by Mely Duong
Challenging what seems to be the typical riffs and structure of metalcore, Gladiators is a band from Lancaster, PA that has successfully fused together progressive music and metalcore without having isolated fans from either genre. Ironically, most bands in the scene champion the concept of non conformity, but fail to meet such an ideal. This band does not disappoint us and follows through with slightly chaotic, yet uncharacteristic strong structures.
Songs dished out by Gladiators have a familiar sound to it but are completely different in that although people are able to identify with their sound and genre. They have never heard metalcore progressive music served with attitude quite like this. With influences ranging from Periphery to Stray from the Path to Deftones to jazz and classical music, it’s inevitable from the first riff that Gladiators aims to push the boundaries and think outside the box. Drop a tuba and brass section into the chorus? Done. Drop a trap beat into their verse? Done. Combining all these influences is accomplished very subtly. There’s just enough to catch your attention but not enough to jar you from the musical experience and repel you. Furthermore, the lyrics are raw and penetrating because of Hart’s (vocalist) background in art and poetry. The concepts are expressed fluidly and cohesively through the lyrics. Transitions are smooth between phrases and choruses.
The band, which has been around since 2013, is currently represented by CI Records and consists of the following members: Mike Hart (vocalist), Josh Krantz (guitarist and group leader), Scott Toebe (guitarist), Bernard Stabley (bassist), and Caleb Stoltzfus (drummer). To provide some background history, both Stabley and Stoltzfus were formerly in a band called Sudden Ascent, to which Krantz joined on as guitarist. The vocalist of that band left to join a different band and at that time Hart filled in on the vocals without much difficulty. In 2012, at Launch Music Conference, the group was able to network and pique the interest of Rick Armellino (vocalist of This or The Apocalypse, another Lancaster, PA band). Krantz and Armellino began to collaborate on a record together, having a similar vision. Krantz, having musical chemistry with his former band members, offered the others the opportunity to work on the record as well and from there Gladiators emerged. Interestingly enough, the band did not come out as a band officially until One Tooth was all mastered. The element of surprise and the solidarity of One Tooth was catalytic.
Feedback from the scene had been positive, so for their next album, Plexus, the group had to up it to the next level. The first album had been pure unadulterated mania. For the metalcore scene, that’s perfect, but Gladiators wanted to reach out to a wider audience. The challenge became more relatable and digestible, but retaining their metalcore roots.
“Simply put, people want something they can jive and groove to, but also still feel like they can be the ones singing the song right up there with us on stage. So our evolution has come in the form of strong structure and hooks namely…[although we also] do care to push ourselves and writing capabilities,” states Krantz.
Plexus was released on March 4, 2016 and was produced by Armellino again and mastered by Magnusson (Fit for a King, Born of Osiris). The unpredictability of Armellino translated to the album still channeling some of the chaotic blue collar, exciting, raw energy seen in One Tooth. However, technically speaking, the songs had more intricate parts.
Despite having so many contributors to the album, there was hardly any ever discord. Even if there was a disagreement, it was seen as an opportunity to strengthen the song rather than combust and knix ideas ruthlessly. It truly was a collaborative process. They were always looking to tweak or see or hear things in a different light with a different element that could be cooler or could end up making it worse. At the end of the day decisions need to eventually get made and there are multiple hands in the pot that need to compromise. However, one of the strengths of the album is pushing forth songs that are equally heavy as they are melodic. There are standout catchy moments in their songs, such as in “Rotgut” one of their favorite album tracks to play. Krantz claims that the band had difficulty in structuring their songs, but with the help of Armellino, none of that is evident to the audience.
The band just finished a tour at the end of March spanning the East Coast and venturing into the Midwest. Other tours are currently in the works, but most excitingly is their appearance at 2016 Launce Music Conference in Lancaster, PA hosted by CI Records. They are not only headlining the first date of Launch at the Chameleon Club on 4/21, but will also be actively around networking with bands and industry reps as well! It seems that Launch has certainly provided a wonderful platform for artists across a variety of genres to gather, learn from each other, and inspire each other to excel as seen clearly with Gladiators’ continued collaboration and progression with Armellino.
Gladiators would like to extend thanks to their fans. “We want to be that group that everyone is friends with and loves to hang out with. We are nothing without our fans. We go nowhere without our audience. The support and love we receive from our fans means the world to us. We love each and every one of you, thank you.”
To learn more about the band, visit their Facebook page.