Local metal act Armageddon Monks began in 2003 as a cover band at Cornell University and has since evolved into a group of full-time, gigging songwriters. The quintet recently released its self-titled third album and will perform tomorrow night at The Haunt. Assistant Accent Editor Patrick Doyle spoke to guitarist Steve Goldman about the band’s numerous lineup changes and what it’s like to transition from a campus act to serious rock band.
Patrick Doyle: You guys started as a cover band, right?
Steve Goldman: Yeah (laughs), a lot of bands do. It was my freshman year at Cornell. We were looking to play some shows. We had to set up a set list, so we learned about two and a half hours of cover material, and once we got bored with other people’s material we started writing our own.
PD: What’s the most obscure cover the band has ever played?
SG: It’s kind of a random question because we started out as a cover band, but if you go see our live show you will probably never hear us play a cover song. I guess, being in a cover band, obscurity isn’t the idea. You kind of want everybody to know what you’re doing. I can tell you the one [song] people seemed to like the most was “My Sharona.” When we stopped playing that we had a few people who stopped coming back [because] they realized we weren’t a cover band anymore.
We played some covers of covers. Metallica did an album of some of their favorite punk covers and we covered some of that, old Misfits, Van Halen. We at one point decided, ‘Hey we’ve got original material — good original material — we want people to come and see us for that.
PD: Can you describe a typical Armageddon Monks live show?
SG: Our live show. Well, if you get your hands on our album you’ll find that it’s all exactly what we sound like live. We worked very hard getting everything technically correct [while] still putting on an energetic show.
PD: The Ithacan did a review of an Armageddon Monks show in 2006 [Oct. 5], and you were compared to Audioslave and Metallica.
SG: That’s actually a good summation. You find lots of principles of Metallica — simple songs and heavy guitar-oriented riffs and vocal hooks that are Audioslave-reminiscent. With our old singer Aamir [Basheer], he had an Audioslave-ish voice. Our singer Matt [Kelly] I would compare a little bit more to Brandon Boyd of Incubus or Killswitch Engage. It’s definitely close. The band Avenged Sevenfold is kind of an over-the-top version of what we’re trying to do. Breaking Benjamin we’re a little bit similar to that kind of music.
PD: You’ve had a lot of lineup changes. How has your sound changed?
SG: We originally started out as a very old-school metal-oriented band. We had higher singing, difficult riffs, more guitar-oriented old-school rock.
With our new singer and bass player, we’re focusing more on a modern hard-rock sound that both combines the aspects of ’80s and older music that we enjoy — guitar harmonies, heavy riffs, like riff-based music instead of just chords. It also has some catchy modern melodies as well as a refined sound that allows us to get our music out to radio, or at least be comparable to what you find on modern-rock radio.
PD: How often do you go on tour?
SG: We’ve been playing consistently pretty much for the last few years. It’s getting more frequent and certainly a lot more serious once we got our new singer and bass player, which was at the beginning of the summer.
PD: What’s the most memorable live show you’ve ever played?
SG: We went down to The Chance in Poughkeepsie [N.Y.], and it was a short set, like 25 minutes. When we went up there our singer was new, it was our bass player Greg [Soltis]’s last show and we went up there and we played everything exactly as we wanted to, made an impression on some people, just packed up and went.
Now, most people think a short set like that isn’t going to be the most memorable, but it was kind of a big step for us. It was one of those shows where everybody in the crowd kind of stops what they’re doing and turns around and says, ‘Hey what’s going on up there? That’s interesting.’
Armageddon Monks will perform at 9 p.m. tomorrow at The Haunt, 702 Willow Ave. Tickets are $5 at the door.