Photo Credit: Stephanie Cosenza

Each week, this column features a Q&A with a “next generation” death metal representative from the Lone Star State. Through a series of questions, we look to uncover what connects these death metal acts from various cities around the state. We dig into details about specific members musical upbringing, local inspirations, and the various characteristics that make up the spirit of Texas death metal. View our previous guests here.

The fourth installment of the Texas Takeover brings us over to Dallas to check in with the more beatdown-oriented death metal group I Am. Since forming in 2010, the band have released two EP’s and two full-lengths, with 2018’s Hard 2 Kill representing their last offering. On Hard 2 Kill, I Am forged a full-length, bone-crushing beatdown filled with pulverizing breakdowns and addicting riffs. There is a mixture of heavy metal, hardcore, and death metal, all driven by the demons of their growling beast of a vocalist.

The band signed a deal with Entertainment One (eOne) in early 2020 and have plans to release their third LP soon. We caught up with guitar player Tom Reyes to discover more about his Texas roots.

What are some of the things you cherish about having grown up in Texas?

I like that Texas is so diverse. It’s a 13-hour drive from one end of the state to the other, so I feel like there’s something for everyone here. You got your big cities, small towns, and everything in between. I like to think Southern hospitality plays somewhat of a part in who I am. I’ve also enjoyed growing up around my Tejano roots.

Was it common for a lot of you musicians to grow up in a household with music playing? If so, what sorts of music were you guys hearing at a young age, and what was the climate of music culture like in Texas overall growing up?

My older brothers played piano and guitar, so I did grow up around music. Heard a lot of classical music and Christian radio (haha). I can’t say I was really aware of any music scenes until I was about 15, but when I got involved, it seemed there were tons of cool bands poppin’ off left and right. 

If you can recall, what were your parents’ reactions to the death metal style upon first hearing it? Was this something that they grew to understand or still can’t get into? 

I think my parents had the same reaction most do. Like the whole, “I can’t understand what he’s saying” thing or, “this sounds angry.” Since then, I don’t think it has grown on them, but I do enjoy talking to them about music, so I’ll explain the musical elements going on that appeal to me.

Has a community developed around some of the more recent death metal bands in Texas? Is it important to you guys to support the other bands from your home state?

I think a community definitely has developed. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel like all of us here in Texas are sort of in this together, so I take pride in what’s happening here, musically. Texas bands have each other’s backs.

If you were to think about it for a moment, what are the core elements that make up the collective spirit of the Texas death metal sound?

It’s a little hard to pinpoint exactly what it is because each band here is putting their own spin on it and bringing their own personality. Ultimately, Texas Death Metal is aggressive, raw, and heavier than hell. 

A lot of the bands I enjoy from Texas as of late are extremely heavy and in-your-face; what do you guys attribute that to?

That’s tough. On my end, I can’t really say there’s a conscious effort to be super “heavy” in a traditional sense. It’s more so writing what I think sounds cool. Pantera definitely is an influence, as well many other bands from the ’80s and ’90s across all the different styles of metal. I think appreciation for where metal came from plays a role in the “throwback” sound.

On the death metal side, I’m drawn to Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Bolt Thrower, Entombed, etc. On the newer end, Mammoth Grinder, Malignant Altar, and honestly I’m a super big fan of my DFW fellas in Creeping Death and Frozen Soul. Some of my favorites right there.

Who would you consider as local (hometown or statewide) trailblazers for the genre of death metal, and was the fact that these bands were from your home state an inspiration for you to grow as a band?

I consider Mammoth Grinder to be some of the hardest death metal from Texas. The different things they’ve done with death metal throughout their discography is so sick. It definitely is inspiring to be from the same state and makes you really wanna go for it.

In what ways have you guys thrived or continued your mission as a band during the pandemic of 2020, and what are your hopes for the future of your band ahead?

The pandemic hit at a decent time for us. We were scheduled to hit the studio the summer after lockdown, so it gave me time to really focus and go as hard as we can writing it. Not sure when things will be back to normal, but we hope to pick up where we left off. I’m really proud of this new record and think it’ll be huge for us, so I’m optimistic about our future.

Listen to I Am on Bandcamp here.

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