by Maria Zilberman

They shred, they scream, they bang away in neon spandex. For the four University of Maryland students who make up the heavy metal band Sextacy, music is also visual art.

Bonded by a mutual love for 1980s glam metal powerhouse "Poison," guitarist Brad Schachat and singer Nick Montopoli formed Sextacy in the fall of 2007.

Since then, bassist Jon Milburn and drummer Reese Cooper have joined the band. The four started playing together in September 2009, debuting in January at Baltimore's Ottobar.

A heavy metal funk band that likens their sound to Skid Row, the band also includes Iron Maiden, Edguy, Extreme and Judas Priest among its influences.

"You wouldn't call us 'good' – but we're bitchin'," Schachat said.

That means synchronized high kicks, guitar waving and head banging; unleashing a can of hair spray on each other's hair during their show; setting up an industrial fan for a not-so-subtle wind-blown effect; exaggerated facial expressions; bright, clashing outfits; glittering eye make-up.

From the box of costumes – stage attire – that accompanies the band to their shows, to a lead singer who on a whim strums and drums on his bandmates' instruments, their performances are true to what the band is: an outlet for energy, creativity and antics.

Most of the songs the band performs are its own, including the ballad-esque "One More Nite" and corporate criticism "Savage Ave."

"This is like what keeps me a balanced person because all of my classes are math and science related and it's just really dorky, non-artistic stuff," said Cooper, who is a senior mechanical engineering major. "This sort of rounds me out."

Milburn, who does a lot of the lyric writing for the band, said he enjoys the shared experience of music: "Producing music with people, for people is always kind of a fun experience."

But what's been tough is reaching an audience.

In October, just weeks before Thirsty Turtle shuttered its doors, the band played what they consider their best show there.

With the loss of Thirsty Turtle and the May closing of Santa Fe Cafe, there is a "completely untapped market for a music scene," Schachat said about College Park. "There is no outlet for us."

It's a frustration the group addressed by seeking out other venues, like The Velvet Lounge in D.C., where they played in September and November.

They don't make money from their shows. If anything, they lose some to the costs of stage equipment and travel, or charitable donations. The band donated half the money they made from their October show at Thirsty Turtle to cancer research.

In early December, they played at a Colleges Against Cancer and Maryland Wishes benefit on the University of Maryland campus.

When Mike Atlas, a senior biology major at the University who was emceeing the event, saw the foursome climbing on stage, he was skeptical.

"I initially, when I saw them, thought it would all be a cutesy act," said Atlas, who typically listens to hip-hop and softer rock. To his pleasant surprise, it wasn't.

"It was an experience. They provided a show," he said.

Three of the four band members will graduate from the University in May. When that happens, they're not sure what will happen to the band.

For now, they just want to show as many people as possible a "totally bitchin'" good time.