Locals Only: : Spoiling the funeral

Seductive metalheads Soul Casket work to claw their way out of the underground

Dale M. Johnson


Soul Casket



Soul Casket is your average Metal band. Singer/lyricist J-9 says there are no curse words in their lyrics. Guitarist Skratte (rhymes with rat-a-tat-tat) thinks that porn could be more artistic. Keyboardist Brian Davis cites Genesis among his influences. Sean Quinn, the bass player, has a lot of reliable booking contacts. And drummer, Bill Kays, admits to having Mariah Carey in his CD collection.

Wait a minute, I take back the "average" part.

First formed in late 2002 as Left of Center by Quinn, Kays and others, they morphed, over time, through trial and error (and a name change), into the present lineup.

The band's name doesn't come from the usual "shocking" visit to the Heavy Metal charnel house; it comes from an experience Skratte had on the highway.

"I was driving to work, and my mind was wandering," says Skratte.

"Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw this black, ominous, shape speeding down the fast lane. It kind of scared me a little, for some reason. I look over, and it's this truck that says 'Yorktown Casket.' So, I thought, 'Where does he have to go that he has to go that fast?' As I said, my mind was wandering, so I began to think that if someone's soul was dead, but you're still alive, just wandering through life aimlessly, then your body is like a casket for your soul. Thus, Soul Casket."

The band, however, doesn't wander aimlessly at all. As far as their sound goes, the band, especially J-9, bristles at au courant comparisons to Evanescence and they don't have much use for Alternative, or "Oh-turn it-off" music, as Davis calls it. They say that their sound has been flavored by elements of Tool, Faith No More and the Italian Gothic Metal band, Lacuna Coil. But rather than being slaves to those grinds, Soul Casket use their influences like spices rather than as the main dish. Their song "Mirror," in particular, showcases their command of melody as well as their unique mastery of "Rawk."

"Mirror" has a simple keyboard progression at its center, and the band builds an imposing Middle Eastern/Gothic citadel around that fragile element, as if the other instruments are protecting a precious gem. J-9's vocals aren't a marauding army at the gates, but more of a seductive, dangerous Gypsy thief, silently cutting the throats of the guards that they can't be bothered to flirt their way past on their way to steal the gem.

J-9 is the acknowledged frontperson of the band, and if the dynamics were any different, Soul Casket wouldn't be as compelling as they are. "She's like a Heavy Metal Madonna," says Skratte. "I'll be playing and I'll look over and she'll be writhing on the floor or out in the audience, singing right into people's faces."

It goes a bit beyond that though. It's more than J-9 being an attractive woman which, by accounts, earns her both male and female admirers at shows. It's that she has that certain "it" on stage, a mysterious charisma that just draws you in and makes you forget about yourself for a while as you wonder where she and the band are going to take you next.

Where they take people next is at least partially up to the audience. Soul Casket is fighting against the "underground" status of Metal in Cincinnati, even though the scene is thriving and tightly-knit. They're also forging ahead despite people (like promoters) who tell them such things as, "The Internet never helped anyone's music career."

"We're a good, hard-working band," says Skratte, "and I'm looking for us to branch out. There are a lot of good bands out there that we're just not crossing paths with because we're over here in the Cincinnati Metal scene. Most people don't even know (the Metal scene) exists."

So, if you're feeling sinister — or if you just want some twisted Metal with a twist — discover Soul Casket for yourself.



SOUL CASKET (www.soulcasket.com) plays Sudsy Malone's on Saturday with Croatan, Gone Until Tomorrow, Hellnation, Moricite and Pain Link.

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