Black Belt Theatre

Shepherd Express

Hooray for hard rock that summons gumption and fortitude. With roots in the kind of metal that predates any need for qualifiers (e.g., speed, power, death, crust, et al.) and the harder edge of power pop exemplified by fellow Midwesterners such as Cheap Trick and Off Broadway, Milwaukee’s Black Belt Theatre concoct a welcome tonic countering the emotional direness of current commercial radio hard music.

And commercial they are, offsetting vocal hooks and harmonies with an instrumental attack heavy enough to satisfy air guitarists who can appreciate crunchy riffs without technical self-indulgence. And though the quartet has roots in local bands who were post-grunge purveyors and would morph into emo-punk innovators, Black Belt Theatre’s lyrical outlook evinces a refreshing dearth of the self-pity so prevalent on any given episode of Nikki Sixx’s weekly rock radio countdown in recent months. 

John & Tim Live on WMSE 91.7 FM

WMSE_8.24.17.mp3

Milwaukee Journal Sentinal

John Kucera from the '90s punk band Alligator Gun goes further back in time on Black Belt Theatre's debut album. Opening track "Circles" in particular is a dizzying reminder of what made late '70s and '80s glam rock so fun, without the self-referential mugging of the Darkness.

Shepherd Express

Black Belt Theatre w/ Simple Simon and Avenues @ Cactus Club, 9 p.m.
Here’s a pedigree that should perk the ears of fans of Milwaukee’s ’90s punk and alternative scenes. The new Milwaukee group Black Belt Theatre features Tim Cook and Steve Adams from the fondly remembered rock band Bender, John Kucera of the influential punk group Alligator Gun, and Brian Janssen of the rock bands Skiptracer and The Pills. The group’s first album together, Hibernation Termination, shouldn’t surprise anybody given the lineup. It’s a hard-edged rock album steeped in the power-pop spirit of Cheap Trick. Black Belt Theatre shares this release show with openers Simple Simon, from Chicago, and Milwaukee’s Avenues.

Urban Milwaukee Dial

“What have you done for me lately?” is a cruel question, which doesn’t mean it is an unreasonable one to aim at musicians with impressive resumes. Nostalgia and past laurels extend just so far. Take Black Belt Theatre, whose members are alumni of other Milwaukee bands like FS Camels, Alligator Gun, and Bender.

Fortunately, BBT’s new and first LP, Hibernation Termination, backs up the band’s own identification as “power rock ‘n’ roll” (rather than power pop), and its best songs, such as the glowing “Villains in Love,” have enough riffs to satisfy the Cheap Trick (classic era) fan inside most of us.