Sabbath-driven doom metal has arguably been the NY/NJ metal scene’s most notable and well-received sub-genre among headbangers since the early 90’s. At the dawn of the decade, HADES leader and guitarist Dan Lorenzo was trading in his signature thrash metal riffs for mid-tempo ones with his new band NON-FICTION, who were leading the doom metal charge west of the George Washington Bridge. Drummer Johnny Kelly was a drum-tech, warming up his throne as an eventual replacement and crucial member for legendary Brooklyn goth-metal outfit Type O Negative. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the two musicians would have crossed paths in some fashion over the course of the last three decades, and as incredulous as it may sound, they didn’t until Overkill vocalist Bobby Blitz correctly suggested to Lorenzo that Kelly was the perfect time-keeper to match his riffs that make up the nine tracks on REACH FOR THE SCARS, the debut full-length from the duo’s new band PATRIARCHS IN BLACK. 

The first task for the Lorenzo/Kelly collaboration was to find a formidable rhythm section partner who could mesh well with Kelly’s stomps. The drummer’s former battery mate with A PALE HORSE NAMED DEATH, Eric J. Morgan, was a logical choice on four of the tracks given the pairs proven connection as previous bandmates with the Sal Abruscato-led goth metal veterans. Lorenzo also decided to tap into the New Jersey veteran-vault for rhythm contributions, including his VESSEL OF LIGHT/CASSIUS KING bandmate Jimmy Schulman, who plays on the more up-tempo, Dewey Bragg (Kill Devil Hill) fronted track ‘Mourning This Life’. 

Lastly, and the most invigorating and arduous task for any musician looking to find that last piece of the musical puzzle, the pair needed to find a vocalist to compliment and corral the duo’s arrangements. Rather than making the decision to laser in on a lone voice for the record, the pair decided to enlist several of them in an unconventional decision that would conclude to be a very wise one that sets REACH FOR THE SCARS apart from many of their doom-metal peers. Karl Agell, current LIE HEAVY and ex-CORROSION OF CONFORMITY vocalist most well-known for his contributions on their 1992 classic ‘Blind’, leads the charge on the record’s first single ‘Demon Of Regret’ and reminds us why many metalheads refer to his one and only recording with the legendary North Carolina outfit as their overall musical crowning achievement in a 40-year span. The lead track also features Dave Neabore (Dog Eat Dog/ex-Mucky Pup) on bass, another decades-long monster of the NJ rock and metal scene that contributes to the record. Agell again shines on the album’s first track, ‘I’m The Dog’, which begins with a 20-second acoustical intro only to be followed by a blast of mid-tempo tenacity that sets the stage for the rest of the album. Agell concludes his lead vocal contributions with a divergent vocal-style on the records sixth track, ‘Built Of Misery’, where he shows he can still hit those high notes just as he did with COC & LEDFOOT back in the 90’s. 

The albums second single, a cover of the Led Zeppelin classic ‘Kashmir’, is as close to the real thing as possible as vocalist Jimmy Gnecco (ex-Ours) proves he could no doubt be the ‘Plant’ to Jimmy’s ‘Page’ if it is indeed true that Robert is the one who is holding up the duo’s long and contentiously rumored reunion. ‘The Submission Bell’, one of the album’s more slow-tempo and Sabbath-detectable tracks, will satisfy the insatiable needs of any seventies stoner metal fan and features Black Water Rising/Dust To Dust vocalist Rob Traynor on his lone contribution to the record. 

’Sing For The Devil?’, the band’s third and most recent single/video, again shows the Lorenzo/Kelly connection and their penchant for writing obsessive-compulsive riffs matched with symmetrical rhythms that are a nightmare for metal fans who have a difficult time coping with a song stuck in their head for a long period of time. Ex-Dropbox vocalist John Kosco, makes his case that, if called upon, could be the band’s lone frontman with his gritty performance and continues to display his vocal aptitude on the album’s 8th track (and one of the best in my opinion) ‘This Damn War’, where Kosco and Agell put on a stellar tag-team performance and make the case for utilizing this same vocal formula on future recordings. 

REACH FOR THE SCARS is rounded out by it’s ninth and final track (and another personal favorite) ‘Hate Your Life’, which acts as as an 80’s-themed northern New Jersey reunion as Lorenzo enlists former HADES bassist Scott LePage as well as original NON-FICTION vocalist Dan Nastasi (ex-DOG EAT DOG/MUCKY PUP and current KINGS NEVER DIE guitarist) on the mic. (**LePage and Nastasi also both played together with MUCKY PUP on their crossover thrash debut ‘Can’t You Take A Joke?’ in 88’)

This track turns away from the blues-based and melodic bellows that engulf the rest of the record and pivots towards a 90’s east-coast groove metal/hardcore approach, accompanied by a semi-urban style with gang vocals that’s reminiscent of the early-90’s Non-Fiction style when both Dan’s were changing gears and styles from their previous outfits. (listen to their 1994 unreleased track ‘Story Goes’ in link below). 

As music connoisseurs, when we become privy to collaborations being concocted between successful and respected rock and metal artists, more often that not our expectations as music fanatics are hard to temper as we tend to conjure up sonic and unrealistic fantasies akin to the glory of free-agent athletes joining forces to form a years-long dynasty with numerous championship rings. As music fans, we can tend to be ignorant of the fact that a successful musical formula doesn’t come from name recognition, statistics (ex. record sales) and awards, and more times than not these ‘supergroup’ projects fail to capture the same essence musically than it looks like on paper. REACH FOR THE SCARS is one of those albums that meets every expectation (and then some) that fans of Lorenzo and Kelly’s work were hoping for. The duo stay within the confines of the Black Sabbath torch-carriers that they are musically known for. Lorenzo continues his doom-metal mastery of finding those hooks that you find yourself humming hours after listening to them, while Kelly displays his talents for taking those riffs and giving them the necessary Bonham-esque bounce they need to refrain from sounding like a sullen and stale version of the Birmingham godfathers of metal. The unorthodox utilization of six vocalists on nine tracks was the one thing on paper that looked like an uncertainty that became a key ingredient in this unusual yet delightful recipe of hooks, hammers and howls that make REACH FOR THE SCARS one of the top releases of 2022′. I would have to venture a guess that the most gnawing issue for Lorenzo and Kelly going forward (and its a good issue to have) is what to do in terms of the vocals if the band is to become a live entity or continues to make new music? Lorenzo is as busy as ever with VESSEL OF LIGHT & the Jason McMaster fronted CASSIUS KING, while Kelly currently is on the drum kit for QUIET RIOT and continues his multi-decades long stint touring with DANZIG. All six vocalists have shown that they are more than capable to take on a full load if called upon, with Agell, Kosco and Bragg being the best fits in my humble opinion. Regardless of the bands immediate and uncertain future, one thing that is for certain is that REACH FOR THE SCARS is proof that the Lorenzo/Kelly formula is a winning one that will hopefully continue in the not-so-distant future. In a day and age where the need for veteran leadership in metal has never been greater in hopes of influencing some of the younger and up-and-coming bands and artists to think outside the box and take more calculated risks that may indeed be unconventional, yet appropriate, Lorenzo and Kelly show them how its done with experience and experimentation that only a couple of wily vets in the music business could pull off. And If that doesn’t work, then a call, email or text to Bobby Blitz may just do the trick.


Tags

brooklynmetal, cassiusking, danlorenzo, dannastasi, danzig, deweybragg, doommetal, ericjmorgan, gothmetal, hades, jimmygnecco, karlagell, newjerseymetal, non-fictionband, patriarchsinblack, quietriot, reachforthescars, robtraynor, thrashmetal, typeonegative, vesseloflight


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