Cruz Del Sur Music is proud to announce the signing of cult U.S. power metallers ONWARD! The label will release their studio album “Of Epoch And Inferno” sometime in 2022.
Formed in 2000 by guitar hero Toby Knapp, ONWARD broke onto the international metal stage with 2001’s “Evermoving” and 2002’s “Reawaken”, both of which were released via Century Media Records. The albums showcased Knapp’s superlative guitar skills that blended neoclassical and melodic sensibility, as well as original vocalist Michael Grant’s smooth delivery.
Grant sadly passed away in 2012, leaving Knapp to issue his final recordings on 2014’s “New Fathoms Dawn”. The band went dormant after its release. But, after several false starts in reviving ONWARD, Knapp says the 2020 death of bassist Chris Payette spurred him to start new writing music as a coping mechanism. Now joined by new vocalist Robert Van War and drummer Bart Barkac, Knapp feels as though he has a batch of songs that pay appropriate tribute to Grant and Payette while staying true to ONWARD’s sound.
“The consensus among most fans seems to be that if I create quality traditional heavy metal under the ONWARD banner, it’s still a legitimate ONWARD,” he says. “The new songs are in the vein of traditional heavy metal with doses of speed metal, thrash and neoclassical-inspired guitar work. Robert has an Udo [Dirkschneider, ex-ACCEPT] and Bobby “Blitz” [Ellsworth, OVERKILL] vibe to his vocals and I’m really excited about it. The music hasn’t changed; I’m still using the same guitars and refusing to tune down! I hear a bit of early LOUDNESS and ANNIHILATOR going on…maybe even some nods toward METALLICA’s ‘Kill ‘Em All’.”
Van War came to Knapp’s attention through social media. Knapp regularly posted the progress of his new compositions and expressed frustration in finding a suitable vocalist. Van War got in touch then offered to provide guest vocals on a new song, but Knapp went one further and offered him the ONWARD gig.
“I floated the idea to him of working under the ONWARD name and joining me for live shows,” says Knapp. “Now things are coming together. ONWARD always flowed naturally. Doors are opening and it feels kinda like the early days. I just go with it. I am also in the process of selecting a setlist and live band situation. We have to get out there and play. ONWARD was more popular a few years after disbanding and I would really enjoy performing some of the early tunes for those that never saw us live. It’s a new ONWARD, but the spirit is very much there and we will respect our lineage.”
Knapp says he sought out Cruz Del Sur Music to do a vinyl pressing of the album. When the label heard some of Knapp’s camera phone-recorded samples, the discussions went to the next level and a deal was struck.
“That’s more of the way things happened in ONWARD back in the day,” says Knapp. “Things just clicked. Even the original album cover artist, Ioannis, got in touch with me about the new album. The engineer/co-producer of ‘Reawaken’, Brett Hansen, contacted me, too! I just think ‘Man, this is cool!’ Everyone is coming together for the cause.”