DARK KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS
Terror from Beyond the Daves would like to welcome guest blogger, Jason Lucas, who will be sharing his fan fervor for a Chicago-area band that blends horror and rock n’ roll! And, when you think about it, the two do seem to often go hand in hand. For more information on Mr. Lucas, please check out our Terror on Tequila story HERE.
It was a dark and stormy night…I braved the snow and bitter chill to go check out a recent gig by an amazing theatrical doom-metal band from the Chicago area called WITCHCROSS, playing at J.J. Kelley’s rock club in Lansing, Illinois. Hailing from the south suburbs of the Windy City, these guys have rocked for two decades now and still draw new fans to their shows with their unique brand of musical horror.
You never know what to expect from these guys, but you know you’re in for a dark ride the moment Count William and his musical co-horts take the stage and begin the onslaught. The Count, clad from head-to-toe in black cape, robes and amulets, leads the band and the crowd down the shadowy path of original compositions intertwined with some classic Black Sabbath covers – three hours of metal mayhem from beginning to bloody end. WITCHCROSS songs “Bad Trip”, instant classic “The Golem”, “Taste The Blood”, “Among The Graves” and “Black Mary” showcase the band’s dark talents against the backdrop of “Children Of The Grave”, “The Mob Rules”, “Iron Man”, “Killing Yourself To Live” and even “Johnny Blade”, songs that formed the soundtrack to the lives of millions of metalheads and inspired nearly every heavy rock band over the past 40-plus years. With Count William at the mic, you literally believe you are transported back in time as a myriad of influences come forth…at one point I closed my eyes and literally believed I was hearing a young and hungry Ozzy Osbourne belting out one heavy number after the other, the Count paying a proper tribute with his own unique vo-kill stylings.
The crowd was completely entranced as WITCHCROSS delivered the goods for almost three hours. The brutal and throbbing rhythm section, hell-riffing and sizzling lead-guitar coupled with the Count’s wide range of growls and wails convinced everyone that we were witnessing a true representation of metal as it should be played: loud, dark and heavy. The stage-show itself is part of the draw, the imagery and atmosphere sets the tone for the music. I won’t give away all the antics and theatrics of the Count and Company, but if you are a fan of heavy metal in the tradition of the classic bands of yore, WITCHCROSS will blow you away by the sheer power and fury of their performance. A little background is in order…
In the late 1980s, William Jannusch, a teenage resident of the Chicago South suburbs, frequented the local record and guitar shops with dreams of fronting his own rock band. Young Bill began writing songs inspired by the heavy sounds of bands like Black Sabbath, Coven, Judas Priest, KISS, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate and Slayer. A self-taught guitarist, he soon found his voice as lead singer of Nocturnal Doom, a heavy metal band he formed in 1987 with other local musicians. Early band demos featured young Bill trading guitar leads with initial band-mate Adam Mather before settling into the front-man vocalist role he would so aptly fill.
1991 saw the release of debut album “Shades Of Despair” featuring the talents of Dereck Anderson (guitar), Gary Oakley (bass guitar) and Dan Lamb (drums), which they promoted by heavy gigging in the Chicagoland/northern Indiana/southern Wisconsin circuit. Emphasis on “heavy” – their horror/Occult-tinged live shows included Bill (a.k.a. “Count William”) donning corpse-paint, black and crimson vampire cape and incorporating human skulls, animal bones, blood, inverted crosses and other dark imagery into their doom-laden performances.
As the era of grunge and death-metal descended, Bill and Dereck re-tooled their vision of an even darker, heavier musical entity by swapping out members and renaming the band WITCHCROSS, the name they are known by to this day. With newly-hired Roger Massey on bass and Gary Pedersoli on drums, the band immortalized their line-up and turned their grim focus to new recordings followed by another assault of live gigs.
Through the trends and musical upheavals of the 1990s and beyond, Count William never lost his passion for the heavy yet melodic sounds of the early bands that inspired him. With WITCHCROSS lurking in the shadows, the Count would expand his artistic outlets by recording and performing original material with additional bands SHADOWLORD and more infamously, RAVENSTHORN, with whom he has toured overseas via their connection with the German label Hellion Records and recorded three albums (“House Of The Damned”/2001, “Hauntings And Possessions”/2005, and Horrors Of The Black Mass”/2012) with yet another unholy offering expected in 2013. In addition, the 2010 WITCHCROSS album “Innocence And Evil” will see re-release both in the States as well as internationally, coinciding with a slew of live performances showcasing the bloodspitting, fog-enshrouding, cross-inverting, horns-throwing antics of the Count and Company as they revitalize the local metal scene with their unique sounds of doom.
The year ahead promises more mayhem than ever before, with top-notch musicianship and the soul-shattering voice of Bill Jannusch in position to thrust you to new heights of metallic, satanic ecstasy. Do you dare take up your cross and follow?
Check out some original tunes at these links:
You can purchase RAVENSTHORN CD’s by clicking HERE!