A sad day for metal, and a bad blow for me personally. Today I lost a close friend. And we lost a true talent, singer Michael D. Grant III, of Crescent Shield, passed away at 39. Mike’s melodic baritone voice graced pro recordings by Legend Maker, Onward and finally Crescent Shield. Sure, he was a singer, but he was also a gifted lyricist and songwriter. Even though he didn’t play an instrument, Mike would sing or hum guitar and bass lines or drum parts. His passion was music, particularly heavy metal. Acting was his other forte, and he brought that theatrical flair with him to whatever he sang, especially on stage. Acting out the lyrics with all sorts of motions and gestures! CS or “The Shield” was his true calling, the band he formed with comrade in arms Dan DeLucie before Destiny’s End folded. The pinnacle of Mike’s career was performing with “The Shield” at the Keep It True open air festival in Germany in 2008, and the footage is the proverbial proof in the pudding that heavy metal is missing one of its great frontmen.

mdg3andpmg In Memory: Michael D. Grant III | Cirith Ungol Online
MDG III and me at the Anaheim Destiny’s End/Nevermore/Iced Earth tour gig – 5/14/99 
Personal memories? They’re many and far reaching.

I first
met Mike Grant at the House of Blues in Hollywood
at an Yngwie Malmsteen concert in late 1995. Mike had recently relocated to L.A. from Connecticut.
I was wandering around outside the venue before the gig when I saw this dude
wearing a Forbidden longsleeve. Though I was a lot more reserved back
then, I went up to him and remarked that it was good to see someone flying the
flag of such a killer technical/melodic and traditional metal band in those
barren times. Mike instantly opened up, a super friendly guy, and we had a long
chat about all sorts of favorite bands we had in common (Savatage, Sanctuary,
Fates Warning, Queensyrche, etc.).

I then asked the question I’d been reserving for last, “So,
do you play an instrument?”
“No, but I sing!” was Mike’s reply.

And he wasn’t
lying—unlike the usual L.A.
wannabes—I’d find out later. Mike’s instrument was his voice, and he used it to
show instrumentalists what he heard in his head to orchestrate a song.

I didn’t get Mike’s number at the end of the Yngwie show,
but we said we’d see each other at the next metal gig. And, rest assured we
repeatedly did at nearly every club imaginable in the SoCal area. I kept
badgering Mike about using his vocal services. At first for the band I was
forming in 1996 with Mike Bear (bass), and later for my own project (Obscure),
but somehow we never recorded a note together, nor played a gig in the same
band. We shared the stage in different bands and watched each other
perform countless times, egging a metal bro on from the front row. Oh, but we did
jam many a time, off stage – in the rehearsal room or at home. It was during
those many jams that I witnessed firsthand the enormous talent and larger than
life personality that was “MDG III,” as he was referred to for short. The
skill! A great pair of ears and pipes! Naturally precise pitch, emotionally charged delivery and a keen ear for
what each instrument could accomplish towards the greater whole of a song.

While L.A.
is a massive metropolis, and tons of superficial people abound, Mike was a
no-bullshit type of guy you could depend on – never so self-absorbed that he
forgot to ask you about your life. Always willing to help a friend in need!
Mike was always struggling to make ends meet with “day jobs,” like any aspiring
musician or actor in L.A.
One of Mike’s many jobs was as a manager in a photocopy shop, where he pitched
in to assist me in keeping my tiny publishing business (Tsathoggua Press)
afloat by sneaking in free or heavily discounted jobs. He could’ve gotten the
sack for it, but he went out of his way for a close friend.

Big city or not, L.A.
actually has a very incestuous little metal scene, and the same fans and
musicians are spotted from venue to venue. Everybody seems to know each other
or has answered a “musicians wanted” ad placed by a friend’s band and so on.
So, it wasn’t a big surprise in 1997, when I discovered that Mike Grant had
become pals with New Eden guitarist Dan DeLucie and his sister Linda
simultaneous to me, bassist Mike Bear and Prototype guitarist Kragen Lum.
Friendships were solidified then that lasted – far beyond any of the
stereotypical L.A.
facade – for well over a decade. A close-knit circle of metal friends, a “metal
posse” as Mike Grant’s cohort in “The Shield,” bassist Mel Sisneros, called it.
MDG III was definitely one of the blazing personalities in that ring. He kept
us amused by acting out all sorts of goofy scenarios on our various outings. It
was rare that our Mr. Grant ever missed a chance to hang out with the whole
group of metalheads. And for a good several years I probably saw MDG III at
least once a week, despite the fact that
 he lived in the heart
L.A. proper, while I was on the western edge
of the
San Fernando Valley.

Mike, being of a thespian bent (he was a born actor, I tell
ya!), was a total film fanatic. It was the second thing he loved after his
metal. One of Mike’s many jobs was hawking promo tickets to advance screenings
of new movies. He was always hooking his friends up with free passes, or
accompanying them to theaters all over the “southland,” as the newcasters like
to call El Lay. One of the funniest episodes of my friendship with Mike
revolves around the flick Cube. We
saw it near his old Miracle Mile pad at the Beverly Center.
The premise of the movie revolved around a group of amnesiac people imprisoned
within a booby-trapped maze, rigged up with all sorts of treacherous
contraptions to slay its human occupants. None of the prisoners knew why they
were ensnared or how to exit the cube of the flick title. Mike and I followed
the arrows and signs, exited the mall to the multi-storey garage. We headed
straight for the level and section where he’d parked his little black Honda.
Only to find the bloody car was missing. We proceeded to check every level of the
garage, but… No cigar! Figuring the thing was stolen, we headed back into the
mall to flag down security, only to both smack ourselves in the head for our
own mistake. We discovered that the flick had put our noggins in such a spin
that we neglected to realize there were two garage towers on opposite sides of
the mall. Go figure! The movie had achieved its desired mind-fuck, and we
laughed our asses off the entire way back to Mike’s place.

I mentioned jamming together… It was my pleasure to play
heavy-ass metal with good pal Mike for nearly a couple of years, between 1998
and 2000. You see, our singer in Destiny’s End lived in Texas, while we four instrumentalists were
in La La Land. Mike not only loaned us his stereo power amp the few times that
our singer was actually in town, but… He also sang for Destiny’s End during, by my estimate, upwards of 100
rehearsals. Reason being? We wanted to be well-rehearsed with a vocalist for
gigs. Also, guitarist Dan DeLucie and I wanted to give Mike a chance to keep
his voice in shape for his own efforts. In Destiny’s End rehearsals Mike fit
like a glove, and I honestly felt like he was a member of the band. As I’ve
stated previously here, there were many times when I wished he had been our DE
singer. He was honest, dependable, down-to-earth and always enthusiastic about his beloved metal.

There were other jams, though! A metal family consisting of me, Mike
Bear (then in Prototype), Ana Greco (then in Rapture and Faustus) and Mike
Grant (then in Ocean Seven) often fooled around with tunes on our time off from rehearsing with our
respective bands. Mike cracked us up by mouthing what he felt was the most
cliché riff from his
first-ever band back in CT (Morpheus), forcing us to play it. I’ll remember that silly
ditty till the day I die, I think, thanks to Mike’s antics.

On a couple of occasions, I loaned Mike (and Dan DeLucie) the
use of my multi-effect unit to put delay and reverb on his voice for Onward or
early Crescent Shield demos. I was the first person outside of Dan who heard
the demo of “The Waterfall Enchantress,” and it just floored me. The hairs on
my arms were standing on end. Mike had succeeded in transforming what was
previously just Toby Knapp’s instrumental metal track (Onward had no identity yet) into a riveting and heart-rending
journey. You could sense he felt every last line he sang. No going through the
motions for Mike!

Though Mike and I hadn’t seen each other in a while (we last
hung on my second to last L.A.
visit in April ’09), we kept in touch online. In our last chat he seemed to
upbeat, coming out of the gloomy aftermath of his long-time girlfriend Sue
Lee’s untimely death in 2011. We spoke about working on something musically together in
the near future. He asked me to email our mutual pal Dan DeLucie to get the
ball rolling. I’m crushed to say that’ll never happen. I’m left pondering what
sort of metal magic that triumvirate could’ve wrought.

I suppose I’ve got to close this out. I have a wealth of
fond memories of hanging out with Mike, which is a small consolation for not being able to grow old with him. To be old farts singing classic metal tunes
on the fogy farm! I speak for all of Michael D. Grant III’s friends, when I say “Rest in peace
brother! You’ll always be on our minds…”

Crank up some Onward and Crescent Shield Mike’s honor, and
when you’re done with that, spin some Savatage, Fates Warning and Sanctuary! I
know he would’ve liked that…

Categories: Blog / news

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