Top 10 Bands that inspired my music by Drew Rizzo of Midnite Hellion

Drew Rizzo is the drummer and founder of Trenton, NJ’s own MIDNITE HELLION, a US Heavy Metal band formed in 2011.  He eats, breathes, and sleeps Heavy Metal, and here’s a list of a few of the bands that influence MIDNITE HELLION.  Some of the influences are also important due to the people he has met because of the bands.  Be on the lookout for their new album, “Condemned To Hell,” coming September 15th 2017 on Witches Brew Records!!

10. Scorpions

A magical band, to say the absolute least.  Their influence of catchy hooks while remaining in your face is something that grabbed me, and something that we attempt to bring to our tunes as well.  We were delighted to be able to perform one of their best tunes, “The Sails of Charon,” when we had the honor of supporting Yngwie J. Malmsteen this past May.  To say it was a dream come true of an evening in many ways is a vast understatement.

9. OverKill

From the fire to the streets!  OverKill had me Under The Influence since, well, since I heard Under The Influence!  Their riffs, DD’s bass tone, and their arrangements, not to mention phenomenal drum work from SID, Rat, Tim, and Ronnie, hit me Where It Hurts.  When I Felt The Fire live for the first time in Asbury Park in 2002, it began the Taking Over in which they had become my favorite band for the better part of a decade.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have become friendly with them early on, which was tremendously cool for a punk-ass teenager to have his favorite band know his name, not to mention having Bobby give me a six pack of beer for my dorm room because there was too much on the bus.  I have nothing but respect for those guys, and those interactions over the course of 66 OverKill concerts and counting absolutely has an influence.

In 2007, I was shooting the shit with Bobby at an in-store at Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ.  He starts telling me about a discussion he had with other singers in Europe about teleprompters and how they’re needed as they are getting older and forgetting lyrics.  He tells them, “look, there’s this guy in the States that comes to every fucking show, always in the front row and he knows every single lyric, even on the new records!  I don’t need a teleprompter, I have a Drew!”  He then proceeded to tear down an Immortalis poster from the wall and signed it appropriately:  “Teleprompter!”

Last note about OverKill, which is an important one – I met my fiancé because of OverKill.  When my previous band opened for Lizzy Borden at L’amour SI in 2007, she was there buying Carnivore tickets for a show in a few weeks.  I was outside and she came up to me and said the life-changing words, “I see you at all the OverKill shows.”  Nearly 10 years and about 500 concerts later (no lie), In Union We Stand!

8. WASP

The most dangerous band in the land!  The meat and hooks of WASP’s first four records always have had staying power since the first time I’ve heard them and remain among some of my favorite albums in my collection.  The tribal and brutal “L.O.V.E. Machine” is just heavy beyond words, and there’s nothing like it live.  I’m sorry, but there is nothing “glam” about a buzzsaw coming out of one’s crotch.

WASP also became special to me because of a friendship formed with one of their techs, Kyle Sabel, who sadly passed away last October.  We met when he was working for OverKill in 2005 and it turned out that he lived only about an hour away from me.  When WASP played Atlantic City a few months after we met, he invited me out to the show to hang with him and over time, he showed me the ropes of a backline technician, a career that I had wanted to get into and still do, which has helped me out numerous times over the years.  After the show, Kyle, Mike Duda, other crew members, and myself and a few other friends were hanging backstage.  As the venue was in a casino, we needed to use the freight elevator to load-out.  However, it was a maze and we couldn’t locate it!  It was a complete “Hello Cleveland!” moment straight out of Spinal Tap, but instead, no matter which way we went we always ended up back at the stage!  Below is a picture of Kyle and me from that night.  RIP OverKyle, a great guy that will never be forgotten.

7. Exodus

The EXODUS ATTACK infected me greatly, and Tom Hunting sealed the deal for me as one of my primary influences upon the first time hearing his work.  My old band was to open for Exodus with Paul Baloff, but unfortunately, he passed away two months before the show.  However, my first time seeing Exodus live was on the first leg of the “Tempo Of The Damned” tour in 2004 at the Cricket Club in Irvington, NJ.  Before they hit the stage, I met Rick Ernst, filmmaker and producer of the incredible documentary “Get Thrashed!”  He and I struck up a friendship that night, and I can be seen headbanging in the front row in front of Gary “The FUCKING Beast” Holt.  Rick was kind enough to invite me to a private screening of the film in NYC, which included about 20 industry people and a few friends.  One of the attendees was Ed Farshtey of Armageddon Productions, who I have had the pleasure of working with numerous times over the years and am proud to call a friend.  He also introduced me to Duff’s Brooklyn that night by giving me their business card, which then led to becoming friends with their owner, Jimmy Duff, as well as numerous other people.  Thanks, Exodus!!

Also, we will be opening for Exodus next month at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, which is our record release show for our new album, “Condemned To Hell.”  Obituary is also on the bill, who we opened for in 2011 at our demo release show.  A lot has been coming full-circle lately!

6. Grim Reaper

Three albums of power, one great band of mystery!  When I first heard Grim Reaper, I couldn’t find much of any information on them, nor could I locate much of anything in the way of merchandise, but I wanted more!  A friend of mine turned me onto them when I was 16, as well as several other bands, when he sold me a box of 75 cassettes and 30 t-shirts for $40 and all three classics were included.  When I was a kid, most albums from the 80’s were long out-of-print, so good luck finding them anywhere!  However, it increased my thrill for the hunt, which still exists today.

Anyway, back to Grim Reaper – I found out that they headlined a tour with two of my favorite bands in ’87, Armored Saint and Helloween, and I found a bootleg VHS of footage of this classic concert.  They literally blew me away and I was a full-on addict.  However, I was saddened to find out that they disbanded shortly after this tour, which crushed all hopes of seeing them live…for only about 15 years.  I located some other rarities, including a mirror, VHS bootleg footage dating back to 1982, and one of my prized possessions, a reel-to-reel tape featuring the audio from a television performance in 1982.

When we shared the stage with Grim Reaper in Chicago at Ragnarökkr Metal Apocalypse 2014, it was a dream come true on so many levels.  Being invited to perform at an incredible festival was great, seeing Grim Reaper live was a dream come true, and actually opening for them was mind-blowing!!  I turned into a 16 year old kid all over again that night, singing along to every song.  Nick Bowcott was back for one night only, his first with Grim Reaper since 1987 (although I got to see him perform at a Dimebag Darrell tribute the Friday after he was murdered), and the only show to date of the band performing as a five-piece.

One of the organizers, Bob Byrne, knew my excitement over this night, and immediately after their set, he showed me where they were backstage.  Now, I wouldn’t normally do something like this and would just wait for the band to come out to hang, but this was possibly the one and only chance I had to actually meet one of my white whale bands as they were the last band of the night and who knew when they would leave the venue.  I politely knocked on the door with Bob and my fiancé along with me and asked if it would be okay to come in for a minute to have my reel-to-reel signed by them.  Both Steve and Nick were extremely pleasant and accommodating, and they asked for a copy once it was transferred over to CD (I haven’t forgotten, haven’t located a place to do the transfer yet – sorry guys!).  One of the crowning moments of my musical career is included below – a night I will never forget.  PS – the See You In Hell shirt is from 1987!!

5. Ozzy Osbourne

The band, not just the record!  As most know, Blizzard of Ozz was the original name of Ozzy’s solo band, and that’s where the main influence lies for us.  While some of Ozzy Osbourne’s later works drew inspiration from Bark through the No Rest-eras, there was a kind of magic that existed on the first two records that was never to be replicated.  Tommy Aldridge’s work is such an influence on my style, and the entire concept and sound of the Ozzy band is one that we are quite inspired by, both visually and musically.  Nothing like a Randy Rhoads-styled fill at the end of a vocal line to tie it all together!  I listened to both Blizzard and Diary on repeat frequently during the time when our song, “Teenage Bloodsuckin’ Bimbos,” was composed.

4. Iron Maiden

Rich would absolutely kill me if they weren’t included on this list!  For me, their earlier works is what influenced me the most, especially the drum work from Clive Burr, Nicko McBrain, and Thunderstick!  Everyone who has ever been a member of the band has been a big Maiden fan, and I think it shows.  Subconsciously they have influenced my riffs, but make no mistake – the intro riff to “The Morrigan” and the intro riff to “2 Minutes To Midnight” are absolutely nowhere even similar to each other, other than both riding on the A string.  Don’t believe me?  Come to a concert and we’ll show you.

3. Judas Priest

WOAH-OH-WOAH-OH-WOAH-YEAH!!  My favorite band of all time, who have penned what I consider to be the best song written ever, “Victim of Changes.”  Dave Holland’s drum work is absolutely phenomenal during his tenure with the band.  While not the most technical of drummers, his work fit the songs perfectly, and that’s what I cite as an influence from him.  In terms of songwriting, Priest’s influence is all over every note we play.  Take a listen for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

2. Slayer

Slayer was the second band whose catalogue I learned to play on guitar and bass when starting out.  Every day after working at KB Toys when I was 16, I’d rush home, plug in my Alvarez Strat Copy, crank up Live:  Decade of Aggression, and play along to the album until I knew it all note-for-note.  Their ability to bring forth the evilness in the tunes is what we borrow from this influence…well, at least from the Metal Blade days.

1. Metallica

There are no two ways about it, Metallica changed my life forever when I was a kid.  As a youngster, I was a drummer who was also interested in learning guitar and bass, and I learned how to play majority of their 80’s catalogue, save for leads, on all three instruments.  In fact, I learned how to play guitar period by learning Metallica songs.  Only had one lesson ever, in which the teacher taught me the first two riffs to “Enter Sandman,” and then he had an unfortunate accident which prevented him from continuing.  I will never forget staying up until 2 am every night in high school playing along to “Kill ‘Em All” on record with the volume all the way off so I didn’t wake anybody up.

I will also never forget attempting to make a stack out of two Crate GX212 combo amplifiers on one of these occasions.  I plugged my speaker out into the input of my guitarist’s amp, who had left it at my house since that’s where we jammed, and everything was cool for most of Side A, until Jump In The Fire came on, ironically enough.  His amp literally started smoking and then a small fire ignited from the amp!  It was the strangest thing, as the flame went away on its own.

Metallica is also important because they turned me on to a lot of bands.  When I was 12, I found a bootleg cassette down the shore called “Covering ‘Em” and started hunting down albums by the original recording artists.  That, of course, led me to check out those bands’ entire catalogues as well as their influences, which brought me on a crazy never-ending quest of Heavy Metal Mania!

While I have absorbed many more influences since this time, I will never lose what I’ve learned from Metallica, and I feel that it tends to shine through on all of our compositions at one point or another.  If they are reading this, I just want to say thank you.

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