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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

Bone Shaker’s Milwaukee Metal

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   Hair metal is viewed in many ways: Reverence, distaste, obsession, incredulity and even humor are all evoked in descriptive commentary by critics and fans who debate the genre. No matter what your take on it, though, metal is still alive and well. With a mission statement that is geared toward injecting "new" into "old school," Milwaukee's Bone Shaker is one of the genre's biggest local proponents.

  The band has toured relentlessly since forming in 2006. Bookings picked up particularly after their well-received debut, 13 Ghosts, and they've since played large stages supporting bigger-name acts throughout the Midwest. A quick listen would leave most seeing Iron Maiden as a heavy influence, but the band has a knack for inserting bridges and solo sections that speak to the fans of edgier bands such as Slayer and Venom. While melody is typically forsaken in this brand of rock, Bone Shaker uses it in a way that adds some accessibility without compromising their grit.

  The band's latest release, Bang, …You'reDead (Turkey Vulture Records), has no ambitions of transcending genre expectations, but it's a finely tuned, heavily produced album with all the over-the-top guitar solos and ear-piercing vocal lines a heavy-metal fan could ask for. Bone Shaker has delivered exactly what its fan base has ordered. Songs like "Hell and Back" would easily win over any Priest fan, while tracks such as "Dr. Strange" have a trippy feel, with rhythm tracks that are as smooth as they are sharp. The anthem "How We Rock" finds Bone Shaker doing what the band does best, with a football-shout chorus that would prompt any true metal fan to throw the devil horns high.

  The band prides itself on its live show. "Rock 'n' roll is as visual as it is sonic," says guitarist/lead vocalist David "Gonz" Gonzalez. And the group's shows live up to the hype. Gonz, bassist Camille Gonzalez and drummer Brian DeHarde work hard at this aspect, prowling the stage appropriately adorned in leather, spandex, and more leather. This July, the band found new meaning in the expression "bring the house down." While playing the Rocklahoma metal festival in Oklahoma, a roaring storm collapsed the staging area that sheltered the band. Camille suffered a broken hand, which prompted the cancellation of two gigs. But she's on the mend and ready to rock again.

  Bone Shaker plays a recovery performance this Saturday, Aug. 30, at Liquor Sweets with King Kong and Spiral Trance.