Omega Crom: Blood, Steel & Fire On The Highway
The road is a mean motha that’ll make ya or break ya. Mention a western tour in winter to a Canuck musician and the answer’s always; "Who’d you piss off?"
From Vancouver to St. John’s, crisscrossing the vast prairies and lush river valleys, musicians roam the land bringing their sounds to willing ears far and wide. Some come hard, some come soft, some melodic, some all noise and few louder or more fierce than Omega Crom.
They’re recently back in Vancouver after their first ever cross-Canada tour, a Canuck rite of passage replete with tales of rip-offs, skanky groupies and stinky vans, jammed into close quarters for long periods in unfamiliar circumstances will bring out all manner of behaviours but band leader Johnny Ketlo says theirs was as smooth as a salmon belly.
"It was just awesome. Turned out we all got along really well on the road. It was all new to everybody, everything from playing to 300 people one night and 30 the next to checking out the chicks making out in the mosh pit".
It helped the crew were rolling in a big ass Chevy Suburban with the gear in a trailer, leaving lots of room to spread out. The tour was in support of "Blood, Fire and Steel", the band’s much-anticipated debut, a chest rattling, blood rousing call to rock ’n’ roll arms. Same as it ever was, if you wanna move units Facebook’ll help but you gotta take the show to the people.
Over five weeks and 25 dates from Vancouver to Montreal, the band got the chance to get their brand out there and make it stick. Omega Crom is entirely the brainchild of Johnny Ketlo; he’s nurtured and coaxed the thing along for more than 7 years and is careful in the handling of it. This is the primary reason why it’s taken seven years to drop an album.
As the wallet the project’s standing on, Ketlo wanted to be sure he had all the right ingredients before committing the funds necessary to get in the kitchen and cook. "I went through a lot of line-up changes, a lot of writing changes, there were times when I wanted to pack it in, questioned if I was doing the right thing. I remember being at a Slayer show and talking to some kids and they were all, ‘you’ve go to keep Omega Crom going, we’re really into what you’re doing’. After that I went back to work determined to see it through."
Through all the changes, the concept of Omega Crom remained steadfast, like a warrior flag in a stiff breeze. The concept derives from the Conan novels. No, not that talk show guy with the big hair but Conan The Barbarian, the sword and sandals uber-muscled fantasy hero granddaddy of them all. With Crom being Conan’s God figure and omega the last letter of the Greek alphabet, what we have here is Omega Crom as the last word in barbarian power metal. Surrender all ye who enter and look no further. They certainly have the volume, the attitude and the musical bombast to play the role. So it makes all kinds of cosmic metal sense they got their first break from another metal fantasist Thor.
"I mean we opened for Thor in that we were first in like ten band at the Thorfest. But we did something right because that was the beginning of getting media and fan attention".
By then, Ketlo had stepped up to the mic. While experimenting with the line-up, he hit a spot where, frustrated at finding a vocalist to work with, he wound up training himself to do the job."I have classical voice training but that's not how you sing metal. I put myself through the endless rehearsals, studying the techniques and lots of trying different things. I still feel I have a lot of room to grow, I want to get much better."
Forged from the fiery talents of Ketlo (guitars, lead vocals), Wayne Holden (gtrs,vcls), Ian Wicke (bass,vcls) and Dan LaPierre (drms), word is dudes have the live show to back up the talk. Vocals and guitars go over the top as a matter of course and they have the right stage presence to carry off the fantasy. The playings tight and respectful of the concept enough to announce their songs with cool spoken word intros. Throw in great crowd interaction, lots of atmospherics to keep the mood going, cool merch and you’ve got a ripping metal show. Which, by the way, is the only genre Ketlo will cop to. "Omega Crom is most like a mixup of power metal and thrash metal but we like to call it ‘ripping metal’ because that’s how we approach it. No matter what’s going on we know we’ll get up there and just rip it. Metal is a genre that never goes away, it’s not some flash in the pan trendy thing. Right now it’s come back strong with all the kids starting metal bands, with encouragement from dads or brothers who grew up with bands like Iron Maiden or Megadeth. It’s a good time to be ain a metal band".
Omega Crom is currently in the early stages of the next album and exploring other revenue streams such as placing their music, well suited for the gig, into video games and getting onto the outdoor summer festival circuit.Simmering away on the back burner, a return to the road wars in late July for another run across our native land. "Yes. We’re actually looking forward to doing it again. This time we’ll spend more time in the East. I hear good things. We had a great first tour and we’ve learnt from that so it has to be better. One of the things I learnt is that I can fix the braking system in a Suburban. In Saskatoon, we had a serious brake problem and wandered into the Canadian Tire figuring no problem. Well, turns out the service manager flat out refused to put our truck on the hoist. No real reason, just didn’t like my hair and my clothes, I guess. So I get the parts and it was two days in a bitter cold Saskatoon parking lot, sleeping right there, but thanks to my training as a Harley mechanic, I got it fixed. "The guy who hit our trailer in Regina paid $500 on the spot at a time when we needed it so it all worked out. Plus it’ll be summer, much more fun".
And no matter how heavy the rock, fun is what it’s all about no?