Death Kings were formed out of the ashes of the global pandemic’s decimation of the live music industry. Guitarist Mike “Muerto” Gantzer (Aqueous), bassist Ryan “Little King” Stasik (Umphrey’s McGee), and drummer Mikey “Ox” Carubba (formerly of Turkuaz) channeled their white-hot rage into the new punk/metal project, which made its full-length, self-titled debut on Monday.
Prior to the pandemic, Stasik, Gantzer, and Aqueous drummer Rob Houk announced the formation of a new band, The Hazards. The punk trio was set to make its debut on March 12th, 2020 at The Holding Company in San Diego, CA following an Umphrey’s McGee show at the nearby Observatory North Park. On the morning of March 12th, however, the music industry came to a grinding halt at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fast forward just under a year later, and Gantzer introduced the world to Death Kings on episode 116 of Andy Frasco’s World Saving Podcast. The guitarist offered a snippet of an unmastered track called “Fight” from the newly announced project. Death Kings’ debut on episode 116 was no thematic coincidence, as Frasco’s guest was skateboarding legend Tony Hawk. Gantzer himself said, “all the music on [Hawk’s] video games, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, is the music that most influenced this project.”
The combination of the pandemic, the dashed dreams of The Hazards, and a brain-numbing amount of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater may have birthed Death Kings, but Stasik, Gantzer, and Carubba brought it to life. Stasik and Gantzer are no stranger to collaboration, sporadically performing as Dookie for years, offering cover sets devoted to Green Day and similar 90’s post-punk influences.
While a Death Kings show is still ripe with covers by everyone from CKY to Suicidal Tendencies, Death Kings the album is an original addition to the genre. At a time when pop culture of the 1990s is becoming more economically stylish by the day—from When We Were Young to some of the more millennial-driven Super Bowl LVI adverts—Death Kings choose now to pump out original music rather than cash in on nostalgic covers.
Though fans of UM, Aqueous, and Turkuaz are more prevalent in a smoker’s pit than a mosh pit, Death Kings offers an entry point for those searching for a heavier sound. Umphrey’s McGee is the jam band Metallica, while Gantzer’s songwriting, vocal delivery, and lasting mohawk have always retained a heavier side to Aqueous’ music. Mikey “Ox” Carubba charges out of the bullpen to act as the seventh seal to bring about the musical armageddon that is Death Kings. Welcome to Hell.
Stream the new Death Kings album via the player below. The final show of the band’s winter tour is on February 17th at Woodlands Tavern in Columbus, OH following Umphrey’s McGee at KEMBA Live! For tickets click here.
Death Kings – Death Kings