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Escape the Fate has moved well beyond its troubled past

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Illustration: Chris Morris

On 11.02.10 the world will change.

This according to a tweet from Escape the Fate. It references not the high-stakes political battles set to end this Election Day but the November 2 release of the band's eponymous third album. The declaration is a bit bold, sure, but you shouldn't expect anything less from a screamy post-hardcore quartet that calls its fans "soldiers." And while it's unlikely a new rock album will actually alter the world, it seems safe to assume that, at the very least, Escape the Fate's universe is about to change.

The Vegas-based band's forthcoming album will be its first for major label Interscope, following two full-lengths — 2006's Dying Is Your Latest Fashion and 2008's This War Is Ours — on independent punk imprint Epitaph.

"Epitaph was a great label, but we needed to take it a next step," bassist and ETF cofounder Max Green says. "They were great for building a core audience, but a major label is better for things like getting big radio play, big tours, getting on movie soundtracks and co-writing songs with other artists. (A smaller label) isn't really equipped to properly help out a band in that way."

Green and lead singer Craig Mabbitt say the band felt the changes almost immediately after being picked up by Interscope. "There's a whole team of people working with us now," Mabbitt explains. "I feel like I talk to them all the time now about, 'What are we going to do with this? How are we going to promote?' This is way more of a job now. It's really cool. It's like I'm doing more with my life than making peanut butter jellies and playing shows."

Green puts it another way: "It's legit as fuck."

Ask most non-diehards what they know about Escape the Fate and the words "Ronnie Radke" are sure to come up quick. In June 2008 ETF's original lead singer went to prison for violating terms of his probation, imposed for his involvement in a 2006 fight in which an 18-year-old was shot to death; another participant later committed suicide. Green had dismissed Radke in January 2008, and the band had already replaced Radke with Mabbitt by the time Radke's prison term began.

Moving on from a label contract their embattled first singer no doubt helped them score to a major label with major money could be a definitive end to any Radke influence in the band. But of course, haters are always gonna hate. "ETF sucks now. Fuck you, Craig. Ronnie was the shit. Fuck this band!" reads one comment on YouTube, where fans still wage Ronnie vs. Craig battles on an almost daily basis, as they do on MySpace, Facebook and pretty much anywhere else online with room for feedback.

Green and Mabbitt don't seem to care. They say they got over it long ago. "Sometimes I forget there was a band before this lineup," Green says. "This whole album is making a statement that we're here to stay. We're making our mark. We don't give a fuck. We're powering through, and we're done with the bullshit." Adds Mabbitt, "This record is the new chapter. It's an introduction to a bigger audience."

Even as their Radke elephant shrinks (in their minds at least) and their momentum grows, Mabbitt and Green say they're staying levelheaded. "We didn't want to come out the gate with a major label and be like, 'Oh! We're getting flown all over the place and blah blah,'" Green says. "That's how bands die."

They aren't so big that they've forgotten their roots, either. Guitarist Monte Money and drummer Robert Ortiz still reside in Las Vegas. Green temporarily moved to LA for a girl but is in the process of moving back. "I thought she was rad, but it turns out she's the devil," he says.

Mabbitt, who sang in Arizona-based blessthefall before joining ETF, is the only member not from Vegas. He resides in LA, but says he adopted Vegas as a second home after living here temporarily in 2007 to work on This War Is Ours. "I lived in Henderson for about a year," he says. "There were a lot of late-night practices and me stopping by Terrible's to buy two Rockstar punches. It's a city that never sleeps. I love it."

It's also a city that's consistently turned out to support Escape the Fate — even through controversy. Mabbitt made his first live appearance with ETF at Extreme Thing (with Radke watching from the crowd), and the band has continued to play the Clark County-run festival each year. At this year's event, held in March, organizers temporarily halted the show when the barricade gave way to the amped-up crowd — something no other act dealt with that day.

"Our fans have always been die-hard," Mabbitt says. "I want us to have an army and fight for a cause. People's voices need to be heard and know that someone's always got their back. People thought the band was going to be done. It isn't. It's all thanks to our soldiers."

With major-label backing comes opportunities to work with bigger names — such as producer Don Gilmore, who worked on Linkin Park's highly successful first two albums and has engineered for Rob Zombie and Bullet for My Valentine. ETF is on tour with the latter band as a supporting act.

Green calls Gilmore "the perfect producer." Mabbitt says Gilmore's hands-off approach allowed the band to shine. "He gave us direction and would say, 'This sounds really good' or 'Come back to me with something else.' So, really, it's nothing but the band and what we wanted."

What they wanted was something heavier and darker. Something with the feel of a Tim Burton movie. Mabbitt believes they accomplished their goals and more. "Massacre," an Escape the Fate track released through the band's MySpace page, backs up that claim by showcasing the band at its heaviest. Meanwhile, the first single, "Issues," is a catchier rock tune that, perhaps not coincidentally, sounds reminiscent of early Linkin Park.

"We definitely felt like this record was something we all wanted," Mabbitt says. "It finally feels like Escape the Fate."

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