“Climbin’ the Walls” with WRATHCHILD (America)
The Wait is Over…
by Curt King
Love em’ or hate em’, but you cannot deny how hard this band works and how dedicated they are! I love em‘ and have known about them for a couple of years now. Up until then, I had read only a few blurbs here and there in various Metal magazines and always heard they were a killer live act.
These cats have been around for several years with various members and lineup changes, in fact, their current lead singer and bassist Brad Divens even had a brief stint as a member of KIX. For those of you who are not familiar with KIX, they have some rockin’ songs but they are more of a basic hard rock band with melodic songs. Wrathchild however, are much more intense and have a different attitude altogether.
Jay Abbene (Guitars/BG vox), Terry Carter (Guitars/BG vox) and their ace —”wild man” drummer Shannon Larkin round out their present lineup. Are you one of those who thinks Tommy Lee is a powerful + a great show man? Just wait until you see Shannon perform live on the skins!
Some of you may be thinking to yourself (after a quick glance at the above photo), “this doesn’t look like the glam band from the UK”, well, your correct —it’s NOT! This Wrathchild is from the good ole’ U.S.A. (Maryland to be exact) and are in no-way-shape-or-form related to those characters from England (except of course for the obvious -the name).
Wrathchild plays a widespread type of music that jumps back and forth from being heavy, to fast, to slow, to melodic, to…well, I don’t even know what you would call it —other than good!
The band hinted at success a few years back with their 1983-84′ “Danger-us“ demo tape. It rocked, but sadly they were not able to capture the power and intensity of their live show within’ those four original tracks. Don’t get me wrong, songs like “Heartache Queen”, the twin guitar attack of “Metal Madness” and the AC/DC influenced “Roll the Dice” (and the title track “Danger-us”) certainly jams hard, but they lack the originality of their newer material.
You can also detect a definite 70′s influenced guitar sound on that demo but this is now coupled with a heavier sound ala’ early Priest or Maiden. So yes, obviously (if you have to be influenced by someone) then those are some great musical influences to have! In some of the smaller clubs they require you to play some covers, so the band usually does a short set of cover tunes and a full-set of their originals at their live shows.
They have a track called “Armed to Deliver” featured on last years L’Amour Rocks 87′ compilation album, which showcased eight up n’ coming young bands.
I am sure Wrathchild was included mainly due to the strength of their live shows, which has taken them all over the U.S. and especially the Midwest (including the Baltimore rock scene where they a very popular).
These East Coast natives are easily the standout band and their special blend of power + Metal should help them rise above all the “wanna-be’s” out there on the club circuit these days.
*check out this relic for some band history.
OK, let’s dig in a little bit deeper and see what makes this band tic as Curt King has a chat with front man Brad Divens to get the run down of their struggle to the top.
Curt King: I understand that you guys have been at it for a while, exactly how long have you been slugging it out and has it been hard sticking with it over the years?
Brad Divens: “We’ve been together for five years as we are now. Terry and Shannon started the band a long, long time ago when they were in high school. It’s basically been like this for the last five years. It’s been rough at times. Not really rough as far as sticking together, but with just all the financial problems and playing constantly with all the ups and downs.”
You were a five piece unit at one time, what happened to your bassist?
Brad: “We were a five piece unit for like three and a half, almost four years and then our bass player (Kevin Keller - ed) seemed like he lost a little interest. The songs we were writing just didn’t have any feel. He was writing everything and we were just learning it. We didn’t like that too much, so we parted ways with him.”
Brad: “I’ve always played guitar -for about sixteen years (as previously mentioned above, he had a brief stint with KIX during this time before he joined Wrathchild – ed). When he left, instead of hiring somebody else and trying to find the right person, I just said, “hell, I’ll do it”. If you can play guitar then you can play bass.”
Which instrument do you like to play the best then?
Brad: “Oh, I don’t know, that’s a tough one. Actually, I play guitar at home all the time. I like playing guitar a lot! Terry and Jay are a lot better than me though. When we first started out, we had three guitars believe it or not. We all switched off leads and stuff, it was pretty cool.”
You guys have been constantly touring and promoting the band for the past few years, can you tell us about some of this touring, you know -where have you been, who have you played with etc.
Brad: “We’ve played constantly for five years. We’ve been out to L.A. and back twice. We’ve also played Ohio, Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana…just everyplace! And we’ve gotten a good response everywhere.”
“We’ve played constantly for five years and we’ve gotten a good response everywhere.” – Brad Divens
There is a cool local place here called Kramer’s Lake that I should hook you guys up with. It’s actually an amusement park/lake during the day and by the time Sunday evening rolls around each week, they have live bands out there.
Some of the bands are really great (like Buster Brown or New York) and play originals, although most bands just play cover tunes. But it’s a fun time and I know someone in the family that runs it, so I will try to hook it up for you through your manager (Chip over at James Turner Productions).
Brad: “When we go out on the road we hit the same clubs and always try to play new clubs if it is financially possibly. A lot of the places, for the first time, don’t like to play very much and we’d have to see if it is worthwhile to go out of our way to play the place.”
Where is your biggest following at?
Brad: “We’re the most popular in the Baltimore/Washington area, along with Cincinnati, Ohio. We did exceptionally well in L.A.”
Who are some of the many bands that you have played shows with thus far? Any national acts? I heard the show in Baltimore with Twisted Sister impressed them enough to result in another show – this time at the infamous Brooklyn, NY Metal Club L’Amour’s.
Brad: “We’ve played with Accept, Saxon, The Ramones, Anvil, Ace Frehley’s Comet, Foghat and yes Twisted Sister at L’Amour.”
Your live show features a variety of of songs, ranging from the Sex Pistols, to Metallica, to Bad Brains, to Pink Floyd (not to mention a whole sh**-load of originals – ed) are you, as a band, influenced by any Punk or Hardcore type of music or do you even like it?
“We are influenced by everything basically” – Brad Divens
Isn’t it true that certain members of the band have other side-projects that’s along the lines of Hardcore?
Brad: “Yeah, Kiddie Porn. That’s Shannon’s little project. That was basically done for fun. They did a tape and sold a bunch of copies of that. Jay also plays with him, along with a bassist named “Tumor”. I don’t what’s gonna’ happen with them though, they might go back in the studio and record some more songs just for the hell of it. Shannon likes playing Hardcore and Punk so much that it’s good for him to get that out of his system! The lyrics are also too sick and demented for Wrathchild (laughs Brad).”
Brad: “Some of us are influenced by Punk + Hardcore. Jay are Shannon are and I like some of it too. I personally don’t like a lot of the Hardcore stuff, but I like Punk music. We are influenced by everything basically.”
Didn’t Shannon even try out for the mighty Slayer once when they lost Dave Lombardo for a while?
Brad: “Yeah, he did try out for Slayer. He wasn’t unhappy with Wrathchild or anything, it was just that Slayer is his favorite band! We all encouraged him to do it. We said “yeah, go do it, and if/when they offer you the job, we’ll come and talk you out of it.”
I heard that he did pretty damn good and came close to getting the job?!
Brad: “He was definitely one of the likely candidates!”
You guys recorded your second four song demo in 87′, can you please tell us about those songs and what kind of reaction it stirred -if any?
Brad: “We got a bunch of write-ups and stories in magazines. That demo also got us the deal with Atlantic Records. The songs on the demo consisted of:“Climbing the Walls”, which deals with what all happened to us on one road trip. I mean everything happened to us, from not being able to get motel rooms to getting stopped by the police, to getting screwed over on money! “Day of Thunder”, deals with war -any kind of war. “Candy from A Madman” (my favorite – ed) is about an insane person out in the streets. The kind of freak that molest little girls and stuff. Don’t take candy little girls (laughs)! “Hell’s Gates” is about what actually happens when you go to hell…if there is a hell. That’s one of my personal favorites. We have some other songs like “Armed to Deliver”, “No Deposit, No Return”, “Wasted by the Night”, “London After Midnight”, “Hernia”, which is an instrumental. Also “Silent Darkness (Smothered Life)” and “Danger-us”.
“Our style has changed because now it’s a mixture of everybody’s influence as compared to just one person writing the whole song -lyrics and all!”
You do seem to have a pretty widely varied sound/style that appeals to a variety of people.
Brad: “You can’t really pin point our style. You’ll hear us doing something and you’ll think it’s Heavy Metal or Thrash and then we’ll break into some off-the-wall shit -Blues or Jazz or something! You don’t know what style.”
You’ve recorded your début album and I have received a pre-release of it and it’s great! How was it to work in the studio and do you feel that when this is released that it will finally give you the recognition you so rightfully deserve?
Brad: “We will definitely start getting, at least, a little respect. Respect and two cases of beer instead of one. And hot dogs (laughs)! When we first started talking to Atlantic they told us to pick out some producers we wanted. We talked to Michael (Wagener -ed) and sent him a tape and everything. We flew him out to see the band and he loved us! I mean, he definitely wanted to work with the band. It was great.”
I’m more-than-sure that you are familiar with the Glam band from the UK that also uses the name Wrathchild?! What do you think about them and who has the rights to the name?
Brad: “They suck! I’m pretty sure we have the rights to the name. Anyway, they changed their name to: Wrathchild UK, so we don’t have anything to worry about now. I don’t think they have ever came over and here and I am sure we’ll be able to go over there to play. We’ll do anything to avoid confusion with them, even if we have to say U.S. Wrathchild!”
What’s going through your minds now and what future plans do you have as a band?
Brad: “To get the album out definitely. Then just driving it down peoples throats by playing everywhere possible (to a certain extent), I mean, we wouldn’t tour for two years after our first album. We’ll probably tour for year and go in the studio and do another one. We want to be successful and have our name known everywhere because we definitely want to go to Europe! Hopefully our booking agency will get us on tour. We’re hoping for a band like Iron Maiden, Ozzy or even AC/DC.”
Yeah that would be cool. Any parting last words our Demolish readers and or future Wrathchild fans?
Brad: “That’s about it -so everybody please make sure to buy the album”.
After many years of touring and hard work, it seems that these rockers are finally about to get their big break. Right now though, they are in the midst of an ongoing legal battle with the UK “Wrathchild” who are fighting them a bit for the rights to use that name. I hope they win too as I like their name and it fits them like a glove. The UK band with the same name are some “sleazy glam boyz” and certainly not up to the same pro-level as our beloved Wrathchild from America.
Wrathchild have everything going for them and I am pretty positive that the time is now for them to take the world by storm. I have predicted this ever since I saw several of their awesome, energy-packed live shows!
*In order to transport you directly back to the 80’s (i.e. 87′ – 89′ to be exact) we will continue to keep the language in the posts “present tense” even though this is 2010.
Call it “shticky” if you must but…I thought this would be way better than always saying “back in the day” or “this is the way it was back when…” over & over & over. -CK
I am happy to report that I was successful in connecting their management with Kramer’s as you can see from the pics above (if you actually read the captions) and they indeed played Kramer’s several times. They were able to get in by agreeing to do a set of cover tunes. Some of which can be heard here. So all of you E’ville peeps out there now know who you can thank for all of those great times!
*Well, I cannot take all the credit, as we have to give special thanks to Daphne’s mom as well for taking a “chance” with the (then unknown) band. Those pictures were taken in the spring of 1988 on March 20th.
They were so successful that they branched out and were booked to play other gigs in the Tri-State area including Funky’s.
Enjoy a few more pics…
When I met up with the rest of the band, I had them fill out the famous “Demolish Asks” questionnaire. These are some of the earliest known copies of these documents as well! I asked the band what their Top 5 current albums were and what do you think makes a good song?
*click on each for a larger view
Well, I am not happy to report that the band or label ended up delaying the release of their début LP “Climbin’ the Walls” almost 2 years later —in the first part of 1989! They were also either forced to (or willingly) added the silly “America” to their name to avoid further confusion with the UK band. This was all fine and dandy but I think it surely let the steam out their sails a bit and in the process maybe killed the “buzz” they had managed to create to date. Couple that with the changing times in the music industry and a lackluster job by Atlantic Records at promoting these rising stars and that translated into average sales and further complicated matters. That’s a damn shame too, as this is a gem of a band AND album and they deserved better.
I don’t think the label knew what to do with them. They do not fit nicely into one classification that’s for sure. Some journalists tried to lump them into the widely popular Thrash Metal genre, but while they did show some rather fast + heavy moments (that resembled “straight up” Thrash), they were much more melodic than that. They also were able to add in the “catchi-ness” of older Heavy Metal and even some blues and jazzy parts. Maybe even some heavy waltz parts here in there right in the middle of their songs!
Best of all these seasoned musicians were able to put on a show and did not just stand there head bangin’ like most Metal bands of the day. Plus their drummer —Shannon Larkin, out “head-banged” nearly every Bay Area band from BEHIND the drum kit! This is no lie. He must have a rubber neck.
Check out the cool video the band made to promote the album. I did see this on “Headbanger’s Ball” a lot!
At the end of the day, I think most people did not understand them, did not give them a proper chance and or just didn’t “get it” perhaps. Maybe some fans did not gel with their songwriting and or often satirical lyrical output? Most of that was meant to be funny and or tongue n’ cheek, so maybe they too it too “seriously” unfortunately. Let it be said here now: These warriors are pro-caliber musicians and execute live with total precision and authority.
If you call yourself a fan of Metal or Hard Rock and you (somehow) missed these guys the first time around, then please redeem yourself by going here and getting the “Climbin’ the Walls” CD. It still holds up today and I have listened to it several times while writing this post.
1. Climbin’ The Walls
2. Hell’s Gates
3. No Deposit, No Return
5. London After Midnight
6. Candy From A Madman
7. Silent Darkness (Smothered Life)
9. Day Of The Thunder
*The band ended up co-producing the LP with Mark Dearnly (& David Radin).
After a rather un-momentous first experience with Atlantic Records and their major label début, WRATHCHILD carried-on (as they usually do) and shrugged off the negative vibes and kept on rockin’, show after show, song after song. I am not sure if they were ever able to meet up with the “UK Wrathchild” (that caused them so much grief) and kick their asses!
Either way, the boys went back into the studio and recorded another great twelve track album simply called “3-D”. This time around, which was another two years later (i.e. 1991), things were even more awry in the music industry. The Power Metal and or Thrash Metal scene was starting to implode on itself and the 80′s left-coast “Hair-Metal” scene was starting to dry up as well. I mean, how many more “power ballads” could we take?
Check out their second promo video for the song: “Surrounded by Idiots”
Excuses and or “bad-timing” aside, this albums rocks from start to finish! This album is much more varied and complex vs their début. The power + “catchi-ness” is still there and the sound quality is better as well. Songs like “Desert Grins” and “Surrounded by Idiots” just ooze with clever songwriting and skill!Perhaps this song sums it up best:
Surrounded By Idiots
All through my life every day’s the same
And they tell me I’m losing again
I can talk until I’m blue in the face
But can you tell me who’s the one to blame
And what are you gonna do when we get old
And we’re tired of doing what we’re told
Because the government’s broke and we’re out-of-place
In a country that’s already been sold
I don’t know what to think
But I know what I see
I think I’ll have another drink
You wanna join me?
I can’t make sense out of any of this
The more I try, the more I get pissed
This confusion that I can’t erase
Can’t seem to crawl out of the abyss
Desperate groupie making a pass
The little slut didn’t just want my ass
She said, “I wanna be cool and have a rock star’s kid”
But will the novelty of the bastard last?
I don’t know what to think
But I know what I see
I think I’ll have another drink
Wanna join me?
Surrounded, Surrounded, Surrounded
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right
(Here I am) Surrounded, I’m surrounded, surrounded
Surrounded by idiots
The TV gods and the Jesus freaks and the flag burners
And the rapists, and the murderers, would you check out
All the geeks…I can’t believe what walks the streets
From Hollywood to D.C.
You banned little red riding hood
censored mister Rogers’ neighborhood
I go to jail if they find a seed
But meanwhile the mayor runs free
Now I know what I think
And I know what I see
I say everything sucks
Surrounded, Surrounded, Surrounded
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right
(Here I am) Surrounded, I’m surrounded, surrounded
Surrounded by idiots!
3-D Track Listing:
1. 3-D Man
3. Gentleman Death
4. Forever Alone
6. Surrounded By Idiots
7. Desert Grins
8. What’s Your Pleasure?
10. Another Nameless Face
12. I Ain’t Drunk, I’m Just Drinkin’
Check out a rare interview + the rare “Spy” promo VHS clip.
Check out this MAJOR blast from the past here:
Rewind the tape back to 1984: CBS News began a pre-production for a new prime time series. The show, in the format similar to 60 Minutes, will eventually be titled “West 57th”. Producer Craig Leake decided to film a segment based on the struggles of a young touring act trying to break out of the night club “death march”. After reviewing several bands, from upstate New York to Washington D.C., Mr. Leake picked Wrathchild.
Sometime after the band was dropped from Atlantic Records, they decided to retire the Wrathchild America name and continued to make even HEAVIER music. This time around they were called SOULS AT ZERO. I will be the first to admit that their output during these years was pretty decent as well, but there was just something “missing” that I cannot put my finger on as to why they could not make it and or move up the ranks if-you-will.
I think the band was (rightfully) pissed-off and wanted to make aggressive music that definitely could be considered Thrash Metal this time around. The band still added their signature quirkiness though and were like dynamite live as well. I only got to see them one time under the SOULS AT ZERO name unfortunately. It was at some “Hall” on Fulton Ave. in Evansville (I cannot remember the name – and it’s since been demolished).
So there we have it, yet another amazing band that was never able to rise above cult status over the years.
*Shannon Larkin left the band in 1994 to fill the drum seat in Ugly Kid Joe.
Souls at Zero Releases:
Souls At Zero (Energy) 1993
Souls at Zero – six-t-six (Energy) 1994
Souls At Zero – Taste of the Perverse (Energy) 1995
*Terry Carter – A.K.A. “T-Bone” has since moved on to playing in country and blues bands and just about any other form of music that puts him on a stage in front of a crowd. For a short time he toured with Fear Of God but now resides in Florida.
*Brad Divens is now a successful producer /promoter/sound engineer working with such bands as Mindset and Linkin Park, Cyndi Lauper and Slayer.
*Jay Abbene was in Kiddie Porn with Shannon. He’s toured with Fear Of God and Crowbar.
*according to their Souls at Zero (fan page).
Links of Interest
*there are some cool photos on here
Souls At Zero:
But their music on Amazon
This entry was posted on March 29, 2010 by Demolish Magazine Online. It was filed under Demolish Issue #1, Wrathchild (America): The Wait is Over and was tagged with 3-D, 80's metal, Brad Divens, Climbin' the Walls, Danger-us Demo, Days of Thunder Demo, entertainment, Heavy Metal, Jay Abbene, Kevin Keller, Kramer's Lake, Music, power metal, shannon larkin, Souls at Zero, Terry Carter, Underground Metal, wrathchild america.