“We want to take over the world.” (March 2009)

28 11 2011

Laura Marshall
March 21, 2009
Barnes, AJRL 475


The Chance Entertainment Complex, POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. :

“Check” has never sounded so demonic. The teenage suburbanites left over from the pop-punk opener, Tension, look at each other uncomfortably. They are unaware of the fact that the music here ¾ rock, metal or otherwise ¾ is so loud your chest is sore by the time you leave, and that they should stand back from the flaking black barricade a bit.

The second set of the night at The Chance, one of Poughkeepsie’s top entertainment venues, begins with a bang. Soulcoma, a five-man hardcore-metal outfit from Dutchess County with nearly 100 shows under their belt, go from zero to 60 with the first chord they play.

From Left: D. Maderi, J. Contreni, Reverend Wicked Joe, D. Finkel; N.Mondello at back.

Frontman Reverend Wicked Joe, bald except for four spikes atop his bandana-wrapped head, spits out the lyrics to “Benediction” at a pace suggesting they taste as painful and bitter as they sound.

His raspy bellow meets guitarist Dave Maneri’s warped whine, telling the audience to “Rise! Rise! Rise!” and “Take your lives back.” In the midst of coarsely delivered vocals and hyper drum beats is a message about being your own person and not settling for what is obvious. It’s a great moral, even if the journey to finding it leaves you, as the lyrics say, “drenched in the blood of the mountain.”

The second song, “Recycled,” is anything but. A fast bass, angry drums and original lyrics by Wicked Joe craft a bizarre, apocalyptic scene that would do Lamb of God ¾ one of Soulcoma’s influences ¾ proud. My attention drifts to stage left where guitarist Derek Finkel, the least theatrical of the crew, stands confidently, his swift hands and precise head-bang setting the tone for the song.

During the third song, “The Crown,” a few Soulcoma faithful hit the floor to mosh and flail. Drummer Nick Mondello is often lost in the shuffle visually, but his strong, skilled presence is known on every tune. His mother stands next to me, and at one point said, “They should’ve had second billing [behind the ACDC guys]!”

Dave Maneri kicks off the fourth song, his fingers abusing the neck of his guitar. The whole crew heaves to and fro as Wicked Joe forces out “In The Season of The Dead.” Bassist James Contreni plays so hard it looks like he and his bass will crash through the stage.

Regulars pound the pit for “Eternal Misanthropy,” a standard at Soulcoma shows. One fan, called “Wicked Eddie,” is praised for his enthusiasm, while the Reverend tells rest of the crowd to “Put your hands up! Show me the horns, no fucking excuse!”
“Eternal Misanthropy” has a grunge vibe mixed with thrash. Maneri takes full advantage of a solo, molesting his guitar on the bridge. I learned later, as he revels in feedback of the show, that this is his favorite song.

Wicked Joe’s opening note of “In Battle” stopped and restarted my heart. The introduction is almost soulful, somewhat of a contradiction to what the term “metal” brings to mind. The melody has a Southern twang which continues underneath violent pitches of the guitar and a machinegun snare drum for the duration of the song.
While many of Soulcoma’s songs attack societal conventions, this is the only one that is overtly political. Lyrics like “What are we gaining / Lost sisters and brothers / What are we winning / Lost fathers and mothers,” echo the controversy and questions surrounding our nation’s six year conflict in Iraq.

The set ends and the crowd thins out. I made my way outside of the Chance, to where the band is loading instruments and equipment into their cars. This is not the first time I am meeting many of them, so any efforts to keep the interview professional are quickly quashed.

Soulcoma has been together in some form since 2006, with their most recent line-up change coming when singer Dustin Richard left last summer. Of Richard’s exit, Contreni said, “We couldn’t have done it without him, but we couldn’t continue with him.”

The consensus on their third singer, Wicked Joe, is that he was the “missing link” to Soulcoma. Contreni went on to say that the new singer “changed the spirit, the morale” of the whole group. Additionally, with the new singer came new lyrics. Anyone who has a copy of the 2007 Soulcoma demo CD should check out the band’s Myspace profile (www.myspace.com/soulcomaband) to see how different songs like “Breaking Free” and “Reasons Why” are now.

The Reverend is also credited with the surge of bookings, which range from bar shows in Kingston and Albany to the Epochxing Festival in Pulaski this summer.

Curious about his stage name, I inquired as to whether Reverend Wicked Joe is in fact a reverend. Turns out, he is.
“It started as a joke. I got drunk and started preaching to friends,” he said, and with the help of the Internet he became ordained.
One of the guys, in a vote of authenticity, said, “He could marry us right now.” (I declined.)

The band’s maintenance seems very organic, and they describe the teamwork as a “total collaboration of five people,” where “everyone does their part.” Similarly, Mondello said that at practice, “We just jam.”
Every member of the band lives in a different place, but regularly come together in Hudson or Tivoli to rehearse.

Soulcoma often performs with another local metal band, RUIN, from Milan. You might think that two bands of this status and genre would be competitors, but that is not the case ¾  mostly because they share a drummer, Nick Mondello.

When asked to define the difference between his two projects, Mondello said “RUIN is a big, intense entity. A big, dark entity. Awesome. Soulcoma is metal meets jazz, blues… more of a subgenre.”

The two groups are hoping to collaborate on a larger scale in the future, with the second annual RUINFEST, featuring both acts and other local bands, set for late April. I wondered whether they had considered taking this show on the road, for a bar tour perhaps, to which Mondello said “We’re working on it!”

Performance nights are parties, family and friends come out, and these guys make it worth their while. On the topic of family support, Mondello said his mother plays his music in her car before work. Contreni, who’s mother no doubt is proud of his accomplishments, has asked why he can’t play “nice stuff.” He playfully responded, “I don’t wanna play nice stuff, I wanna kill people.”

Make no mistake, Soulcoma is not a garage band, and this is not a hobby. These twenty-somethings “want it to go somewhere.” But there are no stars in their eyes. Their goals right now are to build positive relationships with the management and staff of establishments like The Chance, Gallagher’s Bar of Tivoli and The Basement in Kingston.

“We want them to know we appreciate them,” Wicked Joe said, with a bit more eloquence than Contreni’s explanation of, “Basically we suck their _ _ _ _ because at the end of the night, they pay us.”

Reverend Wicked Joe discussed how “the scene” has died down in recent years, and that there was a weakened support for local arts. Hoping to expand their audience, Soulcoma are planning more shows in the Capital Region and want to “show people willing to come out a good time.”

He wanted anyone and everyone to know, “Wherever there’s a scene, Soulcoma will be there.”

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28 08 2012
Dave maneri | Billpearson

[…] “We want to take over the world.” (March 2009) « Marshall Lately […]

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