Sibling rockers Liliac aim to impact next generation of heavy metal music

Liliac was founded in California and is now based in Atlanta. The band performs Thursday at The Masquerade.

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Liliac was founded in California and is now based in Atlanta. The band performs Thursday at The Masquerade.

If you were to only hear audio of Liliac’s viral video performance of “Rainbow in the Dark,” a cover of Ronnie James Dio’s 1983 heavy metal classic, you would likely assume that you were hearing the work of a veteran band with decades of experience under its belt, stocked with players whose seemingly effortless chops were hewn over decades of practice.

That assumption brings an alarming revelation: The performance is the work of a group of siblings, the children of the Cristea family. Such tremendous musical ability at an early age has catapulted the kids — vocalist Melody (20), guitarist Samuel (23), drummer Abigail (22), bassist Ethan (15) and keyboardist Justin (14) — into the upper reaches of contemporary stardom with nationwide tours, legions of fans, and multiple television appearances (including a performance on “America’s Got Talent” that dropped the jaw of Simon Cowell).

The group, which is now based in Atlanta, will open for Christian metal pioneers Stryper at The Masquerade on Thursday. It will be Liliac’s second time opening for Stryper.

“Our dad is a music producer, so we grew up with music,” says Samuel. “He envisioned the band and gave us instruments to learn.” The young ensemble began their formal education in California with lessons at the Downey Music Center, which would be reinforced by weekend gigs on the Santa Monica pier.

“In the beginning it was just street performing, just me, Sam and Abby,” says Melody. It was then that their father, Florin, had the idea to involve the two younger siblings and the idea for a musical ensemble was formed. The kids would power their newfound electric instruments with a converter hooked up to car batteries and enthrall onlookers with classic rock covers. Early performances were received with tremendous enthusiasm by large audiences but still remained confined to the Santa Monica pier.

The band members would find themselves naturally drawn to the world of vintage heavy metal. Abigail embraced the showmanship of Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, and Samuel built his playing style around shredders like Richie Kotzen and Racer X’s Paul Gilbert. The kids started to incorporate metal standards by the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss and Metallica into their sets. Still, it would be singer Melody’s fascination with Ronnie James Dio that would cement Liliac as a metal band proper.

“We put out our cover of ‘Wild Thing’ by the Troggs,” Abigail says. “That’s when things started getting heavy. And then in 2019 we put out ‘Rainbow in the Dark’ and we got on the World’s Best TV show. After that and putting out our first original EP, “Chain of Thorns,” we got a whole U.S. tour — 30 dates.”

Liliac relocated to Atlanta during the pandemic. The band plays an abundance of East Coast shows and relocation to this side of the country made logistical sense; another factor was the cost of living.

Despite their meteoric rise to stardom, the members find themselves confronting the inevitable, namely that with advancing age the novelty of kids playing stellar renditions of classic metal songs would ultimately wane and continued public interest will come on the strength of their original material.

“Chain of Thorns” rose to Number One on Amazon’s rock music sales chart and their subsequent full length release, “Queen of Hearts,” was warmly received by critics and audiences alike. Nevertheless, children and father alike are all aware that their original material is still heavily rooted in the metal stylings of yesteryear. “Liliac has captured people my age,” explains Florin. “How do you get the young generation? Probably the production is going to change a lot.”

The Liliac songwriting process is borne out of Florin’s background as a music producer for film and television whose credits include music for the A&E, Lifetime and MTV networks. He is aware that his own pop background contrasts with the process of writing metal music. “Their teacher was also a studio musician in my studio,” continues Florin. “We tried, before they became more of a rock band, to write songs for them. I was a pop producer for many years. With pop, you just write songs for the artist. Rock and metal doesn’t work like that. I mean, you don’t have Metallica telling a songwriter, ‘Hey, write me a hit song.’”

The band plans to begin work on the next full-length album soon. With that in mind Florin set about encouraging the band members to come up with original ideas on their respective instruments that would ultimately be crafted into actual songs.

“Everything is brought to the table,” he says. “I even encourage the little ones to come up with something.”

CONCERT PREVIEW

Liliac opening for Stryper

7:30 p.m. May 12. $27.50. The Masquerade, 75 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW, Atlanta. 404-577-8178, masqueradeatlanta.com.

Jordan Owen began writing about music professionally at the age of 16 in Oxford, Mississippi. A 2006 graduate of the Berklee College of Music, he is a professional guitarist, bandleader and composer. He is currently the lead guitarist for the jazz group Other Strangers, the power metal band Axis of Empires and the melodic death/thrash metal band Century Spawn.


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