“We joke about people that aren’t into this kind of music, and how it all sounds the same to them – it’s all ‘devil, devil, devil!’ – but heavy music brings a lot of people joy”: End Reign’s Domenic Romeo on the extreme-metal supergroup’s ripping debut

Domenic Romeo
(Image credit: Provided/PR)

Domenic Romeo unearths molten metal leads aplenty on The Way of All Flesh Is Decay, the scorched-earth debut from his new End Reign project with members of Integrity, Bloodlet, All Out War and Pig Destroyer. 

Truth be told, he used to have more on there, but the Baltimore-based guitarist says he scrapped half of his solos upon hearing the jaw-dropping, sweep-and-tap complexity that Exhumed/Noisem shredder Sebastian Phillips affixed to album centerpiece Chasing Divinity.

“I had a solo in my head that I wanted to put on the record, but it was way beyond my ability as a guitar player to pull off,” Romeo says, adding that Phillips’ first take was so spot-on that Romeo recruited the guitarist into End Reign full time. “It was exactly what I wanted – very Marty Friedman Rust in Peace; it reminded me of Hangar 18. It was so good that I had to laugh. I sent it to the other guys and was like, ‘Sebastian has to be in this band!’”

Romeo’s decision paid off, with the division of labor enriching End Reign with two uniquely flavored lead styles: intricately sculptured, neo-classical flurries (Romeo) and stream-of-conscious scatter-shots of chaos (Phillips). 

“I’m much more meticulous,” Romeo says. “I guess [my method] is super =-OCD, and Sebastian’s is real lax. What I like is that you can tell who’s who every time.”

Where the pair see eye to eye is their love for extending solos well into a vocal-heavy verse – a longtime hallmark of Integrity, the Cleveland-formed cult faves Romeo has played with since 2014. “It’s like a boiling pot starting to overflow, and nothing is safe,” Romeo says of the aesthetic.

While album opener Desolate Fog fittingly barrels into a brooding, Integrity-style d-beat, Romeo says its chorus also pays homage to the sinisterly sinuous chord flair of George Lynch’s Dokken period.

“It rips into an A power chord… then you’re augmenting the fifth, and then diminishing it back. You can make a riff out of that without having to move the entire body of the chord, you know? It’s a little sub-melody, but it’s really powerful.”

On that same track, vocalist Mike Score howls out End Reign’s mission statement: “I give you the darkness to bring you the light.” It’s become a rally cry for a group of hardcore lifers whose music may sound punishing as hell, but revels in a communal catharsis.

As Romeo puts it: “We always joke about people that aren’t into this kind of music, and how it all sounds the same to them – it’s all ‘devil, devil, devil!’ – but heavy music brings a lot of people joy.”

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Gregory Adams

Gregory Adams is a Vancouver-based arts reporter. From metal legends to emerging pop icons to the best of the basement circuit, he’s interviewed musicians across countless genres for nearly two decades, most recently with Guitar World, Bass Player, Revolver, and more – as well as through his independent newsletter, Gut Feeling. This all still blows his mind. He’s a guitar player, generally bouncing hardcore riffs off his ’52 Tele reissue and a dinged-up SG.