I'm late for work, but this is my first interview," says Virgil bassist Thomas Janes, aka TJ, towards the end of an interview at a BBQ joint just down the road from his band's practice space. "You know what? They can wait."
Being in a fusion-influenced, all-instrumental metal band necessitates having outside jobs, but if there is any justice in this world, the boys in Virgil won't have to worry much longer about being late to a job because of their band.
Virgil was first formed in the late '90s by guitarists Bob Bridges and Brenden Birch. The longtime pals recruited Janes on bass and drum god Matt Van Kersen, played some amazing shows and released a CD to little local notice before calling it quits in 2000.
A couple years ago, following his stint with another local metal band, Devil To Pay, Bridges reconnected with his former band members, pulling in Bennett Williams to fill the drum stool. They've been steadily picking up steam ever since, culminating in a release party for their new CD Juggernaut at Sam's Saloon on Friday, March 28.
Asked how things are going the second time around, Bridges is generally positive. "It's been great," he says. "It's better then it was 10 years ago. I think the crowds have been way more receptive."
Maybe fans are more enthusiastic because of the addition of Bennett on drums; he's helped move the band to more adventurous territory. But ultimately, Virgil has probably succeeded based on the strength of a new set of songs. Collected on Juggernaut, the new tunes are inventive and would reward even the casual listener.
Bennett describes hearing the band's music at first: "It was all in weird times like 7/8 and just totally not what 99.9 percent of rock music is based on. I asked them how they were coming up with this stuff and they [said], 'We don't know.' I said, 'What do you mean, you don't know? This stuff is out there!'"
"Yeah, Bennett taught us how to count!" Bridges adds.
Virgil's newfound grasp of theory adds to the muscle of Juggernaut. Full of brooding, heavy sludge and a free-form undercurrent, tunes like "MK Ultra" and "Doppelganger" are dizzy white-knuckled rides full of heavy riffs and breakneck runs interspersed with fusion-like interplay. You never know where the music's heading for, yet you're glad and exhilarated when it gets there.
The centerpiece of the album, "A Little Morose," has a melodic pulse that's hypnotizing and epic. This is the kind of music that's made for the headphones.
Throughout the album, lean metal resides side-by-side with fractured, warped John Zorn freak-out stuff. This is heady material that can quote classic Sabbath alongside Sun Ra and Dixie Dregs and still come out ultimately listenable. Juggernaut is definitely headed for more then a few best of '08 lists at the end of this year.
Before this year is done, Virgil plans to hit the road, playing as many gigs as they can, splitting time between Indy and the regional circuit. "It's a challenge for me to kind of try and fill the front person role," TJ says. "But we're all so into playing the music, that we kind of just forget that we don't have a singer, and we let the music do the talking for us.""The hardest thing for us is we get so far out there, that if everybody doesn't hit their spots just right, it could all fall apart just like that," Williams says. "Thankfully, we seem to know what we're doing."
WHAT: Virgil CD release show with Llange and Bulletwolf
WHERE: Sam's Saloon, 1640 E. Prospect St.
WHEN: Friday, March 28, 9 p.m., $6, 21+