I really started getting nervous when the band’s mom handed me a cup of cocoa. All warm and sweet, with about two inches of marshmallows. I sat, sipped and waited for the band to play.
“What about that Pantera cover?” one kid asked. His dad shook his head. “No, that still needs work. How about one of the new ones?”
The dad had escorted me through the comfortable two-story home in a nice neighborhood outside Sparks, past the American flag, the holiday doormat, the twinkling Christmas tree and into a room lined with black foam and overflowing with drums, amps, guitars, gangly elbows and knees, and hopeful faces that all looked about 14.
Richard Evans, dad/band manager, introduced Faelsafe, “the best metal band Reno’s never heard of,” two brothers and their childhood friends. Then he started apologizing for the boys’ colds, explaining that they were on antibiotics.
“I really hope you didn’t hear them at that last show,” Evans said. “They weren’t at their best at all.”
They scrambled to find me a stool and fussed with their amps. The dog rubbed against my leg, and suddenly, the cocoa was in my hand. I had a moment of panic. What was going to come out of those speakers?
For me, metal has always seemed the music of adolescent boys—testosterone-driven soundtracks full of predictability. Posters of such bands adorned the walls, along with a painted wooden sign reading, “Rock out.” I hadn’t heard a note, but the word that came to mind was “suburban"—not the first adjective that might come to mind for a band that describes itself as hardcore. These hard-rocking guys were polite and excited, almost as much as the parents.
Five minutes into the first song, an original composition, it was clear Faelsafe was technically proficient. It was also clear that we were all having a good time. The music was loud, danceable and surprisingly complex, backed by solid drumming from David Evans, 17, and intricate bass riffs from Rich McGrail, 17. Vocalist Brian Evans, 22, has extraordinary range and handled each song with soul and dexterity. Lead guitarist Mark Davis, 18, and lead/rhythm guitarist Mike Nelms, 17, are also gifted musicians.
The lyrics aren’t bad, either— sincere songs “mostly about girls,” Brian admitted.
The overall effect?
They sounded eerily similar to Sevendust and System of a Down, to the degree that I could almost have mistaken them for one of those bands if I heard Faelsafe on the radio. And they weren’t playing covers: These were original songs, as catchy and memorable as the ones that might have inspired them.
“We want to capture that sound as much as possible,” he said. “We’ve really come so far in the last year. It’s just so exciting. We’re getting so much better all the time.”
Talking to them reinforced something else noticeable in their music: an endearing, refreshing, unabashed teenage boy-ness. They didn’t try to act like heroin addicts; they didn’t affect that predictable ennui so common in would-be rock stars. They admitted needing their parents. They complained about how drunk people love them but never remember who they are. Somebody mentioned something about a “Benoit Slap.”
“Shall we show her?” one of them asked uncertainly. Suddenly, they were stripping their shirts off and slapping each other, their version of some goofy pro-wrestling move.
“Dude, that was the loudest one I’ve ever heard!” said Mike, blushing.
After that, I have to admit that any remaining journalistic objectivity was tarnished. But I can say that this authenticity carries over to their music. And while they’ve been accused of being mainstream, I’d argue that they’re actually doing something revolutionary: using the style of their favorite bands to capture the experiences of young men, sometimes more effectively than the bands that inspired them in the first place.