Devil's Train: party like it's 1987

Gyrating strippers, chain-wielding bikers, long-haired guitarists ripping out fleet-fingered solos amidst explosions of fireworks in a graveyard of empty bottles. Is 1987 back for a second round? No, thank Christ. 1987 almost killed me the first time. But the sweat-soaked, poison-veined, testosterone-pumping spirit of the era is alive and well in Germany’s Devil’s Train. A supergroup littered with Euro-power metal stalwarts, the band was formed in 2009 by vocalist RS Liapakis, head-honcho in epic metal warriors Mystic Prophecy.

“For many years I’ve wanted to do something on the side besides Mystic Prophecy,” Liapakis explains. “I wanted to explore something that was coming out of my heart and soul. I started looking around for musicians who were on the same page, and I found this guitarist, Lakis (Ragazzas, also of Mystic) and we started talking about it, and trading ideas. We found out that we had great chemistry together and that’s how this whole thing started. That was back in 2009. A year later Mystic were on tour with Stratovarius where I met Jorg (Michael), the drummer. I pitched the idea for Devil’s Train to him and he was interested. That’s when things really started to happen.”

The idea was to ditch the complicated arrangements and overblown fantasy elements of power metal, get back to the fundamentals, the primordial ooze of rock, and then just burn people’s fucking faces off.

“We wanted to do something that was really trippy but was also bluesy as hell,” says Liapakis. “I would call it a kind of heart and soul approach.”

The glorious results to this approach hit the ground running in 2012 with the release of “I”. an over-the-top orgy of blazing riffs, sleaze-metal grooves and songs about playing poker with the devil and banging his sister. The album sounded fresh and contemporary, but was also very clearly an homage to days when rock giants roamed the Earth.

“We are fans of 80’s metal for sure, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, stuff like that, but we’re really big fans of more bluesy stuff like Badlands, Cinderella, and Guns N’ Roses, too. We’re also into bands from the 60’s and 70’s, like Bad Company, Led Zep, we really like that kinda stuff, too. I think it shows in our music.”

It does, as does an affection for old-school rock n roll decadence. Since their inception, Devils Train have released a slew of balls-to-the-wall videos full of hot girls, screaming metal, fast cars and fire-belching motorcycles. To promote their outrageous new album “II”, Devil’s Train produced two such mini-movie epics, Hollywood Girl and Mr. Jones. They’re audacious, ridiculous, amazing. And they look like they were as much fun to make as they are to watch.

“The song guides us, the lyrics and the atmosphere of the music inspires us to create the videos,” Liapakis explains. “Making the videos is always really fun. Like performing with the girls in the Hollywood Girl video, they were first-class professional dancers, we had a great time working on that one. Lots of laughs and fun times.”

And bikers. Lots of bikers. But are Devil’s Train highway ridin’ outlaws themselves, or do they just hang out in those unsavory circles?

“It’s a little bit of both, actually. We hang around with people who own bikes and we know people in motorcycle clubs. But we also know that this kind of music fits with that image. Especially with our latest video, Mr. Jones. The concept of the video is that it’s this guy living the biker lifestyle, living life on the edge. It just fits perfectly with out music.”

Clearly this is a band meant to be experienced live. Devil’s Train is the heart of Saturday night, a drinking, smoking, fighting machine fueled on sex and trouble.

“Absolutely,” agrees Liapakis. “All our songs are designed to be performed live. It’s important for us to play as close to the original studio recordings as we can so they’re all easy arrangements, we keep it pretty simple because we want to deliver the songs live.” The singer recounts some of the band’s recent onstage triumphs.

“We’ve played some great festivals. We played one in Sweden last year with bands like Europe and Gotthard. House of Lords, The Answer. TNT, it was just an amazing festival, we played in front of thousands of people, really nice. But on the other side of that, last may we played a tour in Spain at really small clubs, like 80-100 people capacity, and that was really cool too, really warm and close to the audience.”

With the imminent release of II, Devil’s Train are gearing up to play many more shows, big and small. Before Liapakis leaves to plot his band’s global domination schemes, I ask him to name one album every Devil’s Train fan should own. Naturally, he says their new one. But besides that?

“God there’s so many choices. All the Black Sabbath stuff. Ronnie Dio is my favorite singer. There’s so many newer bands, too. I love Black Stone Cherry. I mean, you get the idea, right?” He laughs. “Just listen to some Black Sabbath.”

I don’t know if anyone’s ever given better advice. Keep your eyes and ears peeled, rock fans. The Devil’s Train may be belching diesel and fire in a town near you soon.

The second album from Devil’s Train, II, is out now.

Ken McIntyre

Classic Rock contributor since 2003. Twenty Five years in music industry (40 if you count teenage xerox fanzines). Bylines for Metal Hammer, Decibel. AOR, Hitlist, Carbon 14, The Noise, Boston Phoenix, and spurious publications of increasing obscurity. Award-winning television producer, radio host, and podcaster. Voted “Best Rock Critic” in Boston twice. Last time was 2002, but still. Has been in over four music videos. True story.