The Richmond power-rock quintet Seth has the dual-guitar assault of Judas Priest and vocals reminiscent of Metallica. But it's not a cover band. The group's hour-long set proudly boasts almost all original compositions. The one cover they perform, Cheap Trick's "Dream Police," has been so changed in sound that it is, in bassist Joel Benson's words, "not a cover but a remake."
The band has opened for Quiet Riot, released a four-song CD and is now gearing up for a celebration performance at Mulligans on Jan. 25. The winners of the "Almost Famous" battle-of-the-bands contest are scheduled to appear this week with several other local bands for a three-day CD release party. The "Almost Famous Band CD" will include the Seth song "Can't You Forget," as well as songs by a number of other contestants.
For this turn-the-amps-up, thunderous rock act, the honor was unexpected. When the group signed up for the June best-original-band contest along with more than 25 area bands they never expected to win. Drummer Sammy Lee figured that a hard-rock/heavy-metal act couldn't possibly be picked for the winning slot, so he said they just jumped on-stage and put on their usual act.
"When we got up there to play we decided to just have a good time," Lee says. "We didn't have the mind-set of winning, so it was a shock when we won."
Anyone who has heard them play won't be surprised by their victory. Vocalist Carlton McMichael would be overpowering if he were not matched by the virtuoso guitar duo of Kenny Tibbs and Chris Perkins.
While Tibbs and Perkins can rip up the fretboard, you won't hear any drawn-out guitar Odysseys from Seth. The reason: Seth is a tight ensemble that focuses on playing as a unit.
"You won't see any long guitar solos where the rest of the band leaves the stage," Tibbs says.
The judges at the Innsbrook Pavilion were obviously impressed. Innsbrook Special Events Committee Chairman Peter Kaufman says that the 400 people who attended the show were also knocked out by Seth's energetic performance.
"I hate shoe-gazing bands," Kaufman says. "That's why Seth is so good; their enthusiasm is fantastic."
While some may call Seth hard rock and others may label it heavy metal, the group prefers the term power rock. Their music might rest most comfortably in the metal category, but hardcore punk influences can be heard in their song "Reap What You Sow," thanks to Benson, a veteran of Richmond's punk scene and a former member of the mosh-pit-inspiring band White Cross.
While these players are not ashamed of their influences, they are working toward forging their own style. Benson and Tibbs describe their latest compositions as heavier and more melodic than their previous work.
"Seth is starting to develop its own sound," Tibbs says. "We're starting to weed out old stuff."
What's next for the Richmond rockers? Of course their dream is to release a full-length CD with a major label. While these local musicians love living in Richmond, they say that it's hard to make a living playing here because of the lack of venues for a band with their hard-hitting style.
"We'd like to sign a major deal and then get on the road," Benson says. "We're not into this for a weekend hobby."
Seth will appear at Mulligan's, 8006 W. Broad St., on Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. Other contestants from the "Almost Famous" contest will appear on Jan. 23 and 24. Tickets are $5 and will be available at the door.