Featured Music: Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Led by front man David Galloway, The guys in Element 80 believe they have no other choice but to keep making music and getting better.
Element 80
Sat with Necrogazm, Loaded Moses, System Overload, I.O.N., The Aftermath, Born 2 Nothing, and No Scope at Ridglea Theater, 6025 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW. 817-738-9500.
Bear Market

Metal-heads Element 80 return from the major label wringer with a renewed sense of purpose and a new c.d.


You’ve probably heard the story a million times before: Hot-shit local band releases a great independent c.d. that results in a major-label record deal. The label takes the c.d. and polishes it ’til it’s utterly bland and devoid of human touch, while changing the band’s look into something more “marketable.” The music — amazingly — doesn’t catch on, the label drops the band, and the hate-hate cycle continues.

Sound familiar? There are probably a dozen North Texas bands who can stand up and testify, including metal-heads Element 80. “Yes, definitely, we were given a song and dance, told we’d be on [national heavy-metal festival tour] Ozzfest,” said frontman David Galloway. “That didn’t happen. The label said that money would go elsewhere to help the band — that never happened.”

The major label in question is Universal/Republic, whose minions a couple of years ago had come looking for a North Texas metal group to follow up on the success of Dallas-based Drowning Pool. The label got hold of Element 80 and mixed and re-mixed the band’s crowd-killer, “Scars.” After several versions, the tune — amazingly — went unnoticed. The label then pulled back on various promises it had made to the band, including money to shoot a video and cover tour expenses. The band was shattered.

The Element 80 saga also involves KEGL/97.1-FM The Eagle, a local commercial radio station that played a lot of new and North Texas metal before disappearing at around the same time as Element 80’s expected break-out. “The label saw the demise of The Eagle as trouble, because it took the excitement out of the band and [out of] hard rock locally,” said Galloway, who agreed that the station’s death has further damaged the already fragile metal scene here.

After their release from the label, the guys in Element 80 could have either closed up shop or kept on keepin’ on. To folks who’ve heard the band, the choice was obvious: Element 80 stayed together and became somewhat stronger, chiefly by going back to its old-school roots. Now with a new management company (Greenhausen), new sponsors (Hot Topic), and a new bass player, the band has just released The Bear, a less-polished yet more emotionally resonant record than the band’s Universal/Republic-led debut, a disc that Galloway felt “the label had taken all the life out of — they let us do minimal takes with a ‘fix it later’ mentality.” All of the label’s intense surgery made the band sound more like a machine than a collection of living, breathing human beings.

The band’s rougher-edged sound was built primarily on what Galloway calls “maturity and wanting to move forward and not take an easy way out and repeat ourselves.” Jagged guitars, tight percussive work, and a new and welcome sense of melody permeate the entire disc. Galloway credits local producer Eric Delegard, who also produced the debut — pre-Universal/Republic — for a lot of the improvements. Delegard, according to Galloway, “got so screwed by the label on the debut that the only way we could do this one is with him — bottom line.”

The Bear does reflect a more mature outlook, both musically and lyrically, and it happily deals in that good feeling you get when you prove people wrong. Tracks like “Guntruck” and “Killing Me” blend nifty tempo shifts and lighter-than-air melodies with stronger-than-dirt riffage. If such a thing as open-minded commercial radio still existed, both of these songs would be prime for regular rotation.

Most of the tracks, Galloway said, weren’t labored over, but they did require extremely focused concentration on the part of the musicians — Bates and Galloway, plus Matt Woods on guitar, Ryan Carroll on drums, and Zack Bates on bass. “We were constantly able to say to each other, ‘Try this’ or ‘Try that,’ in order to get done exactly what we were trying to hear,” Galloway said. The heaviness remains to please long-time fans, while the creative structures, arrangements, and — dare we say? — hooks have the potential to reach the uninitiated.

Galloway is in no way hung up on the past or on the black cloud that seems to be hovering over the North Texas metal scene, though he concedes that “there was a time when things seemed to be going in the right direction.” Now, he said, “a lot of bands just seem bitter and unsupportive of each other.”

Galloway said that he and his bandmates will remain committed, whether or not the scene improves. “The four of us still feel the need to do this,” he said. “This is what we here for, and we’ve made lots of unnecessary sacrifices to do it, so it’s not time yet.”

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