Shut up and play 

Eagle Claw don't need no stinkin' vocals

Sometimes you don't realize how useless something is until it's gone. Things like urinal stalls. Or lead singers.

Freed from the need to follow verse-chorus-verse structure, Eagle Claw fashions broad cinematic metal while retaining enough chunky groove to keep its artier pretensions in check. The Austin band's music simply has more classic rock crackle than in similarly prog-inflected instrumental acts like Pelican or Russian Circles.

The one problem with freedom is that having too much of it can be a challenge, which is why so many people stick to the more than half-century-old pop-song format. That's a big part of why Eagle Claw songs "take forever and a half to write," according to guitarist Michael Gonzalez.

"It's more of a journey from the beginning of the song to the end; 'OK, this part sounds awesome, where can we go from here?'" says Gonzalez. "Every time we're making a transition into the next part of the song, it's not necessarily revisiting something [from earlier in the piece]. Every song has its own way. Herein lies why it takes so long to write."

Eagle Claw are currently writing songs for their third full-length, the follow-up to 2012's Timing of the Void. That disc showcased the quartet's sharpening skills, from the anthemic thrash-lined churn of "Wielder" to the heady, tightrope-walking arpeggios that roller-coaster up and down "Uzumaki Vortex."

The album's menacing, pulse-racing throb attracted enough attention to earn a slot opening for The Sword on a largely sold-out national tour. "I can't even tell you how much that tour helped us out," Gonzalez says.

In fact, the group never expected to go this far. They were literally a garage band seven years ago, only interested in kicking back and playing some music after work. That's part of why there's no lead singer — they never really intended to perform publicly, until a band dropped off a bill at the last minute in the bar where they worked.

"We were all friends and just got together. 'You know how to play drums? I know how to play guitar,'" he recalls. "They said, 'Do you guys want to open? We just need someone to play.' We kind of looked at each other like, 'We have three songs.'"

The response was good though, and so much fun that they did it again. They called themselves Eagle Claw, a name chosen that night moments before they played their first song.

Today, the band has more reason to be confident. "We're all writing, and our chops alone are just absolutely matured. It's night and day, the things my fingers are actually able to do."

"This tour coming up we're going to be trying out a lot of our new songs that aren't recorded yet. We've done it in the past with certain songs, like 'Fifth Ring' off the last album. We took that one out with a completely different ending, a whole minute and a half ending we completely rewrote," he says. "For whatever reason it didn't cut it after playing it live, and our biggest thing is our live shows, straight up."

Seven years after their unlikely beginnings, Gonzalez has no regrets. Certainly not the lack of a frontman. "A singer can make or break your band," he says. "Why put all your eggs in that basket?"


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