NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
In a Metal Sludge exclusive, we detail the climb of East Coast standouts Lords of Mercy and Flakjacket, as both local bands try to make it big
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
LOS ANGELES — In our ever-increasing coverage of all things rock, Metal Sludge shifts focus to the East Coast, specifically the New York area, as we wonder if there is anything left from the smoldering local rock scene that once was nearly as vibrant as the Sunset Strip.
If you think Los Angeles rock has declined in the wake of the grunge era, it’s even worse in the Big Apple, once a burgeoning bastion of innovative bands like Circus of Power, D Generation, the criminally overlooked Spider Junkies and of course the glam bands like White Lion and Twisted Sister that answered to California’s Motley Crue and Poison.
East Coast standouts Lords of Mercy and Flakjacket are still slugging it out, and both have a lot to offer.
Lords of Mercy, formed three years ago and based in New Jersey, has a hot-shot manager in Charrie Foglio, who got her start as a rock journalist of all things before branching out to entertainment law.
Flakjacket, more on the alternative side of things, is kind of the Jane’s Addiction of New York, and the group has a wildly charismatic front man in Brasi Hyatt, who boasts that rare combination of being a great singer plus writing thoughtful lyrics.
Lords Of Mercy is tied to the fan-based muscle of the legendary Old Bridge Metal Militia and the “call to arms” grassroots support that has paved the way for the country’s largest metal preaching names. OBMM was allegedly responsible for the early successes of Metallica, Anvil, Overkill, Slayer and Anthrax and others.
Lords Of Mercy was formed out of necessity. The need for expressing something different than everyone else was doing has always been the goal that drove this band to its present positioning of blitzkrieg originality.
Combining the smart traditional portrayal of heroes from the past with the modern process of presentation and sound, Lords Of Mercy is making the most out of what’s left of the local circuit.
“Yeah, the scene is still there, it’s just very small. A lot of the old venues have closed down,” Lords of Mercy drummer Pete Perrina said. “There’s still a scene, just a lot fewer venues.”
The members of Lords of Mercy and Flakjacket have resorted to sometimes doing covers just to keep the lights on – something that was unheard of back in the day, especially in Los Angeles – but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
“I was part of the original scene with Circus of Power and all those bands, and then for a while I was doing the tribute circuit, doing a Led Zeppelin thing,” Perrina said. “I guess you can say I’ve been doing this for a while. I’m really friendly with the guys in Anvil. They even stayed at my house for a while, and they’re the ones who kind of pushed me to get back into doing original music.”
Lords of Mercy’s other members are singer Brandon Sweeny, guitarist Danny Anniello and bassist Joe Stabile.
Flakjacket has been going strong for nearly eight years, gaining some national attention and having an occasional radio hit through the seasons but never quite breaking into the public consciousness en masse.
There aren’t many weekends on the east coast when you can’t see the band play live either electric or acoustic, and last year Flakjacket won Best Acoustic Group at the 2013 Capital Region Live Music Awards (JAMMYs).
“We’ve played the biggest clubs, we’ve done two studio albums, and what’s kept us going is the camaraderie,” Hyatt said. “We love the grind of playing shows, and the thing about us is we don’t fit into anything particular or any specific genre.
“I mean, we don’t necessarily break any new ground, but we do kick ass, and I guess the closest thing would be Jane’s Addiction, but still we change things up all the time.”
Foglio, based in San Diego, remembers being blown away the first time she heard Lords of Mercy.
“Someone handed me the record and I fell in love with it,” she said. “I listen to it every day alongside Van Halen, KISS, Dokken, Nickelback, the Scorpions and Stevie Nicks. A good song is a good song. Lords of Mercy entertain me, and bottom line – that’s the name of the game.”
Nominated for three Asbury Music Awards, Lords of Mercy’s self-titled CD was recently showcased at the legendary Stone Pony club in New Jersey, and the gig was a rousing success.
When you look into the world of Lords Of Mercy and their position in the scene, it’s almost as if they hold a place of unspoken reverence with both fans and fellow musicians alike. Bands that play with them are emphatically respectful and thankful when given opportunities to shine, and fans brave rain, sleet and snow to see them play on any stage.
This public reaction stems from the forthright actions of a group that doesn’t just play music for fame and fortune, but embraces and supports a complete choice of lifestyle and the community that they come from.
The Lords Of Mercy CD showcases smart and cutting-edge compositions that move boundaries when you think of stereotypical genres. Is it metal? You bet. But the cross-pollinated importance of hard rock, punk and pop all shine meteor bright.
Foglio has proved a big help, Perrina said.
“She’s 100 percent behind the band,” he said. “This whole thing has always been a dream, and I just happy to be able to still play and still enjoy it. We’ve trying to put together a summer tour now.”
Flakjacket’s other key member is guitarist Liam Irwin. The band is celebrating plays April 12 at River Street Pub in Troy, New York, and they’re recording that night for an upcoming live CD, “Platypus.”
”There are no hard and fast rules in this game. What comes out at the end is the important part,” Hyatt said. “Who cares if something you write is not perfect versus what music theory says. Does it get a reaction? Does it reach people? That’s what matters, at least to me.”
Flakjacket has played 300 shows through the years.
“At this point it’s clear that we must still be playing together because we enjoy doing it,” Hyatt said. “Because eight years of effort has certainly not resulted in money or fame. This band is like family, and like any family, it’s never perfect and there have been disagreements. But we continue on despite all that, and enjoy writing, meeting new people, and going through the grind
— John Pfeiffer of The Aquarian Weekly contributed.
New York Sludge