My co-Author IntoTheDarkness turned me on to Texas in July this past summer not long after they released their full-length CD I Am. I liked it immediately and have found myself going back to it periodically since then (and I’ll eventually explain why). When I first started listening to I Am, I knew nothing about the band and there wasn’t a lot to learn on the netz, though I did discover that despite their band name the guys were from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. (As a native Texan, I was a little disappointed by that discovery, but managed to get over it.)
Recently, after one of my periodic returns to I Am, I decided to hunt the web again for more info and found a lot more than when I looked the first time 6 months ago. For one thing, the band’s MySpace page now shows more than 1 million song plays, which is a shit-load. And I found that the band had released an EP called Salt of the Earth in October 2008 (both releases are now available on iTunes). I also found all sorts of on-the-surface reasons why the odds would be against me liking this band.
First, they’re really young (ages 16-18, and two of them still in high school) and I’m really not. I’ve found very few metal bands that young who have enough song-writing sophistication and playing chops to be worth more than a brisk once-over. Second, look at that photo above: kind of screams “Emo!” doesn’t it? Third, their label (CI Records) bills them as a Christian metalcore band. Now don’t get me wrong — they’re some bands stuck in that same genre pigeon-hole that I really like (e.g., August Burns Red) — but it’s not a long list. My tastes these days tend to run toward the more brutal end of the extreme metal spectrum.
But against all these odds, I’m still addicted to Texas in July. Call it a guilty pleasure. And the source of the appeal, as it should be, is the music. To explain . . .It’s plenty heavy — heavier than I would have expected based on the superficial facts listed above. Intricate, blistering drumwork meshed with melodic-death style, down-tuned riffing and plenty of crushing, layered breakdowns. And Alex Good delivers with a combination of outstanding hardcore howling and death-metal gutterals. But what really draws me back to I Am again and again are the melodic hooks worked into each song by the superb guitar work of Christian Royer. They make each song distinct and memorable, and ultimately that’s what brings me back to I Am — that combination of melodies that stick in my head, intelligently interwoven with honest, blast-furnace brutality.
And that turns the youthfulness factor of this band on its head — because they definitely don’t sound like a bunch of teenagers just starting out. These guys are already accomplished song-writers and skilled musicians, way beyond their years. They remind me of three bands I like a lot rolled into one — Darkest Hour, August Burns Red, and Impending Doom. I’m truly perplexed about how these guys learned their craft so well at such an early age. And, by the way, where did 5 dudes from PA come up with a name like Texas in July?
Young they may be, but they’ve already had one traumatic experience most of us are lucky enough to avoid our whole lives: this past summer they had a head-on collision with another car while on tour. It left all the band members with varying degrees of injury and cost the life of the other driver. Keep that in mind when you watch the following live performance video, which includes my favorite song off I Am,”It’s Not My First Rodeo.” Royer and bassist Ben Witkowski use crutches to hobble on stage and then perform the set while seated, and through it all, while riffing the hell out of his guitar, Royer’s got the most infectious grin on his face. Ah, the resilience of youth . . . .