Based in Escondido and formed in 2010, Atropal is a heavy metal/metalcore group which has featured Matt Arbaugh and Paul McFaddin (both of Caustic Felon), with Arbaugh’s son Mitch (Deny the Silents) on drums, bassist Dan Sandor (Deny the Silents), James E. Meidinger on guitar, and singer Ryan Brink.
“Atropal is visual metal,” says Meidinger, “so we’ll be mixing grindcore music with live flesh suspension, with our lead singer Ryan Brink performing the suspension during the show.”
At six-foot-three and around 200 pounds, with tattoos covering 40 percent of his body and multiple piercings, Brink sings while suspended by four large shark hooks in his upper back. “The experience is one of nervous anxiety coupled with pain, culminating into a weightless feeling of euphoria as I’m lifted into the air,” he says. “It stretches the skin on my back to its tearing point, and then I begin to sway back and forth, which always gets the crowd going.”
Atropal debuted October 29, 2011, at Ramona Mainstage as part of Hellaween Screamfest. “In this age of piercing, body modification, subcutaneous inserts such as horns on the head or spherical bumps under the skin, you might think hanging from a thin metal wire with hooks in the body would be a bit more commonplace than it is,” says Meidinger. “But live-flesh suspension seems to remain a taboo thing. Most people have never seen anything like this done, and there are very few who risk their bodies to this particular activity, much less do it for public view.”
So, who do they expect to be their fan base? “There’s a huge subculture of people who are fascinated with this type of act, people who don’t necessarily fit into or even care to be a part of regular society.”
What Occupational Safety and Health Administration laws apply to such dangerous performances? “We searched the OSHA database and found no precedent for this act. In our case, the ritual is overseen by an A.P.P. [Association of Professional Piercers]-certified piercing instructor, Chris Glunt, our theatrical engineer.”
Meidinger admits their stage show is “ominous and brutal. If we could, we’d throw battle axes at the audience!”
Dan Sandor (who left Atropal in 2014) and Mitchell Arbaugh (who stayed with his dad and the group) later joined two other ex-members of their band Deny the Silents to form MAD Z and the Boones.