Thunder has kozmic blues 

Locals could be forgiven for thinking San Francisco legend Janis Joplin had returned from the grave to sing the blues with Royal Thunder.

The Atlanta-based quartet brings its sultry, bluesy metal to the Bottom of the Hill on Tuesday. Anchoring Royal Thunder’s sound is bassist and vocalist Mlny (pronounced “Melanie”) Parsonz, whose rough-hewn pipes echo Joplin in languorous moments and Joan Jett when the band kicks it into gear.

Royal Thunder might seem like misfits in a lineup chock-full of classic metal (Valient Thorr, Holy Grail) and thrash-prog wizardry (The Kickass).

After all, metal fans aren’t known for tolerating genres outside their comfort zones. Still, all four bands deal in a kind of 1980s nostalgia, born of their formative music years.

“The ’80s and ’90s were a great, creative time for music,” says Royal Thunder guitarist Josh Weaver. “One Christmas I got a guitar, but I didn’t do anything with it until I heard Nirvana for the first time. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Before long, and without any formal training, Weaver began writing his own songs. He met Parsonz in their late teens; they married at 21.

Parsonz, too, was self-taught — and reluctantly took over Royal Thunder’s bass and vocal duties in 2007, the year after Weaver founded the band.

It was the right choice. Royal Thunder’s arresting self-titled 2009 EP caught the ear of music critics, who are now raving about the band’s new album, “CVI,” in Spin and on National Public Radio. Parsonz shares the August 2012 cover of Decibel magazine’s “Women in Metal” issue with Kylesa’s Laura Pleasants and Cretin’s Marissa Martinez.

The sudden stardom is “pretty surreal,” Weaver admits, but it’s also satisfying. “Me and Mel have been playing music for years. We’ve given our lives to doing it. It’s been so great, and it feels like it’s starting to pay off.”

That hard work is also taking its toll: Parsonz was put on vocal rest a week after kicking off the tour, nixing all interviews. Guitarist Josh Coleman was hospitalized in mid-June after vomiting blood and passing out in Indiana, forcing the band to cancel several gigs.

If there’s anything Royal Thunder knows how to overcome, it’s bad luck. “This curse is following me/I will break it, setting us free,” Parsonz howls on “Parsonz Curse.” Defiance haunts her lyrics and the band’s unvarnished, doom-laced sound. Janis would be proud.


Valient Thorr, Royal Thunder, Holy Grail, the Kickass
Where: Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F.
When: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday
Tickets: $12
Contact: (415) 626-4455;

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Beth Winegarner

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