It's hard to imagine Shadows Fall lead singer Brian Fair as a seventh grader. No dreads hanging down to his ass, no inked-up arms, no menacing stare. Not to mention the difference in his voice. Now he's capable of grunting along with the most guttural Metallica song, but back then little Brian's metal tribute band could only count on him for Axl's high notes.
All Fair had then were aspirations and an unsettling addiction to MTV's Headbanger's Ball. But like any American dream, Fair made good on his goal. He and his band have become the toast of both the old and nü-metal communities. Unlike most bands of the post-Korn epoch, Shadows Fall uses harmony, melody and Iron Maiden-style guitar solos. Sure, they have mosh pit-producing songs, but they also have neo-classical interludes and varied time signatures.
Their popularity has let them cross off a dozen items on their "Things to do when I become a metal star" list: Tour with King Diamond, play in Japan (disappointingly not at Budokan), win a Golden God at the Metal Hammer Awards, meet Nikki Sixx, land a spot on Ozzfest.
"Yes, I've been getting to live some of my metal dreams, like playing with Iron Maiden at the Donnington Festival and knowing that right behind you is their backdrop and that [Maiden's evil mascot] Eddie is in a box on the side of the stage," says Fair, adding about meeting Nikki Sixx at the Metal Hammer Awards: "I mean, we're dudes in a band, but that's a rock star."
And what about playing for 600 Koreans in Seoul?
"That was insane. They don't get many metal acts, so they are really appreciative. I never saw that coming in my life."
And how about selling 40,000 copies of The War Within (Shadows Fall's latest) in a single week?
"Debuting on the Billboard charts is something my mom could understand and get excited about," he says. "Playing with King Diamond is something that moms just don't get excited about."
You'd almost think there'd be nothing left to accomplish in their metal career, but there's plenty-piss on Alamo, choke on own vomit, star in an MTV reality show, to name a few. Who knows, maybe they'll be able to cross off "bite head off bat" after their San Diego show.
Shadows Fall play with Slipknot and Lamb of God at Cox Arena, 7 p.m. on April 8. $35. 619-220-8497.