Sometimes bands spend years trying to make it. From one basement gig to the next, these bands struggle to make a name for themselves — and to make ends meet — only to end up calling it quits after one too many crushing disappointments, and often after they’ve dug themselves into a sinking financial hole that’ll take years to eventually crawl out of. Just ask Lorenzo Antonucci, who plays guitar for long-running New York “meathead” hardcore outfit Sworn Enemy.
You see, Sworn Enemy are a band that’s merely flirted with success since first forming under its original moniker, Mindset, back in 1997. The guys have been so close to fame, they could almost taste it. But over the years, they’ve done quite a bit of label-hopping (from State of Mind to Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta’s Stillborn, then to Elektra, Abacus and now Century Media). And despite appearing on 2003’s Ozzfest, Sworn Enemy have never truly “taken off,” so to speak — but that hasn’t dissuaded them one bit from staying in the game.
“We’ve come really close, but it’s a battle that can’t be won, man, and we ain’t stopping,” Antonucci said. “A lot of bands would have given up already, and we just don’t, because we came from sh–. Every band comes from something, but how this band has built its fanbase, and what we have as a band today. … I’ve truly had some of the hardest days of my life being in this band, and I would never want to relive it. We slept in vans for months at a time, not eating for days, and it was horrible.
“Really, hardcore is dead in the U.S.,” he continued. “Who’s big in hardcore at the moment? Name one band, man. I think a lot of the bands in the scene now would agree that hardcore’s dead.”
While Sworn Enemy have amassed a huge following in Europe and Japan, the guitarist said the hardcore heavyweights go unnoticed when walking down the streets in their native New York. Antonucci isn’t about to lay the blame in the lap of anyone specifically but feels the fact that the band has never had a true label home has hurt it severely.
“We put out our first two demos with [Stillborn], and [Jasta] calls us one day, while we’re on some sh—y tour, and he’s like, ’Dude, I think I got you guys signed to Elektra,’ ” Antonucci said. “We thought he was kidding, but long story short, we thought it was going to be the biggest thing for us, and it turned out not to be. We were a small fish in a big pond, and they didn’t promote us at all. We had no press, but we were touring our asses off. Then they let us go, because Elektra was folding — that set us back a good year. See, if you’re not in people’s faces, and you kind of disappear, and you’re still trying to build momentum, you just lose that momentum. We sort of just died off after Ozzfest and then signed with Abacus. We hired a publicist, and we thought we were the big fish in the little pond, and we’d move forward. But, again, we didn’t have any press, no promotion, and we weren’t getting on any big tours. We were on that Anthrax 10-day reunion tour, playing to a bunch of 40-year-old men who [couldn’t] give a sh– about Sworn Enemy.”
Perhaps things will turn around for Sworn Enemy in 2008. They’ve got new management — As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis is overseeing their careers now and co-produced the band’s Tuesday release, Maniacal, with Life of Agony’s Joey Z. They also have a high-profile tour on the horizon: They’ll head out with the reunited Earth Crisis, as well as Terror, Shai Hulud, Down to Nothing and Recon, starting February 29 in Worcester, Massachusetts. Plus, the band’s LP is the main priority for Century Media for the first quarter, which “feels good, man,” he said.
“I feel like we’re on the brink, and we’re almost finally able to survive off the band,” the guitarist commented. “We’d love to be a part of any of the summer festivals, like Sounds of the Underground, [the Rockstar Mayhem Festival,] but we just never get the chance, because I think people don’t see the band as something that’s going to bring something to the table. We’re just so hungry, and we’re still here, [whereas] bands that were on Sounds two years ago aren’t around anymore. We need people to start paying attention to us, because we’re not going anywhere.”
When the band began working on Maniacal, it did so without a drummer, instead using drum machines to fill in the gaps. Lambesis asked AILD’s drummer, Jordan Mancino, to pound the skins for the album — if not do more for the band — after which Sworn Enemy were introduced to their new drummer, J-Rad.
“We were set to make an album that was fast, punchy and hard as hell,” Antonucci said. “We wanted to capture how you felt when you put on [Metallica’s] Master of Puppets. We wanted to try and capture that moment for kids growing up today. We definitely put on a lot of the old-school stuff we grew up listening to, to recapture that feeling. We’d never done that before. We just wrote, drank beer and went with it. But I’m really excited about how fast and thrashy it is. We just kept fighting for it to be faster, heavier. We wanted the best breakdowns, the best leads we could possibly come up with. And with J-Rad in the ranks, we’ve already started writing new stuff that’s pretty f—ing heavy.”
And fans have Antonucci to thank for the Earth Crisis reunion tour, he claims. The guitarist said he started writing down a hypothetical “dream lineup” while on tour last year, and later he showed it to EC frontman Karl Buechner, who was on the Sworn Enemy trek with his other band, Freya.
“At the end of the tour, we were hanging out on the bus, and I was just daydreaming, and I started writing down the tour,” he said. “I put Earth Crisis on there, and then I put Terror and us, and a bunch of other bands, and I said, ’Karl, you guys have to think about something like this — you guys have to come back. This tour would be sick.’ And he was like, ’That package looks cool, man,’ and we talked about it for a while. It was just an idea that came up … I didn’t know a year later that it would really happen.”
The rest of the week’s metal news:
Metal File has learned that Demon Hunter will tour this summer with the recently reunited Living Sacrifice. Dates will be announced soon. Living Sacrifice, which formed in 1990, recorded six albums before breaking up in 2003. The band’s current lineup features two founding members — guitarist/singer Bruce Fitzhugh and drummer Lance Garvin — along with bassist Arthur Green and ex-Evanescence drummer Rocky Gray. The group plans to release a new album in time for the tour. … Ex-Emperor singer/guitarist Ihsahn has titled his second solo album angL. The disc, the follow-up to 2006’s The Adversary, is tentatively scheduled for release in mid-spring. “I’m currently doing the final mixes for this album and hope to have everything ready for mastering within a couple of weeks,” he said on his MySpace page. “Musically this album can be seen as a natural progression from The Adversary, but with a somewhat heavier touch.” …
When you mention the words “Canadian power trio,” most rock fans immediately think of Rush, but there’s another veteran band from the Great White North that fits the tag, and it is about to receive some long-overdue credit. This week, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame announced Triumph as one of this year’s inductees. The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences at the 2008 Juno Awards in Calgary, Alberta, will honor the original band members on April 6. “It’s a tremendous honor to be part of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame,” guitarist/singer Rik Emmett said in a statement. “In one way, the reunion is like a surprising, surreal whirlwind. In another sense, it is also very humbling. I lost my brother to cancer last year, and he was always one of my biggest supporters — and a huge fan of Triumph — so an award like this also pays tribute to an enduring relationship with music lovers everywhere.” … Woodstock, New York, progressive-rock band 3 will release an expanded edition of their 2007 album, The End Is Begun, February 19. The disc features a bonus DVD featuring three live performances from Metal Blade’s 25th anniversary show in Worcester, Massachusetts, as well as two videos. 3 will open for Chevelle starting March 10 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. …
Fatalist — a Ventura, California, death-metal band featuring ex-Exhumed guitarist Wes Caley — has singed to Ibex Moon Records and is currently working on the follow-up to its self-released 2007 CD, Loss. “We are really excited and happy to be working with Ibex Moon,” guitarist/singer Neil Burkdoll said in a statement. “With bands like Nominon, Funerus and Incantation [also on the Ibex Moon roster], how can you go wrong? We look forward to releasing a great album in 2008.” … Canadian thrash band Thine Eyes Bleed will release their self-titled second album April 15. The disc was mixed by John Ewing Jr. (Slayer) and remastered by ex-Death and Testament guitarist James Murphy. Tracks include “The Mouth of Hell.” … Winds of Plague have added keyboardist Kristen Randall (ex-Abigail Williams) to the fold. Randall is currently playing with the Queens, New York, symphonic death-metal band on its tour with Dead to Fall. Winds of Plague’s new album, Decimate the Weak, came out Tuesday. The disc was recorded with Daniel Castleman (As I Lay Dying, A Love Ends Suicide) and mixed by Tue Madsen (Himsa, the Haunted). …
Greek power-metal band Firewind will release their new album, The Premonition, March 25. A video for the track “Mercenary Man” was recently shot by Patric Ullaeus (In Flames, Dimmu Borgir). “I feel that the new album is yet another step up in our career — musically speaking,” guitarist Gus G. said. “Our influences [range] from Thin Lizzy to Black Sabbath and Megadeth, and you can clearly hear that on the riffs and guitar melodies.” … The Devil Wears Prada, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster and Gwen Stacy will launch a new leg of their tour starting April 25 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Dates on DWP’s Plagues trek run through May 13 in Dayton, Ohio. … The third record by Dutch extremists Gnaw Their Tongues, An Epiphanic Vomiting of Blood, will be released on CD in June. The album originally came out on limited-edition vinyl early this year and features such cuts as “My Body Is Not a Vessel, Nor a Temple. It’s a Repulsive Pile of Sickness” and “Teeth That Leer Like Open Graves.” … French black-metal band Phazm entered Sainte-Marthe Studios this week with producer Francis Caste to start tracking their new album. The disc will hit shelves later this year. … Lithuanian pagan-metal band Obtest will release their new album, Gyvybes Mesis, in April. …
Carnal Forge singer Jens C. Mortensen and guitarist Jari Kuusisto have left the Swedish thrash band. Mortensen will now devote his time to his day job and family, and Kuusisto will focus on his other group, This Human Design. Singer Peter Tuthill (ex-Constructdead) and guitarist Dino Medanhodzic (Soulbreach) have replaced the departed musicians. “We have been rehearsing for the last month, and the transition has gone real smooth,” the band said in a statement. “We are ready to hit the stage again.” … Ichtys Niger, drummer of Brazilian black-metal band Evil War, was recently found dead in his backyard from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Niger had just finished celebrating his 33rd birthday. … Mushroomhead can be seen performing live in the Robert Kurtzman horror film “The Rage,” which comes out on DVD on February 26. The movie was written by Kurtzman and John Bisson, and stars Andrew Divoff (“Lost,” “Wishmaster”) and Erin Brown (“The Lost”). The campy plot revolves around a mad scientist who injects innocent victims with a rage virus. As often happens in these kinds of flicks, the subjects escape, their corpses are ravaged by hungry vultures and the birds attack other people, turning them into flesh-eating zombies. The DVD also features videos for Mushroomhead’s “Damage Done” and “12 Hundred.”