As Halloween, the autumnal time of dark fantasy, approached, Old Mon heard some music that would make the dead dance, being played by men in outfits that Prince Valiant would kill for. OM had just wandered into a Dethlehem set.
The group calls itself an "Epic Melodic Death Metal" band. Yah, "melodic" and "death metal" aren't phrases you often use in the same sentence; we kinda like the term "adventure metal" for their genre.
They're similar to the bands Swashbuckle and 3 Inches of Blood, with thrashing guitars and alternately growled/yelped vocals. (For those who can't quite translate Bonecrush's words, the lyrics are posted on MySpace).
The fantasy metal musical sphere is a subset, but one that's growing. Not only are American performers thrashing medieval metal licks, but the form is pretty big across the pond, in Russia, and Australia where the bands and their fans take the gamer-based music scene to a quite serious level of role-playing metal.
The Pittsburgh group was formed in 2008, and its founding cast went by the names of Lord Bonecrush (Vocals/War Cry), Gallagore (Bass/Bass Staff), Overlord Brom (Drums/War Drums), Hildor Anduv (Guitar/Axe) and Bovice (Guitar/Axe).
Dethlehem is a RPG music machine. They stay in character, and perform wearing tunics, robes, chain mail, helmets, and war paint like medieval warriors, while blasting out metal in a sort of LARP (live action role playing) synthesis. And we mean they stay in character.
Forsooth, when bassist Gallagore decided to move on to more twenty-first century pastures, the group announced his departure by folding the event into its own self-mythos with this announcement:
"After having helped defeat Yagolith in the kingdom of Dethlehem, Gallagore has decided to retire back to the Elven forests of Unnastyruh." As far as the search for his replacement was concerned...
"We stopped in the field where the War of Wizards had taken place. We were shocked to find a lone survivor, a powerful wizard, Davidicus the Black. Davidicus convinced us of his usefulness by commanding thunderous tones with his Bass Staff. We decided a 5th member suited the band of warriors well."
The mythology of the Dethlehem fantasy is set up in the CD "Ghorusalem Codex, Vol I, Enthroned Upon A Spire," released in August of 2009. It's about a quest to destroy an evil goblin king named Yagolith who can handily morph into a dragon.
The saga begins in the village of Dethlehem, the happening place in the land of Ghorusalem, modeled on the centuries old story of the Three-Wise-Demons.
It’s a self-produced album, natch. There is some label love for fantasy bands, but Dethlehem is an unsigned act. It's clear, too, that the guys in Dethlehem made the album in the spirit of fun as well as fantasy. All you have to do is listen to the last cut, "Bonus Track of Absurdity," to figure that out.
Overlord Brom told interviewer Dan Rodriguez of Metal Insider that "we stand out a little bit because we have a somewhat original concept with the whole 'medieval/fantasy/goofy' theme. Yes, we aren’t the first band to dress up in goofy costumes, but instead of taking it really seriously, I think we are trying to laugh together..."
But because they don't take the band to the extremes of, oh, the furries, for example, don't think they're without a dedicated, loyal cadre of Deth metal followers. Their stages are a bit limited because so many Pittsburgh venues are 21+ rather than all-age, but they've still played the Hard Rock Cafe, the Altar Bar, Club Diesel, the Roundhouse, The Rex, Mr. Small's and the Smiling Moose.
Which brings us back to Halloween. On Friday night at 8:30, Dethlehem will appear at Mr. Small's for a special Halloween performance ("Hallo-Wizard"). Joining the thrasher warriors will be SIKES, Tobacco Road, Verbs, and the Motorpsychos, along with assorted trolls and critters.
Dethlehem's resume reads "Basically, we slay dragons, drink lots of ale, and turn maidens into wenches. Oh... and shred some epic metal." We say good work if you can get it.
(Thanks to shop bud Mike Hyjurick for pointing Old Mon in Dethlehem's direction.)
Dethlehem - "War of Wizards" from The Ghorusalem Codex Vol I (2009)