Middle East Cambridge, MA
Players: Larry Frisoli, bass, lead vocals; Pete Schluter, guitar, vocals; Tony DePasquale, drums
Material: As heavy metal has evolved, the genre has gotten progressively darker and sludgier. It seems the style’s rock and roll roots have been lost forever. Declaring themselves a power trio, Death Pesos aim to shift this trend by replacing grim seriousness with fun and groove. Chugging rhythms are laced with guitar eruptions that deliver perpetual goose bumps. Death Pesos wouldn’t feel out of place alongside many hard-driving classic rockers, such as Canned Heat.
Musicianship: Death Pesos display excep-tional instrumentation. All three are first-rate players, especially Pete Schluter, whose sonic wails are particularly engaging. One might guess that Hendrix, Van Halen, and Satriani are his primary artistic muses. (In fact, one tune even dropped into Jimi’s “Third Stone From the Sun.”) The reverb techniques and additional otherworldly effects he effortlessly creates exemplify the ethos of a renowned axe virtuoso. Regretfully, the band’s vocals need serious work; most of the time, their lyrics are impossible to decipher.
Performance: In contrast to their musical explosion, Death Pesos offer little by way of showmanship. Though they launched their set by stating their name, they never identified the group’s individual players. One song was dedicated to “…anybody who’s on psychedelics.” Justifying this statement, Schluter ran an object of undetermined origin along the neck of his guitar, to trippy effect. Free earplugs were made available to the audience in cups at the base of the stage. While this is an undeniably kind gesture, it’s also extremely un-metal. Regardless, the image of John C. Reilly on the drum kit was a classy touch.
Summary: Despite their musical prowess, Death Pesos lack one vital ingredient––a great singer. Adding a lead vocalist with notable stage presence would significantly elevate their artistry. Even with this matter resolved, it’s unclear if their material has the potential to shake up the scene. Perhaps a more powerful singer would illuminate their songwriting. Meanwhile, they seem content with rumbling beats and invigorating guitar runs. In today’s competitive atmosphere, that’s probably not enough to achieve notoriety.