Shok Paris' 1984 album Go for the Throat was the clarion call for a dynamic Cleveland metal scene whose influence is still evident locally. It was not only the band's debut, but also the initial release for locally based Auburn Records, which championed some of the area's most talented '80s headbangers. Shok Paris moved up to a major label for 1987's Steel and Starlight and 1989's Concrete Killers, worked with big-name producer Kevin Beamish (REO Speedwagon, Jefferson Starship), and toured extensively. They broke up at the end of the decade, shortly before Auburn took a decade-long hiatus.
Auburn became active again in 1999, thanks to a diehard international fan base who craved the sort of timeless power metal it embraced, and its bands — old and new — started making annual trips to Germany to play the multitude of outdoor summer heavy-metal festivals. Shok Paris reunited to make the trip in 2004, playing the Bang Your Head!!! festival. The next year, Auburn reissued Go for the Throat with bonus tracks.
"I hoped to keep Shok going after that performance," says guitarist Ken Erb. "But we got off the plane and scattered, and I never heard from anybody after that."
Now, the band is giving it another shot — and it looks like this one might take hold. The band's core members — Erb and singer Vic Hix — have assembled a new lineup to replace former members who stopped playing music and are busy with day jobs and families. New members include Erb's brother Donovan Kenago on drums, longtime friend John Korzekwa on guitar, and ex-Abdullah bassist Ed Stephens. The group made its bow at the Auburn 25th Anniversary show at the Beachland in December. They've booked a summer show in late July in Germany, where they'll be headlining the first night of Headbangers Open Air.
"My brother grew up listening to Shok Paris and was friends with Ed in high school," says Erb. "They were both big fans of Shok Paris. I told them what songs we were doing, and we got together two weeks later and they were playing them better than me."
Erb took the song ideas he'd been stockpiling and gave them to Hix to work on. The result is some new material the band will roll out when it headlines the Beachland this weekend. But first, they'll be doing something old: They'll play Go for the Throat beginning to end, giving longtime fans a dose of nostalgia and newer fans the chance to hear something they never heard live before. They'll do classics like "Burn It Down" and "Battle Cry," which embody the melodic, aggressive, can't-keep-us-down sound and attitude that made '80s metal so popular with blue-collar kids.
"By the time we were writing the second and third record, we had pretty much put everything on Go for the Throat on the back burner, we'd been doing it so long," says Hix. "A lot of people coming to the show weren't around to hear us doing those songs."
While Shok Paris' reputation was spread primarily by its final two albums, Erb says Go for the Throat has an important place in the band's history.
"We were hungry then, and I think to an extent, it's the most authentic," he says. "Steel and Starlight is still my favorite — we were maturing as a band and were really focused. But [Go for the Throat] was raw, with not a lot of production. It was more of a live recording. We did that album in about 40 hours, including mixing. It was pretty genuine — it was from the heart."