The moonlighting groups are The Haunted, Bury Your Dead, The Black Dahlia Murder, It Dies Today and headliner Shadows Fall. Each represents different thrash-and-burn variations on contemporary forms of aggressive rock--types of music known to some as death metal, metalcore, hardcore, grind, melodic metal and speed metal.
Members of three of those groups recently stole a little time from their schedules to talk about the current mainstream resurgence of interest in all alloys of metal. Each seemed unconcerned with the splintering categories used to identify different forms of the music, instead describing their bands using variations on the term "high-energy."
"We're just going with the flow," said Mat Bruso, the singer for the hardcore band Bury Your Dead, when asked about what his band calls its style. "Hardcore has become nü-metal, which has become thrash and I don't know what else. It's all just metal to me. We mockingly call ourselves 'nü-mosh.'"
Indeed, Bury Your Dead's recent album, Cover Your Tracks, is as intense a collision between thrash metal and old-school, mosh-worthy hardcore punk as you're likely to find these days. The band's music is truly brutal. Bruso pointed out, though, that his band brings only energy to the table.
"We just play heavy, aggressive music. Whether the audience interprets that as negative or positive is up to them," he said. "People tend to focus their energy in ways they need to. Some of them are getting out aggressions that otherwise they would take home to a battered wife. And for some of these kids, considering how their home lives are, we're bringing the most positive aspects to a lot of their lives."
Bruso is stoked about metal's popularity and diversity these days. "Anybody who wants to ignore or condemn what's happening in metal now is definitely off their rocker."
He doesn't mind the influx of "mall metal kids" either. "Hey, those are fans who appreciate the music; they come to the show with smiles; they bring energy; they buy merch, and they buy records."
Praising multi-band tours such as Ozzfest, Sounds From the Underground and Warped, Bruso said the metal scene is based on a sense of community. "We're all friends first, no matter which band you're in. There's a reason why community and family are the No. 1, most-referred-to subjects of metal lyrics."
Peter Dolving, singer for the Swedish band The Haunted, said he and his mates play "just straight-up metal. For us, it's all about the energy, not the special shape of things, or what you are called."
Metal is about "the spirit of something--I guess you could call it strength and integrity. For some reason, metal fans are like the next-generational followers of the early hippies, a wizened bunch of people trying to stay true to that spirit, to opening your mind and acceptance," Dolving said.
The members of The Haunted, whose latest album is the critically acclaimed thrash-metal opus Revolver, enjoy taking breaks away from Ozzfest to do one-off gigs, not least because it affords them the opportunity to play longer sets. At Ozzfest, most of these bands get to play 18-20 minutes. Dolving reported that The Haunted will play for 40-45 minutes at the Tucson concert.
"It's just more fun to play every night than to play a few nights a week and sit around waiting the other nights," Dolving said.
He's enthused about the new talent entering the metal arena, and the accompanying musical chops they bring with them. "It's far and away a great, healthy time for metal, I think. It's all just guitar-based rock, but the music is bound to become more and more extreme and complex. There's a whole new generation of younger bands that you're going to see blowing up over the next 10 years."
Matt Bachand, guitarist for Shadows Fall, acknowledged that metal has changed much in recent years. Indeed, it's always going through evolution. "It's definitely a lot more aggressive than it used to be. It's louder and more intense, but there are bands out there who are trying to be a lot more creative, trying new things with melody and stuff."
Shadows Fall is the de facto headliner at the upcoming Tucson date. On its fifth full-length CD, The War Within, the band plays in-your-face metalcore, but leavens that intensity with an embrace of 1970s-style classic rock. "I'd say there's a lot of the aggression of Cannibal Corpse in our music, but we also love to play intricate, melodic stuff like Boston and Thin Lizzy."
Disproving those who would limit metal musicians to that genre alone, Bachand maintains a couple of side bands when not playing with Shadows Fall. "I actually have a death-grind project I've been working on with some other people in the industry yet to be named. I also have a pop band, sort of like a Ben Folds thing, with me singing. Probably my favorite artist ever is Ben Folds."
Bachand also digs the varied styles of metal his band and others will play at the Tucson date. "We tend to put packages together like that. So if a fan says, 'I only like really brutal metal, theatrical bands,' well, here's something for you to check out, some melodic metal."
For example, rounding out the Rialto bill will be two younger acts: the gloriously extreme death-metal act The Black Dahlia Murder, and It Dies Today, which uses a textured and melodic but no-less punishing sound on its debut CD, The Caitiff Choir, to recount episodes from Dante's The Divine Comedy.