It’s late on a Thursday night, and the members of Knightfall fill a rehearsal room the size of a large parking space. There’s a fan blowing, but it doesn’t hide the smell of their sweat, and it doesn’t stop the heat from billowing in. With everyone’s instruments tuned and with vocalist Steve Hays screaming his last “Cheeeccck,” they begin to play.
What’s left is an oxymoron. They’re in a storage unit. Their music is epic. They’re from Reno. Their music is European metal. This is only their fifth practice with the current lineup, and already, Knightfall, barely a year old, has received international recognition.
In July, Knightfall was featured in Battle Metal Vol. 8: The New Blood, a supplementary CD that came with the latest issue of Metal Hammer, a music magazine distributed to multiple countries, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Finland. Alongside some of Knightfall’s favorite metal bands, there was their song “Night Fall” at track 15.
The band is attempting to bring European metal to Reno—a feat that’s epic in itself. The melodic arrangements of Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven have found themselves reborn in Knightfall.
“The weird thing about this group is it’s a metal band, but it’s classically based,” says guitarist Jes Phipps. “A lot of the stuff we write or are writing is based around arrangements versus songs. It’s composed almost like an orchestra.”
Knightfall’s music is a strategic composition of daunting keyboard chords with speedy guitar riffs and solos and no bass. All together, it’s evocative of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, the World of Warcraft video game, and maybe even Star Wars. And although they generally like the same musical idea of European metal, Phipps quickly points out that each member adds their own take on a song.
Keyboardist Dan Anderson evokes an eerie tale of fortuitous death lurking in a cold and dark forest with his long, echoing notes. Guitarist Harold Hoover brings a sense of dissonance and grunge to the band, while guitarist Phipps loves three-part harmonies and injects his own level of melodramatic guitar solos. Lastly, drummer Julian Iosty adds his quick-fire drumming, and Hays adds his screeching vocals and epic lyrics.
If they could, each member of Knightfall would go back to the 14th century. They all admit they were at one point addicted to World of Warcraft, and they’re lucky they found each other because even beyond practicing, the group is tied together for their sheer interest in fantasy. Some other bands have ridiculed them for their “dorkiness,” but they say it’s all pure fun. When asked about their latest song, “Stormbearer,” singer Hays, with a Bud Light in hand, casually explains who Stormbearer is.
“Well, it’s about this girl,” he says. “And she can, like, summon storms. So it’s about her ripping through the woods, and summoning these storms and laying waste to villages.”
At this point, everyone in Knightfall lets out a wicked “Awesome!”
In “Steel to Flesh” Anderson tells the story of a man. The Metal Gods have given him life and, in this moment, he returns to his homeland and lays there to die. Herein lies the imagery of steel to flesh.
“It’s silly,” Anderson says. “This is all silly. … No it’s not,” he corrects himself, with a clear air of defense to his voice. “It’s not silly to me.”