Metal May

D.R.I. thrives on its ability to go back and forth from a show for 50 in a pizza joint to a big stage in front of 100,000 people in Colombia.

Commercially successful groups, including Slayer, Anthrax and Sacred Reich, have cited D.R.I. (short for Dirty Rotten Imbeciles) as hardcore/metal crossover pioneers – innovators of the “crossover thrash genre” and an array of time signatures. The Houston-born outfit’s hodgepodge of heavy metal, punk, thrash and speed metal opened up a fanbase that includes headbangers, skatepunks and hardcore audiences, and has for more than 30 years.

Thanks to an unsolicited endorsement during an interview with Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo and a record deal with respected metal label Metal Blade, D.R.I.’s 1987Crossover (a reference to the group’s punk-metal marriage) generated substantial buzz.

Their follow-up, just a year later, 4 of a Kind, was D.R.I’s first record to make it onto the national charts. Soon 1989’s Thrash Zone also charted, and scored MTV airplay for its heavy guitar riff anthems “Beneath the Wheel” and “Abduction.”

The band couldn’t bust through to a plateau of international stardom – though outfits like Anthrax continue to credit D.R.I.’s influence. Personnel changes paired with a label change and a mainstream who fled the metal world for grunge/alternative left D.R.I. underloved by 1995, when they released Full Speed Ahead, their last full-length studio album of original songs.

Yet D.R.I. rocks on, doing what they’d be doing if they did ever make it as big as Slayer. Through a whirlwind of frequent lineup changes, spanning back to their 1982 Texas origins, singer Kurt Brecht and guitarist Spike Cassidy provide D.R.I.’s glue.

Following their 22-song debut and a year of playing the Houston club circuit, the outfit relocated to San Francisco with hopes of gaining more exposure. Despite a high-profile tour alongside the Dead Kennedys, D.R.I. began losing its original members to everything from marriage to drugs to other bands.

Last June, D.R.I. released But Wait… There’s More!, their first new material in over a decade. Brecht describes one of the tunes, “As Seen On TV,” as a jab to consumerism’s jugular.

“Basically, I’m just talking bad about society and human beings, but never offer any kind of solution… ’cause I can’t think of one,” Brecht says.

Cinco de Thrasho: D.R.I., Hatriot, Infex Fux and Modern Enemy 7pm Friday, May 5. Fox Theater, 241 Main St., Salinas. $20/advance; $28/door. 758-8459.

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