Metal File: Cellador, Napalm Death, Immortal & More News That Rules

Omaha, Nebraska, band finding market in U.S. for European-influenced power metal.

In May 2005, Black Dahlia Murder singer Trevor Strnad was hanging backstage at a venue in Omaha, Nebraska, before his band was to headline a gig. With nothing else to do, he waded through the crowd to catch the opening act, expecting yet another nameless metalcore group. What he saw, instead, blew his mind. The local band playing that night, a power-metal act named Cellador, were insanely tight and energetic, and their singer sounded almost exactly like Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson.

After the show, Strnad couldn’t stop gushing to Cellador about their performance, and told them Black Dahlia’s label, Metal Blade Records, was looking for a young melodic American metal group. So Cellador gave Strnad a copy of their demo, and within weeks they were signed to Metal Blade.

“We were so amazed because, from the beginning, we always thought that if we got signed it would be with some small European label, since that’s where power metal is really popular,” said guitarist and main songwriter Chris Petersen about three months after the late-June release of the band’s debut Enter Deception. “Our perspective totally changed after that, and we realized that maybe there is a market in the U.S. for this style of music.”

Strnad and Metal Blade were drawn to the band not only because of its epic songs, explosive guitar solos and dramatic vocals, but also by the black-metal beats and melodic death-metal elements Cellador weave into their music. Like Trivium — with whom Cellador are about to tour — and DragonForce, Petersen and his bandmates are part of a new generation of bands taking composition, melody and technical proficiency to new heights.

“I got into popular mainstream metal when I was about 11, but I soon discovered bands like In Flames, Soilwork and At the Gates — groups that could really play and were melodic, but still heavy,” Petersen explained. “When I started playing guitar, that stuff had a big influence on me.”

Petersen put together the first Cellador lineup in 2003 and quickly wrote a batch of songs, but within months, everyone quit — including his friend, who was the lead singer. Undaunted, Petersen placed a “musicians wanted” ad for players who were into melodic European metal, and 15-year-old drummer David Dahir was the first to respond. “At first I was like, ‘I dunno, this guy is so young,’ but then we started jamming and I realized he’s an incredible drummer,” Petersen said. “He’s more of an extreme-metal-influenced dude, which is cool because it allows us to mix up the more aggressive, intense elements into my power-metal style.”

Guitarist Bill Hudson, who relocated from Brazil, and Russian-born bassist Valentin Rakhmanov followed, as well as singer Michael Gremio, who cemented the band’s soaring sound.

“He was a local singer here, and he was heavily influenced by Bruce Dickinson, Michael Kiske [formerly of Helloween] and Tony Kakko [of Sonata Arctica]. So I called him up and asked him to try out,” Petersen said. “As soon as everyone heard him sing, he was in, and right away, he started recording vocals on our demo, which was already recorded.”

Cellador entered a Tampa, Florida, studio with Erik Rutan (Goatwhore, Soilent Green) in December 2005 and recorded most of the main tracks by mid-January. In March, the bandmembers returned to finish the leads and record the vocals. But what they thought would be finished in 10 days wound up taking a month.

“Before we got out there, Mike was complaining that his throat hurt and he had a cough,” Petersen said. “Sure enough, a day and a half later, he came down with the flu. So we took out time and waited for him to get completely better before we recorded the vocals.”

With Enter Deception finally in stores, Cellador are making plans to storm shores east and west in search of recognition. On Sunday, they’ll hit the road with Trivium, the Sword and Protest the Hero in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. But while the tour continues through November 5, Cellador are dropping off after October 9 in Toronto because … well, some things are almost as important as rock.

“I’m finishing up college right now and I have obligations with my classes,” Petersen explained. “But we’re still super-excited about the tour, and there’ll be lots of chances to play other shows after I finish school.”

The rest of the week’s metal news:

According to the Blackest of the Black tour site, this year’s installment of Glenn Danzig‘s annual festival will feature Lacuna Coil, the Haunted and Belphegor, in addition to Danzig’s own band, which will headline. Danzig told MTV News earlier this month that the tour would also feature Marduk, and though the tour’s site does indicate that one additional act will be added to the bill, it has yet to be specified. Dates for the trek, which will hit cities along the West Coast over two weeks, have not yet been announced. … In related news, Lacuna Coil, In Flames and Soil will hit the road for a string of dates in December. So far, it looks like the bands will embark on the trek December 5 in Norfolk, Virginia, and dates are booked through December 16 in Detroit. … Bleeding Through, Saosin and Senses Fail will team up for a 19-date run launching November 24 in Boston and ending December 21 in Tempe, Arizona. … Page Hamilton‘s Helmet have lost two members: guitarist Chris Traynor and drummer Mike Jost. Traynor released a statement on his departure, which, while gracious, failed to offer a reason for the move. Jost intends to focus on his home life. …

Horse the Band frontman Nathan Winneke was arrested last weekend by police in Toronto following an incident that unfolded outside a gas station. According to the band, Winneke was booked on suspicion of “robbing a gas station and firing a pistol at a woman.” The statement continues that the singer “drinks a bottle of whiskey a day and bought a cap gun, which he took the orange thing off of, and a 12-inch bowie knife, which he named ‘Blue Duck.’ ” The gas station incident was a misunderstanding, according to the band, as a drunken Winneke fired the cap gun in the air twice outside the station before the band left in its van. “Two minutes later, [we were] lying face down in the middle of the freeway, handcuffed,” with handguns and shotguns pointed at their heads. Close to 20 police officers closed down the road and detained the band following a complaint from a woman at the gas station who said Winneke “robbed the store and pointed the gun at her.” The other members of the band were released, but the singer was held overnight. Winneke was freed the following morning, and the band didn’t miss any of the stops on its current tour with DragonForce and All That Remains. …

Early next year, Earache Records will reissue Napalm Death‘s debut, Scum, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the LP’s release. The disc has been remastered and will boast a bonus DVD featuring interviews with the grindcore gurus. Napalm will come together this winter with A Life Once Lost, Dead to Fall and Animosity for the Death by Decibels Tour. It kicks off November 25 in Buffalo, New York, and runs through December 21 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. … Pre-production for From Autumn to Ashes‘ next LP has commenced with producer and engineer Brian McTernan — who has worked with Cave In and Bane — at his Salad Days Studio in Baltimore. Look for the disc to drop early next year. … Stretch Arm Strong have returned from the studio after recording a cover of Sick of It All‘s “Busted.” The track will appear on an upcoming tribute album, which is also expected to feature Unearth‘s take on “It’s Clobberin’ Time,” Rise Against doing “Built to Last” and Sepultura‘s rendition of “Scratch the Surface.” The effort is slated for release before year’s end. … Doom-metal specialists Khanate are no more. The band, formed six years ago by Atomsmasher‘s James Plotkin and Stephen O’Malley of SunnO))), have decided to call it quits. Still, they are planning to mix their yet-untitled swan-song release, which should surface this winter. …

Botch have been working with producer Matt Bayles (Isis, Mastodon) to remix their 1999 debut, American Nervoso. The end result should surface early next year. … Canadian post-grindcore extremists the End have wrapped the recording sessions for their forthcoming full-length, which remains untitled. The band’s frontman, Aaron Wolff, said in a press statement that “this is definitely a huge step for us in so many different ways. We tried a lot of new things that we have stayed far away from in the past, and also expanded on the ground that we have laid out in the past. We are so happy with the sound of the record and totally excited about the new songs.” Look for the disc to hit stores in February. … Mushroomhead, Brand New Sin, Soil and the Autumn Offering are on the road together and will play Flint, Michigan, on Friday. The trek runs through October 30 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mushroomhead’s latest, Savior Sorrow, was released last week. … Norwegian black-metallers Immortal, who split back in 2003, plan to reunite for two U.S. gigs — but fans will have to wait more than 10 months to catch them. Immortal will invade B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York on July 13 and Hollywood’s Avalon on July 15. Tickets for both shows go on sale October 13.