NEWS- Metro's exit: Leader quits area's top goth band

For a band long obsessed with death and finality, one wonders if the members of Bella Morte appreciate the irony that they themselves might now be staring down the barrel of a gun. In a March 1 post on his MySpace page, bassist and founding member Gopal Metro, citing long-term unrest and artistic differences, announced his departure from the popular goth rock quintet.

"My reasons for writing, for performing, for being here at all, changed. And it wasn't in line with my core," he said. "And it continued to hurt."

What started in 1996 as a duo between Metro and singer Andy Deane has become the top-selling act on Metropolis Records with a solid international fanbase, but Metro says that the band veered from his goth ideals.

"I swore that we'd never be the band that said, 'Oh no, we're not a goth band!'" says Metro. But that's what guitarist Tony Lechmanski said in an October 2006 Hook cover story: "Over the years, it's expanded so much, and there very much are dark elements. But I'm not sure it's fair to say 'They're a goth band.'"

Metro realized he was the odd man out on this one. "It's great music, great energy, and I will buy the new records," he says, "but at the same time, it's not where I am."

"Another reason why I'm leaving," Metro adds, "is that it became an equal partnership, and everyone had an equal say. This is going to sound arrogant, but it's not the system I wanted. When Andy and I wrote together, I knew I was going to like 99 percent of what he was writing. When Tony joined, we kept a really tight rein on his playing. I felt that was wrong, so [eventually] we said, 'Do your thing. Express yourself.' And when Tony started expressing himself, our fan base doubled. But I just don't like guitar solos."

Although all involved agree with the decision, Lechmanski's a little nervous. "I'm 100 percent supportive," he says, "but we've been a unit for so long that it's kind of scary disturbing that."

Deane notes that sales of the last album, Bleed The Grey Sky Black, have surpassed anything else they've released, and as a result some lucrative live gigs are rolling in.

"Because we were a genre band," Deane explains, "booking and trying to get onto larger tours has been a chore. For a long time, it was actually impossible. Now the calls are starting to come to us." 

The band has toured with French industrial rock band KMFDM, and a tour with Italian alternative metal group Lacuna Coil is on the horizon– as are a few long-shot gigs with the Misfits.

"I expect really good things for the band," says Metro. "I expect it to just skyrocket."

Rowan Webster, hard rock director for WNRN, agrees– so much so that when he organized a record label showcase for local metal bands  ,he deliberately omitted Bella Morte.

"Bella Morte is going to sign themselves," says Webster. "They're really talented, really innovative musicians. They might struggle with songwriting for a little while, but that's just going to push them farther."

Taking Metro's place is Tony Pugh, former vocalist for No Gods No Monsters and one of Deane's childhood friends. "Any time you replace someone, I'm sure certain people are going to have a little animosity toward you," Pugh says with a sigh.

But the fans at the band's show at the Outback Lodge on March 10, which was Metro's last, seemed more inclined to celebrate.

"It doesn't matter which path you're on, as long as you love it," Metro told them near the end of the set. As he began hugging Deane on stage, Lechmanski mocked them as though nothing had changed.

The 29-year-old Metro has, for lack of a better term, grown up. He launched a new clothing line just last month, and is beginning to create a new career selling real estate. It may be difficult for some fans to imagine the punked-out rock star, who just a few months back was euphoric over an endorsement deal that included free head-molesting hair products from Hot Topic corporate staple Manic Panic, wearing a real estate monkey suit. But maybe we won't have to.

"I'm going to have spiky hair and piercings and wear leather every step of the damn way," he insists. "I'm not changing a bit."

Pugh: "Any time you replace someone, I'm sure certain people are going to have a little animosity toward you."

Metro: "I'm a goth kid– I love sitting in the corner and listening to mournful songs."