STAMFORD – Tony Truglio is a nice Italian boy raised in the Catholic faith by loving parents.
So the years he’s spent shredding guitar in a heavy metal band may seem hard to square.
But his upbringing and his headbanging go hand in hand – they’re both about love and family and a desire to spread happiness, Truglio said.
It’s just that one is a bit darker than the other.
“You’re a kid in Catholic school in the late 1970s, you go to confession to cleanse your soul and then you go to the record store to buy a Black Sabbath album,” Truglio said. “You think, ‘These guys look cool – long hair, tight jeans, cut-off T-shirts. I want to look like this.’”
And then you do.
It began with a gift from his older sister – an album by Jimi Hendrix.
“He could create the most beautiful sounds. Or he made his guitar sound like a growling dog, or like aliens landing on your roof,” Truglio said. “I thought, ‘You can do all that on a guitar?’ I didn’t want to be a nerdy little Italian kid with his Rosary beads, making his Confirmation. I wanted to play guitar.”
And he wanted it to scream like Hendrix’s guitar. So he learned to play, and though he liked all kinds of music, he was drawn to heavy metal, a diverse genre characterized by highly-amplified electric guitar solos, heavy bass guitar and drum rhythms, and powerful, often rebellious, vocals.
“Something about the faster, more aggressive sound appealed to me,” Truglio said.
In 1982 he formed a band, Deceiver, with his cousin, drummer Frank Cortese, and his friends, bass player Matt Vinci and singer Andy Michaud. At first, they covered songs by their favorite heavy metal bands – Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, AC/DC.
“We were 16 and 17 and we were out playing in bars most weekends,” Truglio said. “They didn’t card you back then.”
They began to draw crowds. Then they decided to write their own songs. In 1984 they changed the name of the band to Liege Lord, a reference to medieval England. Some of the best heavy metal bands of the time – Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden – were British.
Fans appreciated their musicianship, songs and lyrics, and Liege Lord built a following. The popularity of heavy metal was increasing in the U.S., as it had in Europe.
“We were getting a lot of press, but it was mostly from college radio, word of mouth, and ‘fanzines,’ which were magazines put out by fans,” Truglio said. “Heavy metal then was mostly underground – they weren’t playing us on major radio stations.”
But Liege Lord was breaking through, according to Metal Storm, an international website that covers the heavy metal world. A New York City club, Lamour’s, was a showcase for heavy metal bands, including Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, Manowar – and Liege Lord, Metal Storm reports.
“It was at this time that the band began touring more, headlining shows up and down the East Coast, from Maine to Georgia, Arizona to California,” sharing the stage with Anthrax, Megadeath, Exodus, and many more, according to the Metal Storm website.
Liege Lord put out three albums – “Freedom’s Rise” in 1985; “Burn to My Touch” in 1987; and “Master Control” in 1988 with a new singer, Joe Comeau.
The band would become legendary for pioneering “speed metal,” a form of the genre that merges British heavy metal and hardcore punk.
But touring became grueling, and it didn’t pay, said Truglio, now a 56-year-old married father of two.
“We got signed by smaller labels that didn’t do the publicity or put out enough albums,” he said. “We all had full-time jobs – delivering flowers, selling cars, whatever we could do to get money to buy guitar strings and enough gas to get to gigs. I was a pharmacy technician.”
Around 1990, Liege Lord went quiet. To make a living, Truglio played jazz and other gigs, and taught guitar.
“I love teaching,” Truglio said. “I feel like I’m giving my students something that might bring them a lot of enjoyment, maybe something they were looking for but hadn’t found yet.”
Meanwhile, in Europe, fans hadn’t forgotten the “speed metal” pioneer. They were searching for Liege Lord online.
In 2012, the band reunited for a heavy metal festival in Germany. They began touring again, drawing crowds hungry for vintage heavy metal.
“We headline shows in Europe. They pick us up in a limo,” Truglio said. “When we play, the people sing lyrics we wrote in 1985. It’s like floating on a cloud. It’s an escape from all the B.S. in life. You see how people in the audience are reacting, and you’re thinking, ‘I’m making this person’s day.’”
“There’s more love in music than anything else in the world,” Truglio said.
The latest tour begins in early September, when Liege Lord will headline events in the Czech Republic, Germany and France. The tour kicks off locally with a Sept. 3 appearance at the Wall Street Theater in Norwalk.
Heavy metal fans say the genre offers an energy, an emotional release that frees the listener to find common ground with others. It’s especially welcoming, they say, to people who, like the genre, live a bit outside of the mainstream.
“It’s for everyone – whether you’re bald, like me, or you have hair down to your waist, you’re not judged,” Truglio said. “The music gets inside you and moves you, and you feel like you’re in a big family.”