The Expendables' 'mixture rock' gets heavier and mellower with new album 

The Expendables with Iration, Passafire and more
7 p.m. Tuesday
the Conservatory
8911 N. Western

If you spent as much time crisscrossing the country in a van as The Expendables have, you'd likely develop their same sense of humor. The reggae/punk/surf/metal quartet's been making music together since 1997 and touring nationally for the past five years. Evidently, those hours on America's back roads inspired the tentative title for the band's forthcoming fifth album, "Devil's Coke Boner."

"We'd be looking through atlases to find a shortcut, and any shortcut that was especially dangerous or mountainous, we'd call the 'Devil's Coke Boner,'" said guitarist Raul Bianchi. "It just so happens that when we were writing that instrumental ... we tossed around that name and it kind of stuck. When we do that song live, we announce that this song sounds like what it's like to do a line of coke off (that)."

The disc's already been cut, and now the four musicians are just waiting as Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary and NOFX guitarist El Hefe finish mixing it. Both have produced some of the tracks, and Bianchi said that neither has a big ego and both are comfortable with the band's plan to use whichever mix sounds better on a song-by-song basis.

The California act has built a career out of a smoky blend of styles. The group formed while its members were in high school, for a friend's backyard party. At first, Bianchi said, their sound something of a train wreck " "Three guitar players and no keyboard trying to play reggae?" " but they slowly got better and progressed from cover songs to originals, releasing their debut, "No Time to Worry," in 2000.

Even early on, the band combined a variety of influences, spanning the sonic spectrum with little regard for how the style-crash might be perceived. For the most part, it has succeeded.

"Some people just can't grasp the fact that you like to play a bunch of varied styles, but with us, we don't just try to write an album a specific way. We write songs, and if we like how they sound, we put them on there," Bianchi said.

The band's self-titled album was released in 2007, so Bianchi's excited about the new disc. The long time between releases has allowed The Expendables' older material to grow and mature, but they also have added new material developed more recently in off-the-cuff jams, which seems appropriate given their strong live reputation. That energy is certainly something they tried to capture with the album, although Bianchi doubted whether they'll ever be able to capture that same feeling in a studio.

"We do a couple hundred shows a year, so it's something we're incredibly used to, and the studio time is something we do once every couple years. So now, we're probably going to try to get in the studio more often just so we get more of a comfortable feel," he said.

Overall, the new album does a good job of blending the members' eclectic tastes, Bianchi said. Indeed, both the aggressive and groovy sides of their personalities have progressed over the years, and the guitarist described the upcoming record as heavier and mellower.

"I think a lot of the more rock/punk/metal kind of stuff, as we've gotten older and played music for longer, it's gotten more technical. And it's gotten a heavier sound to it, but a lot of the poppier, slower stuff has a more mellow vibe to it," Bianchi said. "Our Japanese fans gave it the best label; they call it 'mixture rock.'" "Chris Parker

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