Musicians have been rumored to have sold their souls to the Devil since Robert Johnson purportedly did at a Mississippi crossroads in the 1930s. The blues led to rock and roll, followed by heavy metal as the years went along. Yet we hear the same stories about how the Devil music is corrupting our youth. But when we have every new generation being corrupted, do we have a music problem, or is it just that the youth need something to latch on to? In the second feature from Ash Avildsen, AMERICAN SATAN, we get a look into what a young heavy metal band is willing to do to make it big and do a little corrupting of their own.
Johnny Faust (Andy Biersack, the band Black Veil Brides) and his classmate Vic Lakota (Booboo Stewart, THE DESCENDENTS) are ready to break free from their Columbus, Ohio hometown to finally form their band The Relentless in Los Angeles. Having worked online with a manager, Ricky (John Bradley, Game of Thrones) and lead guitarist Leo (Ben Bruce, the band Asking Alexandria) recruit a new drummer, Dylan (Sebastian Gregory, ACOLYTES) before leaving Britain for the Sunset Strip.
Once together, the band only need to get a bad ass bass player and score some gigs. Luckily enough, they find Lily (Jesse Sullivan, ENIGMA OF BEING AWAKE), an androgenous leather clad rocker that looks like she could do more damage than most of them could. To say the least, she fits right in. And scoring their first gig at the Whiskey-A-Gogo seems easy until they realize they don’t get paid unless they pack the joint.
Turmoil ensues, but after a few chance encounters with a brash, bullying beast in the form of Mr. Capricorn (Malcolm McDowell, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE). Capricorn offers them the world on a platter as they are finding themselves washing dishes just to get by. Hard not to pass up an offer like that, even if it involves a little sacrifice.
If you’ve seen a VH1 Behind The Music, then you should know that the life of a musician isn’t easy. The constant wear of the road, the ever present pressure of never being big enough, can rub on the best of people. And when you’re a young good looking band on the road for the first time, doing the right thing for your mom and long distance girlfriend back home becomes more and more difficult. AMERICAN SATAN throws all of your cliché temptations at The Relentless, and with them wanting to choose pleasure over abstinence, they succumb to the fullest.
We have seen this story before. Hell, Johnny’s last name is Faust. A good man gets tempted, does some horrible things, tearing him away from the people he loves the most, and must find a way to redeem himself before it’s too late. Fairly common story, yes, but how it plays out is what is important. Do we keep it standard? Or throw in a tragic twist a la HARD CORE LOGO? Avildsen and crew do a good job of faking you out both ways enough to leave you guessing.
Taking a film and focusing it on a young actor is always a gamble. And with Andy Biersack, as this is his first role, that’s all the more of a risky roll of the dice. Thankfully, he does step up his game, playing well off of more seasoned actors like McDowell, Denise Richards who played his mother, or the record exec Elias played by Mark Boone Junior. That being said, some of the performances from smaller roles were all over the place. The tone throughout was inconsistent and over the top, laughably so in some cases, but easy to look over and move forward once the next song hits. And fully explainable looking at the shortened shooting schedule they had.
With a movie about music, you better have a killer soundtrack. Especially when your director is the head of a metal label (Sumerian Records). Avildsen was able to get Jonathan Davis from KoRn to do the score, as well as corralling a strong stable of artists to round out the songs not played by the band. Yes, we actually get a full albums worth of music from The Relentless on the soundtrack, which I’ve been listening to non-stop for the last few days.
If you are a fan of metal, and are in the mood for a killer soundtrack, strap on the leather, hit the streets and rock the fuck out with AMERICAN SATAN.