"We've always, always been a live band," says drummer Shannon Larkin of his band, Wrathchild America. "It's hard to explain, but we just love to play. Even if we're off, we'll play in the garage. It's just something we do."
BTC That propensity for playing out was what ultimately put Wrathchild America on the map. Even before this Baltimore-area quartet landed a record deal (in 1988 with Atlantic Records), it had spent some six years on the road, playing heavy metal clubs across the United States and Canada.
It was a great way to build a reputation. Unfortunately, as the band discovered when it began work on its first album, "Climbin' the Walls," club work did nothing to prepare Wrathchild for the recording studio.
"We were so green when we did the first one," admits Larkin. "We'd toured for six years, and only went into a studio one time, to do the demo that got us signed. And then we got a major deal, went into a major studio, and ended up putting out an album that sounded majorly bad."
Not to worry, though -- the band learned its lesson. With "3-D," an album that matches the simple intensity of Iron Maiden with the instrumental precision of Metallica, Wrathchild America has definitely moved into the big leagues. One track, "Surrounded by Idiots," has already become a favorite at heavy metal radio stations, and the band recently completed a pair of videos for MTV's "Headbanger's Ball."
Larkin credits the band's rapid improvement to a change in its writing routine. "Before, when we were touring constantly, a song would be written by one person and just brought to the rest of the guys," he explains. "Whereas this time, we actually got two months off to get together, go into a garage, and write. So that's why we showed more of our talent musically."
It also helped that the band had recruited a sympathetic producer, Alex Perialas, for the second album. "On the first album, I was scared to death, I couldn't feel natural," says Larkin. "You're under a magnifying glass when you're in the studio. Every little note counts. That's why it's so much pressure."
Perialas, he says, "gave us tranquillity. He taught us how to lock ++ in on something, how, if you're really having trouble on a part, to get everything else out of your mind and lock in on that part. Just nail it."
Consequently, Larkin and his bandmates are quite proud of the album. "It's pretty different than your usual thrash band," he says. "We like to go off the deep end. Before the album came out, we played a lot of new stuff and it got a really good response from the crowds. It wasn't as good a response as we would have expected, but that was because they didn't know any of the music.
"But now that it's on record, when people get a chance to listen to it, they love it."
When: March 15, 9 p.m.
Where: Hammerjacks, 1102 S. Howard St.