ALBANY -- Reformed Bay Area thrashers Defiance play a headlining show at the Ivy Room in Albany Saturday, sharing the stage with crossover skate-punk/metal heroes the Boneless Ones.
While not as well known as some of the other second-generation thrash metal bands to emerge from the East Bay during the latter half of the '80s, Oakland outfit Defiance established itself as one of the region's leading lights over the course of several albums showcasing the group's highly technical approach to the style. Originally formed in Oakland by guitarist Brad Bowers, bassist Mike Kaufmann and drummer Matt Vander Ende in 1985, the quintet would go through a number of line-up changes before Bowers was ousted and the guitar tandem of Doug Harrington and Jim Adams took charge.
As Defiance continued to build their local following playing shows at the Stone in San Francisco and the Omni in Oakland, the band still struggled to find a vocalist, bringing high school classmate of Adams Mitch Mayes on to sing before eventually teaming with Ken Elkington. With Harrington writing the bulk of the band's songs, their Hypothermia demo in 1988 would help the group land a record deal with metal indie label Roadrunner, which would release the band's debut album Product of Society the following year.
While the band members ended up not being thrilled with the production provided by Annihilator guitarist Jeff Waters, the effort provided a solid showcase for the developing guitar chemistry between Harrington and Adams. The band's follow-up Void Terra Firma in 1990 further refined their elevated riff science and marked the band's first recording with Elkington's replacement, Laughing Dead singer Steev Esquivel.
The band's third album Beyond Recognition further pushed the envelop with increasingly complex guitar parts and unusual time signatures that flirted with progressive rock and even jazz fusion. Released in 1992 after grunge and alternative rock started to push metal out of the spotlight, the effort would prove to be the final Defiance recording for nearly two decades. The quintet soldiered on for a few more years with members departing and returning, eventually splitting up in 1995. Principles players Harrington, Adams and Kaufmann would form the more groove-oriented band Inner Threshold with latter era singer (and ex-Heathen vocalist) Dave White, while Esquivel went on to some success fronting the band Skinlab.
The classic line-up of the band would reunite in 2005 with new drummer James Raymond with the aim of recording new material after Polish label Metal Mind Productions reissued the band's back catalog in a box set with bonus demo tracks and live recordings from their heyday. Sadly, Defiance was dealt tragic blow with the death of Harrington the following year after the guitarist lost a battle against cancer he had quietly been fighting for years.
The group would eventually sign a new deal with Candlelight Records to at last release their fourth effort The Prophecy in late 2009 that featured some of the last music Harrington recorded before his passing. Esquivel departed a short time after the album came out, but Defiance continued to perform until they hung it up once again in 2012. Things remained quiet until two years ago when the group announced they would be reforming after receiving an invitation to play the Blades of Steel Metalfest in Milwaukee. The festival was originally to be held in 2020 before being postponed by the pandemic, but earlier this year Defiance reunited once again, playing warm-up shows in the Bay Area with new guitarist Billy Garoutte (Cultural Warfare, Hellbender) filling in for the late Harrington prior to their April appearance at the festival. With new songs being written for a future album, the group plays its first headlining Bay Area show in years at the Ivy Room Saturday.
The band will be joined by reconvened East Bay skate-punk pioneers the Boneless Ones. Inspired by the classic Thrasher Magazine punk compilations of the early '80s, the band contributed a pair of tunes -- "Keg Kept a Flowing," a parody of the oft-covered, blues-rock staple "Train Kept a Rollin'" -- and the original song "Love to Hate" -- to the Bay Area punk imprint Boner Records' seminal collection Them Boners Be Poppin' alongside such hardcore greats as Tales of Terror, Fang, Verbal Abuse and Bl'ast.
In 1986, the group released it's debut album, the landmark skate-punk effort Skate for the Devil that stands as one of the Bay Area's great contributions to the crossover movement. While the band would split up the following year, Boneless Ones reunited in 2019 with original singer Max Fox and bassist Troy Takaki teaming up with a local metal and punk legend for their new line-up featuring drummer Chris Kontos (Attitude Adjustment, Machine Head, Verbal Abuse and many others) -- who actually played in the Boneless Ones during the last six months before the split. [Full disclosure: Chris and I met while in elementary school and later reconnected as teens and later still as adults going to metal and punk shows.]
- Read an interview with the Boneless Ones: |
The band played the 2019 Haight Street Fair and a few other shows with a couple of guitarists before hooking up with talented six-string hero Craig Locicero (Forbidden Evil/Forbidden, Manmade God, Dress the Dead and more), who has ably filled the sizeable shoes of original guitar player, the late Luke Skeels.
In addition to reissuing the long out-of-print Skate for the Devil on Beer City in 2020, that December the band put out it's first new tune in decades just before Christmas with the hilarious seasonal punk anthem "Santa Stole My Skateboard." With the pandemic shutting down touring and live music in general, the Boneless Ones teamed to write new songs to go with four tracks from a long-lost demo that was originally recorded in 1987, coming up with material for the group's first new album in over 35 years, Back to the Grind.
Capturing the same mix of irreverent humor and blistering punk-meets-metal skate anthems that made Skate for the Devil a timeless classic, the new effort set for release in May delivers neck-snapping musical mayhem ("We Ride The Night," "Church Of Violence," "Crossing Over the Bridge") that longtime fans will readily embrace while delving into new territory on the Beatles-esque lament for lost lust "I Wish You Were Beer" that manages to be both heartfelt and hilarious. This Saturday night show at the Ivy Room in Albany will also include Murder in the Front Row photographer and former D.R.I. bassist Harald Oiman and his band Jesus Crisis. Bay Area thrash-punk trio Effits (featuring former members of D.R.I. and Skinlab) opens the show.
Defiance with the Boneless Ones
Saturday, Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m. $20-$25
The Ivy Room
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