The Grave Machine album turns 13
*The album is cuurently available for free from this site*
When my band from 1997 through 2001, Drop Kick Jesus, officially broke up after releasing two albums and touring multiple times, the bass player and I decided to start a new band. In 2003, we recruited guitarist Pete Tachuk and moved forward as a three piece (something I had never done before). This new band, The Grave Machine, was steeped in horror movies and industrial / progressive metal (the average length of each song on the album was seven minutes long). We knew exactly who we were sonically, borrowing styles from bands like Ministry, Neurosis, Jesu, Pitchshifter, and little bit of Pink Floyd. We knew exactly who we were atmospherically, using mass amounts of samples from movies like May, War of the Worlds, The Amityville Horror, and The Pit & The Pendulum. But here was the problem: I didn't quite know what I wanted to say lyrically.
I had a whole bunch of verses and scattered lyrics left over from the Drop Kick Jesus songs we had been working on when we broke up, but I didn't want The Grave Machine to just be Drop Kick Jesus v2.0. Drop Kick Jesus was angry, unapologetic, and like a constant quick jab and uppercut. The Grave Machine was gloomier, brooding, menacing, and more atmospheric. Some of the lyrics I had penned for the never-written third Drop Kick Jesus album just wouldn't fit the tone of The Grave Machine songs.
The album, all ten songs, took almost two full years to write. At some point during that first year of building the songs, my doctor put me on anti-depressants. Effexor-XR to be exact. I stayed on them, never missing a dose, for ten weeks ... and then I hocked the bottle into the trash and quit cold turkey. Never again. And that's when the withdrawal symptoms started and lasted for a week. Now, that doesn't sound like a long time, but one of the side effects of the withdrawal was I would get these shocks in my brain, like someone had just electrocuted me inside my head for half a second, and this happened over a hundred times daily. And during the ten weeks I was on the meds, I felt like an emotionless robot. Sure, I wasn't sad anymore, but I also couldn't get happy. It was atrocious.
That experience, between the lows before the pills, the emotional flat line during the treatment, and the ungodly withdrawal symptoms, gave me everything I needed to write what might be considered my first concept album. We didn't write the album as a concept album, but the album takes the listener through a journey of those terrible ten weeks. I had found an emotion in my lyrics and vocal melodies that I had never had in either of my two previous bands: Yellow #1 and Drop Kick Jesus. I was writing lyrics in a style I had never written before. Both in Yellow #1 and Drop Kick Jesus, all my lyrics were very straight forward, no reading into different meanings, nothing cryptic. If I screamed, "Because I hate you!" in one of the songs ... it literally meant, "Because I hate you." The Grave Machine songs were finally a catalyst for me to build a world with adjectives and similes. I tried to take the listener through the experience without actually telling them about the experience. In the writing world, we call that "show don't tell." In my last two bands, I had been telling the listener everything. I was now showing the listener what I was trying to say.
After two years of writing, we traveled to Albany, NY for two weekends and recorded the self-titled album. Tragedie Ann vocalist, Nick Panneton, traveled with us for the first weekend and sang guest vocals on the song, "Covered In Silence." He's still convinced the bathroom in the studio is haunted.
The album was recorded thirteen years ago this month, and even after more than a dozen years removed, I am still very proud of that album; the music that was written, the use of the samples, my lyrics, and my willing to try to branch out vocally and try to convey new emotions with the tone of my voice. My wife still says that of the six albums I have been the lyricist/vocalist for in my life, this one is her favorite and feels it's my best vocal performance.
We disbanded in the summer of 2005 for personal reasons. It's a shame the album never got the legs I think it deserves, but the personal issues that separated us have been rectified, so maybe, just maybe, The Grave Machine might have a rebirth at some point in my life. If not, I will always be proud of being in that band and writing those songs and having that album as a part of my personal discography as a musician.
And oh, it was because of The Grave Machine that I met my wife ... so there's always that.