By Brent Michael, Rock At Night Tampa Correspondent
Venue: The Ritz, Ybor City, Tampa, Florida
Every touring band needs to choose the right opening acts to get the crowd properly attuned for it. GWAR chose three bands that made for a great lineup at their recent Tampa stop on their “Blood of the Gods” tour.
First up: U.S. Bastards, like GWAR also out of Richmond, Virginia, consisting of Brent Purgason, John Kelly, Jeremy Dutra. Wait a minute, where have I heard the name Brent Purgason before? Oh, he’s also the lead guitarist of GWAR! It’s no surprise the band sounded much like GWAR, yet different enough that you wouldn’t confuse the two. Still, songs like “Digging Your Own Grave,” “You’re Fucked,” and “You’re Gonna Fucking Die” would be at home on a GWAR album – though U. S. Bastards eschewed costumes and theatricality for straight-up metal!
Next up was “He Is Legend.” The band’s roots reach back into the late 1990s when Adam Tanbouz, Steven Bache, Matt Williams, and vocalist Schuylar Croom began writing and performing around Wilmington, NC while still in high school. In 2003, “He Is Legend” was adopted by members Tanbouz, Croom, Williams, and former members McKenzie Bell and Steven Bache. The name He Is Legend is an adaptation of the 1954 book I am Legend by Richard Matheson. The book inspired a slew of vampire/zombie films and other spin-offs.
Skip through several personnel rotations, and a hiatus, and their current lineup is Schuylar Croom [vocals], Adam Tanbouz [lead guitar], Matty Williams [bass], and Denis Desloge [guitar]. Adding Jesse Shelley on drums and percussion completes their touring lineup.
Before researching the band, I thought the band name referred to singer Schuylar Croom, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Jim Morrison, especially in the latter years when Morrison also sported a beard. But it wasn’t just the look, and the vocals bear no resemblance, it was the way he moves. prancing, twisting, hair flying, bouncing around the stage. It’s not like his bandmates just stand there like zombies or anything, but Schuylar is everywhere!
And the music was worthy of a legend, as well as another great fit in the tour. And good news for those who feared the band would cease to exist after 2009: The band’s beginnings are a story of great band, great guys, raw deal — from record labels, from management, from booking agencies, across the board. Everyone, it seemed, was just out to make money off them, while they were more interested in making great music and having a good time. But they managed to overcome those hurdles, putting out 2014’s “Heavy Fruit,” elevating the group to a new plateau with acclaim from Alternative Press, Revolver Magazine, L.A. Music Blog, New Noise, Ultimate Guitar, and many more.
Then in 2015 they took the risk of asking their fans to put their money where their mouth is, crowdfunding their album “Few.” The fans responded enthusiastically, and they hit 124% of their goal, showing the world that they were headed for higher places in the heavy metal hierarchy. In December 2015, the band retreated to a remote cabin in Carrboro, NC, and put together an album that amplified every element of their signature style. Summoning ghosts of White Zombie, Soundgarden, and Nirvana, the riffs hit harder, the lyrics cut deeper, and the rhythms stick longer. Opener “Air Raid” quickly blasts off into a gut-punching slam and powerful chant, “I don’t know why she’s out of breath at the door of death.” Croom says, “Air Raid’ hits you like the fucking end of the world. It’s about how the earth wants humans to be gone. We’re a fucking cancer. It could shake us off like a dog shakes off flees. It’s as political as I’ve ever gotten.”
Okay, it might be corny, but it fits: The Legend Continues!
Which brings us to Ghoul, the wet-up band for GWAR. And wet-up wasn’t a mistake they began the sprinkling that became the hose-down from GWAR! Ghoul is an American thrash metal band from Oakland, California
Creepsylvania. Though the members’ actual identities are meant to be concealed, it is known that some members or past members of Ghoul also play or have played in other bands such as Impaled, Dystopia, Wolves in the Throne Room, Exhumed, Phobia, Morbid Angel, Asunder and Morbosidad. Ghoul released their debut album in 2002 and since then have released five studio albums. Since 2011, they have toured with GWAR several times, and the influence can be plainly seen – but they aren’t a copycat act, just very sympatico with their also-mysterious and masked inspirations.
Their musical style is best described as a blend of thrash and grindcore with death metal vocals and lyrics. Members are tentatively identified as:
- Cremator (Ross Sewage) – vocals, bass (2003–present)
- Digestor (Sean McGrath) – vocals, guitar (2001–present)
- Dissector (Peter Svoboda) – vocals, guitar (2014–present)
- Fermentor (Peژ Mon) – vocals, drums (2013–present)
Of coure, no one is entirely sure, and those could be fake names (Ross Sewage? Yeah, right!) The stage is often populated with a variety of other strange Creepsylvania immigrants: Mr. Fang – The Curio Shoppe owner, The Swamp Hag – witch, The Mutant Mutilator – aka The Gore Boar, Killbot – Mark I and Mark II (with Walt Disney‘s brain), The Ghoul Hunter, Kogar the Destructor, The Grand Basilisk – The Cult Leader, Skuz – Crusty punk and owner of the dog Armpit, Kreeg – Motorcycle and surfing enthusiast, monster, Commandant Yanish Dobrunkum – Ruler of Creepsylvania, Bernard Fussbottom – Tech entrepreneur and inventor of the I-Eye Mark I. Besides playing roles in the ongoing stage(d) dramas, the characters also serve as designated drenchers, armed (or necked) with squirting devices and orifices that distribute unknown, blood-like substances to the audience.
With song titles like “Ghetto Blasters,” “Bringer of War,” “Shred the Dead,” “Dungeon Bastards,” “Ghoulunatics,” “Blood and Guts,” and “Death Campaign,” (many of which they played), it’s clear that the band will keep it’s thrash/grindcore/death metal fans happy for years to come!
Here there be MONSTERS!
When not in custody, I've been involved with music, photography, and writing my entire life. Ever since I was a young boy and played those silver tunes, I've had the beat, but being a drummer didn't suit me so I became a lead singer, which lasted a few years. Settling down, sort of, I translated my knowledge of audio and glib tongue into mobile emcee work, and my training as a photographer and videographer into a living in the wedding, party, bar/bat mitzvah, and entertainment industry. During this time I also managed to bamboozle my way into a master's degree in writing, worked for a couple of magazines (yes, I took photos for a nudist magazine!), have photographed hotels, done commercial work (shot the cover of Tablet and Capsule magazine), published a few articles, hosted some public access shows (a couple times in drag, but that's another story), and generally made a nuisance of myself until I landed here.