You don’t normally root for bands like you do sports teams, but if you did, you should start with New Jersey’s Seven Witches.
Simply put, the veteran heavy metal band has earned its stripes the hard way since beginning their musical journey in 1998, and as they pull into NYC tonight for a show with Vicious Rumors at The Studio At Webster Hall, you have to respect and admire a group that still loves what they’re doing, even after all these years.
“I think once you’re on the road, you’ll have your bumps, you’ll have your nights where maybe the promoter’s pissed that you didn’t bring enough people, you’re gonna have your fight for a warm shower, but once you’re out there to play, I can say I’m a lucky son of a bitch,” said guitarist and founder Jack Frost. “I’m getting to go play guitar and have fun; what more can you say? I’m getting to play music. Does it get better? Probably if you’re in Pink’s band, you got a great life. But I made a lot of good friends over the years in big bands, and it all looks great on paper, but trust me, there are a whole bunch of different issues when you’re in a situation like that.”
That love of the game, so to speak, is evident on Seven Witches’ latest release, Rebirth. The band’s ninth studio album, Rebirth is a traditional metal album in the best sense of the term, which means that it’s heavy, has melody, and has vocals you can actually understand. If you can actually listen to a metal album these days that gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling, this is it.
“I remember putting on Accept’s Restless and Wild, or Y&T’s Black Tiger, and I remember that feeling of ‘$%$#, this is a record. Look at the riffs and the melodic vibe.’ And we went with the approach of let’s take that feel of what we grew up on, and went for a true rock sound, but with more of today’s technology.”
The album is also the band’s first with new singer Anthony Cross, who stepped into the fray seamlessly and adds a new dimension to the Seven Witches sound.
“I sent out a bunch of demos, and a million singers sent me stuff,” said Frost. “A lot of the guys were well-known too. But what it came down to was, they all sounded like (previous vocalists) James (Rivera) and Alan (Tecchio). They all had that Halford-ish Dio-ish sound and I said if we’re gonna do something new, I want a Ray Gillen. I want Jeff Keith, I want John Bush. And I knew Anthony for a long time. So I sent him stuff, he sent it back to me, I sent him another song and he sent it back to me. And I said this is the guy. Then we started to get into it, and he probably did five or six demos and he goes ‘am I in the band’ or do you just want me to demo all this? (Laughs) I told him I didn’t want to do it over the phone, it’s kinda cheesy, but would I have sent you six songs if I didn’t think you were the guy? He started to laugh. But it was a natural thing.”
You can tell from the first track to the last. More importantly, you can hear the sound of a band (Frost, Cross, Ronnie Parkes, Johnny Kelly) comfortable in its own skin and with each other.
“It was really nice to play with four guys that just really enjoyed it,” said Frost. “It wasn’t about the money, it wasn’t about the party, it was just about the music, and I hate to say we went back to basics, but we did. I remember being 15 years old in my mother’s living room and just jamming with my friends, making mistakes and laughing.”
Speaking of teen years, the 45-year-old Frost not only continues to preach the metal gospel on stage, but he also does so as an instructor at the School of Rock in Somerville, which begs the question: do kids these days still sit for hours to practice their instruments in the same way folks like Frost did in the days before smart phones, video games, social media, and a million other distractions?
“More than when we were kids,” said Frost, father of an eight-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter. “Here’s the difference. At School of Rock, where I teach, the kids get to be in ensembles. There are 15-20 kids and they all get to play together and they all love Zeppelin and the Stones and the Beatles. We even did a metal show and I turned them on to all these bands like King Diamond and let me tell you, these kids would have smoked me at that age. They’re just unbelievable. They practice and the difference is that when we were kids you couldn’t find a bassist or a drummer. There are 10 bass players and 10 guitar players up at school, and you put them together. So it’s even more so. They’re so into it and I love teaching there. It’s just so rewarding.”
From the classroom to the stage, it’s people like Frost that keep this music alive. Why? Because he loves it, he’s not ashamed of it, and he’s going to keep doing it for as long as he possibly can. Yeah, you can root for guys like Frost and bands like Seven Witches.
“I’m gonna be here,” he said. “There’s nothing else I can do and nothing else I want to do.”
Seven Witches plays The Studio At Webster Hall tonight, October 1. For tickets, click here