This past summer’s whatzup Battle of the Bands came packed with many surprises, perhaps none more surprising than the ascendance of heavy metal quintet, Verge Of Submission. Finishing in a respectable second place, the band seemed to be on track to take it all home but fell just short in the final round. Not a bad result for a group expecting much less. “We didn’t think we’d get that far,” says guitarist and founding member Pete Dragnev. “Our goal was to get on the CD.”
With the band’s catchy hooks, radio-ready originals and onstage energy, one would expect them to go very far, indeed.
Verge Of Submission saw the light of day as an instrumental band back in 2005. The group rose from the ashes of now defunct metal band, Ironyx, which featured Dragnev and guitarist Logan Graves. Dragnev and Graves recruited Darrell Robinson to handle drum duties. Influenced by metal mainstays such as Sevendust, Killswitch Engage and Metallica, the group began playing shows sans vocalist.
“We played the Battle that year as an instrumental band, and it was really bad,” admits Graves. “The next two years we had Greg.”
The “Greg” he is referring to is vocalist Greg Quandt. A natural performer, Quandt stalks the stage with his towering frame. When he’s not belting out melodies or the appropriately placed hardcore scream, he’s the band’s biggest cheerleader, riling up the crowd and bringing them even further into the performance.
“We just like to play music, and like to be around each other,” he explains. “We really thrive on going out and playing a show.”
The twin guitars of Dragnev and Graves create a raw, heavy and huge wall of sound. Both are accomplished in their own right, breaking out into solo flourishes whenever the need arises. The amount of equipment the duo hauls around would be enough for a couple of bands, let alone one. Both are also disciples of local shred master James Henn. Dragnev explains, “We took guitar lessons from him.”
The band’s rhythm section now consists of Richardson on drums and fresh, new member Corey Wylie on bass, filling in for the departed Justin Dispenza. Richardson opts for massive, earth-rumbling beats mixed with the occasional break beat to spice it up. Wylie almost didn’t join the band.
“I was going to go to Chicago and work in a soap factory,” he says. Then Dragnev intervened, inviting him to take over the vacant spot in the band.
“This guy gave up living in Wrigleyville to play in this band,” explains Dragnev. To some, that is an ultimate display of dedication.
With an increased profile from their strong showing in this year’s Battle, Verge Of Submission are currently hard at work on finishing their tentatively self-titled debut album. Recorded at the brand new studio at IPFW by Dragnev for a class project, the album boasts 14 songs spanning 75 minutes. That’s an impressive haul for a debut. Tim Bushong is mastering the record, and the band hopes to have it out by year’s end.
Songs take shape by writing music first, and then lyrics are added later by either Quandt or as a collective effort from all band members. “Sometimes I just don’t know what to write for this song,” says Quandt. “I come up with a melody by taking random gibberish words and singing them over the music. I always have lyrics written out of what I’d like to use, but sometimes it doesn’t fit the melody.”
“But when it does fit it’s amazing,” adds Dragnev.
Quandt continues, “’Break Free’ is about addiction and ‘In The Night’ is about turning into a werewolf. ‘Change’ is about the turmoil of everyday life and how we’re just moving in a constant pace, why we do the things we do, and we forget to live.”
“We do like to write lyrics that people can easily sing along to,” adds Dragnev.
The album features “The Voice,” a track this writer was given a preview of fresh from the mastering process. The song is poised to be a smash on local hard rock radio, perhaps reaching further. Then again if all of their recorded material sounds as radio ready and well produced as this, Verge might want to rethink their goals. “We just want to get out on the road for a couple weeks and hit up the surrounding big city markets,” explains Graves. “That’s our short term goal. That and getting our album done.”
“Yeah, and maybe sell some of those albums in the process,” adds Dragnev.
The band’s sudden rise in popularity has been a welcome surprise to the group. “We didn’t even start aggressively gigging out until this past January,” explains Quandt. “At the Battle of the Bands nights that we’d play, I’d be standing at the bar and have people I didn’t even know come up to me and ask when we went on because they were there to see us.”
“I talked to people that weren’t even there to see us that voted for us,” adds Graves. “We converted them.”
That would explain how the group, who admittedly did not make their presence known until earlier this year, was able to knock off more established bands throughout the duration of the Battle. This bodes well for them as they are going to be re-entering the yearly event in 2009, where the term “heavy-hitter” is sure to be applied by many.
The band is full of young, bright, talented individuals and, with their album set to drop any moment, they are poised for stardom. You can hear “The Voice” and other cuts off of their tentatively self-titled debut album when you catch them live, or when they are inevitably played, ad nauseam (which in this case isn’t a bad thing) on modern rock radio.