3rd Strike Survive Gangs, Kick Drugs, Rock Out

Band weaves harrowing life experiences into Lost Angel.

Rock and roll has led to the ruin of many formerly sober folk. Not so for 3rd Strike, a California rap-metal band who credit music for saving them from drugs and nihilism.

Vocalist Jim Korthe said he was a gun-toting L.A. gangbanger who had done stints in jail for armed robbery and weapons possession. Guitarist Erik Carlsson was a chronic drug abuser whose second home was rehab, and bassist Gabe Hammersmith also suffered with substance abuse problems.

"At the point right before I joined [the group], I was really going in the wrong direction," admitted Carlsson from his record label's lounge a couple of hours before the band's first New York City performance. "I'm just glad I hooked up with the band at the time I did. It's made me do a 180 in my life. I think it's just been a positive force for everyone to stay on the right track."

The band's debut album, Lost Angel, which comes out May 14, chronicles the members' growing pains with showers of volcanic guitars, piledriving beats and vocals that seesaw between pugilistic rap and nasal, melodic wailing. While Korthe's lyrics aren't directly about wilding and busting caps, songs like "Barrio Raid," "Strung Out" and "Redemption" obliquely address the singer's violent and painful struggles. The first single from the disc, "No Light," builds from a buzzing lament to a cathartic scorcher, loosely addressing a particularly painful moment.

"It's about feeling hopeless and depressed," Korthe revealed. "I had gone to visit the grave of one of my homeboys who had passed away, and the emotions just poured out when I was writing this song. He was killed by a rival gang member who was a Desert Storm veteran who came home from the war and went on a shooting spree. The night before it happened, my friend put his arm around me, kissed me on the cheek, and said, 'You know what? We're never gonna die.' Next day, he was dead."

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