By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
Kronow's new van is an eyesore. There's a sheet of plywood bolted to the passenger-side sliding door where a window used to be. The vehicle has oxidized so badly that its paint job, presumably once a deep shade of maroon, is now faded like a month-old bruise. If this van were a house, it would be condemned.
But compared to how this metal act is accustomed to traveling -- with all five members crammed into the cab of James Brennan's 2003 GMC Sierra truck -- the dilapidated, twelve-passenger van feels like a posh tour bus. Yesterday, it took the band from Denver to Casper, where Kronow performed before a packed house of rabid, mostly teenage fans. Now, at 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, the van is on its way from Wyoming to Loveland for another show. Guitarist Randy Brodzik is taking his turn behind the wheel; on the passenger side, Brennan stares intently out the window at a hilly landscape that hasn't changed for the past hour. Drummer Rick Gilmore is in the middle seat, thumbing through a recent issue of Game Informer. The two remaining band members -- guitarist Nathan Salas and Forest, the act's uni-monikered bassist -- are sprawled out on a couple of mattresses in the back, sleeping off the remnants of a night that ended at 6 a.m. with all five musicians piling into a postage-stamp-sized hotel room. Comfort be damned, Brennan and his crew are hell-bent on making this their life.
"That's the dream for all of us," Brennan declares. "And we all know what kind of sacrifice and what kind of commitment it takes. I think we've all accepted that. We also know that we're not in the right business or the right genre of music to become superstars and super-rich. I mean, the superstars in our genre -- there's only a handful that have made it, like Slipknot, Lamb of God and guys like that. But all the other, smaller bands like Sworn Enemy and Six Feet Under -- they live day to day, you know? And we all recognize that might be our fate."
Strange talk coming from a man who holds a master's degree in strategic management from the University of Southern California. Stranger still to watch the tall, slender New York native transform from a clean-cut fashionista clad in Diesel jeans and designer shirt (imagine Vince Vaughn auditioning for the role of Derek Zoolander) into Kronow's bulging-veined, demonic-grimacing frontman.
"In my business, in my day-to-day life, people would have no clue that I do this," he admits. "I mean, they know it, but they don't know what it is or to what extent it is. If they look at just that side of my life, they'd be like, 'Well, what the fuck is he doing? Why is he still hanging out with those guys? Why is he going out and getting in mosh pits and getting a black eye? What the hell?' But the people who know me, they know that if I wasn't doing this, I'd be going freaking insane; they know I'd be going crazy. It's just part of who each of us are. And if we weren't doing this, we'd be miserable."
Many people have trouble understanding the allure of heavy metal, a genre that's noisy, chaotic and testosterone-fueled. For the members of Kronow, though, metal is their salvation. "It's always been a part of my life," says Brodzik. "It's the way that it makes your heart feel, the way it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you hear the riffs." That power and intensity is the musical life force that has sustained these musicians since they were teenagers. But Gilmore had to keep his love of metal under wraps.
"Every CD I ever had had to be screened by my parents," he recalls. "If it had a cuss word or a bad message, it was thrown away. But then, I had 300 CDs hidden under my bed. I would just go buy them and stash them in a book of CDs that I hid under my mattress. I'd throw all the cases away so I wouldn't have any evidence. Basically, though, they found it. They did the whole parents-search-your-room thing. They found this huge book of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer -- oh, they did not like the Slayer. My dad said, 'Since you spent so much money on this, I won't throw them away. But you can't have them.' So he gave me permission to sell them to my friends. I'd have a friend come over, and I'd give him forty bucks of my own money and be like, 'I'm going to go downstairs, and I want you to buy Pantera, Far Beyond Driven, Megadeth and this and that.' So we'd exchange the money in front of my dad and my dad would give him the CDs. Then we'd go upstairs and he'd give 'em back to me. I got every last one of them back that way. And I kept 'em in my locker at school after that."