There's something to be said for a local band having the gall to throw a CD-release party in 1995. "Before that," laughs Rich Fourmey, "everything was a tape-release party. So we said, to hell with it. We're gonna shell out thousands of dollars and have a CD."
It's the kind of stunt that's hard to forget. So is the name of the band that pulled it: Pelvic Meatloaf, which has been around ever since.
That longevity isn't the result of an unshakeable name or longtime independence or the supporting slots they've played with metal legends across the country. What it comes down to is the machine-gun double bass, violent mosh pits, and brutal instrumentals. Pelvic Meatloaf's music recalls the days of '80s thrash metal: dirty, fast-paced groove metal, and, of course, Penthouse forum letters.
That CD release party was for Negative, which was quickly followed by 1996's The Key. In 1999, the band released its third and assumed last album, Third Power. Now a new album, Stronger Than You, is finally in the mix. Rounding out the lineup alongside Fourmy are guitarist Byron Filson, drummer John Ogle, bassist Kelly Moore, and guitarist Dejan Knezevic, the newest member.
"We had some time off because I did some prison time, and then we just decided to get together to do a reunion show when I got out," says Fourmy. "We played a show and it went over really well, so we thought we might as well start writing new music."
The Stronger Than You release party is set for Saturday, October 5, at Club Red alongside an array of bands that usually spend the weekends headlining their own shows -- [Sic]monic, Virulent, Killing Sprees, Vivicide, and more.
One listen to Stronger Than You illustrates exactly why there's still so much buzz around Pelvic Meatloaf. The music chases the same ideals it did two decades ago; a heavy mixture of talent, borderline-articulate vocals, roaring breakdowns, and novel sampling. But it resonates with pain and suffering, strength and regret.
"We've always written songs based off of strength and power," Fourmy says. "The vibe of our music is very aggressive."
"Punishment" is leavened with samples from The Shining; between Jack Nicholson screaming "I'm not gonna hurt you, I'm just gonna bash your brains in!" and the brutal instrumentals, it's one of my favorite songs from a local band this year. "Walk" is all about the local metal scene, digging into a sense of entitlement that many young bands seem to project. (It also includes guest vocals from ex-North Side Kings singer Danny Marianino.)
"The song expresses a lot of frustration with some local bands in the scene. People don't realize the blood, sweat, and tears that bands used to put in back in the day," says Fourmy.
Adds guitarist Byron Filson, who owns Villain Recording and has recorded a ton of local metal bands, "I recorded a lot of the North Side Kings' records. I always liked Danny's writing style and influences, so when it came time for us to write our record, it was like I just wanted to put together a straightforward hardcore-feel song."
"You rarely see bands hitting the streets with all the fliers they made and putting them on windshields or handing them out at shows every night," Fourmy says. "They just make an event on Facebook, and with a couple clicks of a button, they can invite everyone they know. So they think that that's promoting. I mean, technology rules, but I think that's a lot of where the sense of entitlement comes from."
Another stand-out track is "Denial," which includes a melodic section with guest cellist Adam Rebeske of Vex; Rebeske also contributes to the next song, "Scars," as well as the closing track, which is Knezevic providing an acoustic, outlaw-country-influenced interpretation of Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast."
The name Pelvic Meatloaf has as straightforward a story as any of the band's songs. "In high school, I had a buddy who was always trying to come up with the most offensive shit," Fourmy says, chuckling. "He also used to write erotic letters for Penthouse forum. He was quoting something he had written and it was about a 'pelvic meatloaf'; I asked what that was, and he said, 'That's the name for a dick.' When I was 18 and we got the band together, I thought, what should we call it? Pelvic Meatloaf." Which suits the band just fine even now, since Fourmy sells adult websites.
Fourmy started the band as a prank in high school because he knew that he could play live music during the spirit week lunch break without it being previewed beforehand. He called up the high school and played a band from the radio on the phone; when they said he could play, he called everyone who had an instrument.
"We played and were horrible," Fourmy says, shaking his head.
As observers of, and major participants in, the local metal scene for years, the band has taken some significant changes in stride. "The whole industry may have changed, but not all that much," Filson says. "There's still people that want to play music, and allies formed. The community is what you make of it. It might not be your cup of tea, but you can't deny that there are bands that are good at what they do. It's important to appreciate the players for what they contribute."
In retrospect, it makes sense that Pelvic Meatloaf decided not to go with a label or management.
"The economy has affected showgoers, clubs, and bands," Filson says. "Nowadays, you can barely get people to see a national band during the week. We have terrible DUI laws, and people are hurting for money, and bands are struggling to stay afloat and make money because the clubs aren't making any money . . . it's a very circular-type thing."
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When they started out 20 years ago, Pelvic Meatloaf had to prove to the management at Boston's (now 910 Live) that they could bring in 50 drinkers on a Wednesday night to watch them perform in order to get a weekend headliner spot.
"We were dragging in our aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents . . . and we brought 51 people in. We counted them in front of the owner, and he gave us the weekend slot," Fourmy says, laughing. "It feels like after 23 years of us being in this band, we're strangely optimistic [about] the future. We have a new breath of life and think we're gonna be around for a while."
As for the erotic-lit-writing friend who helped come up with the name? The band says he's bumming around the country traveling. And maybe still listening to his Pelvic Meatloaf CDs.