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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Beltempest’s Album Rock

Milwaukee band is heavy (but not metal)

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Rock bands can be like families with all the squabbling and bonding that entails. Nowhere is this truer than in the group now called The Beltempest, whose core members have gone in and out of bands for years. Around the close of the last decade, they played together as Statobahn, but a blow-up involving “creative differences” caused David Hucke (keyboards), Randy Rock (bass) and Tony Dietzler (guitar) to separate from drummer Pete Torres.

But as in a good family, the rancor faded. When Rock found he didn’t have time to commit to the band, Torres came home—as bassist this time. The Beltempest’s drum seat passed to a musician calling himself The Wolf.

The Beltempest picks up where Statobahn left off, with many of the same songs and the musicians who played them, and a sound not easily categorized in today’s fractured musical world. If it were 1975, some of The Beltempest’s songs could have been chalked up as heavy metal, but the meaning of metal has mutated so much since then that The Beltempest is left with being only heavy. Similarly, The Beltemptest might have been called progressive rock in the ’70s, but prog has also hardened into something somewhat different than what they offer.

Hucke calls their music “album rock,” a term that explains nothing except the band’s roots in some of the music programed on ’70s AOR stations. “A lot of us started with The Beatles—they were ubiquitous,” he says, adding Genesis, Pink Floyd and Alan Parsons to the menu of influences long since digested. “Now I just write songs. An idea will pop into my head and I’ll go with it. Sometimes ideas come at the most inopportune times. I had one while driving and all I had was a pen and a paper bag. I pulled over and wrote the lyrics on the bag.”

Performing almost all originals, The Beltempest sit at the boundary of genres with a cross-appeal to different audiences. “We are not cut from a cookie cutter,” Hucke insists.

The Beltempest perform Thursday, March 20, at Metal Grill, 5036 S. Packard Ave. Opening for them will be an Arizona band, The Black Moods.