It was a fair question. After all, they came out in a post-Darkness rock environment with a less-than-serious presentation. Was their music a deeply felt homage to their heroes of '70s and '80s metal, or a massive punking of said heroes?

Clark asserts that it's the former: "Everything we do is a celebration of heavy metal, straight up. I think it's pretty fucking easy to figure out; you have some bands that are straight-up irony, like Steel Panther. Those are bands where it's easy to get the joke. And that whole thing where people think we're joking, it's followed us around in the press. But fuck it — what these people don't get is that we're storytellers. Other bands sing about personal experiences, and that's fine, people do that and do a great job, but that's not what we're about."

Of course, that's not entirely true — because even the most fantastical metal record is always also a snapshot into the life of the touring musician, with scythes and orcs subbing in for blown tires and shady promoters and whoever else blocks their path to global metal domination. Long Live Heavy Metal is chock-full of such double meanings, whether in the ominous tones of album standout "Dark Messenger," the sprawling tales-of-the-road epic "Men of Fortune," and especially the ode to obstinance that is "My Sword Will Not Sleep." But don't expect the band to get too into it — Clark and crew would love nothing more than to present their music at surface level, mowing down fans with the sheer power of their steely metal.

"We don't think about it too much, man," Clark says. "We're just a straight-up heavy-metal band and we celebrate the fact that heavy metal, if you think about it, has no boundaries. We just like writing and playing heavy metal songs and we don't cater to anybody else at all." His ensuing laugh sounds like the kind of deep chortle that any metal warrior allows himself occasionally amidst a life of axe-fueled frenzy. ^

METAL ALLIANCE TOUR: 3 INCHES OF BLOOD + DEVILDRIVER + IMPENDING DOOM + DYING FETUS + MORE | Worcester Palladium, 261 Main St, Worcester | March 22 | 5:30 pm | $27 | 800.477.6849 or tickets.com

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