You might call Dallas Taylor a little ... well ... infatuated with the tale of Ma Barker. She was the legendary matriarch of the Barker/Karpis Gang, a band of outlaws whose criminal exploits across the Midwest during the Great Depression gripped the American public. It was a story the Maylene and the Sons of Disaster frontman first heard as a youth, growing up in Ocala, Florida; Barker and one of her sons, who've been called "some of the meanest examples of humanity ever known to exist," were shot dead when the FBI raided a cottage she was renting just outside of — you guessed it! — Ocala, Florida.
The legend of Ma Barker continues to haunt the hard-rocker. In fact, the tale even inspired his band's forthcoming conceptual sophomore LP, II, which hits stores March 20.
"I've always wondered what made Hitler tick — what made him think he was doing a good deed?" said Taylor, who was the original singer for Underoath but left that band's fold in 2003. "Serial killers too — it's always boggled my mind, and I've always wanted to know why they thought what they were doing was right? I've read up on Ma Barker, and she basically thought her family was doing a good deed," by committing a spree of robberies, kidnappings and other crimes between 1931-'35.
"We're a Christian band, but we're not a band that pushes our beliefs down people's throats," he continued. "We have a concept to our band that's really strange for Christians to grasp sometimes, because it's based on Ma Barker and her sons. It's basically us playing the roles of the sons, and our take on the whole thing is, if you live a life of wrongdoing and of hurting people, it's going to come back around on you — kind of like divine justice. This album's about the downfall of the family — about them coming to their deaths, and them narrating their own deaths."
But the concept is not restricted to Taylor's lyrics. The album's layout re-creates the fatal shootout that claimed Ma Barker's life, featuring images of the band, riddled with bullet holes, slumped over in chairs and spread out across a small cabin's floorboards. It's easy to understand why Maylene and the Sons of Disaster might be a tough pill for most Christians to swallow.
II, which was produced by Jason Elgin (Haste, Wayne), features 11 furious tracks, including "Memories of the Grove," "Darkest of Kin" and "The Day Hell Broke Loose at Sicard Hollow." The band wrote the material over the course of four months, both in the studio and on the road, inside Maylene's tour van. Taylor, who confirmed Maylene's appearance on this summer's Warped Tour, thinks the album's got something for everyone.
"Our old stuff was a bit heavier, I guess, because this time around we just went with it and did whatever we felt like doing," he explained. "We didn't have a set plan as to what the record was going to sound like — it just kind of came out. At first, we wondered how the fans we do have would respond to it, but I think it will open a lot more doors for us and get us out there more to people who might be a little closed-minded to our old stuff. Our first record [2005's self-titled effort] was more just really heavy and if you wanted to put it into a box, it would have been heavy Southern rock. This record, we took a lot of influences from like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC ... it just has a more grown-up feel to it."
Maylene and the Sons of Disaster are currently on the road with From Autumn to Ashes, Haste the Day, the Sleeping and Alesana through May 4 in Millvale, Pennsylvania. As far as his relationship with his former Underoath associates goes, Taylor said there's no animosity between him and the band — which asked him to quit, as he was dealing with relationship drama — and that he's rekindled his friendships with the bandmembers.
"It was a little weird at first, but we sit back and laugh about it now," he said. "They didn't know how to take it, and they saw me hurting. Instead of going with me through [relationship difficulties], it just put so much stress on them. But it's worked out for the best."
The rest of the week's metal news:
Megadeth have announced a May 15 release date for their upcoming album, United Abominations. An MP3 of the track "Sleepwalker" is available on the band's Web site, and a demo of "Gods of War" can be streamed at MySpace.com/Megadeth. The band will head out on a Canadian tour with Heaven and Hell and Down starting Sunday in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dates run through March 28 in Ottawa, Ontario. ... Montreal's Despised Icon will release their second, yet-untitled album on May 22. The disc was produced by ex-guitarist Yannick St-Amand (Beneath the Massacre, Ion Dissonance) and mixed by Andy Sneap (Machine Head, Megadeth). Along with director Jean-Philippe Bernier (A Perfect Murder), the band recently shot a video for "In the Arms of Perdition" that will debut in the spring. "We spent the entire weekend shooting [in] minus-40-degree weather on a secluded icy mountain near Quebec City," singer Alex Erian said in a post on the band's Web site. ...
Four of the five original members of influential San Francisco '80s thrash band Testament are back in the practice room working on songs for a new album. Singer Chuck Billy, bassist Greg Christian, and guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson are being joined by ex-Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth drummer Nick Barker, and so far they've got six new songs. Tracking is scheduled to begin in June. "Working hard with Nick on some new ideas and some cool old-school styles [that are] coming together really killer," Peterson said in a statement. "It's been a long time coming," Billy added. "This new album is like a good wine: You throw in the grapes and crush." As part of their current world tour, Testament will play five U.S. shows, starting March 26 in Dallas and ending March 31 in Santa Ana, California. ... Immolation, veterans of the New York death-metal scene, will release their seventh album, Shadows of the Light, May 8. The disc was recorded with longtime producer Paul Orofino in Millbrook, New York. "It's aggressive, emotional and haunting," guitarist Robert Vigna said. "And it's catchy as hell. It's a very complete record." The album track "World Agony" can be previewed at MySpace.com/ImmolationNY. ... Finnish folk/black-metal band Finntroll will release their next album, Ur Jordens Djup, in the U.S. on April 3. The disc was recorded by Nino Laurenne at Sonic Pump Studios in Helsinki, Finland, and marks the debut of singer Mathias Lillmans, who replaced Tapio Wilska last spring. Tracks include "Gryning," "Sang," "Nedgang" and "Ormhaxan." A sampler can be heard at Finntroll.net. ...
Cephalic Carnage are nearly done recording their fifth, yet-untitled album, which is tentatively due for release in May. The bandmembers are working with producer Dave Otero, who they've collaborated with in the past, and so far they've recorded "Endless Cycle of Violence," "Touched by an Angel," "G.lobal O.verhaul D.vice" and "Ov Vicissitude." ... After a long delay, Jesu have finally secured work permits and visas to enter the U.S. The band was originally scheduled to start touring with Isis on February 22, but there was an "unforeseen backlog at the U.S. embassy in London" that prevented Jesu from entering the country. The band's first show in North America will now be Sunday in Washington, D.C., with dates scheduled through April 8 in Los Angeles. Danny Walker, whose band Intronaut have been filling in for Jesu on the Isis tour, will replace Ted Parsons, who was unable to make the Jesu trek. ... Byzantine's "Salvation" DVD will be released
April 17. The disc will feature live performances, interviews, tutorials and an extended version of the "Jeremiad" video. The band is currently in Sissonville, West Virginia, working with producer Charles A. Fisher on its next album, Oblivion Beckons. ...
New Jersey mathcore merchants the Number 12 Looks Like You have begun recording their next LP in Seattle with producer by Casey Bates (Heavy Heavy Low Low, Fear Before the March of Flames). The album should drop in June, although a definitive release date has yet to be announced. In the meantime, you can catch the band playing Brooklyn, New York, on Tuesday; Allentown, Pennsylvania, Wednesday; and Danbury, Connecticut, March 17. Starting March 30 in Hackensack, New Jersey, Number 12 will hit the road with Horse the Band for a trek that runs through April 26 in San Francisco. ... Hope you're prepared to bear the burden of His word? Nachtmystium, Angel Corpse and Watain will invade the U.S. in May to play mostly East Coast gigs. The trek commences May 9 in Minneapolis and will make stops in Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York and Atlanta before wrapping up May 20 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. ... "Get Thrashed: The Story of Thrash Metal," a documentary about the evolution of the thrash-metal scene of the early '80s, will receive its North American premiere Sunday at the Wave in Austin, Texas, as part of the 2007 Texas Rock Fest. The film was directed by Rick Ernst, a longtime freelance producer for MTV who has worked on "Headbangers Ball" — he'll be on hand to answer questions following the screening. "Get Thrashed" features interviews with Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Death Angel, Dark Angel, Kreator, Sodom, Lamb of God, Shadows Fall and a host of others.