The Grave Machine self-titled album turns 12
When my band from 1997 through 2001, Drop Kick Jesus, officially broke up after releasing two albums and multiple tours, 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 musically, borrowing styles from bands like Ministry, Neurosis, Jesu, Godflesh, Scorn, and Pitchshifter. 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 In 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 that 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 written 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 10 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 on of the side effects of the withdrawal was I would get these shocks in my brain, like someone has just electrocuted me inside my head for half a second, and this happened over 100 times daily. And the way I felt during the 10 weeks that I was on them, was 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 you through a journey of those terrible twelve 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 that I had never written before. Both 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 you 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, 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 does guest vocals on the song, "Covered In Silence." He's still convinced the bathroom in the studio is haunted.
The album was recorded 12 years ago this month, and even after 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 an try to convey new emotions with the tone of my voice. My wife still says, that of the 6 albums I have been the lyricist/vocalist for in my life, this one is her favorite, and the best vocal performance from me.
We disbanded in the summer of 2005 for personal reasons. It's a shame the album never got the legs that 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 albums 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.