Friday, January 31, 2014

Square Zeros #6: Mario Viele (Spirit Of Danger, Chandeli'ers, Chuck Of Death)

My buddy Jim used to play bass and guitar with a great group of guys out in St. Louis/Kansas City called The Ottomen. They wrote — and still write, prolifically, with different personnel — terrific, lo-fi indie rock songs. In line with The Ottomen's sound and breadth of catalog, Jim's guitar style was one of simple, catchy hooks. Some time after Jim left the band to move to Brooklyn, Mario Viele wound up on guitar in The Ottomen, before also moving to Brooklyn a few years later. Now, I give you this seemingly tangential history to give you an idea of how criminally unprepared I was the first time I saw Mario play with Spirit of Danger. Naturally, I expected something akin to Jim's clear, hummable guitaring. Imagine my surprise when Mario plugged in and started slashing out lightning-fast punk leads. Brutal leads. Gruesome leads.

All the warning signs were there. Every mention of Mario on the various (hilarious) Ottomen bios talks about his "shredding." He also does studio engineering at Cowboy Techincal Services Recording Rig in Williamsburg, where he's literally surrounded by awesome, top-of-the-line guitar gear all day. But hey — I had heard recordings of his previous band, before he was in it, so… case closed, yeah?

Had I heard some of Mario's earliest material, I might not have whiffed on him so miserably. In fact, he points out in our interview that his high-school metal band Chuck of Death (named after Chuck Schuldiner, frontman of the pioneering death metal band Death) might have more to do with his current sound than anything else he's played since. While Chuck of Death didn't do any original recordings, the two covers he supplied us — "The Fault of Flesh" by Nevermore and "Slaughter of the Soul" by Swedish death metal innovators At the Gates — go a long way toward explaining his shreddy tendencies.

Beneath the lo-fi production, a 16-year-old Mario charges through some pretty gnarly, serpentine riffs on these tracks. It's also telling that the songs are fairly reasonable covers despite the fact that At the Gates and Nevermore had two guitarists, and Chuck of Death only had one. Though Mario laughingly explained to us that both songs fall apart at the end due to Chuck of Death's inability to finish them properly, Spirit of Danger is definitely a killer ending to these recordings. Check out their self-titled debut EP below, and be on the lookout for new material in Spring 2014.

— JM

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