Genre: Klezmer Metal/Power Metal/Neoclassical Metal
When Drake Joseph Whitesmith first heard a Judas Priest album, he was hooked on metal—and his parents' complaints only fed his love. He first auditioned for the band Koven of Klowns, a circus-themed metal band, and even had a bit part on their album Funhouse Of Fright (his terrified screams can be heard on one song), but his parents nipped that in the bud by selling his car out from under him. Unfortunately, they also ended up nipping his job at a music store in the bud, and he had to find work closer to home (he ended up working at a grocery store, but never told his parents it was run by a Shephardic couple).
Unable to find a local band that needed a drummer, he created his own.
Drake found a ready bassist in the one friend his parents allowed him to have: an Alsatian named Bruce Kellion. The Kellions, his parents insisted, were a fine, respectable family, but Drake had little respect for the abrasive, brash Bruce. Bruce himself brought along a guitarist, a stoner named Jim Dexter, and they practiced in Bruce's garage.
The stage was set—for disaster. Jim was utterly unreliable and a pothead, and missed almost every practice. After a month, Drake had had enough and announced he wanted a new guitarist, but Bruce would not allow it.
Bruce also wanted to be the main lyricist for the band, and wrote virulently anti-semetic lyrics, which Drake regularly vetoed. The band was falling apart, and it got even worse when Drake finally overruled Bruce and kicked Jim out of the band.
Bruce was mad at him enough over that, but when Drake brought in his replacement, things got even worse: The replacement, Micah Cragg, was a Jew.
Micah Cragg started out playing in the Craggs and the Mastiffsons, a mostly-brass Klezmer band run by his grandfather, grandaunt, and granduncle. But he was also a major metalhead and wanted to do something other than play an instrument nobody could recognize (a sarrusophone, to be exact).
Micah met Drake at the Jewish grocery store and, despite an inauspicious first meeting (Drake greeted him in Judeao-Spanish, which Micah didn't know), they became friends. When Drake offered him a chance to be his guitarist in Drake's budding heavy metal band, Micah jumped at the chance.
If his first meeting with Drake had been humourous, his first meeting with Bruce was nothing short of ugly; the two nearly came to blows over a snide remark over Micah's menorah pendant.
Eventually, though, Bruce seemed to calm down. Eventually, when they wanted to do a demo tape, Micah brought them to his house. Bruce sneered at all the Jewish trappings, and it soon became clear that his attitude hadn't improved at all.
Recording the demo tape soon proved problematic, as their styles simply didn't mesh at all (Drake and Micah blamed Bruce, and Bruce blamed Micah for this). Micah's grandfather, Eleazar, stepped in to try and help the fledgling band, but while Drake and Micah were glad for some advice, Eleazar's presence simply irked Bruce even worse.
It was in such a toxic environment that the demo tape was finally finished. When discussing what to call the group, Bruce said to Eleazar,
Hey, old kike, how about Yom Kippur Holocaust?
Drake would have kicked Bruce's ass, if Micah hadn't grabbed him first, hauled him out by the ear (slamming Bruce's head into every doorframe along the way), and thrown him out of the house.
Drake apologized profusely to the deeply offended Eleazar, and Micah assured Eleazar that Bruce would never enter the house again. Micah asked Drake if he knew any other bassists; as it so happened, Drake did. The only question was, would the bassist be willing to play heavy metal?
Jan Doornenbal, an immigrant from The Kingdom of the Netherlands, wasn't a huge fan of heavy metal, but Drake's request—and acceptance that Jan played a double bass, not a bass guitar—piqued his interest. His younger brother Bouke, however, literally begged his brother to go so he could come along, and Jan consented, and the two arrived, Jan with his acoustic double bass, Bouke with his violin.
Even before they played a note, Drake could tell that these two would be a vast improvement—there was little of the tension that plagued the previous groups. While Bouke was loud, he tried to be genuinely funny, while Jan was quiet and took everything his brother did in stride.
The four set to practicing the Viking Metal songs Drake had written, but Drake often felt something was wrong—the band simply wasn't
getting what he was trying to play, and even wondered ifhe himself was. Eventually, they recorded a three-song demo that they would take to Drake's friend Baron SnickerSlaughter, leader of Koven of Klowns. Baron SnickerSlaughter flatly told them,
You have no idea what you're trying to play. He went further and told Drake he was playing the wrong kind of metal, and he should go for the metal that was calling him.
Eleazar agreed with this assessment, and told Drake,
You are a Gentile Seed planted in Jewish Soil. You must accept where your roots have grown.
When Eleazar brought out the folk music of the Ashkenazi and Shephardic Jews for them to adapt, Drake realized that his band had finally found its niche. With the guidance of Eleazar, the four musicians began to hone their sound. Eleazar helped out by playing along with them on his organ, and eventually, Drake offered him an invitation to join the band. Eleazar thought on it a while, then finally accepted. So far as Drake was concerned, the lineup was complete. After some time in practice, Eleazar got the band a gig playing at the Bar Mitzvah of one of his half-brother Bryn's grandsons, their first paying gig. It was there that Sarai Goldberg, Micah's girlfriend, saw the band—and she wanted in.
Drake, Micah, and Eleazar were originally opposed to Sarai joining, not wanting to cause tensions in the band, but Sarai was insistent. She brought in her clarinet, and joined in on practice sessions. Seeing how well she meshed with the rest of the group, Drake and Micah eventually relented, though Eleazar had his reservations.
She was especially fond of dueting with Bouke and enjoyed his antics, but was unaware that this roused Micah's jealousy.
Eleazar told Micah that he should be open with his problems, saying that shaking the boat now would avoid a blowup that would surely sink it later on. Micah agreed, and confronted the two about their shared antics at jam sessions and rehearsals. Sarai insisted her heart belonged to Micah only, and Bouke admitted he had no idea that Micah though the stabyhoun was flirting with Sarai. He agreed to tone it down.
As they continued to practice, the Doornenbal brothers began mixing in their own Dutch influences, adding more layers to their music. Eventually, the fateful question of a band name. Jan, Bouke, and Sarai learned of Bruce's violent ejection from the band over this question. Jan put forth
Iron Zion, explaining
Well, it sounds Metal, and it's Jewish... The others agreed; even Eleazar was satisfied. The band thus named, they began playing at small gigs and jam sessions, and prepared a demo tape.
The demo recording was a dose of reality for the young musicians, as it went absolutely and completely nowhere. Their unusual instrumentation and strong Klezmer influences meant they were something of an acquired taste, which many labels had little time for. Another was the issue of multi-lingual lyrics. The band continued to play local gigs.
To help with band affairs, Eleazar introduced them to an old friend of his, James Maxwell, who would be their manager. As part of their contract, James would keep a Jewish calender, to keep performance dates from falling during certain Jewish religious days:
Before long, they were getting a reputation of their own in the local metal community as a niche act, but they wanted more. Eventually, they went on a province-wide tour.