Officer X conjure up a heavy storm on debut album ‘Hell Is Coming’.
Hell is coming. Look busy. Because the sound rising up from the fiery gates below comes from Officer X, as the Boston heavy rock brigade unleashes debut album Hell Is Coming on Friday, September 30.
A steady storm of hard rock fury and traditional heavy metal brimstone, the quartet’s inaugural record burns through the speakers via a trio of formats – compact disc, cassette, and digital.
The release of Hell Is Coming is a pivotal moment for the band, one unbothered by current musical trends and indifferent to what others think a convergence of hard and heavy music should sound like in 2022. Inspired by the new wave of traditional heavy metal that combines the majesty of Maiden, the dreamworld of Dio, and the power of Priest, Officer X formed a few short years back by a pair of longtime conspirators in vocalist and guitarist Rodrigo van Stoli (Bang Camaro, Gymnasium) and bassist and vocalist Peet Golan (Spring Heeled Jack), rounded out just recently as a proper quartet alongside guitarist Robbie Davis and drummer Dave Barresi.
The timeline leading up to the LP’s release was marked by lineup changes, a pandemic pause, and a series of events and releases that quickly proved Officer X was out on their own shit entirely: A coming out appearance at the 2019 Rock and Roll Rumble; the release of the explosive “Lady Soledad” in Fall 2021, and this spring’s blistering “Moon Man” crashing down to Earth in April. Now, a mad dash to the album is under way: A performance video for “Hellfire” on September 14, a record release party at O’Brien’s in Allston on September 24, and finally, almighty, the unleashing of Hell Is Coming on September 30.
Officer X is: Rodrigo van Stoli: Vocals and guitar Peet Golan: Bass and vocals Robbie Davis: Guitar Dave Barresi: Drums
With the album, Officer X is finally, truly, awakened.
“We are listening to these recordings again after a long break, and it’s good stuff,” admits van Stoli. “There’s a side of the band that people haven’t heard yet, and it will be great to get that feedback. One of the best things about it is that it sets us up to finalize a new batch of tunes. We have progressed as musicians and songwriters in the last few years, and I am excited about where we are going.”
Adds Golan: “I feel like we have been holding on to this for so long. It’s been our little secret from Covid times. We were waiting for things to get back to somewhat normal so we can go out and support the record. So it’s time.”
Across the album’s eight powerful tracks, Officer X take influences from the crackle and hiss of the records and tapes we grew up with, the late nights spent worshiping the metal gods on Headbanger’s Ball, and glossy magazine pages that made titans of the genre appear larger than life. But while they never set out to be a quote-unquote metal band, the sound conjured up by von Stoli and Golan just gravitated to what they shared a love for.
“I know we use the word ‘metal’ a lot, and I am a metalhead for sure, but that was never really the idea behind the band,” van Stoli confesses. “It was more about writing songs, and because of our common influences they turned out to be heavy tunes. My favorite ‘metal’ bands never set out to be metal bands, they just played loud rock with tons of riffs, and the metal label was applied to them later. I see us more as heavy rock n roll, and we definitely achieved that.”
Though this is the debut Officer X album, Golan admits the band has already evolved quite a bit since inception. That’s on grand display throughout Hell Is Coming, from the mountainous chants and magnetic pull of “The Red Prince” to the anti-war sentiment and unrelenting riff brigade of “Incandescent” to the groove lightning and bassline gallop of “Hellfire,” the chorus of which is where the LP’s moniker is derived.
“We were initially going to have the album be self-titled,” Golan says. “We had been making edits to the ‘Hellfire’ video and the hook of that song is ‘hell is coming’… it got in my head from watching it so many times. I hit up Rod and asked what he thought, and he was all for it! I mean, we are not lying. Hell is coming, it could already be here depending on what your situation is.”
Another highlight off the record is “The City and the Stars,” an epic medieval ballad that was inspired by Boston musician and Officer X friend Chad Raleigh (The Rationales, Lonely Leesa & The Lost Cowboys, Ringtail), who posted an acoustic composition on the internet during the pandemic. van Stoli envisioned a melody over it, and Raleigh was gracious to allow the band to expand upon it. Golan wrote a fretless bassline, van Stoli added melody and keys, and soon an Officer X anthem, sure to inspire many a lit Bic lighter to be thrust into the air, was born. “We gave it the Officer X treatment,” van Stoli says, “and I think it’s one of the best things we have done.”
It’s got competition. The new tracks on the record are a kinetic complement to the LP’s two prior singles, the galactic “Moon Man” and soaring “Lady Soledad,” which the band were sure to use as an introductory salute.
“They are two sides of the band that I believe should be represented upfront,” van Stoli confirms. “‘Lady Soledad’ is more NWOBHM metal, with some Queensryche thrown in. Epic, operatic, cinematic. ‘Moon Man’ is more of a straight-forward rocker. I am not sure it’s even metal, it’s just a rock and roll song. We do both, and these singles make sure we don’t get pigeon-holed as either. I am proud of how varied it is. I hope the next album will be even more diverse.”
By then, we’ll all know Officer X by name.