For the love of head-banging

Martin (pronounced Mar-teen) Revello and Roddy Underhill grew up together in a small, tropical paradise on the Panama Canal, listening to bands like Black Sabbath and Judas. Today, they say these names with reverence and unabashed metal-head enthusiasm. Yet when it comes to their own music, Revello feels compelled to distinguish his and Underhill’s band, Vain Rachell, from some of today’s offerings.

“Vain Rachell is a more classic-metal band,” Revello said. “It’s not like this satanic death metal.”

Revello is a wild man, propping his boot up on the front of the stage and swinging his hair around like Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers – although he would probably resent the comparison. He and Underhill started playing together in high school, and it was during those years that they decided rocking out was going to be a lifetime pursuit.

“Everything else,” Underhill said with a dismissive wave, “that’s just side work.”At first glance, one wouldn’t guess that these men are musicians. In our society, there are stigmas about middle-aged men with waist-length hair wearing Led Zeppelin T-shirts, but appearances can be deceiving. One also wouldn’t suspect that they’re both bilingual or that they possess college diplomas. Underhill is easy-going and jocular, but this lighthearted attitude belies his dedication to the music. Put a guitar in his hands and his fingers will quickly become a blur as he effortlessly shreds out a face-melting guitar solo.

With a master’s degree under his belt and a voice like a medieval pipe organ, Revello is the more serious of the two. Neither man seems the least bit fazed that they haven’t met with much commercial success, but admit that balancing band, career and family can get very intense. For example, their most recent album, Venal Vagaries, took them two years to complete.

“We would drive out to St. Pete Beach one night a week, play for a couple of hours, then drive back and go to work the next day. When you’re young, you think you’re going to be this big star,” Revello said.

Unlike so many of their peers who eventually got haircuts, put down their guitars and picked up neckties, these two never got discouraged, even when their former bass player died in a car accident.

“He’s gone to a better place,” Underhill said. “I still have his leather jacket.”Yet despite all the adversity the duo has faced through the years, they persist, remaining just as passionate as when they started playing.

It is the dedication that sets Vain Rachell apart. Even for those not crazy about metal, their absolute love for the music comes through remarkably in their performances. Living your dream for decades requires a fortitude most people don’t have. But through it all, Revello and Underhill have stayed faithful to their art and continue to rock on.

Although Vain Rachell’s next show isn’t scheduled yet, they often play local venues like the Pegasus Lounge and the Brass Mug. Check out their official Web site,, for more information, including samples of their music.