Metal Rüles 

Firehawk—the guardians of heavy metal’s eternal flame

Like a layer of PCB–rich sediment at the bottom of a sluggish river, waiting patiently to get kicked up by the next big torrent and trail it wherever it’s going. Like anthrax (heh!) spores lurking in wait under the candy skin of this week’s flavor for impressionable young flesh to come along. Like the miniscule water bear (phylum Tardigrada); ten years pass sleepily until it ambles along again, reconstituted by sweat and orange bongwater and the pockets of smelly broth that collect in the fissures between styles, genres, the Next Big Things.

Metal never dies. It lays low. It comes back.

Consider the relics at rest in the ossuary of the metal memory. The Surprised Guitar Face (rubber-faced, mid-solo, in staged disbelief of what his fingers are doing, little pink cocktail weenies don’t fail him now; they’re having some problems with the device that’s supposed to make it look like smoke is squirting out of the pickups and a voice now crackles in the guitarist’s earpiece: “Keep playing. We’ve almost got it fixed.” The breeze blowing offstage smells faintly of wet leather and pee.

The Metal Spelling Paradigm, there’s another 1 4 U. That is to say, the proper orthographic representation of the L8 A-Teaze and the early Nein-teaze. It wasn’t just for Zakk Wylde and Def Leppard and Enuff Z’nuff, either. All our würdz’n’thyngz lööked way bytchyn’er bakk then.

Glam metal’s goose—the last clear target for the true naysayer—was already kinda cooked when the first alt-rocker goatee cozied up around the wormy lips of the first previously clean-shaven glam Adonis, CeeCee or Rikki or whoever was the first Randy Rhoads scholar to make the connection between the scuzzy noise seeping out of the Northwest and their own declining fortunes; the Schmidt’s-powered damage of hunched-over Blue Cheer fans and the downsizing of arena shows and huge outdoor festivals to “intimate club dates” and sundry smaller venues where they could get “back to their roots” and “back in touch with the fans.” Or so they told themselves, those obsolescent dinosaurs of butt rock. Here’s a metal spelling 4 U: Kounti Faÿre!

But the ghosts of piebald metallurgists past still squat among us, friends, casting their spoor. The Surprised Guitar Face awaits vindication, the rising-sun headband is still in mothballs, but here onstage with Firehawk, amid the harmonics and the ryppyn’ lyxx, is the station of the cross I call Yngwie’s Helix: guitarists Tim Graham and Chris Pickolick stand facing one another, knees almost touching, leaning back, playing away, digging it. Thusly (almost) joined, they make a kind of inverted wishbone with bassist Hot Charles Johnson and drummer Aaron Bolton punting between the uprights.

Sit in the sweet spot back by the sound booth and hear in cross-section what you can already see: the sonic strands of this double guitar helix winding around an ode to teenage outdoor sex. Marshall stack versus Marshall stack, a moiré of roaring chords, a golden plait of keening solos. Share the fantasy. Firehawk rülz 4-Ever.
Firehawk rises from the ashes of Jay’s Upstairs this Friday, Jan. 12 at 10 PM.

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