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Sci-fi thrash-metal band Vektor has seen the future, and it's a cold, dark place: "A bleak, barren wasteland that has been destroyed by greed, power, corruption, hate, violence, ignorance, and control."
It's the present, too, Vektor insists, with lyrical themes mirroring their home state of Arizona's political system. But it isn't all bad in AZ, as the band also found inspiration in the Valley's vast desolate landscape, which provided an endless palette of surprisingly vibrant hues for them to paint their blunt but highly melodic portrait of the future.
Earlier this year, the heavy-hitting fast-rocking quartet packed up and moved from Tempe to Philadelphia following two very successful outings: 2009's Black Future and 2010's Outer Isolation. With a new city in front of them, well, the future's looking as grim as ever.
"We definitely wanted something different than the desert and Arizona," Vektor bassist Frank Chin says from the band's tour van. "We thought about New York, but it was just unreasonably expensive, so [we ended up choosing] Philly. It's close to New York and Jersey and if we want to go on the road for a week, touring is just so much easier."
It's also essential for a band like Vektor. When they lived in Arizona, they regularly visited cities like Los Angeles and traveled up and down the West Coast. The first time they hit the road, they opened for L.A.-based metal heads Exmortus and have been headlining ever since. This current leg marks the fourth major U.S. tour they've embarked on as a band.
"You can go on a tour and hit a lot of places in a week or two," Chin says. "You can do that on the West Coast as well, but the first two shows after 12 hours of driving are kind of shitty, and it's a lot to risk with long drives like that. Plus, [Philly's] just a cool-ass city."
Aside from safer driving logistics, the rockers have also found themselves smack in the middle of an established cultural and artistic hub, one they're still exploring.
"We don't know everything about [Philly] yet," he says. "West and South Philly seem to house more punks and metal heads, and then there's Fishtown, which is northeast. If I was to say there was a part of Philly that reminded me of Tempe, it would be Fishtown; the bars and crowds are similar."
There's no "Philly Metal Sound" there, but the band's found itself in varied company, sharing stages with thrashers Rumpelstiltskin Grinder and black metal bands like Woe and Sacrificial Blood.
"In Arizona, the music scene out there just only recently started getting pretty rad," Chin says, citing Chandler natives Warhead, Tempe rockers Ace High Cutthroats, and Phoenix metal-punk crossover band Motive as favorites. "There is way more bands now than there were five years ago. I guess it's too early for me to really say what the scene is out here, but overall it's better; there are better bands within close range to Philly, and they play a lot."
Singer David DiSanto was the first to make the move after the band's last show as Valley residents in March, followed by drummer Blake Anderson and Chin in June. They've settled into the same West Philadelphia neighborhood made famous by the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith.
"We live in the ghetto," Chin says. "I'm not joking. We stick out like you wouldn't believe. We're the only white dudes living in our neighborhood. But people are down because they see that we're really into it, and going for it. We've made some good friends, and everyone's really nice."
Though the move is a drastic change of scenery and pace, they've managed to make the transition relatively seamless. People still party at punk shows in houses and basements, and there are plenty of places to get late-night eats. However, the band has noticed that older metal dudes tend to make their way out to Vektor shows in Philly.
"Everything's really worked out pretty smooth," Chin says. "We were really stressed out about practicing at first, but we just didn't tell our landlord or anyone else that we were going to set up in the basement. But we did, and no one cared. We soundproofed it a little and we've just been practicing in there.
"There was one setback, if you can call it that," he says. "I guess the people that lived in our place were evicted before we got there, so it was still full of a bunch of their shit. So when we moved in there it was just disgusting, but it ended up working out because they also left a little bottle of Jägermeister and a bunch of batteries. Even the setbacks have had subtle positives with 9-volt batteries and Jäger."
With the move behind them and an upcoming tour that will bring the boys back home for a stop at the Rhythm Room, Vektor can concentrate on their upcoming concept album. But despite trading in the dry heat and dusty tumbleweeds for four seasons and a "brighter" future, Chin insists their vision of a fleeting future remains unchanged.
"As far as a 'bleak and barren wasteland' — yeah, we've always kind of liked that vibe, but really, coming out to Philly hasn't changed our mindset," he says. "Our minds are in the same place. Yeah, we're living in a different spot, a completely different city, but it's only helping us. We're still the same people."
The yet-to-be-titled album is in the works but is being molded into an epic continuation and conclusion to Outer Isolation. The release will also mark the first project this version of the band will complete from start to finish. "With Outer Isolation and Black Future, a lot of those songs were written 10 years ago," Chin says. "This is our solid lineup, and this is what we're writing that's new. I can't get into the new album too much because there's still too much that's in question and a lot that might be changed and all that. But we are all stoked to write it and record it.
Vektor's figured out what works, and is sticking to its tried-and-true method.
"And we're not trying to get all weird either; we're not trying to be super avant-garde," he says. "It's still going to be our sound; it's still going to be fast and heavy. None of that's going to change.