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High Hopes: Royal Thunder

Satan, Christian cults... and the Scorpions? Meet rock’s eclectic new saviours.

“Growing up I was really into drugs, satanism and witchcraft,” says Mlny Parsonz, leader of Atlanta metallers Royal Thunder.

 “In my early twenties I decided to clean up my life and I got involved in a Christian cult for a long time. That was a really bad experience.”

Parsonz is a woman completely unafraid of wild changes in direction, and her path from Satan to rock’n’roll via God is one of the more unlikely stories you’ll hear this, or any other, year.

Discussing her shift from cult member to rock frontwoman, she says: “I had some weird experience [at church] where I was convulsing. Everyone got on top of me and was praying – they thought I had a demon inside me. I was trying to get away and this woman took her bare foot, stuck it in my face. She had a bible in her hand and was yelling, ‘Kiss the foot of God, you demon, kiss the foot of God.’ I looked at her and said, ‘I’m not a demon, I’m a human being.’”

With that, Parsonz got into future bandmate Josh Weaver’s car and never returned to the church. Ten years on, she and Weaver, joined by Evan Diprima and Will Fiore, are about to release Crooked Doors, the follow-up to their 2012 debut, CVI. Parsonz admits that she has only recently opened up about her past, and she’s under no illusions that music, rather than God, was her true saviour.

“This band has helped me become sane,” she admits. “This music has been cathartic. It helped me to think outside of the way I was trained to think on a spiritual level.”

Guitarist Weaver founded the band back in 2004, but after a severe line-up change that left him the last man standing, Parsonz was drafted in as vocalist and bassist. She quickly brought a love of the Scorpions, Def Leppard and Nirvana to the table, while her bandmates added healthy dollops of classic thrash and modern prog. It’s a supremely eclectic sound that they have perfected on Crooked Doors. The record meanders beautifully back and forth from delicate Zeppelin moments into gritty grunge via elongated Mastodon-ish jams.

It’s also a record that didn’t come easily. While recording, Parsonz was laid up for a month after a serious car wreck that she was lucky to escape from.

“I had already tracked Forgive Me, Karma before the wreck,” she explains. “I came back after the wreck to finish it and was like, ‘Dude, delete that, let’s start over because I need to give everything.’”

Giving everything is a definite way of life for Royal Thunder, and for much of 2015 they will be doing just that out on the road.

“We’re road dogs,” Parsonz says. “I work in a pub, and that’s my saving grace because when I’m at the bar, it’s like, ‘Well, this kind of feels like I’m at the merch table.’ We’re not good staying home being normal people.”

Crooked Doors is out on April 7 via Relapse Records.

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Much like Parsonz’s past, Royal Thunder’s musical make-up is full of extreme contrasts. “Josh and I have similar music tastes, but where we differ we really differ. He’ll be like, ‘Really? The Scorpions? C’mon!’ Evan grew up to classic rock, he loves Blue Öyster Cult. We all like different music, and you can’t help hear that in our music.”

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