In the 1980s, the fledgling thrash-metal movement, led by bands in the Bay Area and right here in Los Angeles, felt dangerous. The potent combination of punk fury and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal spewed out something fresh, exciting and parent-unfriendly.
The Big Four of Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and especially Metallica helped take the genre up into hard rock’s upper reaches, particularly when the ’90s hit. But there were also bands like Exodus, Testament, and Flotsam and Jetsam bubbling under, retaining a feeling of cult cool and underground notoriety. Thanks to genres such as death and black metal, however, the thrashers were no longer the heaviest kids on the block.
By the new millennium, it all seemed a little stale. Metallica were still selling out stadiums, but we all knew that the albums weren’t as good. It felt as if everyone was doing their best to keep afloat but the world had moved on. That tends to be the way these things work. But these things are also cyclical, and the fans that stuck with thrash, the bands that rode out the lean times and the new groups that formed when this shit was the least cool style of music on Earth may be about to reap some reward.
Pomona’s Bonded By Blood, named in homage to Exodus’ debut album, formed in 2005 when founding member and drummer Carlos Regalado was a freshman in high school. A bunch of misfit schoolkids who enjoyed very out-of-fashion music found in one another kindred spirits, and Bonded By Blood were born. Three years later, their debut album, Feed the Beast, was released, and that record is 30 years old this year.
“It’s pretty crazy, because we just started playing in backyards at parties, at random hardcore and I guess you’d say emo shows, where all the kids were staring at us and beer bottles going everywhere,” Regalado says. “It slowly turned into this monster. To be able to travel all over the world, see all of these crazy places and see all of these amazing people — it’s just unbelievable.”
While Bonded By Blood are essentially a thrash band, Regalado says there’s actually a lot more going on, as technical guitar wizardry and ’90s funk metal smash together.
“We’ve always blended different influences, but we tried early on to be as aggressive as possible,” he says. “Back between 2005 and ’09, it was just all hardcore everywhere, and not the original hardcore, that newer type of hardcore. None of us liked that at all. We just wanted to be the most aggressive we could, and play like some of our favorite bands. A lot of our influences deferred from each other. I’m more of a classical rock & roll guy, and then our original guitar player, Alex Lee, was more into solo artists like Yngwie Malmsteen. Our old bass player [Ruben Dominguez] had a mainstream Chili Peppers thing. I’m still surprised about how our sound came out, with such odd influences. What’s weird is we didn’t really sit down and say anything about, ‘This is how we’re gonna sound.’ Whatever came out is what went down on the records.”
Over the last decade, the Bonded By Blood lineup has shifted dramatically. Mauro Gonzales came in on vocals, Juan Juarez on guitar and Jessie Sanchez on bass. The Aftermath, the band’s fourth album, came out in 2012, and it remains their most recent.
“We have been [working on a new one] for quite a long time, but reality and life has been a bitch,” Regalado says. “It hasn’t been easy. It’s been really hard to get something solid and we’ve got a lot of material floating around, a lot of demos recorded. These days, after going through the process so many times of the writing and recording, I guess you could say that we’re not satisfied with what we have. We don’t just want to release something because it’s been a while. It sure as hell doesn’t feel like four or five years, but we don’t just want to put out anything. I’d rather wait and put out our best.”
That makes sense. In today’s metal climate, there’s really no need to rush. After all, there’s hardly a wave of momentum that bands need to jump on and ride while the going’s good. Regalado says that, here in L.A., the scene has its ups and downs.
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“Venues and promoters and especially labels, everyone on the other side of the band that’s there to help them, it feels like they make things so complicated and stressful on top of everything that needs to be done," Regalado says. "I try my best to give advice on what to do to keep relevant with these newer bands, and that’s just to play, play, play. Play everywhere and everything. A lot of bands think that they can play the local spot every three to six months and that’s enough. But that’s not nearly it at all. I’m really happy for bands like Exmortus who are catching a break after they’ve been working so hard since 2003 or something. There are tons of other bands out there now, and I feel for them because there’s no support for this style of music anymore. So it just makes it impossible for any band to stay consistent.”
Bonded By Blood play the Whisky on Thursday and, in keeping with the 30-year celebration of the debut album, they’ll be playing Feed the Beast from start to finish. When that show’s over, they’ll go back to steadily working on the next one.
“We don’t plan to do anything else this year, because I don’t believe in playing a bunch of shows without new material,” Regalado says. “I’m weird. We have to get a record written before we go out and play the same old songs to the same people.”
Bonded By Blood play with Nova Reign, Ravage Realm, Anti-Hero and Syn Absence at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 29, at the Whisky A Go Go.