Skyler Mills was given a heavy metal mixed tape at a young age which began his obsession with metal music. When he was placed in foster care, he was cut off entirely from that type of music. But, years later, he has built a hard-hitting, old-school thrash metal band, When Minds Develop — that he hopes will gain in popularity, despite the unpopularity of that subgenre.
“When I heard... [Metallica], it brought a tear to my eye and I kind of connected with it.” – Skyler MillsAs a toddler, Mills’ mother would play Black Sabbath around the house — she gave him a tape with three Sabbath songs on it — Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Iron Man and War Pigs.
“I used to sit there, at five years old, and replay the tape over and over again. I remember rewinding it with a pencil just so I could hear it faster. I was obsessed,” said Mills.
But at seven years old, Mills moved to Nova Scotia under the foster care of his grandmother where he wasn’t allowed to listen to metal. While he was in Nova Scotia, his mom sent him a “little, tiny guitar” that he messed around with until he moved back to Calgary on his own to meet his dad when he was 14.
Shortly after moving, Mills was searching for anything similar to Black Sabbath. His dad introduced him to Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” He thought that it had “the same kind of chord progression” as Black Sabbath. It was exactly what he was looking for.
Mills attended his first concert in 2008 with Metallica as the headliner. He stood there on the floor, wide-eyed and blown away, Mills knew at this concert that he wanted to entertain people. He said he waited seven years for something like Black Sabbath, “and when I heard... [Metallica], it brought a tear to my eye and I kind of connected with it.”
Mills picked up a guitar again when he was 16-years-old. He then coaxed his closest friends into picking up their instruments and “jamming” with him — which resulted in the formation of Shrapnal in 2012.
Shrapnal went through a lineup change in 2013; Mills was determined to entertain people so he put out an ad on Kijiji looking for new members. He found a drummer by the name of Nolan Benedetti who stated that he liked “Motorhead and Megadeth,” but when he showed up to jam, Mills said Benedetti couldn’t play anything.
Mills said that Benedetti put in tons of hours to get better at drums. Benedetti mentioned his buddy Brody Blaze from Penticton. Blaze jammed with Mills, then two weeks later he was recruited to play on guitar, and bassist Jake Wendt quit his band to join Mills and his crew.
Shrapnal released a demo under the name of DEMOlition in 2014. It consisted of four heavy, neck-breaking tunes that force the listener to crave more. Less than a year later in 2015, they changed the band name to When Minds Develop (better known as W.M.D.).
W.M.D. released their first single, “Thrash Attack” in the summer of 2016. It’s an anthemic mix of Mills’ piercing vocals, his and Blaze’s gnarly riffs, Wendt’s slamming bass lines and Benedetti’s ridiculously timed drum fills— it is only a taste of what the band can play.
Their sound is something entirely different in today’s metal scene, which is dominated by black and death metal. Instead, they are comparable to The Big Four — Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax. They’re brutally fast. Yet, they don’t compensate with a lack of heaviness. All of their songs are guaranteed to make any metalhead break their neck.
That’s not all though. Their stage presence is a direct display of the energy in their music. They are even more chaotic than one would expect from a thrash metal band, they are more than willing to destroy themselves for the sake of a great show.
Mills is hoping for him and the band to one day grow outside out of Calgary. But until then, W.M.D. is playing at Armstrong MetalFest on July 14 - 15 in Armstrong, B.C. They are also set to release their debut album “Lethal Revenge” later this summer.
- By Bailey Barnson