left to right: Jim Hunter(bass), Jason Tedder (guitar), King Fowley (vocals), Dave Castillo (drums), Brian Williams (guitar)
The underground Heavy Metal scene is certainly not for everyone. From the dreams of glitz and glamour that certain giants from the 80s and even modern bands that thrive from paycheck to paycheck, making it is the be all end all for some. Not that there is anything wrong with living off of what you love to do. It's just almost scary how certain members of the human race can turn their integrity inside out at the flip of a dollar and history has proven, with exception (always), success to do more harm than good, especially if a band has or had any kind of staying power. Greed is a terrible thing. For others, its not always about being in the Top 40, having your video on Headbangers Ball, being on a major label, sharing the stage with the most happening band(s), free scrotum waxing, getting a gold record, etc. Some don't care too much about that. Metal is a lifestyle to some and that has definitely been proven over the years by a certain US band.
October 31 have one main goal, to produce the most uncompromising, no frills Heavy Metal they possibly can spew forth. The latest, "No Survivors", further proves this being the heaviest October 31 yet, and just as memorable as the rest. Now is the part where I give a rundown of the recordings and line-up changes of October 31 from the beginning to the present. Don't forget to breathe.
Originally concocted as a side project to King Fowley's old school Death Metal thrash attack, Deceased; October 31 began the first demo days immediately after Brian Williams was brought on board. Fowley and Williams clicked right away on a personal and songwriting level. Reminiscing about the glory days of 80's Heavy Metal and how they wanted to make their own mark with the traditional aspects that define the genre. This was the mid 90's mind you and finding other members could be quite the task. Years before the trendy Power Metal boom, meeting musicians that wanted to play Heavy Metal was hard enough, let alone the style Fowley and Williams desired. Keep in mind that they lived (and still do) about 6 hours away from each other. The burning ambition that churned between the two could not be put on hold and in 1996, the "Voyage to Infinity" cassette demo was recorded, marking the only O31 release with Casey Sayles (bass) and Frank Bauguess (rhythm/acoustic guitar), local friends of Brian Williams. Oblivion Studios, the same studio that will spawn Deceased's zombie thrash classic "Fearless Undead Machines" years later, would be the studio of choice and practically every session that followed.
The demo showed a mixture of Thrash, Power, subtle Doom and Classic Heavy Metal that could be compared to bands like Nasty Savage, Attacker, Killer, Griffin, Exciter and the endless list of unappreciated cult legends. Appropriate covers of "Child of the Damned" (Warlord) and "Harder Than Steel" (Jag Panzer) further proved that the intentions of October 31 derived from true Heavy Metal, loud and proud. This line-up however didn't last very long as a local scene friend of King Fowley joined for the permanent bass position, Jim Hunter (Revelation/While Heaven Wept/Blacklord/Twisted Tower Dire/every band in the vicinity of Northern Virginia). An old friend of Brian Williams, Kevin Lewis, began his first attempt at the rhythm position and the writing process but quit the band shortly before it was time to record the first full-length, 1997's "The Fire Awaits You". Leaving all the guitar parts to Brian Williams, left to figure out all the guitar tracks that he never played, "The Fire Awaits You" was still a defining record for October 31. The production is modest yet effective. The opening track, "The Warlock", takes everything that was so greatly intense from the Whiplash "Power and Pain" album, the majority of "The Fire Awaits You" churn an atmosphere being dark, heavy, melodic, and most importantly, memorable. Another obscure cover landed on Side B, "Day of the Saxons" from Witchkiller. The CD was released by RIP Records while the vinyl didn't come out officially until 1999 by Fowley's own Old Metal Records.
Kevin Lewis returned once again in 1998, attempting the full-time rhythm guitar position as the "Visions of End" EP writing and recording process began. Completely finished in under a week, "Visions of the End" is still one of my favorites and a most impressive EP. Despite one of the most ridiculous and maybe only covers of Lizzy Bordern's "Give 'em The Axe" that I've ever heard (mostly due to Fowley's interpretation of the vocals), this is arguable the greatest October 31 release. Full of pure energy yet never straying too far from that dark, doomy vibe and building their epic qualities with tracks like "The Legend of the Haunted Sea". Old Metal Records released "Visions of the End" on CD and again in 1999 with a different cover. Attached was the long out of print "Voyage to Infinity" demo already mentioned. Around this time the decision was made by King Fowley to have a live singer, being more comfortable with the drum duties for shows yet keeping his vocal position for the studio only. Once again, old friends of both Fowley (Chuck Parsons) and Williams (Shawn Pelata) were chosen among the fight for Metal supremacy. Parsons, having a more characteristic but rugged voice, showed energy on stage, but lacked the real abilities of a strong Heavy Metal singer and showman; Pelata being the mirror opposite, great voice-no stage presence. October 31 played a handful of shows with each vocalist around this time but under the demanding role that being in O31 calls for, going their separate ways was in order.
In 2000 "Meet Thy Maker" was released. Rip Records put out the original CD while Metal Blade Europe released the "Visions of the End" bonus CD version. What should have been possibly their best at that point, consisting of a bigger production, more keyboards, melody and acoustic sections, "Meet Thy Maker" suffered from a quirky final mix and many of the moments on the album being much too melodic for Fowley's street vocal style. Still, tracks like "For There is War!" showed that October 31 were not about to slow down. A cover of Saxon's classic "Power and the Glory" near the album's end has become a staple in closing their live set. Also that year, RIP put out the reissue of the "Visions of the End" EP with the original cover art but still being inferior to the 10 track 1999 Old Metal Records release, which made for a pretty pointless reissue.
October 31 had landed on many compilations, played every dive on the east coast, recorded two more cover songs "I Don't Know" (Ozzy/guitar solo courtesy of Deceased's very own Mark "Chainsaw" Adams) and "Public Enema Number One" (Iron Maiden) along with just as great an accomplishment as any, playing the Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany. Things were moving right along until the road of optimism was brought to a halt once again by Kevin Lewis, deciding to leave the band once more. Dave Castillo (ex Hatred/VA) was brought in to fill in on drums for certain shows, allowing King to run the stage and some shows were only played as a three piece, Fowley/Hunter/Williams. Northern Virginia's Twisted Tower Dire members Tony Taylor and Scott Waldrop were next to serve their time in the revolving door positions. Taylor having a very melodic voice that would havee been best suited for the "Meet Thy Maker" album and Waldrop's natural ear for great harmonies seemed to set the stage for what would be possibly the best October 31 release yet. Sadly, only a 7" single birthed from this line-up in 2002. Maniacal Records released a redone version of "Salem's Curse" along with Judas Priest cover "Electric Eye", pressed in a small quantity. While the single showed much promise of things to come, disagreements within the band left Tony Taylor and Scott Waldrop out of October 31 while Jim Hunter shortly joined the bass position for Twisted Tower Dire, keeping his position in October 31.
As if that wasn't enough of a catastrophe, Fowley's darkest days shortly followed. Following the death of his mother, two blood clots and a sudden stroke left him for dead. This not only stopped the advancing of the band they had worked so hard at, the iron fist of sickness left Fowley's recovery process a slow one. Thankfully, strong will and determination prevail as King makes a full recovery. Before King's sudden streak of horrible luck, Jason Tedder, being the best rhythm guitarist O31 has ever had is the next contestant after Waldop, makes his entrance as the rhythm guitarist in Williams' side band, K-Octave (who also has Shawn Pelata on vocals). Dave Castillo also gets a permanent spot on the drums as King takes his rightful position as the front man. "Stage Fright" gets released by Thrash Corner Records in 2003, capturing a moment in time at Classic Metal Fest 2 with obviously no overdubs. Another demo is recorded, a cover of "Missing in Action" (Q5) that gets lumped in the same category as the Lizzy Borden cover by yours truly, an amazing vocal performance from Fowley on "Danger Zone" (Black Sabbath) and original brain smasher "Powerhouse", which has yet to get an official release.
having a steady line-up and with the drive of making Heavy Metal music
still abundant within the group, October 31 release their long awaited
"No Survivors" album. "No Survivors", being their
This sky is the limit for October 31. Having played hundreds of shows all across the United States over the past 10 years, persevering over all life's many obstacles, October 31 is proof that some bands still play for the sheer love of Heavy Metal. With plans of another album and a possible tour(s), they're just getting things warmed up.