For far too many folks, rock and roll is like a Motel 6 — they check in for a guilty night’s stay and creep away in the morning to go back to “legit” life. As they’ve proven over a decade of hard knocks and harder rock, the Black Halos aren’t mere dabblers: They’re lifers in a self-constructed prison where broken bottles and busted hearts litter the landscape. On Alive Without Control (set for release June 28th on Liquor and Poker Music), the quintet’s first full-length since reforming after a 2002 implosion, the Halos prove they haven’t lost an ounce of the passion that propelled them through seven years of punk and disorderly performances — and a passel of rabidly-received recordings.
If anything, there’s even more venom in the band’s sting now that new blood has been injected — yeah, just like Keith Richards — by new bassist Denyss McKnight and guitarist Adam Becvare (the latter of whom pulled a post-millennial stint with the reunited Lords of the New Church, in which he filled the late Stiv Bators’ mighty big boots).
It’s easy to see the impression left by similarly minded ancestors like the Dolls and the Dictators, but a more-than-cursory listen shows that the Black Halos aren’t in the paint-by-numbers game. Anchored by the gruff, don’t-mess-with-me vocals of frontman Billy Hopeless, the quintet drags the body of old-school punk into the 21st century kicking and (loudly) screaming. Thanks to their 4 album relationship with producer Jack Endino (the man behind the board for Nirvana Soundgarden and Mudhoney), there’s a feral tone, one that cuts to the quick of pop culture’s ugliness.
“Jack has become like the sixth Halo and has truly captured our twisted vision so we can unleash it on an unsuspecting world,” says Hopeless.
The Black Halos aren’t newcomers to that mission. When the band formed a decade ago in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Mount St. Helen’s-ish air of grunge that’d spewed northward from Seattle’s environs was beginning to abate. Into the void leapt a quintet — then known as the Black Market Babies — armed with young, loud and snotty riffs and draped in black leather & feather boas, rather than the requisite ripped flannel. They immediately kicked up quite a cloud of dust, thanks in part to singer Billy Hopeless’s kamikaze onstage antics, and in part to short, sharp songs that didn’t leave room for a breath — much less a latte — between verses. After changing their name and solidifying their lineup, the newly christened Black Halos embarked on a demolition derby styled, seemingly endless tour that took them in concentric circles from their Vancouver home base.
Constant touring — a stint on the Warped tour as well as shows with bands as diverse as The Hellacopters, the Offspring and Tool – honed the Halos’ sound, but also caused a rupture in its ranks, leading to a loud, very public split towards the end of 2002. But, like all dark spirits, the ghost of the Black Halos couldn’t stay buried, and the reconstituted quintet took the stage for the first time in a Spanish circus tent — in front of 6,000 moshing Danzig fans — about 18 months later.
Plenty of the anger and energy pent up in those intervening months finds its way into the grooves of Black Halos latest release for Acetate Records “We Are Not Alone.”
“We just play from our drunken cancerous hearts,” he says. “We’ve never really had a map. We just go where the wind takes us! It’s kinda like sex or skateboarding – you’ll have your best time if you just let go of all preconception and thought.”