Photo: Henrick Patterson
Welcome to Napalm Flesh! Our faithful darkhearts are certainly doing a smashing job letting the dark lord know he’s well loved; it’s hot as hell up here, so he must be pleased with your worship. As a reward to all you pious minions, I have the pleasure of introducing one of Salt Lake’s fine metal outfits who are on the verge of a heat-up themselves: Disforia. With roots buried deep in prog/power traditions from Dream Theater, Blind Guardian, and Rush, Disforia’s sound is different from most of the newest wave of metal bands. In place of trendy “djenting” or the usual ruthless vocals, this band has instead opted to hold séance with a more lost retro sound, a sound respected still for its timelessness but more often than not buried beneath the latest trick-of-the-week. With the help of a Kickstarter project now in full swing, the band is working hard to get their first full-length record out this year, as well as the attention of the Salt Lake metal scene. I used the magic of the interwebs to find out what vocalist/bassist John Yelland and drummer Casey Frederick think of being on the verge of this milestone, and find out more about their history, influences, and hopes for Disforia’s future.
SLUG: You guys have a sound so unique to the Salt Lake scene. Tell me how you guys found each other.
Disforia: Casey Frederick and Chad Anderson formed the band in 2007. It wasn't until a year later that John Yelland and Austin Bentley joined the band. From that point forward, Disforia began to evolve musically into a more well rounded metal act, taking influence from the greats in metal, but fusing it with our own styles and progressing in our direction. Our EP, Our Time Defined, is a great reflection of the turning point in "the D.” It harks back to our early days and gives a healthy dose of the new direction we're paving. Our first full length will be an epic, bombastic work of art, and we can't wait to record it.
SLUG: How would you guys describe your sound to someone unfamiliar with Disforia?
Disforia: Disforia is a blend of modern and retro metal influences, yet unique. It's a pleasant blend of progressive and power metal, but unafraid to explore any genre or sound. Disforia has everything from haunting Egyptian sounds [such as in] "Of Wolves and Men" to epic, sing-along choruses [as with] "My Sacrifice" [and] "Our Time Defined."
SLUG: What bands do you gather inspiration from? How about inspiration outside of music—books, movies, etc.?
Disforia: Our primary musical influences as a band include Dream Theater, Blind Guardian, Opeth, Iron Maiden, Devin Townsend Project and Rush. Aside from music, we base a lot of our lyrics on sci-fi. We have songs on Stephen King's book, "The Tommyknockers,” William Blake's poetry—such as "The Book of Thel" and poems from the "Songs of Innocence and of Experience" compilation—and a considerable amount of influence is taken from modern physicists and scientists such as Michio Kaku, Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson. We are, after all, children of the stars ;-).
SLUG: How do you guys feel about the local scene right now?
Disforia: Utah's local metal scene is peculiar. It has fluctuated from really good to absolute poop. It all depends on how hard the bands are willing to work. For some reason, I've noticed a lot of bands here have or have had a selfish mentality. What we NEED to be doing is working hard to build and grow a local scene TOGETHER. We can learn a lot by looking back to the Bay Area thrash movement, which spawned Metal Church, Metallica, Death Angel and Testament, and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, which spawned Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard. This isn't an “every band for itself” situation, we need to have an “all for one and one for all” mentality. We must be united and support each other, for right now we are scattered and not cohesive. Unite the fans and bands is my motto, so let's get working! Once our first full length album is recorded and out, we will be devoting all of our time and effort into this feat … as well as promotion of the album of course ;-).
SLUG: Casey: You mentioned that telling people you play progressive/rock/metal in Salt Lake is difficult, because two of those words are considered “swear words” to Utah’s mostly indie scene. Can you elaborate on what that means and how you guys deal with a scene that may not be as supportive of your brand of music?
Disforia: What I mean by that is, when you tell someone you are in an indie band, there is this automatic tasty feeling of bouncy rock and songs about feelings and Kilby Court. When you say you're in a metal band, the imagery changes to blood, screaming, bars and terrible noise that can't be interpreted. The only real way to deal with those kinds of stereotypes is to prove people wrong with our music. Once we get someone to listen, they love it and it opens up a new world for them. We maintain a high-quality product, whether it is an EP, shirt design or live show.
SLUG: How do you feel about the current state of metal as a whole?
Disforia: Metal never died, it just lost momentum in certain places. The United States is a land dominated by trends. Metal was popular in the '80s and early '90s for a while, but lost momentum as the market moved elsewhere. Unless you're Iron Maiden, Metallica or Ozzy Osbourne (legends formed in the '80s), you're not going to sell out stadiums. But I have noticed a significant increase in the popularity of metal lately. It really struck me when Iced Earth and Symphony X came through The Complex last February—the venue was packed and people went crazy! The same thing happened last time Mastodon came through. In Europe, however, you have metal shows selling out MUCH more frequently. When Yngwie Malmsteen was asked how he felt about not making as much money anymore, he said, "What are you talking about? I still make money, just not in the U.S." So, it all falls down to US, the local bands, to bring about a new wave of metal. If we don't unite and work hard then, well, I hope you like the revolving wheel of trendy fad pop.
SLUG: What scene do you feel Disforia represents and is fighting for?
Disforia: We have friends in prog rock, funk and indie, but we fight for metal—no question about it.
SLUG: Seems like bands are breaking up left and right, but you guys have already had a pretty long run together—five years and counting. To what do you attribute this longevity?
Disforia: We've had our rough times and a revolving door of bass players, but Disforia has a sense of purpose and a unified goal. We are passionate about creating imagery and provoking imagination with our music. It's the most exciting thing in the world for us! To imagine breaking up is devastating. All of the hard times we've endured and fought through, all the money we've spent, all the good times and bonding we've had—to end it all is unthinkable. A lot of bands simply are not dedicated, and they fail, and, in my opinion, they probably deserved to fail. Dedication is everything.
SLUG: What’s your favorite part about playing live?
Disforia: Interaction with the audience. The most rewarding part of being in a band to me is seeing people singing along with our choruses (or verses, sometimes!), and responding enthusiastically to crowd interaction. To see and hear people enjoy the music with us is magic.
SLUG: John, your vocals are incredible and sound like they’d be super destructive on your vocal chords. What do you do to keep yourself in top shape? Do you find it difficult to translate your soaring heights to the live show?
Disforia: Thank you very much! 🙂 Well, rest and health are Number One. Any singer who drinks and parties hard isn't going to sing well, ESPECIALLY on tour! I run, hike, do fitness, and try to eat well (eating well is the hardest part haha!). Water is key for singers. Is my singing style destructive on my vocal chords? No, but I have to carefully watch what I do. It can be a real buzz-kill if I get sick. After a cold, it can take a long while to get back to PRIME condition. But when I'm in good condition it's just a matter of staying healthy and warming up thoroughly before shows. Then let slip the dogs of war!
SLUG: Tell me about this Kickstarter project you guys have going right now. What will it be funding? How long will it run? How much are you hoping to make?
Disforia: The Kickstarter project is funding the recording and production of our next album that we hope to record in a couple of months. The project will [have] run for 30 days, and we hope to raise at LEAST $1,500. That is only about 1/4 of what we need, though, so we're hoping people take advantage of our awesome pledge rewards while they have the chance. We are giving away unreleased tracks from our old EP and new album as well as replica guitars, listening-party tickets and documentary footage from the making of the album.
SLUG: Do you have any hopes or plans to make a larger touring run in the future?
Disforia: On August 4, 2012, we will be opening for our good friends, Vacant Throne, in Denver, Colo. for their album-release show. But other than that, our priorities lie in recording our first full-length album. After that, promotion will be [our] Number One priority. Touring is difficult for bands our size—we've tried it once before. Our first touring experience was basically us playing in front of 10-20 people per night in bars—not very wonderful. So, next time we tour, we want to make sure we do it right: promote, promote, promote!
SLUG: Do you have any upcoming shows or appearances in the near future?
Disforia: We are headlining the first night of the Cache Valley Music Festival on July 27th. After that we are heading to Denver, Colo. for our friends from Vacant Throne for their CD-release show on August 4, and then coming back to SLC to perform at the A.E.M. Supershow that will be held at the old Granite High School.
Season of Mist
Deathspell Omega = Marduk + Funeral Myst + Deafheaven
Metal EPs often get overlooked, and it's a damn shame. Though brief, these five-to-six song platters often act as "transitionary" pieces for bands, a first manifestation of a change to come and a statement of cohesion. In the case of Drought, French prog-black combo Deathspell Omega stretch a tad more as they incorporate disparate elements of sludge, shoegaze and grindcore into their clattering aesthetic. "Transcending Black Metal" gets bandied about with these guys (as does their refusal to play live and give interviews), and it's not a wholly undeserved tag. Discordant blitzkriegs like "Fiery Serpents" and "Scorpions and Drought" owe as much to Mayhem as to early Dillinger Escape Plan. Abrasive cuts like "Sand" and "Cracked Book of Life" chime and writhe with unsettling atmospherics wedged between bursts of chaos. Sure, it's got roots in '90s Norway, but it hardly seeks to alienate the listener like its predecessor. Drought hastily invites them into the tumult. –Dylan Chadwick