Who were they? Zoetrope
Pronounced "e-trope" as their record sleeves stated. This band formed in Chicago in 1977 which means they may have actually been one of the earliest speed metal bands around. They had Barry Stern on drums and vocals, Ken Black and Kevin Michael on guitars and Calvin Humphrey on bass. They released a seven inch single called "The right way"in 1980 and I have never heard this and know nothing about what kind of style it was. The next thing they did was a demo in 1983 called Metal Log volume 1 and it was followed by a second demo called Metal Log volume 2 in 1985. The band then signed to Combat records and they released their debut "Amnesty" in 1985. Some time after the tour for the debut Ken Black was out of the band, but no reason was ever stated.He was replaced by Louis Svitek on guitar and the band released "A life of crime" in 1987. Just a few months after this Svitek left to join Billy Milano's M.O.D. (Method of destruction). It's a little unclear as to if the rest of the members disbanded then or a little later. Yet when Barry Stern became drummer for Trouble it was clear that Zoetrope was done, as least for the time. In 1993 Kevin Michael revived the band but he was the only original member as he hired four other guys to fill out the group. The album was called "Mind over splatter" and I have never heard it, but most sources say it was different from the other two albums. They apparently broke up for good shortly after that. Louie Svitek later played with Mindfunk and Ministry. I was sad to learn that Barry Stern died on April 1st, 2005 at age 45 due to complications from a then recent surgery. He had been active in music up until the time of his death.
Okay there are the straight specifics or as I much as I could find on them, now here's the scoop on their music. I loved this band back in the 80's and still do. They are usually lumped in as speed metal and that's essentially correct, but they were different. I think the band had both metal and punk rock influences. I also think they were like speed metal with a groove to it. It was pounding at times, but hook oriented at times too. Barry Stern also sang with very clear vocals as opposed to the growling style of vocals sometimes used in thrash. I think this band could appeal to a wider audience than other speed metal bands due to the vocals and their varied styles. With song titles like "Mercenary", "Member in a gang", "NASA" and "Company Man" you could tell that their lyrics were more about political and social issues. The band was very different from other speed metal bands of the day for several reasons. These include their influences, lyrics, musical style in some ways, an African-American bass player, a drummer who was the singer and they even gave their music a label. They called it "hardcore street metal" and although I am not totally sure what it means, it sure sounds kind of cool. I highly recommend this band. Their first two Cd's are hard to come by, but the albums pop up from time to time on eBay.
**Next month I will spotlight NWOBHM band Jaguar.