For Todd Hall the creation of Heavy Metal oriented Rock 'n Roll is his passion. Along with his brother Jon, Todd co-founded the local metal outfit Harlet that has packed clubs for two decades; and several years ago Todd became the vocalist for Jack Starr's 'Burning Starr', which took his talents to larger levels through international tours of Europe behind Burning Starr's original releases, the most recent of which came out last November.
But now Todd is unveiling his latest creative vision in the form of an entirely new musical outfit dead-set upon turning heads and sharpening ears in the world of Metal music. Entitled Reverence, their new debut CD, When Darkness Calls, was released on May 31st to rave reviews touting the band as “the new heavy power metal super group” and already praising the release as “the most anticipated Metal album of the Year'.
Consisting of Todd Michael Hall on vocals, Bryan Holland on guitars, drummer Steve Wacholz, bassist Ned Meloni and Pete Rossi on guitars, the group literally converged from all points of the United States in order to join forces, with the core songwriting team of Bryan & Todd hailing out of Michigan (from Kalamazoo & Saginaw, respectively) and the other members based out of East Coast locales ranging from Pittsburgh to Florida.
The end result is an 11-track collection of powerfully emotive and passionately engaged old-school riff driven compositions with decidedly tasty vocalizations and musical constructions that strive to lift the entire genre of Metal music into fresh new directions.
“I'd started singing for Jack Starr and through that Bryan heard my singing with Burning Starr,” explains Todd. “He said that he was trying to put a new type of band together, and the more we discussed it, I liked the potential of the situation, so we decided to try and write music together and see how it turned out. I still sing for Burning Starr, but the new band we've formed is exciting because of the creative input involved. I get to write all they lyrics and vocal melodies.”
From that point Bryan enlisted the remaining members of the group. “I knew Steve from a band called Sabotage many years ago and then Steve brought Ned to our attention as a bassist. We wanted to bring more guitars into the sound, so enlisted Pete and such was the origins of Reverence.”
“Nowadays two things are critical - first you need a group of people that share a common vision about what they want to accomplish musically, which Bryan and I had a locked vision about; and the other is to find musicians that are serious about their work and not total drunkards or stone-heads,” states Todd.
“In my other band Harlet, which I started with my brother Jon, he's looking for one thing and I wanted another musically, so it's hard to write together. Reverence became the perfect outlet for the types of things I needed to say through my songwriting.”
When asked what they collectively feel distinguishes the sound of their band, the group looks back towards the fundamentals and forward towards the future in terms of establishing a fresh musical context for metal music. “I wouldn't say we're incredibly meek in terms of doing something nobody's attempted before,” continues Todd. “Musically we're rooted in Old School Metal - heavy metal, as it were - with guitar oriented riffs and soaring leads, which frankly compliment my vocal style. But the goal is to bring a more modern twist into the mix.”
Originally Todd & Bryan teamed up to compose 16 songs, 13 which were recorded in the studio, and 11 tracks finalized for their new debut CD. The group intends to throw another bonus track in for the vinyl release. “Some people say you should write 40 songs so you have a lot to work with,” laughs Bryan, “but we'd rather get rid of the bad ones before they're finished.”
“Bryan and I would forge the simple shell of the song and then the band formed and came together as we went along with the project,” adds Todd. “After we wrote the core of music, Pete added the guitar parts that brought much of the music to life, so it's a very collaborative effort in that sense.”
“Actually, I was using finger drums to lay out the shell of the songs while they were being born,” interjects Steve. “And then when we all came together to record, it was then that the full power and emotion came out. You can hear some of the demos that we put online, but when you pull the real configuration of the band into play, it takes the music into a whole other dimension.”
In this age of 'Pro Tools' and digital recording, one rather remarkable notion is that the group would bother flying across all parts of the country to converge together in a recording studio when they could simply email tracks & contributions to one another and then splice them together with advanced editing equipment - which is how much of modern music is recorded nowadays, with many of the artists not even sitting in the same room together.
“We did send the songs back and forth to one another,” explains Todd, “but we all wanted to be in the same room together to get that 'live' feeling that can only be accomplished in the flesh. If you record separately it can sound lifeless. You need the immediacy. For Rock & Roll you need that feel.”
“Technology allows musicians to record without a drummer or bass player and basically put me out of a job,” agrees Steve. “But that type of music always misses the human element. The human element is not perfect, but flawed - which makes it better than perfect.”
Indeed, the best way to sum up the band's take on the impact of digital technology on modern music is how the role of the artist is to tame the beast. “We use technology for its benefit, but won't allow it to overtake everything,” notes Todd. “A good example is with back-up vocals. I can't sing with the strength of 30 voices at once when I'm performing live, and there are some songs you want to do that with. So you use technology to enhance it. But people go overboard. They'll grab every drum sound out there and quantize them and then put them all on a time grid. But to me that's overload.”
The debut CD is available for only $10.00 and digital downloads will be priced at $5.00 on I-tunes. You can purchase the release by going to their website at www.reverencemetal.com.
When asked what tracks on their debut effort are most representative of the musical goals the group is striving to achieve; or if they have any particular favorites, like a true auteur Todd responds that he likes all of them. “I know that sounds stupid, or convenient to say; but the deal is that to me they are all heavy and I feel really proud of every track. Some people put out 18 songs, but I didn't want this CD to run too long. And topically the songs are all about real life topics. I'm not overly political and if I write a song alone on my own it sounds like John Denver,” he laughs.
What about the state of the live music metal scene these days? So many younger music fans seem to be opting for Hip Hop and spinning the night away at Dance Clubs, does the group perceive any waning interest in Metal as an art form?
“Back in my home town Dance & Hip Hop have kind of killed Rock 'n Roll,” reflects Ned, “and back when I was in my 20s any club with a rock band would be packed. Guys like to go where the girls are and Hip Hop and Dance Clubs seem to be the trend, so yeah, it is a repressed market and tough to predict. That's why we are looking to tour overseas with the launch of this CD. Rock and metal enjoys a better following in Europe than in the States these days.”
“Kids still know who Guns & Roses are certainly,” adds Todd, “but the other thing is that today there are so many distractions out there, with X-boxes and games. It pulls people away from what we used to do. I'm an album listener and will listen from the beginning to end; but with the advent of the I-pod you can buy one song. I never would have thought that way and still don't. But nowadays bands write music as an excuse to play live because it's the only way you can make any money. It used to be the other way around.”
“This all comes down to passion. Not one of us think we're going to make big dollars doing this, but hopefully we'll make enough to pay for recording costs and fund the project. We want a tour and are working on lining up Europe. Hopefully we can book enough clubs and have some fun. We're looking to book 10 shows over a two-week period.”
The band selected their name from the lyrics of one of Todd's original compositions, Revolution Rising. “There's a line there that goes, 'Bow down in reverence, bow down in fair. They don't care as long as you adhere.' The word reverence stuck out - it works, so we used it.”
In conclusion Todd reflects on the connections between the past, present and future. “I revere '80s Metal and am rooted in it even though we as a band are striving for a more modern sound. You can't listen or look at us and not know we're influenced by '80s metal. But what happened is that the Metal I really liked nowadays is saturated with what I like to refer to as 'Cookie Monster' vocals. To each his own. I'm not saying it sucks, but I can't sing that way so don't do it. But in the U.S. somehow the older 80s Metal became passé. Whereas in Europe its like another genre of music, similar to Rock or the Blues. It doesn't have that stigma of the ancient associated with it.”
“I want an audience that is passionate with their fists high in the air. I want that connection. I went through this stage where rather than write a good song I would try to impress somebody. Now I'm trying to make the songs good.”