Heavy rock and roll is born of something you can’t put into words. It’s the greasy dirt found under a mechanic’s fingernails as they finish the last car of the day and the sweat-stained shirt stuck to a blue-collar worker’s back as they grind through their third consecutive twelve-hour shift. It’s the feeling of tearing down an open road late at night with the song that make you feel truly free while the person you love rides shotgun. Rock and roll is a sensation we both chase and earn, and it’s the stories of those living life caught in the in between that Carbellion seeks to reach through their music.
Formed in Southeastern Wisconsin in 2004 with the idea they were better together than apart, the men of Carbellion have been forging an original path in music since day one. The members — Brandon Bauer (guitar), Cameron Kellenberger (vocals), Brent Nimz (drums), Jamie Damrow (lead guitar), Steve Sheppard (bass guitar) — fuse elements of grunge and thrash with a traditional rock structure to deliver driving anthems of lives lived on the outer rim of society. Their sound follows in the tradition of forward-thinking groups like Clutch and Alice In Chains, but with hooks and melodies ready for radio.
“We always tell people we make rock music,” explains vocalist Cameron Kellenberger, “but that always leads to more questions. It’s not exactly metal, but it’s not radio rock. We tune down, and we have an edgier sound, but my vocals are mostly clean. It’s nothing like what you heard in the 80s or 90s, and there’s not a lot like us around today. We appreciate comparisons, but we pride ourselves on being original.
The group self-released their first EP, American Heavy Rock, in March of 2005. That material got the band on the road and was followed in 2006 by their first full-length album, Villains, which was later re-released in 2007 through Indie 500 Records. Carbellion then found an international home with Dead Tree Music who, alongside Indie 500, released the band’s 2009 split EP along Outshine, which was followed later that same year by their second album, The Horse. Four years would pass before 2013’s Headliner EP, and then another five before 2019’s In Due Time EP.
On the live front, Carbellion has been celebrated nationwide for their riveting and engaging live performances. While sharing the stage with peers and heroes, the group has performed more than 400 times across 20 states and counting with supporting slots for mainstream artists such as Motorhead, Corrosion of Conformity, Clutch, Buckcherry, Shinedown, Sevendust, Aranda, Valient Thorr, Reverend Horton Heat, Crobot, ’68, Gov’t Mule, Fu Manchu, The Sword, PM5k, Black Stone Cherry, and more. Highlights from the time on the road includes WIIL 95.1 Rock Fest, WIIL/FM Presents Rocktober Fest, Summerfest in Milwaukee, The Porcupine Bash, Bomblastica, Mukwanapalooza, Day of the Doomed, Live Nation Int’l Battle of the Bands Finals at HOB Sunset in Hollywood (RIP), and both NAMM Conventions—Summer & Winter.
Weapons of Choice, Carbellion’s third full-length album, pulls from nearly twenty years of experience and lessons learned by fire to deliver the group’s most compelling release to date. The ten-song collection brings together the band’s strongest and most cohesive material to date, though its inception was rather unusual.
“We started the record before COVID,” says Kellenberger. “The pandemic made us stop temporarily, but we found a way to work together digitally during that time. That allowed us to write the record, which we took to the studio as material was finished, so some songs were recorded two years before others, but it was a constant creation process.
Weapons of Choice also marks the debut of drummer Brent Nimz, who also contributes to the songwriting.
“While we’re definitely not a punk band, Brent and I share a love of punk rock,” Kellenberger explains. “That really comes out on this record with songs like “Bar Fight” and “Pity the Backseat,” the latter of which Brent actually wrote. There’s more of a rock and roll edge to the material, but it’s still really heavy, and I think from the last EP to now, that influence is one of the biggest differences. It’s made a BIG impact on our sound.”
Lyrically, Weapons of Choice finds Carbellion working to engage its audience. “I want to make people think,” Kellenberger states. We’ve never been great at writing straightforward songs. Translating the thoughts and ideas in my head is a complicated process, but an exciting one. These songs are definitely fun and we write them with the intention of making people have a good time, especially with the live show, but this record more than any other also aims to make people think. Don’t take everything at face value. Nothing in this life is black and white. The truth is almost always somewhere in the middle.”
With the album complete, Carbellion is taking stock of its place in the rock ecosystem. After nearly two decades and half a dozen releases, the Wisconsin bad boys feel they are just now hitting their stride.
“I don’t feel that we have a throwaway song,” says Kellenberger. “Not every song is right for every person, but we’ve worked hard to ensure every song that makes the record deserves to be there. Our goal is to get our music out there, and to get more people listening to it. We’re career guys with normal jobs and kids and lives we wouldn’t walk away from, but there are a lot of opportunities we want to pursue. We want to tour Europe and play big festivals. Not necessarily more shows, but bigger ones, and this record feels like it has the material to get us there.”
Weapons of Choice is scheduled to be released by Eclipse Records on March 17, 2023.