I HEAR FLAMING TUSK from three houses down, which is good since Astoria is a foreign country to me. I stand in front of the porch in the rain and listen to the band blast through “Ichor,” a song off the new album Old, Blackened Century. The singer sounds like the meanest motherfucker in the world, scratching out lyrics about the horror of Vietnam including the line that’s been stuck in my head for weeks: “Ho Chi Mien Kissinger!” The guitars seamlessly alternate between doom riffs and classic death metal with a solo that’s best described as Fast Eddie Clarke from Motorhead. The sidewalk shakes. I’m in the right place.
I get inside the band’s basement lair and instead of meeting the metal demigods I imagined to be making this noise, five nice-looking fellas greet me. They don’t look scary at all. They introduce themselves as Andy, Keith, Zach, Chris and Eric. I expected Schneidaar, Antipope Zosimus, Dumnorix Xristophage, Stolas Trephinator and Don Blood, the names listed on their music. I expected Dethklok in the flesh. Hell, they only have one Slayer tattoo between the five of them! I’m shocked. And then we start talking shop. An hour talking metal with these gentlemen and let me tell you dear readers, I actually learned something: metal is not always what it’s supposed to be.
The band started with the name.
Drummer Dumnorix Xristophage was on his computer and “Flaming Tusk” popped into his head. He told his guitarist friend Don Blood as a joke that it would make a great metal band name. Blood took him seriously and recruited his roommates Schneidaar for bass and Zosimus for second guitar. For vocals, Xristophage got his old friend Stolas Trephinator, AKA Chris Krovatin, the author of two successful novels Venemous and Heavy Metal and You. Flaming Tusk was born.
Each of the members has a different musical background. Collectively, they’ve been involved with hip-hop, electro, rock, indie-pop and country-rock. When they told their friends about Flaming Tusk, some of didn’t take them seriously.
“Everyone thought we were kidding, like, ‘Ha, ha, you’re gonna have a metal band—that’s funny guys,’ and then they would actually hear what we were doing and go, ‘Holy shit, they’re not fucking around.’”Since some of the band was not as well versed in metal as Dumnorix and Stolas, Dumnorix created the Necromusicon, four CDs of metal and an accompanying essay on what he calls “the foundational building blocks” of metal.
The CDs were split into four metal categories: thrash, death, black and doom. I’m no expert, but I would find it hard to place either of the band’s first two records, the Abigail EP and Old, Blackened Century, in any of these categories. And the band agrees.
“We’re very much dedicated to trying to do something that isn’t done that often. Our love of metal is a lot of times our love of things that are incredibly metal even though they’re not commonly used in metal song imagery,” says Trephinator, who writes all the lyrics with thematic input from the band.
The band’s first EP is titled Abigail after a six-year-old girl from Minnesota who had part of her small intestines ripped out by the suction of a pool filter in 2007. The EP was released digitally for pay-what-youwant with all proceeds going to the Abigail Taylor Foundation for the Advancement of Pool Safety. Their new album Old, Blackened Century, released with a similar pricing format, has a song about undergoing surgery titled “No Smiles” as well as a tale of five guys on a raft in the middle of the ocean deciding who they are going to eat first titled “Instability.”
“There’s one part that’s where they’re drawing straws to see who’s gonna get eaten, and then there’s another part that’s the same thing but faster and that’s the second time that happens,” says Don Blood about how the band tries to meld lyrics to the music.
Flaming Tusk seeks to find things that are metal but may not be completely accepted by the metal community as metal.
“We have a no vampires rule,” says Zosimus.
“No Germans and no vampires,” adds Don Blood.
You don’t need a reaper, an elf, a dragon or a serial killer to be metal. A pool ripping out the intestines of a little girl or a soldier going mad in a Vietnam jungle is metal, too. Scream that over some heavy sludge and pounding drums, forget about what a metalhead is supposed to look like, get a name from something bad ass like a mammoth’s tusk and, hey what he fuck, light it on fire. That is metal.
>>FLAMING TUSK May 17, Lit Lounge, 93 2nd Ave. (betw. E. 5th & E. 6th Sts.), 212-777-7987; 9, $6.