James/Eli - Holy Grail
Pasadena powerhouse Holy Grail will release their highly anticipated album - 'Crisis In Utopia' on October 26th. They are currently finishing up their opening slot with Exodus on the "March Of Brutality Tour". I caught the show in Louisville, finally getting a chance to witness live this much discussed new California Metal act.
Man, these guys only have out an EP called 'Improper Burial', and they already are being immortalized. I spoke with vocalist - James Paul Luna and guitarist - Eli Santana - all about their struggle to the top, and how they fight to thrill all who love '80s Metal. Indulge us in this exciting search for the truth of the Holy Grail.
MettleAngel: Hey guys, I am so glad to finally meet, and speak with you. To be honest, I have heard so much about you, but I have not had a chance to listen to your music. I plan to buy the EP tonight, and finally witness you play live.
MettleAngel: You mean virgins to your sound? I wanted to go to My Space and listen to some songs, but I have been having Internet issues. I see you have been highly praised by the Media, even though your album does not come out until October.
MettleAngel: That is insane, to have to live up to the hype, even if it is true! I am curious about your press sheet which states your sound goes back to the days when Yngwie Malmsteen and Marty Friedman played together. I consider myself pretty knowledgable about all things Metal, but I have never heard of those two playing together!
MettleAngel: Well, to be fair, it does claim to be in an imaginary time. I guess the press agent who penned this is trying to promote the band by making these comparisons.
MettleAngel: It would make Metal history, but Marty is too wrapped up in his life in Japan. Personally, I think Yngwie is overrated.
MettleAngel: It does seem a bit odd for a band like Holy Grail to be on a label such as Prosthetic Records. Sure they champion All That Remains, and Skeletonwitch, but with your New Wave Of California Traditional Metal sound, you are the odd band out for them.
MettleAngel: Yes, this is true, the Wolf album 'The Black Flame' was licensed by Prosthetic for the US. They are better off being on Century Media. By my count, you are the first US Traditional Metal band ever to be signed with Prosthetic Records.
MettleAngel: It is the same as Sister Sin being on Victory Records. I am looking forward to the show tonight. I am very excited about the forthcoming album. My friend wants me to pick him up a copy of the EP. He was not able to attend the show. I assume you will be selling this tonight?
MettleAngel: Yeah, and the dudes in Malevolent Creation play Y&T "Meanstreak", as well as Exciter and Mercyful Fate before they come on. So tell me why did you choose to cover Accept "Fast As A Shark" on Your EP?
MettleAngel: So that explains Judas Priest. With Accept, was this to introduce newer fans to this legend, who are due to release an amazing new album, or is it just a favourite song of yours?
MettleAngel: Why did you and the dudes leave White Wizzard?
MettleAngel: That is such a shame....
MettleAngel: You wrote the songs on the 'GTO' EP, right? Why are there two separate EPs with the same songs? Are they recorded in different studios? Did you coin the name White Wizzard?
MettleAngel: This is what I assumed...
MettleAngel: I also figured that you were the main lyricist.
MettleAngel: It is a cool logo, and memorable name. It sucks that you were shafted. Since WW signed to Earrache after everyone left, how did you get signed to a label like Prosthetic?
MettleAngel: Oh really?
MettleAngel: I see that you get along well with Exodus, how did you guys get selected for this tour? Malevolent Creation are vintage Deathrash and Bonded By Blood represent the new resurgence of Thrash, did Gary ask you personally?
MettleAngel: And probably Lee as well...
MettleAngel: That is serendipitous. How has the fan response been so far? From what I have heard of those who enjoy the band, you are also very similar to Joey of Anthrax, so you might want to attempt a cut like "Armed And Dangerous". It seems that your vocals are also very reminiscent of Tim Baker from Cirith Ungol.
MettleAngel: I have heard this, as well. One fan of yours even compared you to Griffin from San Francisco; especially the album 'Protector Of the Lair'. Who are your main influences?
MettleAngel: I just found out that it was Atomic Rooster who Paradise Lost covered when they did "Death Walks Behind You" on the 'As I Die' (Single). All along I though it was Coven from Seattle, who named their sophomore album after this song. Tank will release their new album 'War Machine' this fall with Doogie White on vocals. Speaking of vocals, how would you compare yours?
MettleAngel: That would definitely explain the Griffin reference. With Paul, it is more gruff like his early '90s solo effort, more punkish like Classic Maiden, or straight rock like with Praying Mantis, or maybe Battlezone.
MettleAngel: Eli, I do not want to omit you, what about your influences?
MettleAngel: That would explain the Marty Friedman. Have you read "Mustaine's Memoirs" yet?
MettleAngel: I have read it, and I do not like how he omits so much of the last ten years. So what era of Megadeth is most appealing to you?
MettleAngel: I interviewed Michael Schenker last month, he's one of my favourites.
MettleAngel: The Max Cavalera stuff?
MettleAngel: You mean the guitar stylings of the late Chuck Schuldiner?
MettleAngel: Would that be Jeff Walker, Bill Steer, or Michael Amott?
MettleAngel: So you bring the sound of the '70s and combine it with some Melodic Deathrash elements, and create a new type of Traditional Metal band?
MettleAngel: I assume, then that the guitars are more thrashy?
MettleAngel: So then you do have a Death Metal edge, with clean vocals? I just read that Possessed's 'Seven Churches' album was considered the first ever Death Metal album. I am amazed how they are now going to be opening for Danzig. Back in the day, we just considered it all to be different forms of thrash. That included acts like Sepultura, Carcass, Death, and Morbid Angel.
MettleAngel: Yes it is, and one cannot dismiss the masterpiece 'Serpent Temptation by Incubus. Even the first three Malevolent Creation are killer!
MettleAngel: I would agree with that, over Possessed. When I first heard that album, or the song "Zombie Ritual" on the "Who's Guy Bidmead?" Combat sampler, I was blown away! Death Metal did not really solidify until 1994 with what I consider the Roadrunner and Dan Seagrave artwork era.
MettleAngel: I would again, concur. Briefly comment on the rising California so-called Traditional Metal scene. Four years ago there was a major resurgence of thrash acts from Cali, now it seems to be the new home for the Classic '80s sound.
MettleAngel: How did you recruit Eli? James, have you played in other bands with him?
MettleAngel: Damn, I too am from Coronado, San Diego.
MettleAngel: Now as Holy Grail gains strength and promise you are mixing Deathrash with Classic Metal. This means that the new material which you have written for the new album will appeal to fans of the '70s, '80s, and '90s sound across the board?
MettleAngel: Perhaps some Deep Purple inclinations?
MettleAngel: This sounds a lot like what Wolf Hoffman said to me when I recently interviewed him.
MettleAngel: With all the buzz that your former band White Wizzard is getting, I hope to see Holy Grail surpass them. I have to admit they are good, but they are still not up to the quality of those bands from Sweden like Enforcer, Mean Streak, and Steelwing.
MettleAngel: I think 'Diamonds' is one of the best albums out this year.
MettleAngel: I talked to the guys in Icarus Witch, and they are trying to bring Enforcer back to America. At these shows, are the kids and Exodus fans getting into the band?
MettleAngel: I assume that this tour has been going really good for you in that respect?
MettleAngel: Then, have all the bands been treating you real well and everything?
MettleAngel: After Exodus, what other tours do you have lined up in US? Any headlining gigs?
MettleAngel: I want to see that Blind Guardian show, but there are no dates in Ohio or Kentucky. We may have to drive all the way to Chicago! When you changed your name to Holy Grail did you have any problems, like it being taken by a number of other bands?
MettleAngel: If it had been taken, you could have gone with A Tribute To Monty Python's Holy Grail.
MettleAngel: Come on Monty Python is classic!
MettleAngel: When I heard all the buzz when you were signed to Prosthetic last year, I thought for sure some band would have been already been called that. After all, it seems like there are now a dozen different Overkills and Slayers.
MettleAngel: There is a band called Grailknights from Germany who dress like the characters in the movie "Kick-Ass". There is also some two man Black Metal band from Chile called Black Grail...
MettleAngel: Where are the Arthurian Legend themes, and Excalibur? The artwork from your EP is painted by Ed Repka, and more horror based.
MettleAngel: You originally named the band Sorcerer, too.
MettleAngel: Ahh, I get it! 'March of The Saint'! Although, John Bush did wear some armor back in the day, too. Perhaps, then the essence of Holy Grail would be like something 3 Inches Of Blood might do?
MettleAngel: So, a little myth and fantasy, the rest would be riffs, chugs, and Rock 'N Roll, basically about genuinely having a good time?
MettleAngel: Hmmnnn, this all makes more sense to me now. James, I noticed that you use your full name. Is this because your initials are JP, as in Judas Priest? Incidentally, I am MF as in Mercyful Fate, among other possibilities.
MettleAngel: Well, that makes plenty of sense. You can nickname Eli "Carlos". Eli and James, thank you so much for taking the time to indulge me. I am so excited to finally catch you live. I hope we can talk more later tonight.
MettleAngel: You are both welcome! Now I will go in and check out Bonded By Blood for the first time, "Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles"!