Ted Beer – guitars
Kenny Garza – drums
James Brennan – vocals
Randy Brodzik – guitars
Phil Martinez – bass
Kronow‘s not new to Denver’s metal scene. In fact, they have been around for a few years, playing out and growing a crew of fans. But the fans of the original Kronow sound are in for an awakening of the senses, something that will pull them out of their monotone world and raise their expectations of what this band used to be.
In the last year, Kronow’s American iron has gone through a re-haul – they’ve thrown in an almighty 427 engine, fueled the tank, and are now are taking off at full speed with new drivers at the wheel.
Make no mistake – Kronow does not want to be known as anything other than pure metal, not any derivative of that genre. From James Brennan‘s forceful vocals that convey both passion and fury, to their ferocious guitar riffs and turbulent drums, Kronow have brought their collective talent together to create their first release, Tenfold, which they’ll break out of the boxes for old and new fans this Saturday, November 16, at the Sherman Event Center, where D.O.R.K., Brutal Infliction, Drudgery, and Tyfoid Mary will also join the party.
A the beginning of 2002, the original Kronow members, including Ted Beer (what a classic rock star name), Randy Brodzik, and Phil Martinez, asked Kenny Garza to fill in as an interim drummer until their permanent drummer could come into the fold.
But Kenny wasn’t used to banging the drums in the classic metal fashion, “I came from a jam band. I was used to playing fusion, jazz and blues.” After getting that taste of aggression, he had second thoughts about sticking with the lazy jam sounds, “I did that for about four and a half years. Then I was looking for something more straightforward to do.”
Something must have been in the stars, because at the time when the permanent drummer was supposed to take over, he wrecked his hand in an on-the-job accident, making it impossible to perform. Then Kenny’s current band started coming apart at the seams, so the timing was right for both the band and Kenny to come together.
There was just one, large problem that plagued his decision, “I hated the singer at that time. His lyrics were so simple. No offense, but he said ‘fuck’ way more than you do,” Kenny says, looking at James, who sits next to him in our Wyncoop Brewery booth. But that wasn’t the only limitation, “He couldn’t sing! After thirty minutes of screaming and all his Jager shots, he was done. It was ridiculous. We played up to fifty minutes a night,” which for Kenny in his jam band days, was just the first set.
So the guys in the group started searching for a new vocalist, and were inundated with a ton of Sebastian Bach, Axel Rose and Ozzy Osborne wanna-be’s. That would work for the cover bands who played at the Monsters of Mock show, which took place the day after Halloween, but it just didn’t fly for the Kronow guys.
Meanwhile, James Brannan was looking for a band himself. He had spent some time with bands while in college, pulling off cover tunes from Motley Crue and Van Halen, then moving into the grunge era with Alice in Chains and the like.
After college, James put his microphone on the shelf and got down to the business of having a career. But he couldn’t stay away from the stage forever. James moved to Los Angeles for a new job. There he met up with some friends who were missing a singer for their band. In two weeks he learned their whole set, then ended up on stage in front of 500 people, “It was crazy dude. I hadn’t been on stage or sung in five years.”
Kenny pops in, “That’s pressure.”
James replies, “No kidding.” New job opportunities brought him out to Denver where he met up with the guys online, a method used by many bands looking for new members, and vice versa.
Kenny recalls when they first met James and got to hear what he was all about, “It was like a breath of fresh air for me.” So James joined the band as a full-time member in Feburary of this year, and in no time, was jamming with the band a month later.
Kenny and James’ instant bond also came from their similar musical influences, including Dream Theater and Rush. Since James had a larger vocal range than their previous vocalist and could sing past the thirty minute mark, Kenny felt this allowed him to better stretch his own musical muscles and create new rhythms for their music, “The more new songs we write, the more I incorporate where I’m from, which is much more pleasing to me. It’s not so much – double bass and loud pounding. There’s more finesse.”
The word “finesse” made me think back to the recent Tool show, where the Danny Carey was pulling off amazing feats of drumming athleticism. Kenny jumps right into this topic, “He’s got a band that is so in synch with him. I swear, all of them had to have played drums some time in their life. They’ll be playing 4-to-6, and that guy’s playing 7-to-11. They’re so into their own thing, and they don’t rely on him for anything. It gives him total freedom to be a drum god. I would love to be at that point – where everybody knows where the ‘1’ is dammit! I may be the time keeper, but that is not just my job.”
James feels that taking elements of Tool’s style is something they would like to incorporate into Kronow’s sound, but in small doses. “I don’t want us to be progressive metal,” he says emphatically. As musicians, they appreciate Dream Theater’s eclectic “start and stop” rhythm structures, but feel that style is difficult to follow as a music fan.
At their shows, Kenny doesn’t want “people to stand there and feel like they gotta freak out in order to appreciate us musically.”
After working together for several months, Kronow ended up taking half of their original set of songs and re-working them, taking a few riffs and rhythms, then molding them into something new, complex, and intense. Plus, they were now able to lyrically portray what was flowing through their minds and veins, putting new life into the Kronow fuel injected engine.
Their new release, Tenfold, consists of those re-worked songs and completely new material, and in almost every case, they show off their soft and hard edges, going from an assault to seduction through a second of transition. “Denial” is a perfect example of this, where the anger starts off fast and furious, then the guitar’s line drips down like honey, flowing over vocals that whisper, serenade, and harmonize you into a luscious lullaby, only to knock you back on your feet as the anger arises again.
The title track, “Tenfold”, James growls with rage, then pulls his octaves to the sky with remarkable fervor, much in the fashion of Christopher Hall from Stabbing Westward. One of their more subdued, but no less intense tracks, “Dream Again”, moves with languid and rich propulsion, then Kronow takes a completely different turn on “Through My Eyes,” using an sample introduction of simple and sweet melody that’s being played on an old 20’s phonograph, which melds into their own slow moving and graceful guitar lick, only to shift into a high gear of aggression, than revert back to the record sample, which is now scratching and at the end of its path.
Kronow gets political when their view of today’s needy society is portrayed on “American Nightmare”, condemning those who they feel are abusing the system. James, who wrote the lyrics to that song, elaborates on those views, “I’ve got a pretty negative attitude. There’s just so much shit going on that I’m pissed about. And I saw a lot of it in L.A. And I don’t care if you’re white, black, Mexican, purple, green, whatever – I’m not racist. If you come to my country and use the system, but aren’t paying taxes? Sorry, you need to get the fuck out of here. Then are those who are doing things to themselves and expecting me to pay for them? No, I don’t think so.”
The conversation continues as James moves from Wyncoop’s micro brew to something a little lighter. But after he asked the waitress for a Bud Light, he might as well have been pouring putting catsup on a filet mignon. So he opts for a Jack and Coke instead, laughing, “Hey, we’re just run of the mill guys.” Then his tone changes to something more serious, “I’m pretty down to earth. I can’t stand anyone who thinks they’re better than somebody else, anyone who is rich and snobbish, who don’t dig your lifestyle and look down on you.” He reflects back to when he wrote “Misery & Prosperity” while sitting in Times Square and watching every walk of live pass before him, “It was funny, the rich people and the bums – watching two elements cross. It was awesome.”
Meanwhile, Kenny is contemplating what to drink himself, since he’s more of a Zima guy than a beer chugger. That’s cool with James, who says that Kenny is the epitome of, “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll.” Although Kenny still dabbles in the jam band stuff through periodic gigs in a Phish/Dead cover group, according to James, “He definitely gets the lead out with us on his jazz drum aggressions. We’re the only metal band that has a drummer who plays jazz riffs.”
Saturday, November 16
Kronow, D.O.R.K., Brutal Infliction, Drugery, Tyfoid Mary – Sherman Event Center (Denver)