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Zephaniah: A New Chapter in the “Book of Metal”
By Sean Smith
Fort Wayne Reader
You may not know how to pronounce Zephaniah (say: Zeff Uh Nigh Uh) and that's okay. All you need to know about is their music. That's really all that matters to the members of the band. Logan Detwiler (vocals), Tyson Miller (lead guitar), Justin Zych (lead guitar), Tyler Sumwalt (bass) and Ian Bender (drums) play heavy metal music, or power metal to be specific, and their secret weapon is Detwiler. Why? Because he actually sings. Any of these guys will be the first to tell you that their music, and in particular Detwiler's vocals, aren't popular right now, but they wouldn't have it any other way. This is a group of guys who are truly doing what they love to do on their own terms and with a very real passion and determination about it.
Zephaniah got underway in 2005 when Zych founded the group, but shortly after the band's original bassist left the group. "Justin and I play in another band, Under the Wake, and we started out at the same time," shares Bender, "That's how we met. His bass player quit and then I joined Zephaniah, too. Then half the band quit, so I switched to drums, because we couldn't find a drummer. Then we found the other three guys."
After finding the right mix of musicians, the band soon found the right mix of music. Bender says that when Zephaniah first started playing music they were pursuing a more classic rock sound. But after discovering that there was a shared love for fantasy among the new line-up, the songwriting soon took off in that direction. The band's website proclaims that they are 'putting the 'W' back in sWord,' but they are just as likely putting the 'M' back in Mythological metal. "We all like fantasy. All of our songs tell stories and are based on fantasy and swords, battles and cool stuff like that," says Bender, "It's what the band has become, over time."
Detwiler's vocals, which Bender refers to as 'clean singing,' are front and center and clear as a bell. They ought to be, considering he studied opera for four years. He even participated in a competition his junior year of high school and received second place. The current high school senior says that he could pursue scholarships for his vocal talents, but he is dedicated to the band.
Speaking of dedicated, the band's fans are truly that and have become a vital part of the band's live show. Since most bands that play heavy music these days have vocalists that either scream or 'gargle,' Zephaniah is truly unique. "We recently played a show with a band that told us we were the only band that they knew of within a six state radius. We don't scream and that sets us apart. Most bands are screaming or hardcore. The bands that are singing are alternative," explains Detwiler, "It's a great genre that's not tapped into. It's more fun and people come up to us often and tell us how nice it is to actually hear someone sing. I like to keep the audience pumped. If they are happy, then I'm happy."
Bender echoes that, "Our crowd is the most important part of our show. If we didn't have a crowd, we wouldn't have a show. We like to put on the best show we can."
That includes all things high energy and theatrical, including a handful of guitar 'tricks.' "There's a lot of stage tricks with guitars," points out Bender. Detwiler tells me that Miller and Zych at one point in the show put their guitars behind them and then lean over and begin to play the guitars that are now resting on the other's back. It's something has to be seen to be believed. "Anything to make people excited," laughs Bender.
But, the band stops short of dressing like some of their musical heroes. As it turns out they don't wear a lot of loinclothes or studded leather. "We dress pretty normal. Logan has some leather pants that he wears on stage sometimes," admits Bender, "We're not that big, I don't think we could pull that kind of attire off yet."
With the band having a difficult enough time booking shows, it's no wonder they want to lay off of the costumes for now. Getting gigs is not impossible for the band, but it certainly isn't as easy as it would be if Detwiler were to start sounding like he was chewing glass while amplified through a megaphone. Still, they have established a few favorite places to play around town. "We play the Berlin Pub quite a bit. That's a newer place and it's a really good place for kind of music. It's not like a college rock bar, it's more of a metal bar," says Bender, "We get a lot of cool people out there."
Detwiler favors The Brass Rail. "The environment is really cool. It's been really friendly. It's not a huge amount of space, but the space is used well."
But fans of the band might be running out of chances to see them play locally. The band has just completed their debut album and will set out on tour soon after its release. The band began writing the album last summer and after playing a show with Wisconsin band Dark Shift, they found the right person to produce their album. "The guitarist told us he had a studio, so we checked out his songs and they had a good quality and it was really affordable. So, we decided to go up there and he's into the style of music we play. It was a pretty good fit," recalls Bender.
The resulting album, Stories From the Book of Metal, will be released March 1st and the band is playing Sunset Hall to celebrate the occasion. Under the Wake will be releasing their new album, A Frail Grip On Reality, the same evening and playing the Sunset stage along with Imminent Demise, 80,000 Dead, Blood Reckoning and Act of War. The show starts at 6 p.m. and tickets are available for $7 in advance or $8 at the door.
Both bands will be selling their albums for $10 and more information can be found at myspace.com/zephaniahband or myspace.com/underthewake