Back From the Dead

Rigor Mortis were once "Condemned to Hell"--and irrelevance--but the Dallas metal legends have risen

Back From the Dead
Rigor Mortis were once "Condemned to Hell"--and irrelevance--but the Dallas metal legends have risen

By 1991, Rigor Mortis was through. The Dallas band didn't just part ways--after signing with Capitol Records only five years before, they were booted off the popular music radar, along with most of their metal peers, by the grunge era. Members moved on to notable bands--lead guitarist Mike Scaccia would tear things up in Ministry and bassist Casey Orr joined famed hard-hitters like GWAR, the Hellions and the Burden Brothers--but after almost 15 years, RM reunites in the very same building that their career essentially began.

The Theatre Gallery (now the Galaxy Club) was just a ragtag art gallery in 1986, tucked in a desolate warehouse district called Deep Ellum. The Dallas death metal band had no idea what to expect from the venue at the time, as it wasn't a typical metal spot, and the few hard rock clubs elsewhere in Dallas often insisted that bands play rote covers of hit rock songs. In fact, Rigor Mortis' cross-town rival at the time, Pantera, regularly covered everyone from Aerosmith to ZZ Top.

Rigor Mortis hasn't posed with axes, swords and rotting 
corpses since the late '80s. Those were the days...
Rigor Mortis hasn't posed with axes, swords and rotting corpses since the late '80s. Those were the days...
We can only hope Blackest of the Black performer Mortiis 
has a cuter photo for his MySpace profile.
We can only hope Blackest of the Black performer Mortiis has a cuter photo for his MySpace profile.

But the band gave originals a shot at this new venue, the very same building where the New Bohemians, Rev. Horton Heat and the Buck Pets had played, and that dicey move to distance themselves from Dallas' metal scene proved to be their major-label ticket out of town. Rachel Matthews, VP of A&R at Capitol, was in the crowd that night and offered a record deal on the spot. Within a year, the band opened for acts like Megadeth and Death Angel and rode the mainstream metal momentum built by Slayer's Reign of Blood in 1987, yet the sudden rise didn't result in any Behind the Music-style meltdowns.

"All of that stuff happened really fast," Orr says. "We had been kind of isolationists, just keeping to ourselves, rehearsing and writing almost every day, not really aware of how the industry worked beyond what we were doing already. Then Michael Alago, the A&R guy from Elektra who signed Metallica, came to town one weekend and gave us a crash course on how the business worked. He took the time to give us the right kind of advice, to tell us the things we needed to know to see past just being a local band."

RM survived with this advice, along with a willingness to reach beyond their chosen genre thanks to influences like Swans, Skinny Puppy and even Jane's Addiction. These steps outside the meat-and-potatoes of metal have laid a foundation for a reunion--and a possible new album next year--as their unique musical attack still resonates with fans old and new so many years later.

"I can't believe the response we've been getting from people on the Internet," singer Bruce Corbitt says. "I get messages from kids who weren't even born when the first album came out."

Take that, Candlebox. --Jeff Liles

How Black, Exactly?
Prepare for an onslaught of pale, God-hating goths at Glen Danzig's ultra-heavy festival

Glenn Danzig's "Blackest of the Black Tour" isn't your uncle's fist-pumping metal festival. There'll be no tepid reunions, no MTV-approved Ozzy rallies--these bands lean to the extremely obsidian side of the punishing genre with no apologies offered or prisoners taken. But talk is cheap: What's the real difference between, say, the leathery melody of Judas Priest or the fairly adorable debauchery of Mötley Crüe and thrashy bands on "Blackest" like Himsa, The Agony Scene and Chimaira? Without the aid of ears, we present some lyrics that might be heard on Wednesday for a perspective barometer.

Chimaira, "Left for Dead": "You act like we're blind, deaf and dumb/Betrayal has now left us numb." Cleveland's a tough town, and Chimaira's mixture of hardcore and electronics backs up their hometown's rep. Besides, you can't rhyme "numb" and "dumb" without being hard. They're kind of like Staind in that respect, only with more references to mouthfuls of vomit.

Behemoth, "Demigod": "Come forth--join ye arsenals of blasphemy/Follow the one who spurred Roman warring legions." Though harder to pin down thanks to a liberal sprinkling of Middle Ages grammar and a shortage of choruses, Poland's Behemoth is the sort of death metal that refuses to slow down to explain cryptic allusions to ancient gods. Jupiter rewards thee for it.

Mortiis, "Monolith": "I just want to flee/ The god I used to be/ Fill me no more with glee." If that reads awkwardly, wait until you see him. Mortiis is sure to be the most goth of all Grand Prairie visions, as he typically outfits himself in sinister gnome makeup and garb. And yes, that means a codpiece...if we're lucky.

Himsa, "Kiss or Kill": Ummm...something about sorrow and screams. This is bile-covered metalcore with croaked Cookie Monster-style vocals, so it's more about intent than delivery. "C" ain't for "cookie," though.

And then there's the main event himself, Danzig. A punk legend with The Misfits and a metal messiah with Samhain, Glenn's solo projects identify just as much with murky, bluesy hard rock as outright inferno-raising. The Napoleonic frontman has threatened to scale back his touring in the future, so catch the Henry Rollins of the 10-sided dice sect while you can.

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