September 13, 2007
“Haunting… my being / Confusion… losing my soul / Drifting… no ceiling / Descending… into the unknown”
California’s Antelope Valley has produced another great metal band: DistortedFate. “Haunting,” the lead song on their self-titled demo CD released this month, lulls listeners in gently before throwing them headfirst into the mosh pit.
The song’s unusual no-chorus structure builds both musically and vocally to a dramatic climax. The intro has an almost lullaby quality as the person in the song floats slowly and helplessly along to soft guitars and light cymbals, then a military snare snaps him to attention and all the instruments speed up in anticipation.
“Try to run / can’t escape / The clock strikes / but it’s too late / Petrified / with all this fear / The ghost behind / is getting near”
Singer Mike Weinberg, drummer Brian Banner, and guitarist Bob Spears collaborated on the lyrics. “It’s a nightmare,” Banner says. “Since there’s no ceiling, the person drifts off into nowhere, then descends into a super-intense dream of terror and doom.”
The first verse’s urgent vocals sound scared, and lightning-fast drum fills heighten the anxiety. As the person shifts from floating to trying desperately to move, a quick break adds to his confusion. Weinberg says, “He’s wondering if he’s dying, or dying inside. It’s about the points in all of our lives when we’re trapped in a place or in between situations, when things out of our control attack us. It could be anything that comes along unexpectedly – hardships, trials – wham! Every time you excel a hand comes up to knock you off your ladder.”
“Can’t awake / is this for real / The path ahead / just might be sealed / Intense pain / takes its toll / The silent hand / destroys my soul”
The vocals take a huge turn in the second verse when, as Spears says, the person “is in the full terror of the nightmare.” Weinberg’s startled shout dissolves into disturbing tones that can only be described as evil. “That’s Mister Evil,” he says. “Mister Evil is the guy’s last defense, the only one who car bear with the suffering and agony. The guy is refusing to accept reality. Is the path ahead sealed? Can he get out of these situations? He has to become evil to fight back against the evil that’s pursuing him. Mister Evil is the one who speaks out, who can’t remain silent.”
After the second verse is a break that’s clearly a tightly controlled fight for survival. As Banner explains, “That’s when the gang of hungry zombies attacks.” Banner pummels his drum kit with surgical precision while Spears knocks out a freight train riff over Aaron Cross’s thumping bass. The driving rhythm under the guitar solo was written by Cross. Banner says, “We had a rough framework but weren’t sure, so Bob asked Aaron for ideas.” Cross says, “I flipped the switch and that’s what flowed out.” Then Spears laid his guitar solo over the top, which Cross describes as “amazing. It’s melodic and powerful at the same time.” Weinberg adds, “We have great teamwork.”
Then, suddenly, the attack is over. There’s complete silence except for the harmonics at the end of Spears’ guitar solo, which drops off with the tremolo bar and bleeds over. “It’s like a scream,” Banner says. “It’s when the guy wakes up.”
“Drifting…no ceiling / Descending…into the unknown”
The outro’s music and vocals echo the intro’s slow pacing. Spears says, “The nightmare might be starting all over again.” Or, Weinberg says, “There’s some peace at the end. Mister Evil has given the person the strength to guide him through. He’s victorious at the end, but doesn’t know what lies on the other side, what’s next.”
Spears explains that the song started with an accidental chord: “I was scrolling through the programs on my processor and saw one I’d never seen before called ‘12 string.’ I hit a chord and it sounded cool.” Weinberg continues, “I heard it and said, ‘That’s really haunting. Play it again.’” Spears did, and Weinberg sang, “Haunting…my being….” “I just threw a little something in there lyrically,” Weinberg says, “and it worked, melody and everything.” “We jammed it out,” Spears says, “then recorded it with no drums.” Banner sculpted the drum parts, and bassist Cross “added the brown noise.”
The song is carefully crafted with a focus on creating an overall experience, and the band’s tightness and intensity give the sense they’re playing with deliberate restraint. They could belt out the song perfectly in triple time, but deliberately chose not to.
Odd events contributed to the song’s eeriness while writing, refining, and mixing it. Banner says, “When we were writing it we had the song’s rough tracks on CD…and it got stuck in my car’s CD player for days. It was the only thing I could listen to. After we completed the tracks, it ejected perfectly.” Weeks later, Spears says, “It hadn’t rained in months, then while we were mixing this song a huge thunder-and-lightning storm blew in. The power went out, and since the studio’s windows are blacked, we plunged into total darkness and silence. It was like being in a cave deep underground.” After the song was mixed, the review CD got stuck in Banner’s CD player again. Hmm.
DistortedFate will be one of the featured bands at the fifth annual All Access Magazine.com Music Awards at the Knitting Factory this November. Check out “Haunting” at www.distortedfate.com and www.myspace.com/distortedfateband.