Interview: Night Demon rise up through the power of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal

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Jarvis Leatherby was swept up by the bat wings of metal as a kid, fascinated by the powerful riffs and imagery of old-school British bands like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Diamond Head.

While most of those kids grow up just content to just to rock out at shows in the audience, Leatherby is chasing his true metal muse as vocalist and bassist of Ventura, California’s blazing Night Demon.

“All roads lead from Metallica, Black Sabbath, Van Halen and Iron Maiden,” Leatherby said, during an email interview (the band is currently on the road, playing festivals and shows in Europe).  “Those bands made me feel like anything was possible in my life. I really felt a certain sense of power when I got into those bands.”

A power trio, —  with Leatherby, Armand John Anthony (guitar) and Dusty Squires (drums) — Night Demon have been making waves in Europe on the strength of the just-released “Darkness Remains” and 2015’s “Curse of the Damned.” The band has shared stages with NWOBHM legends like Diamond Head, won praise while touring America with extreme metal masters Carcass, took their show to South America, and have been nominated for the “Up and Coming” metal band award by Metal Hammer Magazine.

Musically, the band pulls off a neat trick, channeling  the driving force, riffs and soaring vocals of “Killers” era NWOBHM, with an injection of thrash, Motorhead-style swagger and the grandeur of classic Dio, while never sounding stale or like an 1980s metal homage.

Its fun music — tough-as-nails, hard-charging and totally a ready to knock heads. See for yourself.

 

The band came together as a three-piece because there weren’t any other musicians in the Ventura scene who wanted to explore classic metal, Leatherby said.

“We had always talked about doing a NWOBHM inspired project, and one day we finally decided to pull the trigger and get together and see what happens,”Leatherby said. “We did always have the same interest in classic metal, hence the reason why the band started as a three piece … The hardcore punk scene was very strong in our area, but growing up in white suburban southern California, there wasn’t a heavy crop to pick from as far as musicians who really understood this style, or like us, people who really grew up on this and loved it so much. There were the three of us and that was it.”

The band was very interested in writing music that captured the spirit of bands like Maiden, Saxon and other members of the NWOBHM pantheon.

“Initially when we started, we were intentionally trying to capture that vibe,” he said.  “It came easily because the fact is that this music is in our DNA by now. I started Night Demon at thirty years of age, so (I had) almost twenty years under my belt of listening to this music on a daily basis.”

The music was in more than just Leatherby’s DNA. Metal, he said, got him the way it gets a lot of other kids — by appealing to him from the dark side.

“I grew up in Christian school, so I wasn’t exposed to that stuff on a daily basis, besides whatever I saw on MTV at home after school,” Leatherby said. “When I was twelve years old, they showed us a Christian documentary film title ‘Hell’s Bells.’ This film went on for three hours, breaking down the evils and dangers of rock and metal — everything down to Ozzy, Judas Priest, and Metallica lyrics and the hidden meanings about these bands worshiping the devil and influencing their fans to commit suicide, back masking Zeppelin records, etc. ”

Of course, as anyone who once had W.A.S.P. cassette or Slipknot CD confiscated by a concerned parent can testify, all that parental and teacherly preaching about the dangers of metal just makes the already-exciting world of metal that much more intriguing.

“The following day, most of my class mates brought their tapes and CD’s to school along with hammers to smash their music in the name of god,” Leatherby said. “Myself and my two best friends took the other route and were completely mesmerized by what we saw.

“At that moment, I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and I never looked back,” he said. “… We all know as metalloids that initial feeling of discovering this music and knowing your life’s purpose. It’s much like a drug.”

Music based on a classic ’80s style might not seem to have much appeal to younger generations of fans. But Leatherby said Night Demon is reaching across the generational and musical divide, even making headway with fans of extreme tech-metal pioneers Carcass.

“The thing I realized is that the old school guys who are into extreme metal, cut their teeth on bands like Metallica and Maiden, so they definitely understand what we are doing, and it can sometimes be a break in the monotony of a very aggressive and extreme scene,” he sad. “The young kids don’t see us as a throwback at all. It’s a totally new thing to them … Girls who get dragged to these kinds of (extreme metal) shows with their boyfriends often latch onto us as well because of the melodic sense and catchiness our songs have.

“Actually that was one of the most successful U.S. tours we have done to date,” he said of the recent Carcass tour. “(I)t doesn’t hurt to tour with a legendary band like Carcass. (They’re) such a really great technical band, and even greater guys as people.”

The band is in Europe playing festivals through August, which Leatherby said is the band’s prime territory.

“(T)ouring in Europe is a really great thing for Night Demon. We do have more fans here per capita than say the States or Canada, but I find that there are true metal fans all over the world,” he said. “No one (set of fans is) better than the other. I think people just celebrate and show it differently.

“I will say that Europeans have a genuine appreciation for Night Demon in the way that they really respect the work ethic that we have, and are very engaged at the shows,” he said. “I  know that we (give) them one of the most energetic shows they see all year.”

Some of the enthusiasm for the band’s sound and shows is not nostalgia, but relief from classic metal fans who are happy to see the genre is not dead, Leatherby said.

“We have had the luxury of touring with some of the greats who influenced us — I’m talking about Raven, Diamond Head, Anvil, Satan, and Saxon,” he said. “Those shows have done well for us, as that’s how the older audience has discovered us … In a way, a lot of them are excited that they see a future for the genre in Night Demon, and they don’t have to have their kids tell them that they listen to dinosaur rock. ”

Being in a professional band is difficult, with a lot of hard work, sacrifice and not always a lot of money (a subject we’ll delve into more fully in the future, I think). But Leatherby said he’s absolutely happy with what the Night Demon has been able to accomplish so far.

“This band as a whole has been my favorite memory,” Leatherby said. “We do this every day and have for the last four years. It’s all baby steps, but the progression has shown and the success is obvious and can be traced back to everything we have done to get here.

“I’ve played in countless bands throughout my life and told myself that I’m not gonna be the guy in my thirties still trying to make it in the music industry, but here I am and I couldn’t be happier about that:” he said. “There is something to be said about being experienced — being ready for the opportunities when they come your way, not believing in luck but believing you can create your own fate, and that is exactly what we are doing.  If it ended today, I would have no regrets.”

On the Web: http://www.nightdemon.net

 

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Interview: Brujeria’s Juan Brujo discusses “Pocho Aztlan,” the band’s first album in years

brujeria

Brujeria, the extreme grind and thrash collective that has featured members from bands like Faith No More, Fear Factory and Napalm Death, hasn’t put out much new music in the past 15 years. But the band hasn’t been idle.

The band reformed in 2007 — but with other commitments, getting everyone in the same room, or studio, takes work. Whenever the band members have time in their schedules, they have been recording songs for their upcoming attack “Pocho Aztlan.”

Earlier this year, the band also belted out the Record Store Day single “Viva Presidente Trump!” a violent yet hilarious take on the the candidate who made vilifying people from Mexico and Central America such a large part of his campaign. The single sold out so fast that not even the band members got a copy.

Juan Brujo, the band’s lead vocalist, said much of “Pocho Aztlan” — which translates as “wasted promised land” — was in the can before Trump’s controversial political rhetoric swept over America.

“The album was done before the Trump stuff. It was just waiting to come out,” Brujo said during a quick phone interview to promote the new album. “That’s why we did the single — we want (Trump) to win so we can go to war with him as president.”

Although Trump’s influence won’t be felt on “Pocho Aztlan,” a Trump victory in November will stir the fire in the band, Brujo said.

“Then, you’ll see a record come really quick, and be very politically minded,” Brujo said.

“Pocho Aztlan” could have different meanings for different people. But for Brujo — who was born in the United States but is of Mexican heritage — “Pocho Aztlan” is personal, and is more about being a stranger in a strange land, no matter which side of the border he is on.

“I’m a Mexican born in the U.S., and all my life I’ve heard, ‘go back to Mexico, you don’t belong here,'” Brujo said. Meanwhile, “pocho” is a slur used by Mexican citizens to describe U.S.-born Mexican-Americans.

“When I go to Mexico, the Mexicans call me trash. They don’t want me there either,” Brujo said. “I’ve never felt at home anywhere.”

Although the band has been known to take a lighter turn, with songs like “Don Quijote Marihuana” and “Marijuana” (an insane yet strangely faithful twisting of “Macarena” into an ode to weed), there won’t be any humorous moments on “Pocho Aztlan,” Brujo said. Songs like that are only made “when there are a couple of cases of beer laying around,” he said.

With everyone busy with other bands, the songwriting process was most done in the studio. “It’s really hard to get everyone together, so we’d write and record songs the same day,” Brujo said.

With a blistering attack like “Viva Presidente Trump!” it should be clear Brujo and Brujeria aren’t afraid to take on controversial subjects or offend.

“We tell the stories of what it’s like on the border where we live, and try to get people’s attention. because it’s real and it’s out there,” he said.

Brujeria will be criss-crossing the U.S. beginning on Sept. 18 and through October, before heading for a string of dates in Europe. As for the band’s future after that, well, that depends what happens this fall, Brujo said.

“We want to do some shows and have fun,” Brujo said. Regarding a new album after “Pocho Aztlan,” recording “will just be the same thing, unless we get a new president called Donald Trump,” Brujo said. “I don’t think that will be a good thing — and people will have to know what’s going on from our end.”

“Pocho Aztlan” will be released Sept. 16. You can find Brujeria’s tour dates here.

Interview: Testament’s Chuck Billy is ready for fans to join “The Brotherhood of the Snake”

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Although the members of thrash legends Testament began writing songs for their newest burst of power, “The Brotherhood of the Snake” seemingly ages ago, actually getting the band into the studio to record the album proved to be a challenge.

“We’ve been working on this record for a year and a half,” vocalist/lyricist Chuck Billy said during an interview in early August. “In the middle of the writing process, we had two tour offers (that delayed the project). It was a long process to get the record done.”

Testament are one of the Bay Area thrash bands that rightfully get mentioned in the same breath with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. The band released several solid thrash mini-classics like “The Legacy,” “The New Order” and “Practice What You Preach” in the ’80s and early ’90s — but the band achieved brilliance with “The Formation of Damnation” in 2008 and again in 2012 with the searing “Dark Roots of Earth”.

A band that releases an album once every four years would seem to have plenty of time to hone songs to perfection. But Testament’s busy touring schedule kept them even from finishing some of the songs destined for “Brotherhood of the Snake” before the band entered the studio earlier this year, Billy said.

“There was a lot of emotion, and anger, to get (the album) done,” Billy said.

Call it grace under pressure, then, because instead of being dissatisfied, Billy said the final tracks for “Brotherhood” are the best of the band’s career.

“The frustration and all the (pressure) to get it done came out in the music, and it really made the songs stand out,” Billy said. “I believe the songwriting on this record is beyond what we’ve done. ”

Going into it, we had heard some of the demo songs … but didn’t have a vision of the final record,” Billy said. When the band heard the final mixes for the disc, “we were saying, ‘holy sh*t, these are some good songs … I would say, in my opinion, it tops the catalog.”

Lyrically, the title track deals with religion and power, and was inspired by a creation story that hypothesizes humans were initially molded not as pure images of goodness, but as crude slave labor for an alien race that wanted to mine the earth’s gold.

But, as the story goes, humanity escaped that fate. Like Prometheus with the gift of fire, a sympathetic alien informed humans of their origins, and that they have spirits that reincarnate after death — a revelation that caused the humans to revolt.

“”It’s all about pure political power,” Billy said of the title track.

But other songs are firmly rooted in the present, taking on topics such as the legalization of marijuana, Billy said. And while the band addressed the 2001 terrorist attacks on “Formation of Damnation” with “The Evil Has Landed,” the band closes the loop on “Brotherhood” with “Neptune Spear,” a story about the Seal Team Six raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

“Some of the songs I’d written in 2014, and a lot of the songs went through four rewrites,” Billy said. Some of the lyrics were still being reviews “until I went into the studio,” he said.

While Billy is pleased with the end result, “I don’t ever want to do it that way again,” he said.

With “Brotherhood” scheduled to get the streets in late October, the band is preparing to play a number of European dates just prior to the release, before coming back to the states for a U.S. tour.

“I’d say, right now, Testament is a fine-tuned machine,” Billy said. Over the years, the band members have learned how to tour in a way that doesn’t leave them worn-out wrecks, which shows in the power of their live shows, Billy said.

“If you’re not comfortable, it comes across in your performance,” Billy said. Now, the band works to take care of themselves on the road.

“When you’re feeling good, it definitely helps your show,” Billy said.

Testament’s “Brotherhood of the Snake” is scheduled for release on Oct. 28

 

Interview: Accept guitarist Wolf Hoffmann on the band’s return and the inspiration for “Stalingrad”

Of all the classic metal bands that have staged successful resurrections in recent years, the return of  Accept seems the most unlikely.

The German power metal monsters appeared to have been the victims of their own success. In the 1980s, when the band was fronted by unearthly lead singer Udo Dirkschnieder and powered by the blazing guitars of Wolf Hoffmann and Herman Frank, Accept created a sound all their own; you may not have been able to tell Overkill from Nuclear Assault (or Winger from Trixter, for that matter), but the second Dirkschnieder began to sing, you knew you were listening to Accept. Really, there was just no one else like them.

The band also created a load of unforgettable songs. “Balls to the Wall,” was the Accept’s signature song — and it’s still the song that every single metal fan knows. The band’s ’80s output also included “Living For Tonight,” “Restless and Wild,” “Fast As A Shark,” and the epic “Metal Heart,” a song that contains the single most badass guitar solo of the decade.

But the problem of having a signature sound is that it seems tamper resistant. When Dirkschneider took a hiatus from Accept to pursue his solo career, Accept essentially stalled.

Although the band recorded three albums in the 1990s, they couldn’t recapture their ’80s success. The band reunited one last time with Dirkschneider for a string of European festival shows in 2005; when asked in 2007 if Accept would record a new album, Dirkschneider dismissed the idea, saying it would be have been a “disaster” and said trying to write new material “would destroy more than we would create.”

Strong words — but the rest of Accept didn’t believe them.

In 2010, Accept — with classic lineup members Hoffmann, Frank, bassist Peter Baltes, drummer Stefan Schwarzmann and new singer Mark Tornillo, of the American metal band TT Quick — released the astounding “Blood of the Nations,” an album that proved Dirkschneider wasn’t the sole source of the band’s fire.

Earlier this year, Accept released “Stalingrad: Brothers in Death,” a disc that is even more powerful than “Blood of the Nations.” If anything, Accept as hungry and ready to shock the world today as they were when they released “Restless and Wild” in 1982. Instead of coasting on their old material as a nostalgia act, Accept — with “Blood of the Nations” and “Stalingrad” — are making some of the best music of the band’s career.

As Hoffmann said in a recent phone interview before the start of the band’s U.S. tour with Kreator, the band’s new life came about almost by accident.

“We weren’t even looking for (a singer) and we weren’t thinking about doing a reunion,” Hoffmann said. “We happened to find Mark one day and we did a fun jam session.

“He came in and we decided very spontaneously, ‘this guy sounds awesome; why don’t we ask him to be our front man?'” Hoffmann said. “He reminded us a bit of Udo and he had some aspects he brought to the table that were even better.”

With “Stalingrad,” the band tackles the horrors of World War II from two decidedly different perspectives. “Stalingrad” focuses on the suffering of the individual soldiers — German and Soviet — and points out that the men who did all the fighting and dying in that battle were a lot more alike than their leaders would have wanted them to believe.

“At the end of the day, mayn people are dying” during the battle, Hoffmann said. “In their last moments on the battlefield, two opposing soldiers realize, ‘this is really for nothing and we’re really much closer to each other than you would think.'”

Was it awkward for a German band to write a song based on the German invasion of the Soviet Union?

“I wouldn’t call it awkward,” Hoffmann said. “There’s a certain awareness; we’ve always been a band that dealt with controversy, we’ve always dealt with difficult topics. We’ve never liked doing lyrics that are cliché.”

The band returns to World War II with “Hell Fire: Dresden,” a song about the February 1945 Allied bombing of the Dresden, where somewhere between 25,000 and 45,000 people were killed after intensive bombing obliterated much of the city. The bombing caused an outcry in both Britain and America over the loss of life and the destruction of a city at a time when the war was already nearing its end.

Like “Stalingrad,” “Hellfire” focuses not on the politics of the war, but on the suffering of those dying in the bombed city.

“This is one of those forgotten stories” of the war,” Hoffman said. “If we hadn’t done ‘Stalingrad,’ we wouldn’t have thought to do anything like that. We came across the firebombing of Dresden, which was totally unnecessary, and we thought, ‘that should be another story.'”

But “Stalingrad” is not a concept album; the band tackles numerous topics, such as the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (“Never Forget”), economic recession (“Revolution”) and the price paid by soldiers who died for rest in places like Arlington National Cemetery (“Shadow Soldiers”).

Is the album hematically heavy in places? Sure. Is it even downright moving at times? Oh yes (just try not to get a bit teary on the solo for “Shadow Soldiers”). But ‘thematically heavy’ and “moving” doesn’t mean that Accept has forgotten how to rock or have fun.

“Hellfire,” “Revolution” and “Stalingrad” are fist-pumping anthems and the galloping “Hung, Drawn and Quartered” and “Flash to Bang Time” are sonic blasts. You won’t be crying into your beer with this disc.

For “Stalingrad,” the band was once again joined by Andy Sneap, who produced “Blood of the Nations.” Sneap was so excited about a possible Accept reunion that he tracked the band down with an offer to produce a new album before Accept were ready to go into the studio to record the songs that became “Blood.”

For the new album, Sneap acted as both producer and adviser, Hoffmann said.

“He’s part of the team,” Hoffmann said. “In Andy’s case, he’s an engineering guy, but he’s there early on, picking out the right songs. He’s picking out riffs and picking out stuff he likes as an Accept fan.”

The band felt trying to rise to the level of “Blood of the Nations” was a challenge, Hoffmann said.

“A little bit of pressure is quite good,” Hoffmann said. “I welcome a little bit of pressure. If you have a great album that you need to match or surpass, that’s awesome. At every turn of events, I think it’s has good as ‘Blood of the Nations.'”

After several decades in music, Hoffmann said he still enjoys touring — or at least the time on stage.

“It goes through phases; there are times you enjoy it immensely and there are times you wish it were over,” Hoffmann said. “Usually, the payback time is on stage … it’s really why you suffer through that miserable 22 hours, to be on stage for two hours.”

*** Accept will play Phoenix Hill Tavern in Louisville at 8 p.m. Tuesday Oct. 9. Assisting Sorrow, Two Pump Chump, Stagecoach Inferno and Rockaway Drive will open the show. Tickets are $25.  For tickets, visit http://www.terryharper.com

Interview: Municipal Waste’s Ryan Waste talks “The Fatal Feast”

The members of Richmond, Virginia’s Municipal Waste took a good long time — for them — to write and record their newly released punk-metal crossover messterpiece “The Fatal Feast.” To prepare, the band gave themselves a window of time when they weren’t under a pressing record company deadline and weren’t burned out from trying to wedge recording in between tours.

Guitarist Ryan Waste says the extra time spent preparing “The Fatal Feast” made a big difference in the band’s state of mind and in the songs.

“It was more relaxed,” Waste said. “We took a year off and got our heads together in general. We came up with stuff without being so tired from the road; we were excited to write and I think it shows.”

“The Fatal Feast” is fast, nasty and pummeling and combines traditional Waste gory dark humor (“New Dead Masters,” “Jesus Freaks” and the cannibalistic title track) with moments of Dead Kennedyesque political consciousness (“Standards and Practices”) and wacky party time insanity (“Covered in Sick/The Barfer,” “You’re Cut Off”). Musically, “The Fatal Feast” is brutal stuff, like a faster tongue-in-cheek “Reign in Blood.”

“We put the bar pretty high on ourselves,” Waste said. “I think, for our own sanity, we wanted to take a little time off and going between labels (from Earache to Nuclear Blast) was the best time to do that — and the end result is one of our best albums.”

If not as consistently politically active as the band’s last album for Earache, “Massive Aggressive,” it’s clear from songs like “Standards and Practices” that Municipal Waste has a political cutting edge. Waste said the band likes the dichotomy of mixing wacky horror tales with moments of social consciousness.

“We want to have fun — but you have to touch on the serious stuff,” Waste said. Any resemblance to the sentiments in “Standards and Practices” and the Occupy Wall Street movement, however, is purely coincidental.

“We wrote that before all of that (Occupy Wall Street) was coming down,” Waste said. “Maybe that was the Waste predicting the future.”

The album is classic Municipal Waste, Ryan Waste said. “It’s almost like a Waste best-of, with the old-school feel,” he said. “But, we’ve covered new ground and I got to do some new leads.

“There are some Motorhead tempos,” Waste said. “That has always been our specialty — its like A.D.D. speed metal.”

The band strives for its brand of musical perfection, Waste said. “We’ve never been a technical band, but we do want to keep you on your toes,” Waste said.

The band recently finished up a string of dates with GWAR and will be hitting the road for another trek across the U.S. in late May. After that, the band will play a June date in the U.K. and a few shows in France in July.

“This year is going to be the year of the Waste wasting the world,” Ryan Waste said. “We’re doing our own headlining tour and we’re going over (to Europe) to do the festivals.” When not touring with Municipal Waste, Ryan Waste will be touring with his side-band, Volture. Meanwhile Waste bassist Phil “Landfill” Hall will also be touring at times this year with his side project, Cannabis Corpse. Drummer Dave Witte, who also plays with King Generator and Birds of Prey, will also be touring this year.

Side projects, Waste said, do not interfere with Municipal Waste.

“There’s no jealousy,” Waste said. “Everyone wants to give that creative freedom. It’s what keeps (Municipal Waste) fresh.”

www.facethewaste.com

Interview: Michael LePond of Symphony X talks touring, songwriting and the robot revolution of “Iconoclast”

“High concept” metal can be pretentious crap.

You know it’s true, because you’ve heard “high concept” metal, too. Think of all the times you’ve heard one of Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s attempts to classy-up his albums with a bit of classical noodling. Yes, he’s stellar at arpeggios and I like some of his more straight-forward songs (“I Am A Viking!” Yea!)  … but every time Yngwie tries to reinterpret Johann Sebastian, Schubert, Sherbert or Stravinsky through his Strat, I fall asleep.

High mindedness doesn’t always translate well to metal lyrics, either. When it comes to concept albums, for every “Tommy” there are 20 “Mr. Robotos” out there. Sure, Queensryche pulled if off with their rock opera, “Operation: Mindcrime” … but W.A.S.P.’s attempt at rock opera, “The Crimson Idol” sounded … well, it sounded like exactly what you would have expected from the auteur who gave us “Animal (F**k Like A Beast).”  Hell, even Queensryche couldn’t make lightning strike twice.

So I get a bit nervous when a band goes all high art on me, but the band that did it better than anyone else in 2011 is New Jersey’s Symphony X, with their dystopian, machines-destroy-mankind magnum opus, “Iconoclast.”

“Iconoclast” works because Symphony X — unlike, say, Queensryche on “American Soldier” or the second half of “Operation: Mindcrime II,” doesn’t try to run away from their metal roots. Rather, “Iconoclast” is filled with blistering riffs and brutal musicianship.

Guitarist Michael Romeo is considered on the top guitarists in metal for a reason; the man shreds — but only in the service of the songs and never in a “listen to how clean my sweep picking is” sort of way. He’s got Yngwie’s chops, but he’s no Yngwie — and I mean that in a good way.

The rest of the band — multi-octive bellower Russell Allen, drumming machine Jason Rullo, bassist Michael LePond and keyboardist Michael Pinnella — are equally as powerful. Symphony X are thinking man’s metal with balls and “Iconoclast” is both thought-provoking and heavier than an dinosaur killing asteroid.

Don’t believe me? Then I suggest you hear for yourself.

The band recently wrapped up a sprint across the U.S. with buddies Iced Earth and Warbringer. If you missed them on that particular U.S. jaunt, you’ll have to wait — the band will be playing National Open Air Brazil on April 20 and then will cross the pond for the summer Euro festival circuit before returning home to play the ProgPower festival in Atlanta in September.

Given the choice, bassist LePond would spend much more of the year on the road.

“I’m the guy who likes touring the most,” LePond said, during a quick phone interview on the second-to-last stop of the Iced Earth tour. “As long as I can stay healthy and well, I could tour constantly. The other guys have wives and kids.”

The ominous concept for “Iconoclast” — machines replace, enslave and destroy humanity –came from a rather innocent twist of the knob in the recording studio while the band was working on song ideas, LePond said.

“Michael Romeo was messing around with these robotic little sounds — not industrial, but almost,” LePond said. “We experimented with that. As we put the songs together, we came up with a concept where technology goes too far in striving for perfection and the machines take over.”

But are we already slaves to technology, even without a “Robopocalypse” style machine takeover? LePond said the argument that we’re already enslaved by our electronic “helpers” could easily be made.

“It seems that way. Things have changed so much; when you go out to dinner with your friends, everybody is staring at their phones,” LePond said.

Those kinds of questions come readily to the Symphony X fans LePond meets on the road. While broadening minds is not explicitly the band’s goal, LePond said he appreciates fans who take the band’s interpretations of “The Odyssey” and “Paradise Lost” and then do their own research.

“A lot of them will hear an album and read the lyrics and go back and read Homer and John Milton,” LePond said. “Our fans like to be challenged. They like to learn and listen to the music. They’ll always ask questions.”

Musically, the band is every bit as intricate as the literary sources of inspiration.

“People come to me and say, ‘wow, I’ve listened to that album and I have to keep listening, because every time I hear something new,” LePond said. Considering the amount of music packed into each song, it won’t surprise fans when LePond say the music can be difficult to play.

“They’re very challenging. It takes a lot of practice,” LePond said.

National Open Air Brazil — which also features heavyweights like Exodus, Megadeth and Venom — will put Symphony X on stage in front of 80,000 screaming metal fans.

“It’s going to be the biggest show we have ever done in our career,” LePond said. Over the summer “we’ll go and do Europe for about 10 days; then in September, we’re going to do a show in Mexico City and them we’re playing ProgPower. Then we’ll be in full writing mode for another record.”

“Iconoclast” was released in 2011; before that, the band released “Paradise Lost” in 2007 and “The Odyssey” in 2002. Does that mean fans can expect the band’s next album in 2016?

“I certainly hope not,” LePond said. “What we’re shooting for is, hopefully, this summer we’re going to start working on songwriting. I think the next recording will come out in 2014, hopefully.

“Just putting together the songs takes a lot of time,” LePond said. “That’s the thing we feel bad about — we’d like to put out the albums quicker, but we don’t want to put out any filler.”

Factory Damage to end career by opening for Anthrax Jan. 29 in Louisville

Every rock musician who picks up a guitar or set of drumsticks dreams of sharing a stage with their idols. Very few musicians and bands ever get that opportunity.

But Owensboro’s Factory Damage have had a little more success than the average band; over the past seven years, the band has played shows with major-label metal bands such as Exodus, Powerman 5,000, Warbringer and Malevolent Creation.

On Jan. 29, Factory Damage will play the last show of the band’s career in Louisville when they open for thrash metal legends Anthrax at Expo Five.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” said band guitarist Ed Young. “If you had said to me when we started this band seven years ago we would be opening for Anthrax, I would have said, ‘you’re dreaming.’ ”

Life in a local band anywhere is difficult — there aren’t any lavish backstage parties, tour buses or bowls of M&Ms with all the brown ones picked out for aspiring garage bands. Instead, hungry local bands can look forward to loading and unloading their own gear, traveling in cramped, overloaded vans and constantly scrambling to find gigs.

“Opening for Warbringer, we saw them pull up in a cargo van (instead of a tour bus),” Young said. “Right then I realized, ‘this is a whole lot harder than anyone thinks.’ ”

Young said the constant search for new shows to play wore the band thin over time. “There’s no metal scene” in Owensboro, Young said. Most local bars require bands to play cover songs.

The band decided to call it quits in September. “It didn’t end on a bad note,” vocalist Chris Hedges said. “We needed time for our families. The stress and hassle of trying to constantly book shows took a toll on all of us.”

“We’re not teenagers,” Young said. “We’ve all got jobs. My kids are getting older, and I don’t want to miss any of it.”

The band was scheduled to play its last show in Louisville opening for Down — a supergroup of sorts containing former Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo and members of Crowbar and Corrosion of Conformity. But life intervened and Factory Damage had to bow out of the gig.

But the band didn’t want to end their career on a low note. So, when Young learned the Louisville music promoter Terry Harper had booked Anthrax, Testament and Death Angel to play Expo Five, he asked Harper if the band could join the bill.

“Terry was really understanding” when the band dropped off the Down show, Young said. “When I saw Anthrax pop up on his website, I had to ask him, because Anthrax was a huge influence on me.

“Terry has been really great for this band,” Young said. “I guess he likes us.”

Getting ready for the show has been a challenge. Some members of the band, such as longtime drummer Scott Doughty, are unable to perform because of work. To fill out the bill, the Young and Hedges recruited a drummer and bassist from other local bands.

“They’re picking up (the songs) really quickly,” Hedges said.

“We’re practicing pretty much nonstop,” Young said.

Although the band is retiring from music for now, there’s always the possibility of getting back together in the future, Hedges said. But, if not, the band is calling it quits with no regrets.

“We’ve had a lot of fun doing it,” Young said. “There have been more good times than bad.”

“It’s almost cliché … but when you get out on the stage, all the stress (of life) is gone,” Hedges said. “The show hits, and it’s awesome.”

“It’s a whole other world when you get out there (on stage), whether it’s 20 people or 500,” Young said.

Anthrax, Testament, Death Angel, Factory Damage, Stonecutters, Overload and Maltese Cross will perform at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at Expo Five in Louisville. Tickets are $25. Factory Damage is selling tickets to the show; for tickets, e-mail factorydamage@hotmail.com or visit http://www.ticketweb.com.