Written by A. Iwasa
The core members of Descend, Pawns in Chess, and Curse of Denial represent the greater Cleveland Area’s underground metal scene from the 1990s to today both with their own creative output and family tree of other bands. Read more to learn about the band's histories, demos, and LPs.
If you only know one musical act from 1990s Cleveland, Ohio (Clevo) it’s probably Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, which I think is pretty cool, as they were one of the most unique musical acts in their genre at the time. What a lot of people don’t know, however, is the metro area produced a ton of other bands with equally original sounds. The core members of Descend, Pawns in Chess, and Curse of Denial represent the greater Cleveland Area’s underground metal scene from the 1990s to today both with their own creative output and family tree of other bands.
“Blood of Martyrs” is the title track of a demo by Pawns of Chess, an instrumental, technical thrash band that was playing shows in the greater Cleveland, Ohio area from 2013-2016.
If you live in Tucson, you can also support a local, independent record store and music venue, Wooden Tooth Records, by picking up a copy of the Pawns in Chess demo on CD, being sold as a fundraiser for Trial & Error Collective.
Two of the members of the demo lineup had been a death metal band, Descend, that made recordings from 1995-2001, and had all been printers who did all of their own printing early on. It never would have occurred to me on my own, but between flyers, tape covers and all the other merchandise, bands need tons of printing. At the right job you can do it for free, or at least get a steep discount. Plus print shops tend to be great places to listen to music while you work.
A local label and distro called Dismal Records released their original 1995 Demonstration Cassette. Run by a death metal musician and vocalist, Duane Morris, who was in Decrepit at the time. Next year, Extremely Rotten Productions rereleases the 1995 Descend demo on vinyl!
I think Descend’s 1995 Demo is one of the most brutal death metal recordings ever, and I was inspired to take up printing as my vocation by the band. I saw them twice in the '90s, and think they were as good live as on tape.
Pawns in Chess bassist Michael Perez once told me in an interview, "Pawns in Chess was a lifesaver for me personally. When we started that band in January 2013, I had not even touched my bass in over three years. I thought I was done playing music. Shawn and I had tried to jam with a variety of guitarists prior to that and nothing ever worked out. But one day Shawn called me and was pretty excited about this guy, Jeremy, that he had a session with and wanted me to come down the next day. Long story short, it worked out. We clicked right away. We put out a six track cd in 2014 called “Blood of Martyrs”. It’s just the three of us, no vocals. Jim Konya (RIP) loved it and asked us to start a new band with him in 2015, so we obliged. However, he passed of a stroke shortly thereafter. It was devastating to everyone in the Cleveland scene. He was the ambassador of this scene and I don’t think anyone could imagine it without him. But through the will power and dedication of the great artists here, the scene was able to recover from such a tremendous loss. A few months later, we asked Rob Molzan of Decrepit and From the Depths to join our band on vocals and we changed the name to Curse of Denial."
Pawns in Chess went on to be the core of a blackened death metal band, Curse of Denial (CoD), who also included ex-members of Decrepit and From the Depths as members and guest musicians in their debut album, The 13th Sign in 2017.
There is one last CoD CD coming out in November,. It’s a five- song EP entitled “The Reckoning,” on Redefining Darkness Records (RDR).
The Curse of Denial lineup at the time of the first album also included another ex-member of Descend, and the first album included guest musicians from bands past and present such as Ringworm, Escalation Anger, Keelhaul, and Nunslaughter.
Track number five, “Night Terrors,” was dedicated to Jim Konya, a musician and vocalist who played drums or vocalized in a range of bands from the raging hardcore punk 9 Shocks Terror to the off-the-wall scrap metal act Schnauzer.
Track number nine, “The Day That the Sun Failed to Rise,” was inspired by and dedicated to Konya's alter ego, Malcolm Judas Anthony, of From the Depths and All that is Evil.
It’s a limited pressing of 300 copies, and I’m genuinely shocked there aren’t 299 other washed up ex-hardcore kids or metalists who haven’t already bought them all a while ago.
RDR put out The 13th Sign, and the second album by CoD, Coming for your Soul.
“The press for Descend was black and white, no gray areas. We either got stellar reviews or horrible reviews, nothing in between. Curse of Denial has had positive reviews for the most part, some bad ones,” Michael Perez told me in an interview.
You can find all of Descend’s studio releases on the youtube, so please check them out!
If you don't live around Tucson or understandably are still hesitant about public places because of COVID, you can reach out through the CoD fedbook account about picking up the Pawns in Chess demo. They also have t-shirts for both Pawns and CoD!
Last year, I had the chance to do an e-mail interview with ex-Descend, Pawns in Chess, CoD member Michael Perez, which you can read the rest of for free here: