Something has been prowling the depths of the underground scene in Indianapolis for the past few years. It hisses and claws at the corners of perception, tempting the curious mind to explore further. From stage to stage, it has haunted the burrows of the now deceased Purple Underground and clamored in the spotlights of the archaic Emerson Theater. This thing has a name, and it is The Cadavers.
A jagged symbiosis of black leather, chrome piercings, stitch-work makeup and striking accents of unnatural hair color compose this outfit of five. Together, The Cadavers are responsible for a hard edge rendition of punk meets doom metal - rumbling drums layered with buzzsaw guitars dipped in stage blood, hammered by power chords and snarling with ferocious crossover riffs. Above the chaos comes a sinister crackling of vocals mixed with a higher and more melodious backup wail, bringing to the listener an apocalyptic world reduced to dust and bent upon its own destruction. Plainly spoken, The Cadavers play a brand of death rock that finds its roots in black metal and "80s hardcore, before slam dancing was called moshing.
In 1998, guitarist Scarecrow and bass player Corpse founded the group and spent much of their time, in Dru Cadaver"s words, "fucking around." It wasn"t until 2000 that the band formed a cohesive purpose and began playing shows in the various all-ages venues, with Scarecrow and Corpse still lingering in their teens.
The Angry Yellow Cadavers went through their share of bandmates, working through two singers, a drummer and eventually shortening their name to what it is today. Near the end of 2000, a more stable lineup was formed with the inclusion of Dru Cadaver behind the mic, formerly of a similar ghoul rock band, The Cryptomanics. Dru brought to the group fellow ex-Cryptomanic Dementia for a dual vocal spot, giving a counter texture in the way of a howling female voice.
From the basement to the stage, the founding members of the band feel the group"s development is right on track. "It started out as a pretty basic sounding punk band," says the 19-year-old Scarecrow. "It"s kind of evolved into a more grim, serious, apocalypse deal." Where a group might find turbulence with the coming and going of band members, The Cadavers have only benefited from the experience of a performer such as Dru Cadaver, who, at the age of 27, is referred to by the band as "Grandpa Cadaver."
Levity is something unexpected from a group that looks so severe and pens words such as: Darkness comes and your magic fails The blood of Christ has turned to stale Against the night do widows wail The blood of Christ has turned to stale. The song is "As Jerusalem Burns" and it seethes with life of its own, chillingly hookish in its hallelujah refrain.
"When I joined the band, they had a lot of horror movie-themed type of songs Ö but the stuff that I was writing at the time was a lot more grim," Dru recalls. "It wasn"t so "happy-zombie-movie." It wasn"t funny - it was awful. It was just blaspheme put to paper."
Stage blood and theatrics
Common bonds, a willingness to do what it takes for the fans and a love of music are strong themes at the core of this admittedly dysfunctional family. The latest addition to the fold in the way of 23-year-old mohawked punk Craig Chaos is proof of their interest in having a good time with their craft, rather than just glowering in the spotlight of stage blood and theatrics. A longtime friend of the band"s, and even longer acquaintance of Dru, Craig came to the group in late 2001, replacing a skin-pounder named Carcass on drums - who left because, as Scarecrow put it, "He wanted a regular life Ö Craig"s better. He yells at people with me." The only trouble was that Craig did not know how to play the drums. Undeterred, Craig bought a drum kit just for the audition for the band in November of 2001. "I never played a lick of drums in my life Ö I didn"t have a drum set. I didn"t have practice space. I bought a drum set and the rest is history." This fact is far from evident when seeing the band live, as Craig pummels the skins with the confidence and ferocity of a seasoned veteran, but that is simply the spirit of the band.
"We"re pretty down to earth Ö this isn"t a costume," Scarecrow says, who, despite an imposing mohawk and piercings, comes across as a quiet, everyday guy. That is, until you get him riled up. During a recent radio interview at DePauw"s WGRE, Scarecrow was given a remote microphone and sent out into the streets to broadcast. "Authorities were called," Dru Cadaver says over the laughter of the rest of the band. Scarecrow breaks a wide smile, "I yelled at people all over campus! I was chasing them in the streets!" "Over the radio, he"s making threats to people!" Dru continues with a wicked grin. "And then about halfway through the interview, they give him a microphone. He runs out into the street Ö He"s stopping traffic and they"re all Ö chasing people down the street. Craig and I are the only two left in the studio. We can"t get a word in edgewise. The [DJ] was sitting there, trying to do an interview and [Scarecrow] was out yelling over the radio!"
Beyond a sometimes bloody stage show, wireless microphone hijinks put them far from the notorious reputation that most bands might rush to embrace. Instead of inciting controversy, controversy seems to nip at the heels of the band. An almost cursed gig at the Fountain Room ended when lightning struck a little too close to the club, causing a loss of power inside and a medical emergency on the street outside. The group has been banned from the Melody Inn after a performance for Punk Rock Night, and multiple fights erupted in the pit of the Emerson during the band"s most recent set in May.
Dru took a cool stance on the idea that omens might be following the group, while also shying away from focusing on the negative aspects of the gigs. The Fountain Room? As though it was a common occurrence, Dru smiled. "Someone had a fuckin" heart attack after the blackout and then the building got struck by lightning while we were playing." On the subject of fights at the Emerson, the black-haired singer laughed. "Most bands stop when there"s a fight. But we"re like "Oh, let"s play faster and see if they fight harder."" But what about the Melody, and the loss of exposure to the steadily growing punk rock crowd at the club? "The doorman was being a jerk and we let him know it," Scarecrow says.
Dru is quick to say, "I like the Punk Rock Night dot com people, they"re all good people Ö I think there"s a lot going on there but it"s the party punk kind of crowd. If you like the Mighty John Waynes and The Slurs and stuff like that then that"s the place to be. And that"s fine, but evidently it wasn"t the place for us. I never liked playing there anyway and just getting banned from there was not a big deal."
The Cadaver"s co-leader, Dementia, put some perspective on good shows for the band. "Actually, I think the last show that we played at the Emerson [with Tub Ring and Perfect Nothing on May 17] was one of the best ones we"ve had Ö We usually get a more positive reaction at the Emerson than we do any other venue."
The all-ages Emerson Theater definitely gets high marks from the rest of the band, for both crowd enthusiasm and support from the fans. "Everyone under 21 goes to the Emerson," Dru adds. "I think the kids are more into it - I"d rather play for them anyway than a bunch of old drunks over at the Melody Ö We never sold one thing there because they all spend their money on beer."
Locally, The Cadavers still seem to draw a bit of confusion, being labeled as goth because of their clothing, but shoved into the punk arena because of their hair. The band crosses a lot of lines that can find them in unfamiliar territory. "Usually, what we get is slack-jawed amazement," Dru says. "We"re just kind of lumped into that category of death rock. Or goth. But it"s too heavy for the goth kids and the punks don"t like us because we wear so much makeup. I think the metal crowd is starting to like us."
The band really has a chance to prove themselves to a crowd more to their liking with an appearance on a bill at Festivilla with Graves in August. Graves features Michael Graves and Dr. Chud from the latter-day version of the often imitated punk legends The Misfits. "I never heard [Graves"] solo stuff," Dru says, remaining dubious. "He was an all right singer, but the new Misfits stuff, I wasn"t really that impressed with. I would have had a lot more respect if they didn"t call it The Misfits."
Whether or not the Indianapolis underground truly accepts The Cadavers as one of their own, it"s a group effort that keeps the band going - from sharing the song writing, creating CD cover art, to silk screening their own shirts. Corpse handles the band"s Web site, www.thecadavers.net, and was also the mastermind behind The Cadaver"s coolest slice of merchandise, The Coffin Pack. Completely homemade, The Coffin Pack contained an official T-shirt, red armband and patch, all emblazoned with the band"s logo and bundled in a coffin-shaped box, which sold out very quickly.