Sunday, February 4, 2007


This is my original review which appeared on the EVERYDAY'S A MORDRED DAY website:
Scott Holderby - Vocals
Danny White - Guitars
Jim Taffer - Guitars
Art Liboon - Bass
Gannon Hall - Drums
Aaron (Pause) Vaughn - Turntables
Tracks: 1) State Of Mind 2) Spectacle Of Fear 3) Everyday's A Holiday 4) Spellbound 5) Sever & Splice 6) The Artist 7) Shatter 8) Reckless Abandon 9) Super Freak 10) Numb
When Mordred burst onto the scene, via Noise Records, with their debut record Fool’s Game, many people in the underground scene, whether press or fans, probably expected just another Bay Area ‘thrash’ record. This wouldn’t have been a bad thing, as during the late 1980’s, the San Francisco thrash scene was blossoming. Bands from New York to L.A. such as Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Testament and Exodus had already broken the heavy metal rules by playing a fast-paced, aggressive style of ‘metal’ that opposed all the ‘poser’ disguises, and relied on a furious, raw barrage of crunchy riffs, growled, seething vocals and vigorous drum blasts. To be a ‘thrasher’ was cool, during a time when metal was either sleazy, ‘glammy’ and leathery, or ‘devil’-induced but almost as corny as many artists waffled on about the dark side, drinking beer and girls, all the while being backed up by a plodding sound that was made world famous by artists such as Ozzy Ozbourne, Motley Crue and Kiss. Thrash was different. But so were Mordred.

The Mordred sound was fresh and exciting, despite lacking the true originality of their next effort, 1991’s In This Life. This defining quality was mostly down to the soulful, clear vocal delivery of Scott Holderby, and as time went by he would be put within a bracket of metal singers which ‘cool’ as a description, would be an understatement. Fool’s Game had the vital ingredient for the time; crunch. Riffs supplied by Danny White and Jim Taffer, skin-pounding from Gannon Hall and a grooved bass bellow from Art Liboon, and it certainly was an album of grooves despite having the usual thrash relation, which other bands such as Forbidden, Violence and Defiance took on board. And then there was the DJ! Aaron ‘Pause’ Vaughn who was to eventually become a full-time member of the band when they realised his street-wise scratchings were vital to their downtown atmospheres and industrial raps. On Fool’s Game it was the cover of Rick James’ Super Freak and the colourful Everyday’s A Holiday that set the standard for something very different. At the time ‘funkier’ rock acts such as Fishbone and Red Hot Chili Peppers were only just beginning to get noticed, their ‘sound’ perceived as far too different to melt into the world of heavy metal, so at the time this showed an almost ignorance within the scene and the press who said that ‘crossover’ was a risky business, because at the time, ‘metallers’ didn’t want any kind of rap, funk or soulful influence, but just straight down the line head-melting metal. Mordred suggested otherwise, despite the album’s classic moments coming from the thrash groove of State Of Mind and typical thrash chant of Shatter.
Lyrically here was a band shifting from political topics to random fun, all given that extra bite from the surging crunch sound, and Scott’s effortless, soulful croons which could at one moment become spiteful spits and the next, soothing, elasticated funky drools. Fool’s Game wasn’t really a hint as to what was to come, but Mordred had obviously found their niche early simply by risking the inclusion of a DJ, and giving their thrash crunch an interesting groove. It was now a matter of time before the crunch of Spellbound, or the pounding of Reckless Abandon would be tweaked into a cutting edge, self-styled groove way ahead of its time. But would the world be ready for Mordred ? Would metal be too restricted, too stale even for a band clearly light years ahead, yet risking being left behind due to lack of conformity ? No-one quite knew, but Fool’s Game was certainly one of the records that began a trend, that made ‘metal’ what it is today.

It's difficult to say as to whether a majority of today's crossover acts would exist if it were not for the Mordred sound, but what is certain is that the 'moment' which Mordred represented is most definitely a period of time within the metal genre that was far more important than many at the time realised, and Fool's Game remains one of the most important 'thrash' records of its era, and still sounds excitingly fresh today.



BrianT said... recollection of Modred's formation is different.

The band was formed by Alex Gerould with Steve Skates and Josh Juska. Mordred was Alex's name, and Alex definitely drove the band. I was there for their first recording at a rented studio, and the lineup was Alex, Steve, Josh, Art, and a drummer that did not last long at all whose name I don't recall.

Practices all took place in Alex's garage on 25th Ave. near Lake St., with a matress propped up against the door to dull the noise.

I still have cassette tapes of many of those practices and songs that were never released. The bands first gigs were at the Mabuhay (not sure of spelling, everyone just called it "the Mab" back then, across the street from The Stone) Gardens.

Josh Juska left the band and eventually Sven and Slade took over one guitar and drums, then Eric took over from Slade.

For me, Holderby is still a "recent" development ;), heh. I was never sure why Alex left the band and gave up the name, but he wrote or co-wrote at least half the songs on the first album, but did not get credits beyond his initials "A.G." it seemed like.

The only song to survive from Mordred's original lineup was Spellbound, though the lyrics were completely rewritten (I have the old version), which is why it has "J.J." on it's credit, Josh Juska wrote the main riff for that song. I convinced Alex not to drop that song from the band's lineup many times ;).

Anyway, I just wanted to set the record straight. Hey, Hiro ;).

Brian T. ("Tick")

BrianT said...

P.S. I joined the Air Force and was not around much around the time Alex left teh band and the first album was released...I did go to one or two practices with Holderby (and Danny). Alex used to like having me around becaise I had a ear for riffs and could tell Alex if a riff they had come up with sounded too much like another riff...if I'd been around right at the first album release I could have told them that one of the newer songs had a riff that sounds almost note for note like a riff from Venom's "Seven Gates of Hell" :). Oh well.

BrianT said...

P.P.S. The band definitely was formed before 1984. Alex and Steve and Josh were all in high school at the time and in fact Steve and Josh were freshmen or sophomores when when band formed. So, it was prior to summer of 1983 (when Alex and I graduated from St. Ignatius) or possibly even 1982...