MusicMusic Features

Hellfire 76 Conjures Devilish Grooves

This Southern-psych/metal duo makes a powerful amount of noise

Members of the band Hellfire 76 play rock music on stage
Hellfire 76 (Photo by Jenn Mott Redd)

Over a swaggering blues-rock riff and Rhodan-stomps-Tokyo drums, Hellfire 76 guitarist and vocalist Von Bury drawls a street corner preacher’s ravenous recitative.

“A lot I’ve seen down in New Orleans/ Strippers and sinners and a Voodoo queen…”

As with the other five tunes on the Southern-psych/metal duo Hellfire 76’s self-titled EP, “Voodoo Mama” can be enjoyed at face value, but Von Bury and drummer Mike McGuiness use witches, Satan and Santeria as metaphors to decry mainstream America’s acceptance of power, corruption and lies.

“We’re bringing up stuff about how hypocritical the religious right is,” McGuiness says. “They commit exactly what they preach not to commit.”

“[New Orleans is] the most Catholic city in the country,” says Von Bury, a native of the city. “You’re talking the most hypocritical people that you might see. If you do something wrong, just say some Hail Marys … and you’re going to be forgiven. That doesn’t make sense.”

Inspired by his sister’s Goth-rock collection, Van Bury was drawn to Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division and Killing Joke, music with driving guitars and a darker edge. He didn’t have much use for the linear approach to metal.

“I noticed those testosterone bands, there were never girls at the shows,” he says. “The bands I liked, there were always girls at the shows.”

Inspired by an 8-track of the Kiss album Alive!, McGuiness got into “scary” rock like Alice Cooper. Playing in an alt-rock band in the late ’90s, he was poached by Rob Tavaglione [Catalyst Recording] to drum in Tavaglione’s metal band Face the World.

In 2019, Von Bury and McGuiness came together as Hellfire 76, a duo that makes a powerful amount of noise. While the band’s recordings boast guitar fills and short solos, playing live they focus on industrial-strength riffs and the almighty groove.

“[When] I play guitar live, I split my signal to where half of it goes into a bass amp, and I have it tuned lower for that,” Von Bury says. “When you’re hearing it from the stage, you’re not missing the bass. We fill up the space.”

Hellfire 76, which starts recording a new 8-track LP in late July, plays The Rooster in Gastonia on Aug. 13.

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