For a 16 year-old, Konrad Kupiec, guitarist for south suburban trio Diamond Plate, displays incredible talent on his instrument.
Beyond his skill, his music gives evidence that the young shredder has a deeper understanding of classic thrash metal than some musicians twice his age.
On Saturday, Jan. 17, in Cicero, Diamond Plate headlines "Klash of the Thrash." The event boasts a slate of local bands which hearken back to the mid-to-late 1980s when metal precision met punk energy, the bracing sound of a non-mainstream movement concerned less with flashy image than with creating lethal sonic mayhem.
Drummer Jim Nicademus and a former guitarist formed Diamond Plate in 2004, with Jon Macak playing bass. Kupiec initially joined as a second guitarist, but when the founding guitarist left, Macak took over the vocal spot and the band decided to remain a trio.
In early 2008, the group delivered its debut EP, "Mountains of Madness," five tracks of high-octane, no-nonsense thrash refreshingly free of the more extreme forms of heavy metal that have appeared in the last two decades. A few months later, California-based Stormspell Records reissued the EP as part of its ongoing "Thrash Clash" split release series, pairing Diamond Plate with Swedish thrash band Oppression. For their effort, Terrorizer Magazine named them one of the 10 best unsigned bands for 2008.
"My dad was into the 'Big Four,'" Kupiec says of his introduction to the music, referring to the four bands whose emergence elevated thrash into the predominant type of metal: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. "I got my Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer records from him. From then on, I was inspired to delve deeper into the more underground, obscure stuff from the eighties, the ones that are a little less known. I just fell in love with it."
Thanks to the Internet, Kupiec was able to discover a slew of bands whose heyday came years before he was born. When asked for favorites, he divulges, "My all-time favorite would have to be Testament," then launches into a list: "Forbidden, Vio-Lence... the German stuff, Kreator, Sodom, Destruction... I like Artillery, Sadus, all that. I love 'em."
The vintage underground feel evinced by Kupiec's choices carries through to Diamond Plate's music. "We try to make every song stand out," says the guitarist. "You know, all killer, no filler. Good riffs, we're very driven by riffs. We put a lot of time into arrangements, to make them interesting."
As for the band's lyrical approach, Kupiec maintains that his band eschews "typical thrash lyrics" and aims for "interesting stories... I get a lot of my influence from H.P. Lovecraft and old-school horror stories, and we also do original ideas that me and Jon come up with."
Diamond Plate tends to shy away from the naive political angles found in a lot of '80s thrash, which arose from those formative groups drawing upon punk influences and the youthful social conscience that came with them.
"We have the song 'Casualty of War,'" Kupiec observes, "which is about war and how there are two sides of it, not only the physical fighting side and getting hurt, but the mental toll that it takes. That's kind of political, but... I don't want to say that we're too young to understand that stuff, but we haven't dealt with the political side as much to really write about it and be true."
It's not that Diamond Plate is ignorant of modern extreme metal, nor that they dislike it. "We all listen to some forms of death metal," says the guitarist. "I'm not talking about the new (expletive), but the old-school stuff like Death. Morbid Angel and Obituary. And then, we're big fans of the more progressive stuff like Necrophagist. We all listen to it, but we don't necessarily want to sound like it."
Saturday's "Klash" show is heavily populated with local thrash acts, which suggests a healthy scene in the Chicago area. Kupiec names Deadnight, Vicious Attack, Infinite Missiles, Degradation and Evisceration as local thrash acts to look out for, but hints that it's still a burgeoning phenomenon.
"We've been really working hard to make the scene alive here in Chicago, but it's been hard," he admits. "It's still hard to get people to come out to the shows and really recognize that the thrash scene is alive here."
Looking ahead to playing California's Thrasho De Mayo Festival in May alongside such rising thrash metal stars as Merciless Death, Fueled By Fire and Hatchet, as well as touring over the summer, Diamond Plate's members will continue to work hard wherever there are heads that bang.
With: Mortifier, Evisceration, Thin Ice, Nuclear Cannibal, Beneath the Flesh and Addicted to Morphine
7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17, at Klas Restaurant, 5734 W. Cermak Road, Cicero, (708) 652-0795 or myspace.com/astheticundergroundentertainment
Tickets: $8 advance, $10 day of show
With: Destruction, Krisiun, Mantic Ritual and Souls Demise
6 p.m. Thursday, March 12, at The Pearl Room, 19081 Old LaGrange Road, Mokena, (708) 479-5356 or pearlroomconcerts.com