Pottsville, PA's Chyld sprang to life in the mid-'80s, led by prodigious singer/guitarist/songwriter John Joseph. The four-piece band started as a pop-metal outfit, but over the course of three demos their sound evolved immensely, becoming a deeply textured and virtuosic variation of progressive hard rock -- and a precursor to grunge. Their one and only full-length platter, the masterful Conception, was released by New Renaissance in 1988. Unfortunately, the band and label folded by the end of the decade, never to reconvene.
In 1985, Pottsville native John Joseph (born John J. Lutsky) was a teenaged guitar prodigy influenced by the metal stylings of Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Def Leppard. When one of his extraordinary home demos caught the ear of talent scout Mike Varney that year, Varney encouraged him to travel to Boston to join forces with an up-and-coming metal group called L.A. Twist, who then needed a guitarist. Joseph took his advice, and entered the studio to record a demo with the band. While he was there, he persuaded the rhythm section to put down basic tracks for four of his own songs, which he completed himself, not only as guitarist but also vocalist (the demo included an important early track, "Wish My Friends [Could See Me Now]," which became a big selling point for the band later on). It was immediately evident that Joseph's material, not to mention his musicianship, far outshined that of L.A. Twist. With demo in hand, Joseph returned to Pottsville to start his own band. His relationship with L.A. Twist was over.
Back in Pennsylvania, Joseph assembled the first incarnation of Chyld, tapping the local talents of Sal Saunders (co-guitarist), Bib Haslam (bass), and Mike Radka (drums). The quartet started rehearsing, gigging locally, and writing more material; they quickly completed a second demo, using a pair of cassette decks for primitive multi-track recording. The new material retained the pop-metal essence of Joseph's first demo, but also introduced acoustic textures and a more lyrical sensibility on songs like "Fool for You" and "The Lady Is You." Additionally, the band had begun to incorporate more progressive instrumental segments into their popular live shows; as an opening band, they often upstaged headliners (including Cinderella, then on the verge of stardom) through their sheer virtuosity.
By the end of 1986, Saunders had quit, and the band immediately returned to the studio with new guitarist Rez (born Stephen Resnick) to record an ambitious full-length demo. Shortly after the completion of the demo, Chyld signed a deal with indie label New Renaissance. By now, the band was digging deeper into their rock influences, taking more cues from Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd than from Ratt and Def Leppard.
Chyld recorded Conception in their own 16-track studio in 1987; by this time, Joseph had become quite a proficient engineer and producer, and the band worked alone. They carried over a couple tracks -- "What You Came For" and "Conception" -- from the last demo, but otherwise focused on all new material. Moving even further away from pop-metal, they de-tuned their guitars massively (creating an earthy, sludgy depth that anticipated the Seattle grunge sound by several years) and explored decidedly more progressive territory on sprawling tracks like "November" and "Far Away (From Yesterday)," fleshing out their arrangements with more complex interlocking parts and sometimes delving into dark psychedelia. Joseph's lyrics now tackled real-life subjects like drug abuse ("What You Came For") and suburban blight ("Marion [The Walker]"), which reflected life in a dead-end town more accurately than the lighthearted stuff of the early demos.
Chyld replaced drummer Mike Radka with Joey Lee D (born Joseph L. Donato) in early 1988, just prior to the release of Conception. The album received positive marks in the underground rock press, and the band did some minimal regional touring and radio appearances to promote the record. But unfortunately, by the end of the year, New Renaissance had gone bankrupt, leaving the band without a label once again.
Following some sporadic live appearances and recording, Chyld began to splinter in 1989, having never made a dent in the national music scene; even on a local level, Chyld began to lose some of their core following due to the increasingly noncommercial (and eccentric) direction of their material. By the year's end, the band had effectively split, leaving behind brilliant, unfinished demos of new songs like "All the Drinkers" and "Mary Jane." Conception remains the band's only official release, and has become a sought-after cult item. ~ Andy Hinds