The Road to a Metal dream isn’t always paved with gold or stardom. For some the levels of success can’t be determined or calculated by monetary value or amount of album sales or the amount of commercial success. For some the value can only be defined by personal experiences and ones ability to find value in the people you meet along this very difficult and heavily traveled road. This is the story of a good friend of mine and the journey he and the rest of the band have been on for a number of years. It can be described as a success in the big picture of life. It can also be deemed nothing short of personal failure or personal disappointment. If that’s fair or unfair to say can be determined by you the reader and as the music fan or the music critic that lies deep inside all of us. This will explain the ups and downs of an individuals journey and struggle searching for that elusive metal dream and that elusive star in a world full of like-minded people searching for the same light within the darkness that is the competitive world of Metal.
This is the story of Rob Onyskiw drummer of several local Toronto bands and seeker of artistic freedom and a means to express his inner metalhead and hopefully make a living doing what he loved. This story has similar characteristics as many others who have gone through the same obstacles, same trials and tribulations; highs and lows. This is the beast, the nature of the territory and some have success while some flounder in the winds searching and seeking for what sometimes is success beyond our wildest dreams or disappointment of a completely opposite animal from the opposite side of the spectrum.
This journey starts in the City of Toronto in the late 80’s slipping into the early 90’s. During this point in time there is a shift in attitude, the political movement, and the social landscape and dynamics. The biggest change and most important for our purpose here is the music scene. My intent is not to dig deep in the musical climate of this time but it’s necessary to mention the changing of the guard so to speak. Most of the mid 80’s was dominated by the Thrash movement or the late 80’s spreading it’s Glam/Hair Metal wings and evolving into the a force to be reckoned with at the time called “Grunge” or to some Alternative Rock/Metal. Truly Genres are not important to this story but need to express the moment in time and to set the atmosphere of the time.
It all started with a band called “Sanitarium” (not a Metallica tribute band) but a musical influence for sure. It is late 1989 and they play their first show at a bar called “The Mocambo” opening for Canadian Legends “Anvil”. Since this was their first big gig, all friends and family were there to show love and support. For a prelude of things to come in the future, what could go wrong went wrong. (Yes Murphy was in the house). Technically speaking, everything went wrong for these guys. The lead guitar cut out completely right in the middle of a solo and the rhythm guitar blew a nut as well. The guys were left with only bass and drums to finish Metallica’s “Eye Of The Beholder” (No they are not a Metallica tribute band) on their own. This is not the ideal way to kick off your budding music career. This was a night the boys would not forget, from trying to fit his 11 piece drum kit onto the massive Anvil drum riser to the instrument mishaps, faith and destiny were knocking on the door even in these very early stages.
At this stage of his career, Rob and his band mates did not do a studio album of any sort but recorded a lot of material in their own self-made recording area in their basement. There was some internal issue and the band wasn’t on the same page so some members left for other opportunities while the band “Sanitarium” regrouped and changed there name to “Morbidox”. They released 2 albums the first titled “See Our Decay” that came from the band members initials (C.R.D.K.) – Chris (vocals) Rob (that would be Rob on the drums) Darren (Bass) and Ken (Guitar). The second release was titled “Strange But False” and it was featured in the now defunct local metal mag M.E.A.T (Metal Everywhere Around Toronto) that Drew Masters put together. Things were looking up and the feeling of big success was starting to rear it’s head. When Rob was in Morbidox, he also had the opportunity to play in London England which must have been very exciting. They actually played at the world famous Marquee club in Oxford. They even had a clip broadcast on Global TV here in Toronto as it was sponsored by Labbatt (huge local brewery). They got to play with a lot of cool bands over the years including Anvil, Razor, Corrosion Of Conformity, Sacrifice, Headstones, Econoline Crush, Dink, Malhavoc, Static-X, Jason Bonham, 30 Seconds To Mars, The Used, Varga just to name a few. Their star seemed to be burning bright.
Chris left the band to pursue scholastic interests and they got another vocalist named Trevor who sang on Strange But False. The third Morbidox release was titled “PULL”. After that they changed their sound and band members once again and formed “QUAD” in the early nineties. They released a 6 song demo titled “HEED” and later put out their first album after many gigs titled “Bring It On” Quad consisted of 4 members: Pino (vocals), Len (Bass), Ken (Guitar), and Rob on the drums. They shot their first video at the opera house in Toronto for their song “A.R.A.” which was named after a friend of theirs by the same name. Muchmusic(Canada’s version of MTV) wasn’t going to play it at first because they thought that A.R.A. stood for Aryan Race Alliance (which, of course, it most definitely did not) Hell, it could have stood for “Animal Rights Activist” for all they knew but it was really named after a friend of theirs. The reason they put the little dots in between the letters ARA was because they thought “Another Retarded Attempt” sounded like they were trying to write a song. It was eventually aired on Much after they took the dots out and just called it “Ara”. They never toured with “QUAD” but they played shows in Vancouver and Montreal as well as Toronto. After “QUAD” there were some member changes (once again) and they decided to change their sound a bit. They decided to call themselves “Sorundown” and they released a 3 song demo , played one gig, and broke up. So far nothing as come easy for Rob and the rest of the band and it’s starting to take a toll mentally and financially.
They wrote a lot of other songs without a vocalist but never released anything because they couldn’t find the right singer. A few more member changes and they auditioned some vocalists. They finally found a guy named Stephan who later became the vocalist for the newest band Latefallen. He was younger than the rest of band but he had a great voice and they wrote a ton of songs together. The sound changed once again, but it was something they all liked. It was a little more radio friendly, but still heavy. They released a few demo CD’s and Rob left the band briefly, but was coerced back shortly after his departure. They wrote even more songs and eventually released their debut album “Bloody Kiss” they shot a video for the first single which was the title track “Bloody Kiss” and it aired on Muchmusic shortly afterward, and by shortly, I mean it took forever. At least it seemed like forever for the guys. They did a ton of shows played live as much as they could, and developed a good following. Myspace was just starting back then and they had fans from all over the world asking them to play their city/town/country. They would have loved to travel the world over to play for all of them but they were an independent band with zero money and it was difficult to get to those places on their own dime. Once again the reality of stardom was becoming more and more clear to them that it is the dog chasing it’s own tail.
Latefallen then went on tour across Canada but before they went they shot another video for the song “The Fly” (you can see all these videos on YouTube). They saw a rough edit of the video when they were playing a show in Ottawa and it looked epic! They couldn’t wait to get that one on Muchmusic as well. Eventually, they both aired on Muchmusic and they started getting recognized places. It was strange, the kids were starting to approach them and ask them for autographs which they were glad to oblige. They continued to tour Canada and during a break Rob played drums on another project called “Birth Of Hate”
(My personal Favorite) which sounds awesome and is heavy. Just the kind of stuff he grew up with and loved playing. They never did any live gigs with Birth Of Hate, but they recorded a 5 song demo CD with them. Rob still loves listening to it himself as that sound was his roots. Rob grew up listening to thrash metal and punk and his style came from that. Rob tells me he enjoyed listening to all kinds of music but preferred playing the heavy stuff.
Back to Latefallen , They played a ton of shows and opened for a lot of cool bands such as 30 Seconds To Mars, The Used, etc. They got to play the Warped tour (just the Toronto show) and Arrow Hall in Toronto (which was probably the pinnacle of his music career) Massive stage in front of thousands of people. Rob tells me “It was awesome! Playing smaller bars after that gig was a big let down”. but they soldiered on and after 8 weeks on the road and a personal debt of $5000, Rob decided he had to pack it in. (Much to my dismay) He just couldn’t afford to contribute financially any further as it was putting him in the financial trouble. He still played with some former band members (the “QUAD” guys minus the singer) Ken’s wife sings in a project he is involved with currently called “Peace Of Night”. they recorded one song called “Beloved” (video is on YouTube) and they are currently in the middle of recording a new song called “The Bond Between Us” which is almost done.
Latefallen as a band have since disbanded after vigorous touring and countless financial efforts and staggering amount of time pursuing agents and countless record labels to no avail. To taste the fruit of stardom and to live this disappointment. To know you were so close and yet so far away. It’s bittersweet to say the very least and one has to put everything into perspective and realize that Rob and the bands, respectively, have done more than most of us can dream of. They have been places and seen and worked with bands only we could dream of. He got to be a rock star to the kids and fans that showed up and supported them. Even though there was some rough times, there were moments of pride and accomplishments as well. They can still hold their heads high and ride the highway of life as better people even if it isn’t paved with gold.
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