And it became a project that has consumed a quarter of my life to date.
The idea germinated before that, around 2004 or 2005, in a parking lot behind a factory. It was a slow night of delivering pizza, and I sat in my car playing old cassettes of my punk band from the 1990’s. The band was called Blowpop, which was an offshoot of the better-known band Doug. Blowpop didn’t last long, and I was (unceremoniously) kicked out after several months despite the crowds and hype we were getting.
See, I discovered that I liked to write songs and I wasn’t half bad at it. The problem was, I didn’t know how to share with the rest of the gang, and my personal stubbornness and unwillingness to listen to my bandmates made me a bit difficult to work with.
Being kicked out, while it hurt, also motivated me to be better. Sure, I was a drummer and not ready to front a band, but I found two great musicians in Jason Banta and Corina Malbaurn, and we formed a punk/ska trio that Jay dubbed Rotzkinder that shredded and pushed the envelope to a new extreme. Several bands later, and after I had kissed and made up with Dan DeLauro, Dayne Duranti, and the late, great Kevin Leonard (may he frolic among the playful in paradise), I realized that my path forward in Connecticut was at an end. I moved to Pennsylvania for the second time and did not look back.
I started my first heavy hardcore band with my then-partner Jeff Haas, his old bandmate Rich Kovacs, and a couple of high school students I had met while working at Wal-Mart- Matt Davis and Rich Burkett. Again, I stepped all over the other band members creatively and didn’t let it breathe. I discovered chugging metalcore and that tough-guy posturing and went for it. The rest of the guys came along, for lack of anything else, and people seemed to like us, even though we were hysterically awful. After Davis and Burkett left, we got a new singer and limped to a falling apart. Hate Burns Cold, ironically named ‘Born Dead‘ originally, umm, died. My only souvenir is a 5-song CD and a huge tattoo on my right leg. I took my sticks and joined a pop-punk band out of Harrisburg called The Commercials.
In this band, for the longest time, I was the student. The other band members had been a unit for a while. I was a metal/hardcore drummer who hadn’t played punk in 4 years learning a new way to bring a heavier style of drumming to their music. The guy before me in the band, Brad Stackpole, was a monster on the kit. The Commercials were a great band, we did a lot and I had an unbelievable amout of fun. Lots of touring, two full length albums and a split-CD. I was even allowed to write a couple songs that made it onto our 2003 Blackout! Records release It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It. But I was *still* difficult to work with. I wanted more as my time went on there and I was loathe to share. You can ask Tony Bavaria, Drew Teague, and Tom McGrath about some of my not-so-glorious moments, but there were high points too, and I wouldn’t be where I am now without havig experienced them all.
After my welcome with The Commercials was overstayed, I rejoined Haas and Kovacs and started playing Pantera-inspired metal again with Machina Infernus. I didn’t write many riffs because it wasn’t my style but I did learn how to arrange songs, write lyrics and choruses, started developing my skills as a singer with doing backup vocals, and put things together in a more mature manner than I had previously. It was like all the time I had spent in a pop-oriented band gave me an insight into how to make metal songs catchy, and so that’s what we did.
It was around this time that I was rediscovering my love of epic metal. Bands like Sonata Arctica and DragonForce, Ensiferum and Strapping Young Lad- even more symphonic bands like Dimmu Borgir and Swedish death metal like Amon Amarth and At The Gates had such a huge influence on me. So, after Machina had split and I was drummig for Philly crazyheads Live Fast Die, I was starting to write again.
The first song I wrote for LFD was what would eventually become Wings of the Blood Eagle. It was a very plodding heavy song which was in the spirit of what LFD was doing, though not really what I was looking to do. I was looking more towards power metal, and I wanted to sing and play guitar, not drum.
So, as I sat in my car that night listening to 8 or 9 year old practice recordings I thought of a sound. It was like a lightning bolt out of the sky.
Sidebar- this might sound like self-deprecation but I don’t think I’m a very good musician. I have a good ear and a natural ability to figure things out, but I don’t really practice much, and there are many things that are far beyond my ability to do (which is why I surround myself with those who can). Anyway, from the moment I heard it in my head, I knew what I wanted the sound to be: a culmination of every style of music I had played since I first picked up drumsticks in 1989. I wanted something that was uniquely my own style which I had never heard approximated by any other band. Take the epic song structures of power metal and the catchiness of folk metal, give it the heaviness of melodic death metal, but with the no-frills, buzzsaw, rough and unpolished sound of American punk and hardcore, and there you have it! What did I decide to call it?
Sword of the Adamant.
So… eventually I ran into Jonathan Smith, who taught music lessons around the corner from where I worked, and we agreed to work together. I would contribute vocals to his power metal band Ominous Glory, and he would be my lead guitarist. The band changed name to Frost Giant when I was playing a D&D game one day and saw the page in the Monster Manual. I thought, there has to be a band named this. After searching online, I didn’t find one, and so, I jumped on it.
11 years ago this month.
The very first demos were recorded t Jonathan’s place in his bedroom. I set up my huge, clunky drumset and just sort of played the songs by memory in my head. No click track, we tried, but I couldn’t hear it over the drums. We blasted through three originals- Blood Eagle, Relic, and Here’s to the Reckoning, the latter being an instrumental track inspired by a drive through a rural area in which it seems time had just skipped over. We also included an acoustic version of Ensiferum’s song Abandoned. Jon played the solos and more complicated parts on the songs. It was rough, crude… it’s even cringe-inducing to listen to it now, but… you can see where the potential for a good song was even through a poor recording.
I’m not going to go into the more recent past of Frost Giant. Maybe I’ll write another chapter at some point about how I hooked up with Jason Esbensen, Scott Breustedt, and Brad Doudna aka Brokk Dagaz. This was just the road that took me to the one I’ve been walking on for the last decade and change. I find the journey to be more fascinating than the end result. It’s really amazing to think if I had done one thing differently, just where I would be in life today for better or worse. As it stands, I am firmly rooted in middle age at 44, I’ve been doing Frost Giant since I was 33, and this band is and will be my defining legacy. It will be what I leave to the world, which will hopefully bring a smile to people’s faces when I am no longer here. This all came about because I wanted to write songs that moved me,m that I had not yet heard done before, and I’ve held onto that longer than any other musical endeavor I’ve done since.
Last but not least, I am humbly grateful that so many others along the way have enjoyed this too. I can’t thank you all enough, and I hope you’ll stick with me through the years to come.