By Mike Sandler   Published Jan 06, 2006 at 5:24 AM

The Sugar Skulls prove -- once and for all -- that Milwaukee has some great bands to offer. A high energy outfit, the Skulls graft tight musicianship onto a hang loose attitude. As the incendiary “A Brush With Death” shows, the guys can generate a massive attack out of a four-piece set up.

Formed in 2002, Milwaukee's Sugar Skulls combine chain-saw guitars with complex melodies and intense, commanding vocals, making for an energetic, get-up-and-move musical experience.

"I started writing some more complex songs than what I was writing for my old band, Jizzmo," says guitarist and frontman Jason Gierl. "I thought I should start up another band, which became a full-time project."

Gierl enlisted drummer Pete Reyes and guitarist/vocalist Andy Orlowski immediately. "Jason asked me to play, I dug it, and haven't left since," says Orlowski.

After a series of bass players, the band settled on current four-stringer Chris Spurgin.

Work on the Sugar Skull's new five-song EP is nearing completion, and according to Spurgin, the guys would like to head out on a regional tour afterward.

In Gierl's opinion, "Apologies Are Just Excuses," from the forthcoming EP, best sums up the group's sound.

"It is melodic, hooky, intense, and plain out, it's just what we do."

"Apologies" shows, "a good example of the dynamics and the driving sound typical of our writing style," says Orlowski.

The band's sound has been cultivated by a wide range of influences, including Slayer, PJ Harvey, Arcade Fire and Fugazi. "In high school, I listened to Carcass, Pantera, lots of metal, which I still do enjoy," says Gierl.

The eclectic tastes continue to this day. "Lately, I've been looking for just about anything I haven't heard yet," says Orlowski. "I'll play the bejesus out of something, get sick of it, and pray someone shows me something new. I'll listen to just about anything."

Active users of my, it is no surprise the Sugar Skulls see music file sharing as an advantage.

"The major labels may be seeing a slump, but smaller labels are getting more exposure than ever," Spurgin says. "The bands putting a quality product on the market are finding the support they need.

"If it's worth the space on my hard drive, I'll buy the album. MP3s can never compete with the feeling of a new CD in your hands."

Fans can expect to witness this pure love for music at a Sugar Skulls show. "These guys give their all on stage, and I try my best to keep up!" says Orlowski.

The Sugar Skulls will rock the Onopa Brewery on Jan. 7 at 10 p.m. Drive By Alibi opens the show.

The Sugar Skulls Web site is