At 6 pm in a perfectly innocuous suburban home, the lead singer of a thrash metal band is having me remove my footwear.
"You'll have to take your shoes off before we go up to the living room," says Ethan Kennedy, frontman for local metal act Cold Blooded. Tonight, he's cordial and respectful as he takes his own shoes off. The last time I saw Kennedy, he was spilling beer down my shirt and screaming in my face.
The living room in question belongs to Cold Blooded drummer Curt Bytnar, and it's as warm and pleasant as a homestead can be. I recall that the last time I saw Bytnar he was pummeling away at an insanely complicated drum kit as if he were wielding two defibrillators on a 20-piece heart.
Rob Bosaaen, one of the group's guitarists, removes his shoes at the door and leads me upstairs. He introduces me to the other guitarist, Chris Williams, a man of few words. Bassist Nick Boege is the only member missing. It's a shock to be in the presence of such a brutal musical force and find out that, offstage, they're all exceedingly mild-mannered. It's almost as shocking as seeing the group perform live. Almost.
While some may be quick to judge what a metal band can be capable of in a live setting, a Cold Blooded performance shatters those notions. Like the best thrash and death metal bands before them, they carefully calculate the crucial balance between searing technicality and engaging simplicity.
"One of the main concepts of the band has always been, 'Keep it simple, stupid,'" explains Bosaaen. Perhaps he's being too humble — the man can absolutely destroy a guitar — but his attitude towards songcraft is both genuine and, unfortunately, rare.
The five-piece, which has only been together this side of 10 months, would probably tell you that its confident sound is a happy accident. Cold Blooded is still very much in its infancy, but the chemistry between members, both on and off the stage, is remarkable. And while they've only been playing under the name Cold Blooded for a short time, many of the members have years of experience playing with each other in other projects.
The group also seems uncomfortable treading the same ground for too long, which is particularly apparent on their recent debut EP Into the Abyss, recorded masterfully by Bill Nieman at Rainbow Trout Studios. The seven songs that make up the recording were obviously written at different stages of the band's young life, as the newest material easily sounds the most fresh. Standard industrial breakdowns have made way for a more cathartic and natural-sounding hardcore crossover.
"We're getting to the point where we can start to cut and paste set lists," says Bosaaen. "And we can say, 'Hey let's not do this one tonight,' or, 'Let's bring this one back.'"
Just to be clear, that doesn't mean the band has gotten any slower — or any less pissed off.
"Most people have their own personal demons," Kennedy says. "And we have a fair share of our own. But how you tackle them doesn't need to be destructive."
While various critics and dissenters have decried heavy metal music as an ostensibly destructive form of music, Kennedy has gotten down an airtight explanation of why he thinks it is just the opposite.
"When it comes to those personal demons, you can try to banish them entirely," Kennedy explains. "Or you can let them control you. But people forget that you can channel that negative energy into something positive. And that's what we're trying to do."
So yes, it's shocking when a band as heavy-hitting as Cold Blooded turns out to be made up of totally agreeable, artistically minded guys. But it's also undeniably refreshing, especially when the group hits the stage with total explosive force.
Just be glad the venues don't make you take your shoes off. You're going to need them. ♦
Locals Live feat. Cold Blooded with the Persevering Promise, the Ongoing Concept and Skies Burn Black • Sat, Jan. 25, at 8 pm • $5 under 21/Free 21+ • All-ages • Knitting Factory • 919 W. Sprague • sp.knittingfactory.com