Heavy metal has long been a strong influence in Pittsburgh's music scene, and nobody has kept the flame alive longer than Beaver County resident Paul Tucker. As a teen-age thrash and death metal fan, he founded the band Sathanas in New Brighton in 1988, recording the legendary Ripping Evil demo. Over the years, Sathanas has amassed a considerable discography on labels from eight countries. The latest, Nightrealm Apocalypse, came out in March on Poland's Pagan Records, and will also be available on vinyl shortly.
The current members of Sathanas -- Tucker, bassist Bill Davidson and former Acheron drummer Jim Strauss, who joined in 2002 -- don't kowtow to current trends in metal, whether it be screaming or emo makeup. "It's still thrash with a black-metal feel because of the [higher-pitched] vocals," says Strauss. "We haven't really changed, and we don't go outside the box to sound like newer bands. We stick to the traditional style [and] we're still very influenced by the old bands we listened to, like Venom, Bathory, Celtic Frost and Destruction."
Sticking to its stylistic guns may not win Sathanas fans at Hot Topic, but the trio has a steady following overseas. They recently embarked on their second European tour, which included traveling through a few former Eastern Bloc countries.
"Most shows were clubs, not big venues, but they were jam-packed," recalls Strauss. "You really appreciate what you have [in the U.S.] when you're touring Eastern Europe. It's very poor -- you see little huts that look like shacks, but they all have satellite dishes." But the fans "know everything about us. They have stuff for us to sign, and they know all the lyrics to the songs -- it's amazing."
While in England, the lads took a side trip to Stonehenge, almost the perfect metal cliché. "Yeah, I know," admits Strauss. "It was like Spinal Tap and National Lampoon's European Vacation rolled up into one. They don't let people get too close to the stones -- they have it roped off because of vandalism. But it's breathtaking to see them regardless."
Strauss turns 40 this month, which also marks nearly two decades for the band's existence, but he claims to see no signs of slowing down. "People I talk to can't believe it -- they say, 'Why do you still play that stuff?' But I say, why quit playing? I can still do it, and I don't feel 40 years old. Playing this music definitely keeps me young."
Sathanas with The Revenants and Hellnight. 10 p.m. Thu., July 23. 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. $7. 412-391-8334 or www.31stpub.com