On a balmy Sunday in December, half of Raleigh's Colossus are gathered in bassist Rylan Wilshire's living room, playing the video game Rock Band. Wilshire admits he was up until 5:30 the morning before playing, and, right now, he's still focused.
"This has ruined our life for the past few weeks," jokes vocalist Sean Buchanan between verses of Boston's "Foreplay." With the song finally finished, Wilshire, Buchanan and drummer Ben Smith squeeze onto a couch in the next room and listen to nearly a dozen songs—from a Beatles and Metallica cover band to Iron Maiden—and try to identify them. The conversation is telling.
["Hey Dude" from Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band: A Beatles cover band modeled musically after Metallic interprets "Hey Jude." It starts with acoustic guitars.]
RYLAN WILSHIRE: This is exactly what I want to be listening to right now. Awesome Sunday music.
SEAN BUCHANAN: Oh, wait. It sounds like...
RW: "Hey Jude."
[Vocals come in, singing "Hey dude" like James Hetfield.]
SB: Oh, wait, is this Metallica doing it?
INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: This is Beatallica.
BEN SMITH: The drums are right on. That is ridiculous.
IW: Humor in metal can be hard. This is a hyperbole, obviously, but how do you feel about it?
RW: We're way into humor.
SB: Our favorite movie is Spinal Tap.
RW: It sucks when people are too serious, and there's so much seriousness in metal. It's either silly or so serious.
IW: Can there be a balance?
SB: If the music is really good and everyone is having fun with it. When I go see metal bands that are really good, I'm in the audience laughing. Everyone looks at me like I'm crazy, but I'm having fun.
RW: It sucks, though, because there are some things you need to take seriously, which we don't, like the business part of being a band.
BS: We just like to play music and smile at each other, which is something else we get weird looks for. But this is awesome.
["The Shortest Straw" from ...And Justice for All: Classic from band's fourth album]
BS: This is Beatallica, right?
IW: No, this is The Beatles covering Metallica.
BS: Skateboarding in middle school.
SB: Listening to this on your Walkman while you were skateboarding around?
RW: I remember we were hanging out one time, and you were like, "How do they make their guitars sound like that? It's so cool!"
SB: It's so badass.
RW: I remember the tape to Kill 'Em All. My brother brought it home, and I was like, "Whoa!"
SB: My dad had The Black Album, and I stole it from him. Or borrowed.
RW: The Black Album was the first CD I ever bought, I think.
BS: I bought AC/DC High Voltage.
RW: My second was Smells Like Nirvana by Weird Al Yankovic.
["Immigrant Song" from Led Zeppelin III: Opening cut off 1970 album]
BS: The reason I play drums is Led Zeppelin. They're the reason I got a drumset in sixth grade when I was 12 years old.
RW: Led Zeppelin in general?
BS: Them and AC/DC were the first bands I was into. Because of their drummers, basically.
RW: I'm not really into 'em. His voice turned me off in the beginning, and I didn't like the people that were really into it. I was like, "I'm going to like punk rock!"
["Another Life" from Killers: Deep cut from band's second album]
RW: What is this? I know this.
SB: It's awesome! I like it. Sounds like Maiden.
BS: Is it early Maiden?
IW: Early Maiden. "Another Life" off of Killers.
BS: Only Clive Burr would rock the disco beat.
IW: First metal crush: Maiden or Metallica?
ALL THREE: Maiden!
IW: In terms of listening or appreciation?
RW: Everything. Respect. We went and saw Maiden like two years ago, and they were flawless. They didn't mess up one time. Except Bruce Dickinson fell off one of the props during "The Trooper." He didn't come back out for a while, but then he just ran back out with that flag. He busted his ass.
RW: I have to buy this album. The first one is one of my favorites, but I don't have this.
BS: Maiden kind of rules! I guess that says enough about them.
["Dogs of the Fight" from Animality: Highlight track from Durham quintet's debut EP]
SB: Sort of like In Flames?
BS: I don't know this.
RW: It kind of does sound like In Flames. What is it?
IW: This is Tooth.
RW: Oh! We've only played with them once, but they're awesome.
BS: This sounds really good. It's kind of scary.
SB: We get lucky in Chapel Hill because we get to play with bands we actually like. Playing with Black Skies and Tooth is amazing.
RW: I've known the singer and the bass player. His name is also Rylan [with a d]. I've known those dudes since the beginning of high school from bands and stuff.
SB: There are a ton of metal bands in North Carolina, but it's a separate scene that a lot of people don't know about. Those bands are pretty much all doing the same stuff.
RW: These guys are great, though.
["Black Legions" and "Speed King" (Deep Purple cover) from Kissing the Beast: Later tracks from British metal firebrands]
SB: I'll know it when the vocals come in.
[Vocals comes in; Rylan just laughs.]
IW: Not really.
IW: This is Venom.
SB: Oh! The most satanic band in the world.
IW: That's right. This band always got butchered or loved by critics, and a big reason for both reactions was they put effect and theatricality over technicality. How do you feel about that?
RW: I really like technical bands. They're just fun to watch. Watching talented dudes play is awesome. But sloppy bands are really hilarious usually.
BS: But you don't buy those records.
SB: This is great, though. I've listened to a lot of their earlier stuff, which is even rawer.
BS: [Thumbs through liner notes.] They do a Deep Purple cover?
BS: I love Deep Purple, but I don't know about that. It's one of my favorite songs, too.
IW: Let's hear it.
[Venom's "Speed King" plays.]
SB: Oh, man.
BS: This is the first Deep Purple song I ever heard. It's really good—when they do it.
["Angelfuck" from Static Age: 1978 track from Danzig & Co.]
SB: Oh, yes. "Angelfuck." "Going down on a fireplug?" What is he talking about? [Sings along.] This is one of my favorite songs to put on a mixtape for a girl. You have to throw one on there that screws everything up.
IW: So that she knows you're edgy.
RW: This is your default, man?
SB: Well, I mix it up.
RW: I like Danzig better than I like The Misfits just because he goes crazy. His vocals are ridiculous.
SB: Misfits are a good, solid band. And Danzig is just hilarious.
Colossus plays Blend in Chapel Hill Thursday, Dec. 13, at 9 p.m. with Tooth and Black Skies and Downtown Event Center in Raleigh Friday, Dec. 14, at 9 p.m. with Thunderlip. The band's debut album, ...And the Rift of the Pan-Dimensional, will be released early next year on Lucid Records.