RAGING, distorted guitars. Power-drill drums. Songs about Vikings, screamed with lunacy by a singer in a horned helmet, wearing an evil look on his face.
Billed as "the first heavy-metal band for kids," the Thunderlords are actually the secret identity of a mild-mannered video-game programmer and hard-core Iron Maiden fan named Alan Flores, who has dented the children's music charts worldwide with minute-long ragers like "Old Man Olaf" (a speed-metal take-off of "Old MacDonald"), "Table Manners for Vikings" and "I Like Dirt," which boasts the revelatory, sing-along lyrics "I like dirt / and dirt likes me."
Not surprisingly, Flores is an L.A. native who grew up in the city's metal scene. "I've played every crappy club in L.A. I've never played any of the good ones, but I played shows at Bob's Frolic III for two people," he says.
Even before he had kids, he had the idea of spreading his love for metal to the younger members of his family. "My nephew went to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show," he says. "It's crazy stuff -- there's costumes, they're fighting, all sorts of crazy stuff. And I thought, 'That's kind of like GWAR for kids!' What came to my mind was, 'It'd be pretty cool if someone actually made GWAR for kids.'"
GWAR's shows are notoriously messy (and definitively adult-minded) affairs, what with the fake blood spewing and frightening, oversized genitalia worn by the members of the band. That was decidedly not what Flores had in mind.
"There's a lot of stuff about them that kids shouldn't see," he says. "But the over-the-topness, the heaviness -- that stuff. I always thought that kids would appreciate that."
THEN Flores settled down and had kids of his own (beginner headbanger Maya is 5 1/2 and future mosh-pit resident Diego is 2 1/2 ) and started thinking about it more seriously. He cut a demo of some songs -- all both completely raging and wholly kid-safe -- and gave it to his friends who also had children. "There's no in-between with it," he says. "People were like, 'My kids don't really like it,' and others who said, 'My kids want to listen to it over and over.' "
It seems like the second set won. Since the release of the nine-song, 13-minute album last year via iTunes and CDbaby.com, the Thunderlords' debut, "Noisy Songs for Noisy Kids," has charted not only in the U.S. but in Australia and Belgium as well. "I Like Dirt," which also appears on the soundtrack to the video game Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (a game Flores helped design as part of his day job), has climbed up the iTunes kids charts to No. 13.
So far the band hasn't played any live shows, but it's not for lack of trying.
"I've contacted some places about trying to do a show, and I get the impression that they think I'm crazy," says Flores, who acknowledges having some doubts himself. "I am a little concerned, if I do play a live show. I don't want to blow kids' eardrums out."