This story was published November 3, 2005 in The Cavalier Daily, U.Va.’s student newspaper.
Hello again, readers. (Mom, Dad.) It feels like it’s been ages since my last band column. What with tableau’s last issue devoted entirely to the film festival, my worries and woes about midterms and then the stress of finding the perfect Halloween costume (my ultimate selection: a fat suit), I’m glad to be back, having a chat about local music.
I was supposed to meet the members of Bella Morte on the steps of the Rotunda. When I arrived, I saw a lone figure crouched on the very top step. So, I pulled out my press packet and looked at the band photo again. Taken in black and white, it shows the five members decked out in leather jackets and torn t-shirts. They are pierced, tattooed, mohawked (none of that faux-hawk business, either) and all-in-all, a tough-looking crowd.
I figured I was going to have to play my tiny silver nose ring for all it was worth.
I checked out the figure on the steps again. He looked like an old man. He was sipping Starbucks, and it sounded like he was humming to himself. We made eye contact. I looked away. He smiled.
As I found out, Bella Morte is as far from being a tough crowd as I am from getting an A in my Spanish class. I can’t think of a time when I’ve laughed more with a group of strangers. (Other than when I showed my Spanish grade to some kids in the library. But that time, they were laughing at me, not with me. There really is a difference.)
Bella Morte, which means ‘beautiful death’ in Italian, is comprised of Andy Deane on vocals, Gopal Metro on bass, Micah Consylman on synths, Tony Lechmanski on guitar and Jordan Marchini on drums.
As Deane and I walked to meet the other band members, we passed a family in the semi-darkness. When I told Deane they’d been staring at him, he said, “That’s funny. I’m not even dressed weird.” I looked at his Converse skate shoes, the clunky chain hanging from his belt (which later got stuck in a metal chair outside Newcomb), his ‘Zombina and the Skeletones’ t-shirt and his floppy red mohawk. It was then that I realized there was no way I was afraid of Bella Morte, no matter how scary they look. (Then Lechmanski arrived with latex on his arms from his Halloween festivities. He explained that latex is the reason zombies are always wet and dripping. “The stupid bastards don’t wait for the chemicals to dry,” he said.)
Later, when I asked the band to describe their music in one word, two of them exclaimed, “Awesome!”
“I was thinking more along the lines of one word that’s a label or a genre,” I said.
“And it has to be one word?”
“That’s too hard,” Metro said.
“You can hyphenate, if you want.”
“Then can it be ‘awesome-rock’?”
Bella Morte is older than most local bands, but that doesn’t seem to bother them.
“Most people in our situation would have buckled down, but … it’s a matter of where you come from — when you start from the bottom, it’s not like you’re letting go of anything,” Lechmanski said.
The band’s sound is difficult to describe. “We’re such a hybrid — rock, goth, punk, metal, electronica, whatever,” Metro said.
Deane was actually trained as an opera singer, but you shouldn’t expect to hear vibrato on a Bella Morte album. I don’t claim to be a “rock, goth, punk, metal, electronica, whatever” aficionado, but to me, they sound like Adema, Orgy and for brief moments, Skinny Puppy. There are heavy guitars, but also synth beats and — to everyone’s great surprise — softly-sung choruses and even melodies.
“We get that lucky, lucky thing that a lot of kids in different groups like us. Sh*t, pop kids dig us, too,” Deane said.
The biggest fault I could find with the band is that their lyrics aren’t exactly enlightening, but the guys seem to take that in stride.
“We write about life, horror movies, horror literature …” said Deane.
“Yeah, about life the way we want it. And the idyllic life for us always includes zombies,” laughed Metro.
In this column, I try to review bands that I think will fit with what U.Va. students are listening to. While the average sorority girl may not have heard of Bella Morte, they’ve performed on the Vans Warped Tour and shared a stage with Mindless Self Indulgence, The Misfits and KMFDM. According to a Plan 9 Music CD review, Bella Morte is “one of the biggest Gothic music acts in the whole nation.”
And as the band listed their favorite albums, there were the expected names — Danzig, Slayer and Iron Maiden — but also Jethro Tull and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Find me a U.Va. student that doesn’t know the words to “Californication,” and I’ll streak the lawn during a class change.
So, the moral of the story is: I would highly recommend that you go to a Bella Morte show, whether you dig black jackets or not. It’s surprising how a group of older, pierced-up, non-students can bring so much to the U.Va. music scene. As he fiddled with the silver chains on his belt, Deane said, “Shouldn’t we end the story with something like ‘Go Hoos’?”