For a while, Rocks Off worked at our day job with our drummer, and we would play a game involving the band we were writing about that day. We'd come running over to his desk in our socks and scream out the name of the band, and he would guess the genre.
If you would be so kind, could you guys pretend to be a disgruntled sheet music salesman an imagine us running up to you screaming, "LIONS OF TSAVO!"
What's your guess? Metal? Very good. Here's a cookie.
Just to judge by the song titles from the Austin band alone you'd know you were dealing with some pretty hardcore stuff. Hell, they have more tracks named after being killed by animals than we have non-black T-shirts.
Their music is a barbarian, shamanistic ritual of aural agony that dances the line between progressive and pure, unbridled hate. Having long since given up metal to the younger generation (at our doctor's insistence), we can nonetheless really see the subtle musical brilliance in tracks like "Strewn Atop the Antlers" and "Eaten By Bears."
That name though... The Lions of Tsavo? The Tsavo maneaters rank as two of the most prolific animal serial killers in human history. They claimed over 138 victim in 1898 before they were brought down by John Henry Patterson in Kenya. Why on Earth would you name your band after two lions who could apparently outrun frakkin' Kenyans in order to make Hot Pockets out of them? It seems in terrible taste even for metal.
There was only one thing to do, and that was clearly hide behind vocalist/guitarist Ryan Chamberlain's box of Wheaties and jump out screaming a demand to know why that name.
"I came up with the name one day at work, when I saw a book about the Tsavo Maneaters on a table," said Chamberlain. "I had been searching for a band name for quite awhile to fit a certain 'nature vs. humanity' theme, and instantly I knew I had found it.
"It is the absolute essence of nature vs. humanity/human progress condensed into one small fragment of history. The name is a perfect fit for our lyrical themes and outlook on the world around us. Mankind has had a tendency to view itself as 'god-like' throughout history, and all it takes is a single act of mother nature to bring us to our knees."
Then he poured a bowl of cereal, and we sat across from him. It was clear that we were dealing with one of those naturalistic anarchists, a modern primitive. Something about the march of technological progress had obviously made Chamberlian bitter, or maybe just disillusioned. Where another man would have drawn away from the savagery of the jungle, he reveled in it, sang about it, and ultimately admired it.
But surely there was a lighter, more civilized side to all of this. As usual, when we need to explore an avenue with little real world danger we turned to astrology. Lions have an astrological sign, don't they? Sure they do, Leos.
"Any of you Leos?" we asked.
"Yes," said Chamberlain. "Josh is. Our drummer."
Quickly we tried to recall everything we had learned about astrological signs from a psycho ex-girlfriend obsessed with them. Leos are generous, warm-hearted leaders. Generally optimistic and cheerful, they tend to have many friends. Then again, they tend to be authoritarian dictators who will brook no challenge... kind of like questioning their band name. Maybe this wasn't such a good tact.
Animal serial killers, that is, single animals that kill large numbers of people are not rare. Gustave the crocodile in Burundi has killed over 300 people and is still at large. The Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 killed four and went on to inspire Peter Benchley to write the novel Jaws. Wait, maybe that's the way out of this killer's den. We could enlist another animal serial killer to protect us.
"Just hypothetically," we asked, "How do you think you'd stand against, say, Gustave the Crocodile?"
"While he would be a formidable opponent, I am confident we would not only find a bond in our hatred -or taste - for humans, but would also work together for a greater purpose," said Chamberlain.
"Would you really try human flesh if you could get away with it," we asked.
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"Ask me again when we're lost at sea," he said.
Lions of Tsavo, The (n): 1.) Two maneless lions who terrorized and killed over 100 railway workers in Kenya in 1898. 2) Primitive, progressive metal. 3) If the author of this article should suddenly go missing, please investigate the latter.
Lions of Tsavo play with Dissent, Omotai, and Cog Melter Sunday, May 8 at Fitzgerald's.