“I’m like a shark,” says Phil “LandPhil” Hall over the phone, with a laugh. “If I stop, I’ll die.”
He’s not kidding. The prolific musician is currently talking to me from his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, where he’s finishing a 27-date tour with his stoner-based death metal band, Cannabis Corpse. In December, he’ll hit the road again with his first band, the crossover thrash metal group Municipal Waste. Neatly nestled between those tours, Hall will be playing guitar with yet another band, the “sensual” crossover thrash band Iron Reagan. On Nov. 3, they join German thrash legends Kreator and American death metal heshers Thrown Into Exile for a show at the Catalyst.
Spawned from the depths of Virginia in 2012, Iron Reagan began as a project for Hall and vocalist Tony Foresta—who also sings for Municipal Waste—to record with their friend, drummer Ryan Parrish, formerly of Darkest Hour.
“We made some demos, and people seemed to respond positively to it,” Hall remembers. “Then it snowballed and picked up a lot faster than we expected.”
For the non-metalheads out there, the band took its name as an homage to Iron Maiden, with a nod to the thrash scene that blossomed in the 1980s. After recording the initial demo in 2012, Iron Reagan picked up guitarist Mark Bronzino of A.N.S., Kicking Spit and Mammoth Grinder.
“I remember listening to their demo and thinking it was sick,” says Bronzino of Iron Reagan. “More of an East Coast thrash sound, and I liked that. I originally helped them book a show in New Brunswick, and a couple months later Tony hit me up to tour.”
Since that demo—released on the Oakland-based independent metal label Tankcrimes—Iron Reagan has been a whirlwind of thrashing sonic destruction. In 2013, they brought Hellbear bassist Rob Skotis into the fold, and the core lineup was solidified when Bronzino moved to second guitar. That same year, the band dropped its debut full-length Worse Than Dead, a blistering 19-song album clocking in at about 26 minutes. The following year, they released a split EP with Exhumed and a solo EP titled Spoiled Identity, then signed to Relapse Records and dropped their second full-length, Tyranny of the Will. After another year of touring off those records, they put out yet another EP in 2015, this time with Toxic Shock.
“Five years have already gone by, but it seems just like yesterday when we started,” laughs Hall.
This past February saw the sharks of thrash’s third full-length release, Crossover Ministry. As all good artists should, Iron Reagan dreads repetition and decided to switch things up with their newest endeavor. From the colorful, almost psychedelic cover to a drawn-out writing process (compared to Tyranny, which was practically completely written while on a two-month tour with GWAR) and even darker songs, Crossover remains in the Iron Reagan realm of an audio flying kick to the face, while still keeping things as fresh as a new beer.
“We tried to pick songs that fit together and made sense,” Bronzino says. “Musically it is a darker album, because of the state of the world, and we’re also trying not to be stagnant.”
Iron Reagan also switched up its tour schedule this year. Instead of the long, massive tours as they’ve done in the past, they’ve been booking shorter chunks of shows throughout the country.
“We’ll probably play more international dates as well, but we were playing so many fucking shows a year,” Bronzino says. “But I guess everyone still is, because we all have other bands!”
Not for the faint of heart, Iron Reagan’s music features solo screaming and gang vocals. Most of their songs are roughly two minutes long, with some as short as seconds. The songs might be short, but the compressed intensity is a fission bomb of sound.
It may seem like a strange sound to come from the South, but for decades Richmond has had a thriving metal scene that includes GWAR and Lamb of God. More recently, there’s been a wave of fresh musicians, including the bands Windhand and Cough. There are so many venues around town that it’s hard not to bump into a resident or touring musician.
Hall says Richmond is a vibrant scene in part due to the Virginia Commonwealth University School for the Arts. Iron Reagan plans to contribute to that further with several more collaborative EPs next year, he says.
“I treat it like a full-time job and I love it,” he says of the band’s packed schedule. “You’d be surprised at how much work you can get done if you do it each day.”
Iron Reagan plays the Catalyst on Friday, Nov. 3, at 8 p.m. Show is 16 and over; $18/$20.