Between the weed consumed, the horror movies watched, the graveyard hangouts and—most importantly—the music heard, summer 2009 was a generous, joyful time for a 16-year-old Clayton Burgess. That season, Burgess and a buddy nicknamed "the Ghoul" spent their break from high school in Herndon, Va., killing time and combing through the works of metal and punk bands that quickly became new obsessions.
The "two weird teenagers," as Burgess once characterized themselves, soaked up and shared the fiendish sounds of acts like Black Sabbath, Black Flag, Electric Wizard, Saint Vitus, Witchfinder General and Pentagram. "It was a lot of, 'Hey, man, check out this record,' and the excitement of that," Burgess, 21, recalls of the period. "There's nothing like discovering a new band that turns out to be one of your favorites of all time. We were just riding that excitement and being, you know, good-for-nothing teenagers, hanging around and being up to no good."
Galvanized by their newfound heroes, Burgess and the Ghoul started plotting their own music, too. Among the results: a song called "Satan's Satyrs" and a band of that same moniker that would endure beyond that summer. Today, the still-Herndon-rooted Satyrs are a rising three-piece led by bassist/vocalist Burgess, albeit one that doesn't involve the Ghoul.
Aesthetically, Satan's Satyrs' loud, unkempt style is very much the offspring of that glorious summer soundtrack, with doom metal, heavy metal, punk rock and garage rock all stirred in. Armed with a palpable vitality, they specialize in gnarled guitar lines that expectorate fuzz. The punk elements they liked were "the speed and aggression of Black Flag, maybe some Stooges, too," Burgess says. "I just wanted to wrap that aggression and that straight-for-the-throat attitude with the imagery and the aesthetic I liked. It was a heavy-metal execution the way we executed these punk-ish riffs."
On the metal end, Burgess has also cited "the heavy, down-tuned, psychedelic horror movie worship of Electric Wizard" as a most pivotal influence. (Fittingly, Burgess also plays in Electric Wizard now, and Satyrs and Wizard are doing this tour together.) Sometime around 2011 or 2012, Burgess both wrote and recorded Satyrs' debut full-length, Wild Beyond Belief!, by himself. The name Satan's Satyrs is a play on the 1969 biker movie Satan's Sadists, and in kind, Burgess aimed for the record to channel the fringe-friendly,monotony-escaping, enigmatic feel of 1960s and '70s horror and biker-exploitationflicks, with lyrics concerning the occult, the devil, biker gangs and graveyards.
Considering the band's out-there and underground-heavy cultural role models, it's a tad surprising that Burgess' ambitions for his band are of the sprawling, bright-lights sort. Burgess—who was raised on the Beatles, The Rolling Stones and the blues—grew up wanting to be a rock star. The germ of that dream still motivates his hopes for Satan's Satyrs. He pointedly hasn't wanted his group to be just "the hot band at the local bar," but rather a group that's targeting a global audience. He doesn't particularly detail the success he wants to see, but is sure he wants something.
"In a way, nowadays, people don't want to be successful in the old-school sense, but we do. The example I always use is you look at Black Sabbath at the California Jam in 1974," he says, referencing a massively successful festival that attracted hundreds of thousands, "and it's like, 'Yeah, man, heavy rock music was a thing at one time. It was real. We're not just imagining this.'"
With their 2014 album, Die Screaming, in tow, and a forthcoming, recently finished third record that Burgess describes as the moment Satan's Satyrs are hitting their stride, he's banking on big possibilities.
"If I were to look back in five years, I would hope that I'm thinking, 'This is where the band took off. This is where the band really got their engine running,' because I have that feeling now," he says. "I have the feeling that we've locked onto something really special here."