5 American Metal Bands Every Biker Should Know
It’s 2019, and let’s be honest: The only people still doing burnouts outside the bar are your drunk parents. If you find this statement sad, then maybe it’s time we reassess the relationship between American biker culture and heavy metal. These days, we picture the typical metalhead as a craft beer enthusiast at their laptop rather than an outlaw built for speed; while a lot of people associate biker culture with old dudes wearing flame bandanas and not diehard headbangers raging to Slayer.
We could talk all day about where this divide came from, but fuck it, why waste everyone’s time? Instead, let’s keep the flame alive and take a look at the real, raw metal that inspires the pursuit of the open road, lawlessness, and life on the American Freedom Machine. Here are five American heavy metal bands (in no particular order) that promote and praise life on two wheels in the modern world.
Since 2004, Oakland, California’s Saviours have been total road warriors, traversing our great nation and preaching to the brotherhood of buzz whilst buzzed. It’s not hard to get to know these guys, and you may even ride alongside them. They play biker bars as well as rock clubs, and have made appearances onstage at local swap meets. These men are bikers making heavy music, first and foremost. They tattoo. They can fix an FXR on the side of the road. Take for example, the fact that they’ve played Born Free, the largest chopper show in the USA, or better yet, watch their 2011 music video for Crete’n. It features painter, builder, and blogger Max Schaff and other bikers tearing up the streets of the Bay Area.
Though you’ve probably heard about them from your metalhead friend who’s as far from a biker as it gets, make no mistake, Denver’s resident doom darlings Khemmis are real motorcycle enthusiasts making slow music in weed-town hell. Bassist Dan Beiers and drummer Zach Coleman are both gearheads and beer-brewing encyclopedias (Zach is also the head brewer at Denver’s TRVE Brewing). There are very few men in doom who’ve clocked more miles on two wheels than Dan. Although you may not find their lyrical or aesthetic themes similar to most biker anthems, give a listen to their album Hunted front to back on your next trip down the highway and it just may click.
Zach elaborates further about his dual passions, “There’s a very specific, almost primal feeling that you get by riding a motorcycle or by playing/hearing a heavy riff: it stirs your soul and clears your mind at the same time. I’ve not found that feeling almost anywhere else. That’s what connects heavy metal and motorcycles for me. And, as scenes, both have largely been havens for outcasts and weirdos, which directly appeals to me.”
Another Mile-High City ensemble covered in cosmic dust! When you blast the music of Love Gang, it’s easy to dream of riding through the Mojave, through the four corners, and past the Continental Divide towards their Rocky Mountain home. Though not a metal band by any means, they have all the outlaw energy that the genre lives for (Hell, even Lemmy didn’t call Motorhead a metal band). These boys have captured the psychedelic goals of acid and speed and eased past its necessary peak, creating pure ‘70s hard-rock boogie with the power of real songwriting, and without the trite fringe flash.
Bassist Grady O’Donnell has owned, wrenched, and ridden multiple Harleys across the front range and beyond. “The connection between the two I guess, is the fact that there are the people who live it and breathe it, and the people who want to live it and breathe it,” Grady says of musicians sporting the American Biker aesthetic. He’s one of the few who’s got what it takes to wrench on older iron. See his Shovelhead in the flesh at their next show in Denver and expect to hear rock music made by men who ride motorcycles.
It’s no wonder that many metalheads consider Scott “Wino” Weinrich the godfather of American doom: The sheer weight of his fuzzy guitar tone suggests he’s connected to a higher spiritual power. But if you ask Wino, he’s just making rock ‘n’ roll the way he knows how. If you hang out with him, you might get lucky enough to hear him describe his first and second Panhead in immaculate detail, or elaborate on funny ways to conceal whatever you’d like in an engine case. He can swap knowledge on how to repair Linkert carburetors and believes in riding with a front brake these days. He gets tattoos, tattoos his friends, and then discusses how long our bodies could allow us to teeter between sobriety and anything-but.
Wino’s played in a band with Lemmy and performed Iron Horse on acoustic guitar as if it’s the last song he’ll ever play. You’d be hard-pressed to find another lifer of similar clout that’s still alive to show it off. And none of that notoriety came without its price: Though he lives to ride another year, he’s been to hell and back. When asked of his plans for the future he uttered, “I was born and raised to live and die on the witches brew…” Those are the words of a man who lives by his own rules.
San Francisco has become a playground for the tech elite, but it was once an epicenter of mind-bending rock ‘n’ roll that exported cultural treasures to the rest of America and the world like legendary outlaw biker rock groups Blue Cheer and Loose Gravel. Not all hope is lost for the Bay in 2019 though: If you look between the cracks in the Mission, or standing in the shadows of the Google bus, you just might hear a dual guitar lead and roar of the longhaired spirits of old, thanks to Banquet.
Equal parts hard rock and psychedelia, and lovers of rock ‘n’ roll, heavy metal, and Milwaukee Iron alike, Banquet have put in the work. Listen to songs like Mother Road or Mastermind as you sit upon two wheels, close your eyes, and realize the long black river just keeps getting longer the more you wait. Or, as singer/guitarist Doug Stuckey puts it, “Both just have a fast, loud, and no fucking rules aspect to them that leaves ya not imagining one without the other. You either get it or you don’t — and if ya don’t, you probably never will.”
At their Brooklyn show with Cloak, Denver’s Khemmis remind fans why they came to metal in the first place.
“When the time is right, whenever that day comes, we will get onstage again,” says My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way.