Daniel da Silva
Something had to kill disco, and in the early eighties one band answered the call. The Rods, a power trio from central New York plugged in with enough blue-collar hard rock to derail a record industry saturated in satin-covered dance beats. Slang for muscle cars, the band took the name that most fit their sound tough guitars, rumbling bass and thunderous drums played so loud that even when the power failed they could be heard in the next county. Forged from the ashes of boogie bar band Elf (featuring Ronnie James Dio), guitarist David Feinstein joined bassist Stephen Starmer and drummer Carl Canedy to combine influences that included Blue Cheer, The Godz and Ted Nugent.
Their grassroots following produced the independent Rock Hard LP (1980) released on the band’s homespun label Primal Records and gained them the support slot for a one-off Judas Priest show in Albany, NY. The raw mixture of power chords and amped-up pub rock engineered by Armand John Petri and Chris Bubacz (Metallica) was enough to catch the attention of Clive Davis and Arista Records. The high-profile New York label signed the band for a two record deal, and after Starmer was replaced by bassist Gary Bordonaro, repackaging Rock Hard with a stronger running order and the addition of two cover songs, Robert Fleischman’s “Ace In The Whole” and White Honey’s “Nothing Going On In The City.”
The Rods” self-titled, major label debut came as the rise of the New Wave of British Metal hit American shores in 1981. Referring to the Rods as the American Motörhead, UK paper Sounds and their Heavy Metal offshoot Kerrang! ran sensationalized stories of the three-piece guaranteed to sell both the band and the magazine. A European tour with Iron Maiden (Number Of The Beast) ensued during the spring of 1982 putting The Rods in the British Metal charts. Riding the wave, the band remained in Britain and went to work on “Wild Dogs,” their first proper release for Arista under the watchful eyes of producer Martin Pearson (Krokus). The record continued the band’s love affair with heart-pound muscle rock but with Air Supply and Whitney Houston selling millions of records, the label chose not to renew their association even when AC/DC invited them out as support during their For Those About To Rock 1983 tour.
Quickly snatched up by the more fitting Shrapnel Records, The Rods assembled a strong set of demos titled In The Raw (1983). Boasting some of their strongest song ideas including the anthem “Hurricane,” the disc captured the band at their unruly heaviest. There were other records like the official Live (1984) and Let Them Eat Metal (1984) with it’s controversial yet classic album art. However, all three members were being pulled in different directions and eventually retreated to their own pursuits. Two other projects would eventually fall under The Rods” name, Hollywood (1986) featuring Canedy, Feinstein, Bordonaro and Rick Caudle as well as Heavier Than Thou (1986) spotlighting Dutch singer Shmoulik Avigal (Horizon, Picture). But then all fell silent for nearly twenty years.
In 2003 David “Rock” Feinstein would again appear under the international spotlight, with Feinstein, his critically acclaimed metallic five-piece. The activity ignited Rods fever and in 2004 a reunited Rods took the stage for the “Wacken Open Air” festival in Germany. Once the spark hit, the engine kicked into gear at full throttle. 2005-06 has seen the power trio of Feinstein, Canedy and Bordonaro enter the studio only to surface with the career defining Living Outside The Law. The record’s brilliance is in its return to the classic Rods sound of tough guitars, rumbling bass and thunderous drums. All the tracks have been stripped bare to reveal a band at their primal best with shear aggression and vitality.
Written by the songwriting team of Feinstein and Canedy, the 15 songs that make up Living Outside The Law resonate a modern fervor with a nod to the past. Their message as road warriors still burns from the gritty “Raise Some Hell” and “Rebel’s Highway” to the unrelenting “Vengeance” and “Running Wild.” Time has magnified the band’s sonic prowess in their reverberating rhythm section that literally bludgeons its way through “Madman,” the opening instrumental “The Calm Before” and the closing “Third Tom From The Sun.” Feinstein’s thick, meaty guitar tone devours “Fire With Fire” and “My Life My Way” while his vocal growl puts its mark on “Breakdown” and “Let It Ride.” Coming full circle, two tracks “Metal Will Never Die” and “The Code” host Rock’s cousin Ronnie James Dio on vocals. Let the Hurricane begin.
The Rods are planning a great new album release for 2021 and look forward to seeing their fans on tour!
Their entire catalog is planed to be reissued via High Roller Records, also in 2021.