Native New Englanders: Meliah Rage
By: Kara Roger
Formed in the greater Boston, Massachusetts area in 1987, Meliah Rage is a speed/thrash metal band formed by rhythm guitarist and songwriter Anthony Nichols, a former member of the punk band Gang Green. Originally, the band’s lineup consisted of Nichols, along with singer Mike Munro, bassist Jesse Johnson, drummer Stu Dowie, and guitarist Jim Koury. Allegedly taking their name from the Meliah Native American tribe’s ritual of ingesting opium prior to engaging in battle, Meliah Rage actually received their name from Jim Koury’s previous band, “Meliah Kraze,” and to date, there is no Native nation that recognizes a tribe possessing the title “Meliah,” however, the fictional name does pave the way for a legendary backstory, should the band ever embrace such a prospect.
Nichols has claimed he was heavily influenced in his youth by The Rolling Stones, so much so, that “Jumping Jack Flash” was the first song that he learned to play from beginning to end. Additional inspiration came from
Image: Meliah Rage
Image: Meliah Rage
Riding the heavy metal wave of the 1980s, after producing a demo, Meliah Rage received recording deals in 1988 from both Atlantic Records and Epic Records. Since Epic very quickly offered the band a three record deal, Meliah Rage signed with them and in 1989 embarked upon their first tour, supporting Metal Church, a match-up that would be repeated again in 2007. While Anthony Nichols supplied a majority of the creative juices for the first two records, Kill to Survive (1988) and Live Kill (1989), Meliah Rage generally created their songs via musical banter, or rather everyone throwing around ideas to see what sticks. As the band progressed through writing 1990’s Solitary Solitude, there was a shift to having Nichols write most of the material, although Jim Koury did write all of the music for two of the songs on that release. The band became heavy hitters in the metal realm, particularly following their MTV debut with their video for “Beginning of the End.” Within a year and a half, Meliah Rage then went on to complete show dates with
Manowar, Megadeth, Slayer, Testament, and Overkill, just to name a few.
And then a wave of grunge seeping out of Seattle blew up the music industry. Record companies dropped heavy metal artists without a second thought, even though the fan base was still there. Realistically, grunge is heavy, so metal bands could have fared far better than they did during the 1990s, had they retained the continued support of major labels. In 1993, Meliah Rage went dormant while band members sought side projects to extend their personal repertoires. Nichols involvement in the band Cactus Land produced an album through Aureus Records, however, after much time, effort, and financial investment, the label scrapped the project due to distribution issues, and to this day, neither Nichols, nor the band know what became of the recordings, as the master tapes were lost by the label.
After Meliah Rage took some time to recharge and reevaluate, in 1995 Backstreet Records contacted the band, who then had Bob Mayo (from the band Wargasm) on bass and Dave Barcos playing drums, and asked them to record another album. The band understood that the big labels were still sucking at the teat of the grunge-whore, and that smaller, independent record companies were going to be their best bet if they wanted to stay in the music business. Unfortunately, at this point in time, the paucity of support for heavy metal created a worldwide depression for the entire genre, forcing many groups who lacked financial support to disband. Other musicians produced and released their own work, or established their own labels in an attempt to keep metal alive. Then, after issuing Death Valley Dream, Meliah Rage disappeared. Vocalist Mike Munro began working as a carpenter, reconnected with God, married, and started a family. Nichols and Koury became more invested in their Harley Davidsons than heavy metal, and the future of Meliah Rage dissipated into uncertainty.
Photo: Meliah Rage Facebook
At the turn of the century, Screaming Ferret Wreckords, a label from the north woods of New Hampshire, contacted Meliah Rage and aided in their 2002 re-release of Unfinished Business (first issued in 1999, and later re-issued in 2007), a title that was apropo, as the band reignited themselves with the addition of Godsmack’s multi-instrumental frontman, Sully Erna, on drums, and Clark Lush (and then Keith Vogele) on bass. At some point within this time frame, it should be noted that Bruce Black also spent some time behind the drum kit. While the Screaming Ferret Wreckords label was assessing the amount of
interest and sales they could generate by including Erna in the mix, like a seismometer, the company was also gauging the reverberations of metal rippling its way across the Atlantic. Europeans were thrashing to the oldies, and the Metal Renaissance had begun. Nichols looked around and noted that many fellow bands from the 1980s had begun recording new albums and scheduling tours, so again, Meliah Rage reformed and began work on their next release, Barely Human.
With the realization that Mike Munro would no longer be Meliah Rage’s frontman, Anthony Nichols turned to his friend and singer from Cactus Land, Paul Souza. The album Barely Human, which saw the return of Jesse Johnson on bass and included Barry Spillberg on drums, had already been written before Souza stepped up to the mic, but even with his minimal initial input into the tracks, his vocals aided the band in propelling the album onto numerous top ten lists. Souza, whose first musical memory was watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show when he was 3, brought along his own inspirations, some that overlapped with the band, like the Stones, and others that dabbled in other genres. His eclectic preferences include the sounds of Motown’s R&B with Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson; the artistry of Peter Gabriel, the intensity of John Bonham, and the alternative allure of Alice in Chains, Foo Fighters, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam.
Image: Meliah Rage
In 2006, again with Screaming Ferret Wreckords, Meliah Rage released their seventh LP, The Deep and Dreamless Sleep, which has been deemed by the band as their most lacklustre production, as even Nichols admitted that the attempt to create a mid tempo album with hooks resulted in only an adequate release. Fortunately, all growth and change create lessons and enable refocus and redirection. Upon reuniting with Metal Church on tour, and being joined by Overkill as well, 2007 saw friction building between Paul Souza and the other band members, which resulted in a minor break up of sorts. The following year, Nichols reached out to Meliah Rage’s former vocalist for a social excursion, and the two found that Mike Munro was in high demand, as friends and fans asked him to lend his vocals to yet another Meliah Rage recording.
After Munro finally consented to tentatively rejoin the band, the resulting 2009 album, Masquerade, returned Meliah Rage to their heavier roots; Munro brought back the raw
aggression, the guitar riffs are outrageous, the production is stellar, and the song “Last Rites” also features a guest appearance by Ronny Munroe of Metal Church. Some fans embraced the album, while others were put off by the religious overtones incorporated into Munro’s lyrics. Regardless of lyrical content, the album was a success, however, upon its completion, Munro again departed to focus upon his work with the church, and Screaming Ferret Wreckords dissolved as a label.
Realizing that Screaming Ferret Wreckords had ceased activity, the independent label Metal on Metal Records contacted Meliah Rage with a one record deal, and with the need for a frontman, Nichols again reached out to Paul Souza. Dead to the World, released in 2011, is musically a beautifully structured album containing solid instrumental excerpts, with its lyrics alluding to a dismal, dark, torturous existence. Souza’s loss of his mother and his niece, along with other personal issues, sent him into a deep depression. Each day became a struggle for him to endure, and at one point, even waking up was far too difficult. After Souza denied the debilitating depression for too long, and almost losing himself in the process, with the help of his family and professional help, the clouds finally lifted. Dead to the World was instrumental in Souza’s healing process; it was a creative outlet, a way to express and release his emotional demons, and the therapeutic catharsis he needed to put his life back on track.
Photo: Janeé Cicero
Three years later, in 2014, the melodic yet aggressive album Warrior presented Marc Lopes, who stepped in as vocalist for Meliah Rage in 2013. Shortly thereafter, the band put out the compilation Before the Kill in 2015, containing a total of 16 tracks, four of which are from the first demo released in 1987, three are live cuts from 1988, one song is from the second demo of 1987, and another four are from a recently recovered 1986 live rehearsal tape, featuring Mark Mastroianni on vocals. In
2017, Marc Lopes eventually departed to be the new voice for Ross Friedman’s post-Manowar band, Ross the Boss.
And now that the boney fingers of the Metal Renaissance have America in its clutches, Meliah Rage rises again with their most recent album, Idol Hands, which returns Paul Souza to the microphone, and along with Anthony Nichols, completes the line-up with Stu Dowie, Darren Lourie, and Jim Koury. Assisted in production by Josh Groban, Nichols is pleased with this release, asserting that its short, quick, thrashy tunes, mid tempo pace, and catchy, yet fast, structured riffs reveal the heart of this band. His favorite tunes from this 2018 album are the title track, “Idol Hands,” and “Infernal Bleeding,” a dark, slow, grindy, evil song; Souza, whose vocals were produced by Rich Spillberg (of Wargasm), appreciates the song “Sentenced to Life,” and while he claims he is not promoting any particular political view, he also has an affinity for “Absolute Power,” a song that is inspired by current events, and embraces every American’s First Amendment right to the freedom of speech.
Furthermore, Meliah Rage is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the album Killing to Survive with the eventual issue of a deluxe edition boxed set by Hammerheart Records, in collaboration with Metal on Metal Records. This edition will include a remastered release, pictures, and potential bonus material, depending upon various label rights. At the penning of this history, Wargasm’s Bob Mayo is diligently working on the liner notes for this box o’ goodies, however, a release date has yet to be announced.
Regardless of the musicians who have entered the realm of Meliah Rage and then departed for various reasons, it has always remained the band’s credo that there will be no Meliah Rage if there are not at least three original members anchoring the line-up. Fortunately, Meliah Rage perseveres and rages onward into the future with Idol Hands, which harnesses all of the same power and drive that the band possessed in their earlier years. And with heavy metal and its numerous subgenres on a steady rise, along with a masterful new album, there is no doubt that Meliah Rage will reestablish itself as a monumental musical totem of East Coast Metal.
Discography of Meliah Rage:
Demos: 2 in 1987 and 1 in 1991
Singles: “Enter the Darkness” 1988
“No Mind” 1990
“Cold Cruel Fate” 2011
“These Scars” 2013
EPs: Live Kill 1989 (CBS/Epic)
LPs: Kill to Survive 1988 (CBS/Epic)
Solitary Solitude 1990 (CBS/Epic)
Death Valley Dream 1996 (BSR/ Locomotive)
Unfinished Business 2002 (1992) (Screaming Ferret Wreckords)
Barely Human 2004 (Screaming Ferret Wreckords)
The Deep and Dreamless Sleep 2006 (SFW/Universal Fontana)
Masquerade 2009 (Metro City/SFW)
Dead to the World 2011 (Metal on Metal)
Warrior 2014 (Metal on Metal)
Before the Kill (Compilation) 2015 (Metal on Metal)
Dead to the World 2018 Edition (Metal on Metal)
Idol Hands 2018 (Metal on Metal)
Metal on Metal Records
Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath,and AC/DC, among many others. He has always found personal appeal in heavy rhythm guitar and the intricate harmonies posed by bands such as Iron Maiden, Megadeth, and Metallica. But loud music with dark overtones, that is in his DNA; Slayer or Exodus could pump his blood as easily as The Misfits, along with all of the energy that the punk genre has to offer. Nichols also finds solace in the dark, desperate, ominous voices of metal.