Rock on, little dudes

Call it Barney meets Black Sabbath.

Charlotte musician Eric Bryant is at work on an album that is likely to be the world's first educational heavy metal CD – for preschoolers.

The project has already earned a measure of credibility, thanks to a grant from the Arts & Science Council.

“No one has called me crazy,” says Bryant, 35, who works with children at the Easter Seals/UCP Child Development Center in Charlotte. “My generation does not see this as weird. When we were kids, people called heavy metal fans hoods, but we grew up to be parents like everybody else.”

The idea for the album is based on his own experiences as a father of two, ages 3 and 5, who have loved the “borderline annoying” music of acts like Barney or the Wiggles. It can be like slow torture for parents, he says.

“Children are going to have their favorite song, and they're going to want to hear it over and over,” he says. “As a parent, you either give them what they want, or listen to them scream from the back seat for 10 minutes.”

His solution is a new genre of children's music that sounds like AC/DC or Judas Priest. But instead of lyrics about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, a sinister sounding voice recites the ABCs, lectures about good manners and counts to 10 in Spanish.

“People have told me my voice is kind of creepy and monotone,” he admits, “but they say that makes it sound kind of cool, so it works.”

The Arts & Science Council gave Bryant $2,445 to produce the project. It's the first time the organization has funded a heavy metal album. But the project is in keeping with a new ASC goal to show more support for the city's less traditional forms of art.

Cathy McCann of the ASC says Bryant's comments about the slightly annoying nature of children's music “resonated with some parents on the grants panel.”

“They thought it was a unique concept and had good potential,” she says.

Bryant, who is a veteran member of a couple of rock bands, expects to finish the album by winter, though he's not sure how it will be distributed. No matter how it turns out, he has already won over his biggest critic, Jennifer Bryant, his wife of eight years.

She's a country music fan.

“The first time I heard heavy metal, it sounded like the devil was coming out of the speakers,” she says. “I was doubtful that he would be able to put preschool lyrics to it, but he has come up with a new twist.”

Coincidentally, he's already has a name for it.

Metal for Munchkins.