Music fashion is like a video camera: Just because a genre passes out of the frame doesn't mean it ceases to exist. At least that's Mobile Deathcamp frontman Todd Evans' view when asked about the resurgent interest in '80s thrash and hardcore styles. He's quick to cite Metallica and Slayer, the style's forefathers.
"How long have they been around? Where did they go?" Evans asks rhetorically en route to his band's Lexington, Ky., show. The Toledo-based musician recalls playing Queensryche and Metal Church covers in a band called Mother Goose, when someone played him Slayer's explosive second album, Hell Awaits.
"It was like heaven opened up and someone handed me a Flying V and said, 'This is what you're doing,'" Evans says. "I was the long-haired guy in the denim vest killing people in the front row for Slayer. So it was a natural progression to go from Slayer to listening to Exodus, Venom, Possessed, Dark Angel and that whole thing. And it was non-stop from there."
In 2002, Evans scored a plum gig as GWAR's Centurion soldier/bassist Beefcake the Mighty. It was naturally a fun and crazy time. ("I saw a guy fuck a cup of piss, that's just off the top of my head," he offers when asked the craziest thing he encountered.) After six years of grueling performances and non-stop touring, Evans figured it would be better to put the same energy into his own power trio, Mobile Deathcamp.
Its chunky old-school sound is more speed metal than thrash, by Evans' estimation, but that's probably splitting hairs. The tempos chug more than race, while slashing guitar comes down in furious sheets and sword-like slices, interrupted by loose, fairly funky breakdowns. Evans' guitar-sound is notably crisp and clean and the vocals generally decipherable without a lyric sheet.
"That's the thing with thrash when it came out," says Evans. "It had a clarity to it. You could hear those dudes."
Mobile Deathcamp recorded its debut, Black Swamp Rising, with late GWAR guitarist Cory Smoot in 2008. They quickly signed to a rap label that was trying to branch into metal, but that deal went south — as did the deal they signed for the band's even tighter follow-up, Clear and Present Anger. In retrospect, maybe Evans shouldn't have trusted a label named Turkey Vulture.
Still, steady touring and hard work have earned the band a grassroots following buoyed by the thrash revival here and abroad. "I went from that big bus, with a 53-foot truck full of shit, to a standard-size van with three guys, no trailer or nothing," says Evans, "yet we've been accused of making as much noise as a five-piece band."
With powerhouse founding bassist Jeremy "Boe" Skadeland and new drummer Chad Smith onboard, Mobile Deathcamp will be doing a fall tour with the Absence, then return to the studio with the melodic death metal band's drummer, Jeramie Kling, to produce a new album that's generating legitimate label interest.
"He recorded the new Infernaeon record and it fucking kicks all ass in its sounds and the mix," says Evans. "We've got some things cooking and it sounds good. But for now we're just touring and trying to stay out as much as we can."