Sydney/Wollongong crew Metal have been proudly flying the flag for true heavy metal since 2006. With a debut album in the works and upcoming appearances at the Steel Assassins festival in Sydney and also an opening spot with Dutch symphonic metal crew Epica next year, there’s plenty to talk about. Loud spoke to there-is-none-more-metal bassist Razor “Sting” Ray to get an update.

Q: Extreme were anything but, The Eagles of Death Metal is a misnomer and Fozzy has nothing in common with The Muppets. If you’re going to use the name Metal you better live up to the hype. Who came up with the name and does it provoke some unusual or amusing reactions from punters?
A: I’d question the Fozzy one, but that’s by the by. I came up with the name, and with it, the concept of Metal, late one night after more than a couple of beers. It is a band name that generally results in the same conversation every time. Something along the lines of, “what, it’s just Metal? Awesome!” The guy who runs the Metal Archives web site actually contacted me after someone uploaded us to the site, saying I must have some pretty massive balls to use the name Metal, but he liked “Fighting for Metal” (their demo) so he wasn’t having a go or anything. Other than that it is just usually people complaining about not being able to find us online; Google search optimisation wasn’t something I was thinking about at the time.

Q: For those of our readers who are unfamiliar with the band, can you tell us a little about your history?
A: The band stretches back around seven years, or thereabouts. It all started after a few beers and me having an epiphany of sorts. I immediately contacted the only two guitarists I knew who would be up to it, Danny and Chinch. Chinch was unfortunately about to leave for three years in Europe, and Danny took some convincing to reassure him that I wasn’t just drunk and crazy. Many, many lineup changes later (we’re on our third drummer, fourth vocalist, and second second guitarist), and Chinch coming back from Europe, it is the original three of us, plus Aaron on drums. Since around ’08 or ‘09 we’ve been playing around Sydney and Wollongong, when our schedules allow us, to ever increasing crowds, and we are in the process of getting a full-length finished off. Other than that, not too much comes to mind. Main influences are Virgin Steele, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Lion, Gamma Ray, Manowar, Dreamtale, Thin Lizzy, Blind Guardian and Running Wild. You probably get the idea.

Q: Indeed. It’s been six years since the “Fighting for Metal” demo was unleashed. What is the latest on the recording and release of a full-length record?
A: It has been a long time, hasn’t it? We recorded everything for the full-length in late June at the lovely Studios 301, with platinum-selling producer Tim Carr in there with us. There has been a bit of a hold-up on the mixing, as Aaron is building an entirely new studio, Adversary Studios, specifically for the task. The studio is coming along well though, which means we’ll be able to get cracking on mixing. The cover should be done by mid-November, and we are still hoping to have the album released by early 2013. It will be a massive relief to finally have it done with, after so many years. Then I can get started on album number two, tentatively set for a 2020 release.

Q: Can you shed any light on the album itself – album title, song titles, any guest appearances, whether it features rap/metal crossovers, etc.
A: I can indeed. The album is called Proving our Mettle, and will feature 11 tracks and maybe a B-Side in there somewhere. I won’t list them all, but it will include “Fighting for Metal”, “Heavy Metal”, “Proving our Mettle” – and some tracks that don’t have ‘metal’ in the title, like “Trafalgar” and “The Buccaneer’s Revenge”. The album is played entirely by the four of us, so no guests, and of course, no rap crossovers, or dubstep breakdowns. Just pure heavy metal!

Q: Good to hear. True or false – too many metal bands don’t have enough of a sense of humour.
A: False, absolutely false. I’m sick of all these fun bands kicking around. I’m not saying that you have to be dead serious all the time. I mean, you’ll catch Joey DeMaio telling the occasional joke during his speeches about how the local police force didn’t want them to play in that town, but at the end of the day, metal (neither the band nor genre) isn’t all a bit of fun, it’s not a joke. If you want to do that crap, go play glam, go be like Poison or Mötley Crüe. Do you think Bruce Dickinson is having a laugh singing “Hallowed be Thy Name”? Dio wasn’t having a laugh in “Children of the Sea”, just as there is no doubting the conviction in Eric Adams’ voice during “Metal Warriors”. There should be passion, strength and power in metal music. Not a fucking sense of humour.

Q: On that front, Metal will be appearing at the very metal Steel Assassins festival early next month. Why should punters check out not only yourselves, but the other bands appearing?
A: I’m not going to lie to you, but I think people will be hard-pressed to find reasons not to come. There is an absolutely killer line up, with almost all the heavy hitters of Australia’s trad/power/heavy metal bands performing, plus Megahera from Italy. The bands are coming from all over. It really is quite something, with Voyager and my brother’s band Silent Knight coming over from Perth, Eyefear and co from Melbourne, Taberah from Tassie, Raven Black Night and The Loving Tongue from Adelaide, as well as guys like Soulforge from Broken Hill. It is a fantastic opportunity to see a lot of quality bands in one place, and for not much money. Also, I’m told if you buy a pre-sale ticket you have a pretty good chance of winning a merch pack with stuff from all 17 bands, and a double pass to Epica next April. So why wouldn’t you?

Q: The band members have played predominantly all-Australian metal festivals in the past. Do you feel they possess a unique vibe that the uninitiated need to experience?
A: These shows, like Bastardfest and the like, they really do showcase Australian talent. It is quite something when you look at these bills and think at least 80 per cent of the bands would headline shows normally, and it really brings people out of the woodwork. It is always great catching up with the ol’ mates at these shows. I’ve never understood the logic of international acts selling out somewhere like The Metro, support bands playing well and selling heaps of merch, and then all these people just disappear until the next international show. I think these festival type shows are the perfect event for people looking to discover what the local scene has to offer, and I think they will be very surprised at the level of talent.

Q: The band has also been announced as the support act for Epica’s Sydney show next year. This will be the biggest gig of the band’s career thus far – what are your expectations?
A: I’m not going to lie to you; I think it should be a great show. It is all ages, which is always good for corrupting younger people who can’t get to shows normally. I think it will be really enjoyable. Beyond that, I don’t have any particular expectations. We’ll just go out there and try and put on the best show we can, same as every other time we take the stage. Just this time we’ve got a bit more room to move around without stepping on each other.

Q: Metal doesn’t tend to play many gigs, but outside of these two high-profile shows do you have any others in the pipeline?
A: We don’t like to outstrip supply and demand, you know? Steel Assassins will be the final show of what we’ve called the 2012 Seasonal Tour, where we have just played the one show per season. Steel Assassins being the spring show. At this stage, we don’t have anything locked in other than these two, although there could be a rather exciting show in February, if things fall into place, and possibly another show in April, depending on contractual obligations. Once the album is done, we’ll be looking to tour it interstate and internationally, with some plans tentatively in place, but obliviously I can’t give details until they are concrete.

Q: 2012 is rapidly drawing to a close. What have been some of your favourite albums of this year, as well as some of the disappointments?
A: This is a tough one, and I have very bad concept of how long ago things happened, and I’m not too good with names of things. I will do my best though. I was quite happy with Blind Guardian’s Memories of a Time to Come; it had some great re-recordings, and getting the Lucifer’s Heritage demos was great. Motörhead’s new one, which I think may have been last year, but whatever, I really like it and I’m still listening to it on repeat in my car. Nightmare’s new one was ok, but falls short of their Cosomovision album. Ihsahn’s new one is good. Troldhaugen had a good album, but too bloody short. Futility’s The View from Here is great, I listen to it a lot in the office.

Can’t think of too much else off hand. Haven’t got the new Grave Digger yet, but I’m sure it will have a couple of great tracks. Haven’t got the new Manowar either, but I’m sure it is a mixture of album of the year and extreme disappointment, as they always seem to be. Have you noticed that? Gods of War had “King of Kings” and “Sons of Odin”, some of Manowar’s best songs, buried deep within 60 tracks of orchestra stuff and narrations with varying accents. Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent. The only real disappointment for me was that Virgin Steele didn’t release an album, but they weren’t planning on it, so I have no real reason for being upset about it.

Q: Any famous last words?
A: Stay true mate, was a pleasure speaking with you.

Catch Metal at Steel Assassins, November 2 & 3 at the Sando in Sydney.