The last time I felt this strongly about a young band on the verge of breaking through, it was summertime about six years ago in a parking lot behind the Recher Theatre in Towson, Maryland. The headliner and my host that evening was Iced Earth, yet it was their openers, Trivium, who blew me right out of the hall. A lot of classic power metal fans grumbled about Trivium's fireball thrash, hardcore and pure metal hybrid engine (still a relatively innovative scheme at this point in time) after the show, but I knew what I'd seen was impeccable maturity which quickly blossomed into one of metal's great success stories.
The guys in Age of Evil only recently survived their tribal rites of high school, but there's more to their story than their collective lifespans. Spend a few minutes talking with guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Goldberg and you'll learn rather quickly his band is deadly serious about their mission as a youth-energized classic power metal unit. Encasing a pair of brothers whose friendship trails most of their natural lives, Age of Evil's internal familiarity is but one of the key ingredients to their early-on capabilities as musicians. These guys are family as they are comrades, yet there's a disciplined professionalism to Age of Evil you can hardly train or pass unto others. It is nutured within each individual as well as the sum of their parts.
Age of Evil has already been to Europe, they've already released one album Living in a Sick Dream and correlating video, and they're now calling attention unto themselves with their newest EP Get Dead, a six pack of tunes divvied out between two originals, two covers and two live tracks. As I spoke with Goldberg, I found out the Age of Evil crew so happens to call Trivium their friends. Perhaps Age of Evil's destiny will parallel Corey Beaulieu and the Triv. For some reason, I have that hunch once again...
The Metal Minute: In a sense, Age of Evil came together through your parents who kept running into each other and it allowed the four of you—being two sets of brothers—to build a friendship. I believe in fate, so it’s fate the four of you guys came together with the same mind set of what you wanted to do with this group. What happened once you all got together; was an instant click or something that built over time? Also, I’m curious; are or were any of your parents metalheads at all?
Jeremy Goldberg: It was a click right away. When we were young, probably around three or four years old, we were just inseparable and it’s been that way since. We did all kinds of stuff together. One thing that comes to mind is we made Jackass videos together. We took vacations together. We just did a lot of stuff together and we all knew from the beginning we wanted to do something together and that thing is music.
I would say our parents are rock ‘n roll and metal. Garrett and Jordan (Ziff)’s mom I know for a fact was going to the Ozzy and Van Halen concerts when she was our age. My parents are a little bit more rock ‘n roll, you know, bands like Boston, Bruce Springsteen and Foreigner.
MM: I don’t think Age of Evil sounds like Trivium, however I think you have the opportunity to be the next Trivium given how you have such a sharp craft this early on in your careers. There’s a lot of bands who have more years on you who don’t sound half as good! Obviously Age of Evil has spent a lot of time together to polish up your chops, much less just as guys in high school. Tell us about spending your time developing a band while in school versus just goofing around or playing football or whatever.
JG: There can be a lot of sacrifices if you really want to be a serious and successful band. Sometimes you lose a little bit of that social life or something like that, but we’d try and balance it pretty well, actually. We spent a lot of time making our songs really solid, especially when we play live. It was very important to us to sound as-good, if not better live than our CDs do. So we’d do a lot of things like playing the songs slowed-down or playing the songs sped-up and working on them until we could play them at any tempo until we wanted to play them at the right tempo so it all sounds tight no matter what. We make sure that picking patterns are the same. A lot of little stuff goes into our live sound. It translates differently live; you’ve got to do a lot of downpicking and we really focus on all kinds of stuff like that. I think that’s one reason why we’re tight as a band; we really, really focus on things like that.
For us, it’s all about groove and melody. Nothing else matters but that. A lot of bands take the term “heavy” and they misinterpret what heavy means, I think. To me, the heaviest thing you can do is have that groove, especially a band like Pantera. They have that solid groove and to me it doesn’t need to be blast-beating fast and Cookie Monster screaming to be heavy. I think a lot of people nowadays don’t have the best sense of melody, which I think is super-important, and it’s really important to us when writing songs.
MM: The two studio songs on the EP, “Cruel Intentions” and “Get Dead” are tight-written tunes. They have a bit of the Bay Area thrash sound and the Euro power metal feel, and I definitely hear the Pantera in your sound. Obviously you’re well-schooled on classic metal structures, though I detect a subtle hint or two of the new school in Age of Evil, for instance, As I Lay Dying. You guys are nowhere near a metalcore band, but how do you all decide what vibe fits best for Age of Evil considering there’s so many directions metal can go these days?
JG: We really don’t try and put ourselves into a specific category or anything like that. We just do what we want and fortunately for us—-especially Jordan, our guitarist-—we really don’t listen to much after 1991. We try not to let metalcore and all that stuff get into our music. I know about the stuff, but I really just try and keep away from it. We have a lot of material ready for the next the next album and you will definitely hear a lot more hard rock, more traditional rock and heavy metal than you will hear it going heavier. It’s not going to be heading into that more metalcore stuff; it’s going more towards the roots than anything.
MM: You guys did a really sharp cover of Skid Row’s “Slave to the Grind.” I’ve interviewed both Sebastian Bach and Rachel Bolan in the past and I know both guys were really hyped on that song and both really wished it could’ve scored as well as their first album. I remember when that song came on for the first time on the original Headbangers Ball, I went out of my skull on that song, man! For Age of Evil’s purposes, why pick this song and “The Hellion/Electric Eye” to cover?
JG: The Skid Row cover came unexpectedly. What we did was, when we were in Europe over the summer, we were recording the EP in-between tour dates. We had a day off in the studio and our engineer Uwe Lulis said, ‘Why not record something? We have an extra day!’ We sat around and Garrett said, ‘I’ve got the perfect song!’ It was Skid Row’s “Slave to the Grind,” and all four of us knew that was going to be the one. It has a lot of attitude and aggression, it’s fast-paced, there’s a lot of energy and we all felt our style would fit very well with it. What I did was, I pulled out my phone and played the track a couple times because we didn’t know how to play it, and we just recorded it on-the-spot. I mean, we just did it! When Garrett went to do the drums, we all sat and watched him do it. He did one take and we were like, ‘Holy, shit, dude! You’re done, that’s it!’ Then it was the same thing with the guitars. Pretty much everything you’re hearing is one, maybe two takes all the way through, and again with the vocals, also. We really did not have much time with this, so we just went balls-out and gave it everything we’ve got and did that song really quickly. It turned out awesome, and that speaks of the song, because that song is basically all about that; Skid Row’s style is dirty and I don’t know how to describe it, but it just fit us really well.
We played “Electric Eye” about a year ago in London and we played it in London because going in we knew that a lot of the people we were playing for didn’t know who we were. While we knew they would like our originals, we wanted to give them something they would remember. We thought it was better to do a Priest song in London, and that song got a really good response. It went over really well. We knew that because it was a little earlier in the show, our style, our tone and our vibe would definitely make it sound a little heavier, more modern, I guess you could say. That song was really fun to do.
MM: The two live songs on the EP, “Eye for an Eye” and “Glimpse of Light” sounds to me like you’re playing at a wicked cool venue with a nice crowd. Put us there onstage from your perspective. It has to be the greatest feeling in the world to wreck a big audience live with some heavy shit, right?
JG: Oh, yeah, there’s really no better feeling, and we love playing live. Those songs were actually this summer in Europe. We’re definitely a live band and feed off the energy of the crowd. A lot of times for me, the set goes by so quickly because my adrenaline and everything is so high. I usually don’t remember most of the set! We just have so much fun playing live and I think you can definitely hear that in those two songs.
Copyright 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute