixty-three days. That’s the type of grueling tour schedule we’re talking about. It’s nearly unprecedented to put together a calendar like that, because who would believe it could be done? Even the most mundane of desk jobs requires more than two days off in a two-month span.

Driving to this show, I had a pretty good idea of what I hoped it would be. With the top of the dance card topped by such names as 3 Inches of Blood and Goatwhore, I earnestly pined for a show that would celebrate all the vast excesses of heavy metal as a play in two acts.

Rob Zombie is one of those artists who, through incidental contact, I became a modest fan of. My college years exposed me to his unique take on the rock and metal form, and I was glad for the experience. Many of the songs he conjured up were a fascinating take on what could pass for pop metal, all the while being as thoroughly addictive as anything more sugary artists were putting out. While I don't pull those tracks off the shelf and blow the dust off them very often, they still bring a smile to my face.

It's been a long career with some personal twits and turns for Steve Janiak, lead singer and hype man for Indianapolis-based metal band Devil to Pay. Over the years, there have been lineup changes, legitimate health scares, and all the other common machinations that prey on bands the world over. Coming through all that stronger than ever, Devil to Pay returns with a fresh deal with Ripple Music and a punchy new album with a new outlook in "Fate Is Your Muse." Steve sat down with me to talk about his band, his life-changing episodes, medically induced comas and the Indianapolis Colts. Read on:

To say that Arsis has had a long, convoluted career path is a wild, reckless understatement. Birthed in California, the band’s career lineup cycle has more twists and turns than your standard daytime soap opera plot. So it’s a testament to the hearty will of frontman James Malone that this new album “Unwelcome” even exists. Arsis continues to try and persevere in the chokes underground universe of technical death metal.

It is an irrefutable truth when considering any Melvins album that one of the only ways to appropriately discuss the music is to reflexively use the band’s name as an adjective. The Melvins, some twenty years after Kurt Cobain made them a musical household name, have carved themselves an undeniable niche that is populated solely by Buzz Osborne and his band. No one else sounds like this; no one can even being to capture the “throw it all out there and see what takes” attitude and creativity of King Buzzo.

Volbeat is the name on everyone’s lips these days. The hype surrounding this Danish band has been unmatched in this century by nearly anyone. Everyone wants a piece – everyone wants to be on the bandwagon. Ever since Volbeat made their big break by opening for, and being personally endorsed by, Metallica in 2009, Volbeat’s assumed potential has been limitless. Their previous record “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven” was seen as the coming out party, which means pressure is mounted on “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” to be a blockbuster.

One of the things about the thrash renaissance that is most welcome is the remembrance of bands outside the Big Four. While the Bay Area bands, along with the New York scene, did define thrash and contribute countless classic records, the boundaries of the genre weren't compatible with America's. Thrash exploded everywhere, and nowhere more than Germany, which has solidified its legacy as the second home of thrash. In the dark years of heavy metal, when all but the biggest bands seemed forgotten, the German thrash scene was reduced to but a blip on the screen.

I don't know what to make of modern rock music. There was a time when I was in touch with the 'mainstream', and loved the sort of stuff that was aimed at radio play. I grew up on that music, and still consider many of those releases my favorites of all time, but I got lost along the way as modern rock turned into something altogether different. The music became darker, the sounds became darker, and everything I liked about the style was stripped away in the name of angst.