Heavy metal band
Kilgore, the Providence, Rhode Island-based metal band, has earned a reputation as the thinking person’s metal band along with its reputation for aggressive, high-energy music. Named after the character Kilgore Trout in the Kurt Vonnegut classic, Breakfast of Champions, Kilgore is noted for lyrics that suggest a literate songwriter. The band started out with the name Smudge in 1991, switched to Stain in 1994, to Kilgore Smudge in 1995, and finally settled upon Kilgore in 1998. Jerry Rutherford of Metal Maniacs magazine wrote, “[Kilgore is reminiscent of] early Clutch, Mindset, Honkyball, Chum, and Only Living Witness… [the band] manages to balance rhythmically piledriving riffstomp and a remarkable—though not commercially minded—songwriting flair without sacrificing one for the other.” Gerri Miller of Ozzfest ‘98 magazine described their sound like this, “[Kilgore offers] a molten dish of aggressive yet melodic metal.” Kilgore is one of the rare bands that doesn’t render the term ‘melodic metal’ an oxymoron, and the band’s material stretches far beyond theordinary. Onthatnote, Rutherford continued, “[There’s] rarely a moment resembling filler or an instance that finds the band falling on its collective force.”
The band is comprised of vocalist and primary songwriter Jay Berndt, bassist Marty O’Brien, guitarist Mike Pelletier, and drummer Bill Southerland. Berndt met the original members of Kilgore—with the exception of O’Brien and Pelletier, later additions to the at the Catholic LaSalle Academy high school in a music class. The school offered a unique program that allowed students to pay five dollars each in order to see three school bands perform. This allowed the future Kilgore members (then called Smudge) to play covers of metal, rock, and blues standards for their peers. Berndt, a loner in junior high and high school, read numerous books by Beat Generation authors and other authors such as Charles Bukowski, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Edgar Allen ?, Kurt Vonnegut, and Franz Kafka. The aggressive, alienated sound sometimes found in Kilgore’s music stems more from these literary influences than from musical ones. Berndt continued on to college as an English major but found the experience intellectually stifling since he felt his thoughts on literature usually differed from the norm. The band, still named Smudge, made a demo tape called Sp/7/in 1994 and, as Stain, another called Die Cast\n 1995.
In 1995, after band members graduated from high school, Kilgore signed to Revolution Records subsidiary Unsound Records and released Blue Collar Solitude as Kilgore Smudge. Blue Collar Solitude combined a gritty, working class attitude with hard-driving rock and metal and the stories and poems of various literary legends. The release was also infused with emotion-filled aggression and musical artistry and sophistication.
Kilgore Smudge perfected their intense live performances by touring as often as possible and by opening for bands such as Marilyn Manson, Biohazard, and Sublime. Their fan base grew through extensive touring, and O’Brien and Pelletier eventually replaced the band’s original bassist and guitarist. Before the departure of two of the band’s original members, Berndt had written all of the band’s songs. After O’Brien and Pelletier joined the band, everyone decided it would be best if everyone had input into songwriting. This decision gave the band a new sense of purpose and direction and offered more flexibility and creative inputinto the irsongwriting. Sound-garden proved to be a major musical influence for Kilgore’s members, since Soundgarden also progressed from early basic, slamming grunge to intricate, sophisticated songwriting.
A Search for Reason was released on Revolution Records in 1998, under the name Kilgore. The band also marked the release by performing at New York City’s Coney Island High club, which was the first live performance for O’Brien. Rutherford described A Search for Reason as, “a record with an exceptional dynamic range.” Katherine Turman of Metal Edge magazine describes the release, “Longing for a slightly punkier,
Members include Jay Berndt , vocals, songwriter; Marty O’Brien, bass; Mike Pelletier , guitar; and Bill Southerland , drums; based in Providence, RI; Berndt and Southerland formed band while in high school at LaSalle Academy in Providence.
Named after the character Kilgore Trout from Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions; started with the name Smudge in 1991; released demo tape Spill, 1994; changed name to Stain, 1994; signed to Revolution Records subsidiary Unsound Records, 1995; released demo tape, Die Cast, 1995; changed name to Kilgore Smudge in 1995, released Blue Collar Solitude, 1995; final name change, Kilgore in 1998; opened for Marilyn Manson, Biohazard, and Sublime; released A Search for Reason, Revolution Records, 1998; toured Europe, 1998; named Band of the Month in December 1998 at the web site www.bandindex.com.
no less heavy Pantern? A dash of Danzig in the vocals? A provocative lyrical outlook? Then search no further than Kilgore’s… brutally aggressive yet dynamic outing, A Search for Reason ” The release was produced by Ed Stasium, who had also worked with Biohazard, the Ramones, and Living Colour. Turman added, “[Biohazard, the Ramones, and Living Colour are] three bands whose influence can be gleaned in the multi-faceted but cohesive Kilgore sound.... Undeniably hard and heavy, Kilgore are strong songwriters; their musical inflections, melodies and time changes making for an aural experience that’s equal parts energetic riff ing ‘n’ headbanging and provocative melody.”
Kilgore also toured Europe for the first time in 1998. Tall, tattooed vocalist Jay Berndt cut a memorable figure during live performances both in the U.S. and overseas by stalking around the stage, growling out lyrics with an ominous air, and glowering atthe audience. The muchtouted literate side of the band’s performances usually makes itself felt with inspirational, albeit headbanging songs such as “In Media Res” (Latin for “in the middle of”) and “Never Again” (a reference to Berndt’s college experience).
Kilgore was named Band of the Month in December 1998, atthe web site http://www.bandindex.com, beating out other heavy metal and hard rock bands such as Megadeath, Incubus, Sevendust, and Fear Factory. Kilgore’s future grew more successful and secure with each subsequent release and tour. Turman summed the band upmost succinctly when writing, “Look for Kilgore to make deserved inroads in the consciousness of hungry mortal mongers the world over.” The winning combination of a hard-edged metal sound and intelligent lyrics with some meat on them may prove to elevate Kilgore far above the heavy metal/hard rock fray. The band’s purposeful approach to songwriting and performing renders their 1998 title A Search for Reason an especially apt one for Kilgore’s members, and could be the key to their success.
Spill (under band name Smudge demo tape, 1994.
Die Cast (band name Stain), demo tape, 1995.
Blue Collar Solitude (Kilgore Smudge), Unsound Records, 1995.
A Search for Reaso, Revolution Records, 1998.
Metal Maniacs, November 1998.
Metal Edge, October 1998; September 1998; July 1998.
—B. Kimberly Taylor
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