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Overloaded by Cole Haddon

“We’re the new band for people who wish that Motley Crue, Megadeth, and Metallica could still write good songs,” Erik Kluiber declares. The lead guitarist for Overloaded makes no bones about where heavy metal has gone wrong, showing off a bit of the fuck-em-all chutzpah that has earned him his share of detractors and landed him in one or two fist fights. At times, even his band mates have to temper his ballsy mouth.

“No one sings anymore. They do this gargle stuff, like they’re sticking the goddamn mic down their throats. Now”—he points out, waving his hand dismissively-“apparently anyone can sing.”

“Musicianship just went out the window,” drummer Lorenzo “Zo” Gonzalez concludes. The poor guy showed up for this interview without a minute of sleep in more than forty-eight hours, having drove for the last eight hours from Ohio where he had to see a girl. His friends, the four other members of Overloaded—Kluiber, Chris Gillen (vocals), John Sullens (guitar), and Michael Massie (bass)—can’t help but give him shit about this, especially considering the gas prices today.

“And,” Sullens laughs, “of course there’re no chicks in Michigan, right?” He’s the “clean-cut” member of the band…well, clean enough.

With the group laughter comes a calmer Kluiber, who explains, “For the first time in metal, we’re trying to take it back. We kind of feel like metal took a wrong turn, okay. It was going and going and going, and then in 1995 all metal suddenly turned into death metal.”

“That’s when Pantera and Slayer redefined what it meant to be metal,” Gillen interrupts. The singer’s voice is garbled, drawled out; he’s still suffering from the previous night’s partying. When Massie later describes Gillen is “a walking energy drink with a megaphone for a mouth,” you can’t help but double-take.

“I love Pantera, don’t get me wrong,” Kluiber continues, “but the problem is they really pigeon-holed metal’s direction, so now everything is death metal. What I see us doing is going back to those crossroads and not choosing that death metal path. Forming a different path instead.”

“If that brings back a classic Eighties feel, hey, that’s fine,” Massie says.

And this is where Overloaded catches the most flak, perceived, as they have been, as nothing more than a wannabe Eighties rock band. It’s a label they can’t help but inspire with their fast, powerful, overtly aggressive music that begs to be played loud and performed with the theatrical melodrama that made glam rock so damn exciting. Nevertheless, they revitalized what would be a dated sound with potent infusions of modern rock, creating a hybrid of eras most closely mirrored in acts like Velvet Revolver and even British rockers The Darkness.

“Don’t confuse style with substance,” Massie points out. “Our style is often compared to the big metal bands of the early- to mid-’80’s like Motley Crüe, Cinderella and Metallica, but that’s only because we’re drawing from the same source of inspiration. Think about it—bands in the early 80s were 1-degree from the blues-influenced heavy metal sound of bands like Led Zeppelin, Cream, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, and Deep Purple. Today’s ‘musicians’ are drawing inspiration from the keyboard lines and synthesizer rhythms of the 90’s. That’s 83-degrees removed from anything remotely resembling real rock.”

One listen-through of their high-impact debut LP Hail to the Kingdom and all you’ll find is the sort of musicianship that make other musicians take note, like “King of the Landfill,” the song that spawned the album’s title: “Here’s the picture that we’re painting/Oily poisons and acid raining/Hail the kingdom we’re creating.” While at first blush it’s an atypically political song for the crew, it’s also, as Massie says, “about not being judgmental and opinionated without knowing what the fuck you’re talking about.” Take heed, Mr. Critic Man; there might be a target wrapped up in all that vitriol.

“Beaver Fever” is a, “Slinky bluesy hard rock, as if Angus Young and Slash had a child that was raised in a common law marriage of Pam Anderson and Tracii Lords. Of course, it’s about a girl, like every song should be” (Massie). While “Where Are the You Running To,” is not only one of the album’s slower, groovier tracks—it’s also about Gonzalez’s messy divorce.

Then there’s “Feeling Overloaded,” which is more than Overloaded’s biggest crowd pleaser with its thrashing guitars and booming vocals. It’s also part of the band’s secret origin: shh, don’t let the secret out…a lot of these guys belonged to another band before reforming as Overloaded. Like most musicians, they had humbler beginnings, in this case with a band called Inner Recipe; together four years, Kluiber, Sullens, and Gonzalez were all involved and churned out what they liked to call “that typically ’90’s introspective sound.” Things took a twist when Michael Massie joined, bringing with him a harder edge that didn’t sit well with Recipe’s lead singer, Gary Guzialek. It wasn’t long before Guzialek quit and Gillen was brought in.

“I walked into practice wasted, expecting to get fired for a lack of blending with the older material,” Gillen explains of the night it all came together, August 3, 2004. “With the normal mood of practice altered, Mike decided to run a couple of riffs he was wonking on, to see if he could spark some life back into the practice. Sure enough, he played the main riff to “Feeling Overloaded.””

“With “Feeling Overloaded,” Massie says, “it was like a light bulb went off in our collective minds. We were like, ‘This is it. This is the fucking sound.’”

Or, as Kluiber puts it: “The song changed the direction of the band from alt-tinged, wussy rock to heavy metal.”

It wasn’t long before Inner Recipe started looking for a new name to embody its faster, heavier direction. In the end, it was Gene Simmons who offered some advice backstage after Kiss’s 2004 Detroit concert. “He said, ‘Always go with the better name,’” explains Kluiber. Not long after, Inner Recipe played their final gig at Small’s in Hamtramck. At the end of the show, they announced the band’s new name—Overloaded.

A year later, with their Hail to the Kingdom LP already out and an upcoming EP (Hellfire) set to debut in November, 2005 has been Overloaded’s year. It’s only up from here.

“We’re real people who love playing music. We’re not going on stage wearing the latest fashion or following the most recent trend to try and make our way into any social circle,” Massie says, his final note. “Fuck that. What you see is what you get. We’re five guys having a great time on stage playing music and we’re asking everyone to join us.”