On World Coming Down, Type O Negative's 1999 musical exercise in morbidity, the New York doom-metal band closed with a cover of the Beatles' "Day Tripper," again showing off late frontman Peter Steele's obsession with darkening up some of music's more-porcelain pop nuggets. (Who could forget the band's early-'90s gloom-ization of Seals & Croft's feel-good "Summer's Breeze"?) Two years later, Needham's Jonah Burstein, the 18-year-old guitarist of Central Massachusetts death-metal band Acephalus, found himself on stage at the Worcester Palladium opening for Morbid Angel in front of 3500. Although he was aspiring to be the next Paul Gilbert and was pimping Manowar hoodies in press shots, there was a something else underneath the thrash: pure, simple pop.
"I used to get made fun of for liking Collective Soul," Burstein explains over drinks at Great Scott. "I always wanted to play pop."
A decade later, Burstein has found his form. With his younger brother Nick on drums and Matt Mitchell on keyboards, power-pop trio the Cinnamon Fuzz have taken '80s-tinged new-wave and synth-pop sensibilities and merged them with a varied platter of metal influences, notably Type O Negative — the vampiric ghost of Steele is eerily evident in Burstein's vocal delivery on the neon-coated 2009 single "Reboot My Heart."
"To me, Type O Negative is the perfect cross between the Beatles and Black Sabbath," says Jonah. "That band is so underappreciated, I feel like I'm trying to bring elements of their sound to mainstream music." Adds Nick, shaking his head: "It's weird that people catch on to it."
Jonah sees few barriers between crafting pop songs and playing death metal, finding a commonality in melody and songwriting approach. The Cinnamon Fuzz's 2010 EP, the Anthony J. Resta–produced Cruise of the Century, is soaked with soaring choruses, slick post-punk right turns, and saccharine pop hooks that suggest a modern-day Cars or an even-more-glossied-out Rentals. "I listened to a lot of metal," says Jonah, "but I never listened to Slayer, because to me, that's just aggression. It's all about melody. A lot of people write melodically, and others write lyrically. I tend to do both, but lean more toward the melody. I just always want huge hooks."
The Fuzz, who play the Rosebud in Davis Square this Friday and then open for V-66 '80s faves Rods & Cones May 14 at Brighton Music Hall, head back into Resta's North Chelmsford studio, Bopnique Musique, in June. The goal is to record two additional tracks and reissue Cruise of the Century, one of the more criminally overlooked local debuts of the past few years, on the momentum of being named one of 18 "most promising unsigned acts" by Billboard this month.
Resta's acclaimed production work with Blondie and Duran Duran, two bands that nicely complement the Fuzz's sonic canon, consolidated his reputation. But the Bursteins first approached him with more-rocking '90s undertones in mind: Collective Soul, the Christian-leaning alternative hitmakers who had Resta at the co-production helm for 2000's gold-selling Blender and 2007's Afterwards.
"Jonah and I, going way back, are two big Collective Soul fans," says Nick. "So I contacted him through MySpace, which is funny, because MySpace is this antiquated way of communicating now. But we went back and forth on MySpace, and he was digging 'Reboot My Heart.' "