Doro Pesch, the iconic German power metal songstress, will hate Reptoids, or at least her publicity team will hate Reptoids.
I had Doro penciled in for this column as far back as December (she is playing the Pearl Room in March) but in mid-January I received Reptoids’ three-song Slayed EP, threw it on, listened to the first track, “We Are The Wolves,” and immediately demoted Doro.
True story, it only took that one song (though the other two, “Night” and “Tramp Stamp,” rule too). Come to think of it, I had probably made up my mind 36-seconds in as bassist Chris LaFrombois finished growling “We will teach your children to drink your blood.” A hell of a first impression for the Chicago four-piece.
“What did he say he was listening to a lot at that time?” vocalist/guitarist Karen Binor asks Melissa Koehl (also a vocalist/guitarist) during drinks at a Bucktown bar.
Koehl thinks. “Oh . . . Planes Mistaken For Stars,” she suddenly remembers, “you know the low, kind of growly vocals.”
Informed PMFS more or less broke up seven months ago (though they just played their final show last month) Koehl is caught very off guard (“No! Really?”) before an odd wave of relief hits. At least Planes made it that far, otherwise Reptoids’ best song might have never happened.
“Good thing they put out that record [Mercy] ’cause ["We Are The Wolves"] had been written for awhile, pretty much how it is without vocals,” she explains. “I had my part to it in mind, and then we needed something else. We had been sitting on it for awhile, and we needed to finish it. Chris was like, ‘Well, what if I tried?’ and he hadn’t, ever sang. Ever.”
Koehl and Binor (the band is completed by drummer Meg Thomas), it seems, weren’t expecting much.
“We’re like ‘All right, whatever. Let’s just give it a go,’ and it turned out great,” Koehl says.
The song is both a representation of Slayed, easily Reptoids’ heaviest effort yet, and a harbinger of their future. The punky bop of the group’s first two EPs (a self-titled demo in 2004 and Park A Tiger in ‘05) still lingers, but a meatier, more riff-driven style has nudged the simple chord progressions and copy-and-paste arrangements of the past out of the picture. And to help in their quest for heaviness, Reptoids enrolled the go-to guy for Chicago heavy – producer Sanford Parker (Minsk, Nachtmystium, Pelican).
“We compared the Yakuza album done by Sanford [Transmutations] to the one done by the guy who does Mastodon, Matt Bayles [Samsara],” Koehl explains,” and it was such a difference. We were like ‘Oh my god, we’ve got to record with this guy.’”
But like “We Are The Wolves,” Parker’s involvement was a bit of a happy accident, because, to hear Koehl tell it, Reptoids were all revved up and ready to go to Seattle and cut the songs with Bayles at Red Room Recording.
Turns out, though, Reptoids were a lot more interested in working with Bayles than Bayles was working with Reptoids.
“I e-mailed them a few times and nobody ever responded to me,” Koehl says with a hint of embarrassment.
“They’re like ‘Reptoids? More like Repturds,’ Binor quips before finishing her Red Bull and vodka.
Parker may not have technically been the first choice, but Binor and Koehl have no doubts he was the right (“He made it sound so heavy,” Binor emphasizes) choice. Now they’ve found their producer, Reptoids need to find their niche in the local scene.
“We don’t fit in anywhere,” Binor only half-jokingly complains.
“We’re this weird, sort of in-between thing,” Koehl adds.
What she means is, they feel too heavy for most pop bands but too poppy for most heavy bands.
They have their wishlist, though, and at the top is one particular Chicago band. Only because I’m writing this column on Valentine’s Day will I attempt to play matchmaker with “Caught In A Mosh.”
“We’d like to play with Sweet Cobra,” Binor admits, “but then it’s like, I don’t know, would that be . . . I think it would be good.”
“That’d be awesome,” Koehl agrees.
“They’d probably not want to play with us, though,” Binor says, letting her pessimism win.
So . . . Sweet Cobra?
Reptoids play April 26th at Red Line Tap in Chicago.
OUT NOW: Keeping things local, a quick mention of Stuck Underwater: These dudes are fuckin’ out there. I won’t even attempt to describe their new album, No Script To Follow, because it would inevitably result in one of those cliché “throw metal, jazz, and funk in a blender” analogies. No Script can be a bit nu-metalish at times (frontman Chris Shern is a dead ringer for Mudvayne’s Chad Grey) and more than a bit stupid at others (“Licky Lollygagging University”), but the sheer versatility of the band make them worth hearing. Stuck Underwater play April 19th at Silvie’s in Chicago.
OUT SOON: The sheer heaviness of Indian makes Slights & Abuse/The Sycophant (April 1st; Seventh Rule) worth hearing. Chicago’s heavy scene has become a breeding ground for loud, primal, experimental metal (Yakuza, Lair Of The Minotaur, Pelican) in the last few years and Indian have been one of the major players. Abuse/The Sycophant is a combination of two vinyl LPs that simply drips evil, from Scott Fricke’s gloriously heretical album artwork to frontman Dylan O’Toole’s scorched howl. Like a lot of their crusty, bearded brethren, Indian tend to go overboard occasionally, resulting in the going-nowhereness of “Gloat” and “Fatal Lack,” but when they loosen the thinking caps a little (“Cursed Reform,” “Second Breath”) the results are – as Nathan Explosion says – brutal.
SCREAM FOR ME!: Watching Iron Maiden’s Live After Death (New Door/UMe) DVD makes you realize something: No band in heavy metal have aged as well as Maiden. See them live today and you still pretty much get the same thing, minus the terrible spandex. Though the mullet is gone, frontman Bruce Dickinson sounds as good and is still a lunatic onstage, Steve Harris still plays foot propped on monitor, mouthing all the lyrics, and the band still love huge stage production. Nothing they’ve done, though, has been as huge as The World Slavery Tour in 1984 – hence they’re revisiting it for the Somewhere Back In Time trek (no Chicago date scheduled yet) that kicked off last month and why Live After Death is finally available on DVD. Originally released in 1985 and pretty much unavailable since, the 90-minute concert gets spruced up with a 5.1-sound mix (you can also choose the original, Martin Birch-stereo mix as well). Disc Two is the Extras DVD, anchored by the fabulous hour-long History Of Iron Maiden – Part 2 (Part 1 was on 2004’s Early Days DVD) and also including footage from Maiden’s 1985 Rock In Rio appearance, the Behind The Iron Curtain short, and music videos for “Aces High” and “2 Minutes To Midnight.” Behind The Iron Curtain is especially interesting because it documents Maiden’s journey through the old Eastern Bloc at a time Western bands didn’t play those countries. Dickinson’s reaction when a young Polish fan at a discotheque tells him “I like the heavy metal, but I would like to play the heavy metal with my synthesizer” is priceless.
– Trevor Fisher
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