By Eleni P. Austin
Each year, thousands of bands come to Los Angeles with dreams of stardom; some, like Guns N’ Roses or Jane’s Addiction achieve that elusive goal. But the Sunset Strip is littered with bad deals and broken promises.
Of course, the music business has experienced a mighty sea change since the halcyon Hair Metal Days. Back then, a band played the L.A. clubs, got seen by the right A&R reps, and got signed to a label.
These days, record companies are behind the curve. Any musician can upload a song to YouTube or ReverbNation and market their music unfiltered and without compromise.
Max Cady is a band that has been plugging away for quite a while. Formed in Dallas, Texas in 2003, they take their name from the malevolent character in film “Cape Fear.”
Robert Mitchum originated the role in 1962, Robert De Niro redefined the part, with direction from Martin Scorsese, in 1991. (Even Sideshow Bob from the “Simpsons” paid homage, with a hint of Gilbert & Sullivan, on an episode entitled “Cape Feare”)
Guitarist and lead vocalist, Justin Moore grew up inspired in equal measure by Black Flag, Minor Threat and Hair Metal bands. Although Max Cady has been through myriad changes, Moore has remained a stalwart presence. During their Texas years, they released three albums on the Sidearm label; Tonight Alive in 2005, Gun Crime in 2007 and Wicked Ways in 2011.
After relocating to Los Angeles a few years ago, Justin hooked up with bassist Carl Raether from Washington, D.C., guitarist Marc Boggio from Chicago, and Josh Fresia, a drummer originally from Kansas City. All three had cycled through a series of bands in their hometowns. It was the same story in L.A. Luckily, the chemistry between the foursome was electric. Max Cady was re-born.
The band immediately began gigging around L.A., playing notable venues like Boardners, Loaded and the Viper Room. They quickly developed a new repertoire of songs. Rather than wait for labels to pay attention, they have recorded and self-released a five song EP, Killing Me.
The album kicks into gear with “Stay.” A pummeling back-beat connects with tensile guitar riffs and thundering bass lines. The lyrics offer a succinct mantra of perseverance that mirrors Max Cady’s pursuit of a music career; “I saw a path and never looked away, and on that path I stay.”
“Killing Me” is the title track for a reason. Marauding, menacing and feral, it opens with sprawling guitar riffs anchored by triple-tattoo attack from drummer, Josh Fresia. Moore paints a vivid portrait of betrayal that is equal parts vengeful and philosophical. “I’ve had enough, I’m getting out, so far nothing true has come out of your mouth / It’s plain to see that you and me are far from friends, more like enemies/ And one day you’ll be gone, We’ll both be travelling on/And someday you will see that life’s too short for misery.”
At the instrumental break, the action grinds to a halt and suddenly downshifts into a Sabbath-y sludge-fest. Guitars scream and yowl and just as suddenly, the track accelerates, full speed ahead to a chaotic and cathartic conclusion.
“A Little Taste” is propelled by a monster hook. Here Fresia rides the hi-hat over Moore and Boggio’s tilt-a-whirl guitars. Raether tethers the low-end with rumbling bass lines. The lyrics offer an acrid take on the powerless grip of addiction; “Begged and bartered, bought and sold, it’s taken over, no control/A little taste in the morning for when I wake, a little taste on my tongue is what I crave.”
Defiant and unapologetic, “I Don’t Know Why” is a pure adrenaline rush. The rhythm careens with locomotion speed. Guitar riffs ricochet through the melody as stripped down and sinewy as Iggy Pop’s torso. It’s Punk 101 delivered with precision, economy, and a soupcon of justifiable arrogance.
The EP closes with the vaguely Oedipal angst of “Breakfast In Bed.” Lyrics conjure up a Greek tragedy waiting to happen; “Papa, break me off something, kick the door in again/Mama’s cooking up something, it ain’t breakfast in bed.”
Piloted by a whip-crack rhythm and roiling bass notes, chicken-scratch guitar licks give way to riffs that fuzz, buzz and howl. The tempo slows to a crawl before Moore and Boggio unleash a series of strafing guitar solos that detonate like smart bombs. A heady conclusion to a wild ride.
Max Cady is the real deal. In a bygone era when the “M” in MTV stood for music, this band would have been equally on home on the Punk-leaning “120 Minutes,” or the harder edged “Headbanger’s Ball.”
The only downside to this five song EP is just that, it’s over after five songs. This music is highly addictive. The listener’s only option is to program the CD player to “repeat” until Max Cady’s full-length album arrives.