Queensryche guitarist Michael Wilton does double duty in Soulbender



By Steve Newton

Local metal legend Devin Townsend will be the main attraction when his eponymous hardcore group headlines the Showroom Cabaret on Saturday (August 14), but the headbangers in the crowd who get there early enough to see opening act Soulbender might recognize a few other well-respected noisemakers.

The quintet features guitarist Michael Wilton from Queensryche and vocalist Nick Pollack from My Sister’s Machine, although the music on its self-titled release is a tad darker than either of those bands are noted for. “A lot of people are apparently comparing it to Alice in Chains and Tool,” explains Wilton, on the line from his Seattle home. “It’s a little more freeform [than Queensryche], and it’s not operatic. It’s more kickin’ with it, you know.”

Guitarist Dave Groves, bassist Marten Van Keith, and drummer Wes Hallam are the other members of Soulbender. Wilton says he and Pollock have been trying to get the project off the ground for a while but that he’s had to work on Soulbender in between Queensryche duties.
“So it’s gonna be kinda like Maynard of Tool,” he says, referring to vocalist Maynard James Keenan, who pulls double duty in Tool and A Perfect Circle. “I’ll do a little tour here with one band and a little tour there with the other band.”

The Soulbender CD is available on Wilton’s “pseudo record label”, Licking Lava, but the group is shopping it to the majors, and the guitarist is confident one of them will bite. The quintet has only played three shows so far–all of them sellouts–but Wilton expects many more.

“The band is willing and ready to tour,” he explains, “and once we get a good marketing plan and get a bunch of people behind us, we certainly will. We’ve already had interest over in Europe, so…”

Even if those metal-crazed Europeans don’t help Soulbender to take off big-time, Wilton always has that steady gig in Queensryche to fall back on. The Seattle prog-metal outfit has been a popular draw ever since the late ’80s, with albums like the multiplatinum Empire. Many diehard Queensryche followers have been known to favour Empire‘s predecessor, the ’88 concept album Operation: Mindcrime, which the group is performing in its entirety this fall, on a North American tour that hits the Commodore Ballroom October 7.

“There’ll be a few surprises in there as well,” says Wilton, who cowrote much of Mindcrime with vocalist Geoff Tate and original guitarist Chris DeGarmo. “And then eventually, when we get off the road and have some time to write, we’ll tackle the next album, which from a lyrical standpoint is going to be a continuation of Operation: Mindcrime.”

That’s right, all you concept-lovin’ prog-rock freaks out there. Operation: Mindcrime II is on the horizon. Now, more than ever, we need dual lead-driven tales of fortune hunters cast in shadowy plots to assassinate corrupt American leaders.

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