Track By Tracks: Runescarred - The Distant Infinite (2019)

1. Hexit:

After a slightly spooky Halloween-ish clean intro, we get down to business with a relentless thrasher, in doing so citing 2 pages from the book "How to Begin a Metal Album" by Metallica. The song isn't all "speed to the 10th power" however; we also managed to weave in some bridges with keyboards and other textures, plus a nice little sludgy variation on the main riff during the outro, complete with some dusty piano-esque dissonance from the guitars. We often open our live shows with this song, and it is definitely a workout for the right arms of the string section. Lyrically, the song explores the idea of exiting the human race (instead of "Brexit", get it?) as a reaction to the negativity we are inundated with on a daily basis through our media channels; traditional, social, and otherwise. 

2. Inviting Rivers:

This is the first single from the record, and is to date our most direct and concise track yet; it's similar to "Hexit" but without as many bells, whistles, and other filigree. Ven includes a few vocal nods to songs from our debut EP, I threw in a few quotes from various Russian composers into my guitar solo and in short, it really encapsulates our sound as it currently exists; riff-y as all get out, yet quite hook-laden and engaging nonetheless. To me, "Rivers" is about bringing everyone on board our musical ship, "inviting" them to be overwhelmed by the flow of our sonic worldview. 

3. Minor Progressions:

Stepping aside from the first two thrash-a-holic songs that begin the album, this song owes a little more to the influences of bands like Revocation and Lamb of God; in fact, the working title for it was "Revoke". Most of the song has the whole "Jaunty Pirate" 12/8 thing going on, but the bridge throws in a few little extra spices including a little Delta Blues turnaround followed by a very 1996 Tool/Pantera section featuring some truly badass drumming from Payton Holekamp. As the title suggests, this one is about the fact that all of our supposed "progress" as a species is little more than baby steps in the eyes of the planet. I especially like the line about the "cold embrace of the sun"; it's quite a striking image. Probably the ugliest song on the album, at least musically, but for the first time there is a slight crack in the window. 

4. Swallow Your Tail:

One of my personal favorites, this song proudly occupies the tried-and-true Slow-and-Heavy Middle-of- the-Album Song position. One of my favorite moments of our live show is absolutely slamming into the main riff after the intro; to be sure, this song digs quite the World War I-size trench of pocket and groove, and just when you think it's all down-wound sludge and quaaludes, we break into a chorus that with a falsetto facelift would be quite at home on a Muse record. I'm especially proud of the slide guitar solo; it's the kind of thing you don't hear too many bands doing in our corner of the genre. "Swallow Your Tail" is about our apparently irradicable need for division, hate, and self-extincting tribalism, despite the millenia of evidence against such things. 

5. Legionem Eclipsem:

The title is a nod to Behemoth and their many Latin-derived lyrics and song names; musically it's back to a tightly-laced metal gallop in the vein of Iced Earth or Megadeth's "Holy Wars." There's a few big gang chants happening in this one, and the bridge riffs take a vacation to the land of Symphony X as well as the everlasting Circle of Fifths chord progression that laced many a Baroque composition. Not much else to say about this one as it's the last strictly meat-and-potatoes track on the album before it veers off the charted course into more rocky terrain. 

6. Twisting Flesh:

This is the longest song on the record and covers a lot of sonic and textural ground. A soft bass intro gives way to a clean verse and then the guitars saddle up the horses for a nice mid-tempo foray into a melodic NWOBHM-style cruiser. After some high-altitude vocals dealing with the self-inflicted conformity necessary (a "twist of flesh") to one's survival in today's world, the song breaks away for an interlude featuring clean guitars, keyboards, and one of the album's best guitar solos courtesy of Skunk Manhattan. A little Scorpions-ish twin lead section helps guide the track back to its central tenets, finishing the checklist for the perfect "epic song 2/3 of the way through the set" piece. 

7. This Distant Infinite:

Probably the most unexpected part of the album, this one is a short instrumental buildup to the follow up, "Sorrow Is". Composed by Skunk and myself more or less on the spot during the album's recording sessions, this song is just the two of us layering guitars (both electric and acoustic) and keyboards into a silky tapestry of rich melodic and harmonic content. Upon hearing the finished track, Ven remarked "this sounds like something off of 'The Division Bell'", which meant we knew we had hit our mark. 

8. Sorrow Is:

Ah, that most treacherous of minefields, the Ballad by a Metal Band. I have to give all credit to Ven on this song; he brought it in fully-formed and all I had to do was to tweak a chord voicing or two and we were ready to print. Skunk added some judicious synth and keyboard bits, I added some harmony vocals, and that was all we needed to flesh out a modern re-telling of the Hatfield/McCoy story. No doubt that this will be the centerpiece of our eventual Unplugged show. 

9. Poison Oasis:

Hands down, the "proggiest" tune on the album, this song finds us flexing our muscles in every conceivable direction. Ven enlists the entire Actors Guild of Voices, Payton and Josh lock into a Neil-and- Geddy synergy, and Skunk and I search for as many jazz/metal chords as we can cram into a five-minute song. During the bridge, we crack our knuckles for an old-school guitar solo trade-off over a snaky shape-shifting Arabian Nights riff before leading the weary travelers back home for a Broadway reprise of the chorus. We haven't played this one live yet but I am very much looking forward to it having a regular spot in the set. 

10. Mammoth:

Another one of my favorites on the record, this is one of those rare cases where the working title became the actual name of the song, in this case inspired by Mastodon. I am proud of the fact that this was the only song on the album written (at least musically) in only 24 hours, perhaps proving the adage that one's best songs take the least amount of time to coalesce. The verses contain airtight thrash riffing before breaking into the most cloud-bursting and dance-able chorus of the whole album. After a bridge of militaristic Metal March riffs and tasty guitar solos, the album winds to a close with a chorus outlining the need for personal growth in order to overcome the doubts of outsiders and the societal barriers described in the first two songs of the record. The live response to this song has so far been exactly what we have hoped for; an anthem that everyone can get behind, or least just groove to endlessly. Runescarred out!

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