Through its entire existence, thrash metal has been dealt a bad hand. Even at its peak, thrash was deemed musical trash by critics and “music fans” alike. And to this day, less than five bands in the genre have ever broken through to the public consciousness. New York’s Coldsteel unfortunately has spent its lifetime in the underground of the underground, starting and stopping and starting again, as though ebbing with the tide of scene progression. However, now that thrash has been gaining some sincere momentum in the past couple years, Coldsteel has deemed it time for another round, and has offered up a brand new EP, “America Idle” through StormSpell Records.
We caught up with bassist Doug O’Dell to explain why 2013 is the right time for the band to return. And although he has since left the band, he was very gracious in his efforts to help support this unsung band.
Do you see yourselves as taking a risk playing a brand of power/thrash metal in the 21st century? Is part of the band’s mission to show that you are MORE THAN “just a thrash metal band”?
Thrash as a subgenre may have dipped underground to some extent, but it has never gone away. Bands such as Testament, Flotsam & Jetsam, Death Angel and Overkill have weathered many storms, yet have never fallen prey to popular trends.
To answer your question, I don’t see it as a risk at all; Coldsteel is doing what we do, completely on our own terms. I’m not sure if there is a true mission in this initiative, beyond releasing these new recordings and reintroducing the band to the universe at large.
Having a background in technical, progressive music, what attracted you to Coldsteel?
Hal Aponte (drums) and I were bandmates in Ice Age for six years, and I’ve always been hoping for the opportunity to work with him again. Eddie Campbell (guitar) and I also have long history together; First from Crunch (formerly Adriangale), then in Ted Poley’s solo band and more recently in APW (featuring Ray West of Spread Eagle). I’ve admired Troy’s amazing vocals in Them (King Diamond tribute) for years, so the chance to work with these awesome musicians was a no-brainer for me. Having the chance to play music that was this challenging and badass was just a bonus!
I find it amazing how Coldsteel has managed to capture the essence and honesty of the classic thrash sound. Is it difficult to harness an “authentic” or “pure” thrash metal sound in 2013, so many years removed from the genre’s heyday?
I think it comes down to being true to the intent of the compositions and channeling things with authenticity. With the five guys involved in this, you cannot get anything more or less than that. Just as an FYI, I was not involved in any of the writing/arranging of the songs, but Troy gave me free reign and encouragement to be adventurous with the bass lines. I am very happy and proud of the end result.
A sense of fun is often seen as something archaic or a faux pas in metal these days, yet you seem to have incorporated it as a part of Coldsteel’s mantra. How do you balance serious musicianship and a sense of fun?
Everyone in this band is very laid back and has a great sense of humor. We take music very seriously, but not much else.
And do you have any theories as to why a sense of humor in metal is considered unfashionable, when 1) metal itself is unfashionable, and 2) everyone who is properly exposed to these bands ends up enjoying them?
I think “Metalocalypse” (the show)/Dethklok (the band) is a great example of how humor and metal can coexist in a very entertaining way. I personally do not agree that metal is unfashionable, but if it is -- I only see that as a positive!
What brought about the critical viewpoint in the title track “America Idle”?
I am going to defer to Troy Norr (vocals) on this question, as he is the architect and visionary behind Coldsteel.
TROY: America Idle’s title was the brainchild of Hal Aponte. In order to not confuse the title of the record with the hit TV show “American Idol”, Eddie Campbell suggested we drop the “N” in American and from then on the recordings would be known as “America Idle”.
Conceptually, America Idle relays the frustration many Americans have harbored towards their government’s decline for the past decade coupled with the incremental eradication of their liberties. With harbored frustration, a sense of responsibility should follow. According to the U.S. Constitution drafted in 1787, The American people are responsible for change with their government. This inherited responsibility is proclaimed through the speech recited in America Idle.
This speech is a slightly modified excerpt from Abraham Lincoln’s famous Lyceum Address speech and was recited by eleven unique individuals ranging in various ages and gender. Furthermore, this speech indicates the people must band together and swear by the blood of the revolution when the government does not serve its people correctly. WE THE PEOPLE…RISE!!
Do you think an American audience will “get” the brand of metal Coldsteel is offering up?
I don’t see why not! And if not, we’re happy to get exposure anywhere that’s appropriate. The one good thing about the Internet is the creation of a global, level playing field to get the word out.
Coldsteel seemed to have issues getting off the ground during its original incarnation. What steps are you taking this time so that you do not end up with a repeat performance?
Any musician that didn’t just fall off the back of the turnip truck will tell you that being in a band is a MARRIAGE. Except there are more than two people and it’s only that much more difficult to keep everyone happy and on the same page. I was not part of the original line-up, but I’m excited and honored to be involved today. If things get rough, we can always hire Phil Towle to be our band therapist [laughs].
Why release an EP, rather than cull an album’s worth of material?
I think in a world where the concept of an album has become irrelevant, releasing digital singles, bundles or EPs like what we are doing is a very forward-thinking move. And I am super-pumped that we’ve got this out on vinyl as well! I grew up in the vinyl era, didn’t you?
What do you want people to cull from a Coldsteel listening experience?
If you’re a legacy fan of old-school thrash, “America Idle” deserves a spin! The musicianship, production, vocals and overall vibe are the real deal! And this is more than a studio project; we’ve got live dates in the works, the first of which is with U.D.O. (original singer from Accept) on April 9, 2013 at Ollie’s Point in Amityville, NY. Advance tickets can be purchased at www.coldsteelny.com/merchandise.