HARD SELL: “As far as whether metal is a legitimate form of music, or commercially viable, I could care less,” says Bob Mayo.
Everyone knows that metal is the most evil of all music, what with all those references to the occult, destruction, drinking, the color black, and long hair. But Greater Boston thrash-metal statesmen Wargasm are a paradox. Their demonic influence doesn’t just incite acts of brutality and other non-Christian behavior, it occasionally assists Rawkstars, Inc., a non-profit providing instruments and lessons for underprivileged young-uns. Makes you wonder whether metal really is evil. If it isn’t, could those three wackos from West Memphis be innocent after all?
“With metal, it’s kids looking for an outlet for their dark side, y’know?” says Wargasm bassist/vocalmeister Bob Mayo. (Brothers Barry and Rich Spillberg, on drums and bass respectively, fill out the line-up.) “In one form or another, metal will always be around. Popular, yes, popular, no, that’s irrelevant. It serves a real purpose with people. As far as whether it’s a legitimate form of music, or commercially viable, I could care less.”
After 13 tireless years of pulverizing thrash in the face of endless industry-oriented dilemmas, Wargasm called it a day in 1995. Nine years later, they were resurrected at the behest of Rawkstars executive director Jonathan Jacobs, who was aiming to maximize revelry at a benefit show. The next phase of the plan commences this Saturday, when Wargasm devastate the Middle East in commemoration of the old and celebration of the new. It’s the 20-year anniversary of their first full-length, Why Play Around? (which they’ll play in its entirety, plus a few covers they haven’t performed in a blue moon), and the release party for Knee Deep in the Middle East, a DVD of the ’04 reunion. But whereas all proceeds from that ’04 show went to Rawkstars, only part of the bank generated Saturday will go to the righteous non-profit. Altruism is all well and good, but this time around, the emphasis is on the thrash.
It was during the heyday of hairspray metal (then as prevalent in Boston as on MTV) that ample underground buzz elevated Wargasm, originally from Stoughton, to bona fide headlining status opening for such top-echelon acts as Megadeth, Slayer, Manowar, and Biohazard. Those of us who were filling diapers around then (me, for one) might lack the perspective to understand that this was before every outfit ever was a link in the MySpace daisy chain. In those days, guiding underground tuneage into one’s noise holes took time and energy. Which is why music fans were a tad more passionate about such things.
“Once the underground scene, the tape-trading networks, and the fanzines and stuff really started to explode, the thrash-metal boom started happening on the West Coast, and then it hit the East Coast,” reminisces Mayo. “It was really an underground phenomenon, but that’s where we thrive, where we came of age. That was a really valuable time, and it was a really welcoming crowd for us.”
The occasional European audience insisted on a three-hour Wargasm set, something that led the band to ponder a new life as American immigrants in Germany. But mainstream success, or even the ability to make a comfortable living, eluded Wargasm. Was boardroom twaddle from record labels at fault?