On June 21, Matt Price received a phone call that left him in a fog. Price is the guitarist and songwriter for L.A.'s Behold! The Monolith, whose 2012 album Defender, Redeemist has been hailed as an underground metal masterpiece. The band's first national tour was kicking off in a few weeks, and Price had been texting with co-founding bassist and singer Kevin McDade about the new van Price bought for the tour. "Kevin was going to customize it," Price says. "Put bunks in the back. That kind of stuff."
The number lighting up his phone display belonged to a friend of Kevin's. It was strange that he would call so late.
"I picked up and Jeff just said, 'There's been an accident. Kevin's gone,'" Price says.
The accident occurred around four in the afternoon, as McDade was driving to
his hometown of Camarillo Oakland to visit his brother and sister-in-law. "I don't want to go into too much detail about it," Price says, "but there was no drugs or alcohol involved. That much I know. Kevin wasn't like that."
The loss of his friend was unbearable, but with Kevin's passing, there was also the question of the band, a three-piece comprised of Price, McDade, and drummer Chase Manhattan.
Behold! The Monolith had been a turning point for Price. The guitarist spent much of his early adulthood leading the peripatetic life of a bar musician in Louisiana, playing joints in New Orleans and Baton Rouge and sitting in on sessions wherever he could. But he had grown up on Sabbath, Zeppelin and classic metal, and when he moved out west around 2000, it was with the intention of starting a metal band.
Price and McDade met through mutual friends. "We just hit it off," Price says. "I'm big on classic metal and Kevin was really into punk, grindcore and black metal. We complimented each other well." Behold! The Monolith's signature sound is largely a result of the dynamic between these two sounds, ferocious cross-genre metal enshrined in Tony Iommi-worthy stoner riffs. "I write most of the material and Kevin would act as sounding board," says Price. "He would say about a song, 'It's good, but we need an Angel Witch part here or something else there.' He had a great ear for it."
Produced by Billy Anderson, Defender, Redeemist was recorded in five days and released in 2012. The album was praised by both zines and established metal media, and Behold! The Monolith became the toast of the metal community. The band was unfazed.
"We were just happy people were into it," Price says of this sudden success. "We've never had any grandiose illusions about who we are, and we've never compromised on anything with our sound." They were happy to continue operating as a DIY group. "We have day jobs, so we're not looking for a paycheck as a band," Price explains. "It's sad in retrospect, but Kevin used to always say, 'We can do it like this for the rest of our lives.'"
Price says he still struggles with his grief over the death of his friend. "He was only 29 years old. He was a live-life-to-the-fullest kind of guy." Price says that Kevin loved to travel with his family and girlfriend and once ventured to Canada with his father to see the L.A. Kings play. "His family was incredibly supportive of us. After the service they told us to keep going with the band. That Kevin would have wanted it that way."
Price and Manhattan have followed these wishes. As of last week, Jason "Cas" Casanova, of L.A. groove stoner band Sasquatch, has become Behold! The Monolith's new bassist. As for vocals, nothing's been decided. "We haven't found the right person yet," says Price. They have, however, generated new material for future recordings. "It's just going to get heavier and gnarlier. That was always mine and Kevin's plan."
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