Metal has been declared dead many times over by various outlets, but a die-hard trio of musicians in a small town in Kosciusko County are proof that metal is not only alive and breathing, but growing and expanding as well.
That band, Hailshot, comprised of bassist/vocalist Jaron Clark, drummer Cory Stump and guitarist Matt Reish, has been bringing the metal to northern Indiana and beyond since 2010.
The trio first met at Wawasee High School in Syracuse, becoming acquainted via outlets like choir and seeing each other at local music shows, but it wasn't until after graduation that the three gelled into what would become Hailshot.
Taking their name from ammunition that scatters like hail when fired, the band is currently finishing up its second full-length and third release overall, Baptized in Sulphur: The Second Death, due out sometime this summer, and has embarked on an ambitious nationwide tour that includes stops at the famed Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles along with more obscure destinations like Bismarck, North Dakota and regional spots like Syracuse and South Bend.
Baptized comes on the heels of their first album, 2014's Vol. 1, and a Record Store Day single for Failure Records, a heavy but otherwise faithful version of Kenny Loggins's "Danger Zone." Vol. 1 featured a lot of doom-laden metal and heavy rock, but Reish promises that Baptized is taking the band in a faster, more aggressive direction.
"We got heavier, in a sense," he says. "Our first one [is] kind of like stoner metal rock n' roll. There are some straight-up metal tracks on it, but [it's] pretty much a rock n' roll record. This one is a lot faster, a lot just angrier sounding, really."
For folks who haven't seen or heard them before and are just visiting their website or see a promotional poster, the first thing that may stand out about Hailshot is their symbol - a version of the occult deity Baphomet encircled by the Indiana state line - and their slogan, "Indiana devil rock." While there are metal bands who are seriously into the occult, Hailshot do not count themselves among their ranks. Their slogan, especially, has a more tongue-in-cheek origin.
"Whenever we'd play a show, they'd ask what kind of genre do you play to put on the flier and we'd always go like we're kind of doom and we're kind of thrash, and we got tired of having to throw genres at them," says Reish. "So the first thing I thought of was like back in the 50s, with Elvis and Jerry Lee and all them boys getting called devil music, I just told the person doing the flyers 'Oh, we play devil music. We're from Indiana and we play devil music.' That's where the whole devil rock thing and the whole Baphomet thing [came from] ... I just put the Indiana state line on there, and it worked."
That dash of humor may show that the band aren't the stereotypically dour and overly-serious metal musicians, but that doesn't mean their music should be taken lightly. Despite the slogan's mirthful origin, they do pull freely from religious and mythological themes to tell stories in their lyrics.
"We use religious symbology references to sell a story, not really to set people off," says Reish. "We're not trying to put all our cards in one pile, but all in all, I'm all about that ... it's not to poke at anyone's religious beliefs. I like mythology and stuff like that. I find it kind of interesting."
Just as they are upping the ante with the speed and aggression on their new album and taking their touring to the next level, it's an extension of what they've been doing over the last several years. This may be the first long-term nationwide tour they've embarked on, but they have been playing shows as relentlessly as possible over the last couple of years.
First, they started opening up for bands like Crowbar and Superjoint at Big Shots in Valparaiso. And last year they were able to pull off a week-long tour that included stops such as Milwaukee and Minneapolis as well as Indianapolis, preparing them for this tour where they'll be playing some big markets in far-flung corners of the country.
As for how to describe their live show, Reish says, "It's loud, it's very personal, because we try to get people involved not like some bands. We want people to have a good time, feel good vibes, just have a good time."
Things are happening quickly for Hailshot right now. With the album and the tour, they seem to be mustering a flurry of activity that few local bands can muster. While still in their 20s, the band members have spent a long time building to this point. While honing their attack, they're still open to experimenting and expanding their approach. Nothing from Baptized has been released yet, but it's expected to showcase Hailshot expanding into new territory for themselves. As to where all of this intensity is coming from, Reish conveys a sense of urgency, especially when it comes to advice for other bands contemplating an extended tour.
"Definitely for anyone who wants to do it, do it," he says. "Like, do it as fast as you can."