Black Sheets of Rage

Akron's Spawn scours its dark places to make poignant "groovecore."

As Robert Penn Warren wrote, "Poetry exercises a diagnostic and a therapeutic function." Though he may not have imagined it, the same can be said about heavy metal, at least when it comes to Akron-based Spawn.

The word rage appears in several of the songs on the band's second release, aptly titled Round 2. Where does the anger come from? When he was a child, vocalist Ed Moore was abandoned by his father, the void left to be filled by a stepfather who made him feel inadequate. The song "Worthless" is dedicated to both fathers and examines the issues of his childhood with an adult's understanding. Moore takes out the frustrations of those relationships creatively rather than physically. "Some people release their aggression by going out and beating people up or getting drunk," he says.

With his long hair draped over a black leather jacket, Moore looks the part of a heavy metal rocker, but his temperament is gentle, and one would not imagine him authoring such lyrics as "Dark fits of rage inside me" and "Black, the core of my inner mentality." The songs on Round 2 address his feelings toward his difficult childhood with recurring themes of anger and abandonment. "I wouldn't wish my life on anybody," he says.

Backing Moore up are John Comprix on guitar, Bryan Trembley on bass, and Patrick Garrett on drums. It can be said that Comprix does the same with his guitar that Moore does with his voice: He defines music as a way of understanding emotions or, at the very least, releasing them. His passion for aggressive music is obvious when he describes the writing process, his eyes on his hands as though they are the only means of channeling his feelings. "We appeal to anyone who's having a rough time with life," he says.

It's difficult to imagine Gap khakis-wearing dancers swinging their way across the TV screen to the sounds of heavy metal. So where does Spawn fit, in a time when pop is on the upswing? The band tries to distance itself from the heavy metal label by perfecting a self-described sound of "groovecore," music you can move to with an edginess that unfolds from the band members' own lives. Comprix describes the band's music as underground, because it is an expression of the emotions that people don't necessarily want to face. "I like offending people who are very closed-minded to things and don't look at the real world," he says.

Spawn's first self-titled album was released in 1995; the follow-up, Round 2, appeared in November 1998. Since signing with Pulse Records, the band was able to spend more time writing lyrics, planning the songs, and recording. Round 2 is more aggressive, more refined, and without the ballads that appeared on the first album.

Though the band has attracted larger crowds with the release of Round 2, Comprix says Spawn shows are about music and relating to fans, not about makeup, gimmicks, or "shit exploding on stage." (The band does, though, breathlessly endorse Ibanez guitars, SIT strings, and Tama drums.) The music is about the darker side of life and provides a positive and creative means of expression. As Comprix puts it, "If I wasn't doing this, it's scary to think about where I would be."

Spawn. 10 p.m., Saturday, January 9, Phantasy Nite Club, 11802 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-228-6300.