History Lesson Part 2: I Fought The ’90s and the Grind Won (upping the insanity of Neoblasphemies)

I finally REYmastered Neoblasphemies.

But first, I think we need some background:

I hated the ’90s. It probably had more to do with me reaching my thirties than anything else. But I hated them.

You see, to me, the whole grunge thing sounded like all the dinosaur rock acts of the ’70s that were given a swift kick in the arse by Britpunk in the late 70s. Then during the 80s, louder and faster was the future. The goal to ever-pursue. Early 80s-hardcore and mid-80s crossover and late-80s grindcore left me most of the musical breadcrumbs I thought necessary. Pretty much.

And even though, while in the Lead, I never bought into glam/hair metal, I did succumb into trying to improve my musicianship (mostly consisting of learning Phrygian mode and palm-muting) as a result of listening to the Metallicas and Slayers and Voivods of the day and playing with Deliverance and Believer and Cynic (and even with the Crucified who had very serious chops for a punk band). So that kind of took over my nervous system along with the aforementioned louder faster etc…

Soooo, when the Lead ended in 1991 we had been demoing some quite epic complex tunes. Rob and Andy were firmly in the power/technical metal zone, I was still trying to test the limits of Rob’s drumming stamina, and Nina… well, if we had managed to actually make that record she’d have been the one leading the Lead into the 1990s. She definitely started to turn things away from the metal/thrash/speed side of things back to her alternative roots.

But I digress. My three songs for that project were ‘Destroy’, ‘Psychic Pain’ (with a writing assist from Andy and Rob) and a painfully-endless 10 minute version of ‘The Human Reich’ with something like five or six fast verses that gave it about six minutes of wall-to-wall thrash/blastbeat. The demos for those three songs ended up one of my solo one-man Frank’s Enemy 1992 demo tapes (Final Absolution), with Rob on drums but with Andy’s guitar erased.

The process of Frank’s Enemy becoming a real band and putting out the first CD took three years. The CD was tainted by my mindset which was still stuck on the metal/muso influences and suffered from me not getting out much in between 1991 and 1993. Not to say I wanted to be a copycat but I was stubbornly in a vacuum of my own making.

So when we unveiled the first CD at Michigan Mosh 94, I immediately felt like fish out of water. The rage at that fest was all these death metal/grind bands that were not very much like Frank’s Enemy.

Funny thing is, a lot of people in those bands were old Lead fans who had written to us. I remembered my correspondences with Billy Frasier of Oblation, whom I was happy to meet again at Michigan Mosh (he’d seen the Lead in Houston in 1990). Luke Renno of Crimson Thorn also professed a Lead influence/inspiration, and his band may have had the most memorable of all the sets in those couple of days.

Nice pleasant tee belies the brutality of the lineup.

Nice pleasant tee belies the brutality of the lineup.

...this was the lineup.

…this was the lineup.

In the wider scheme of things, Nina had traded letters with a young Steve Rowe during his Lightforce days. His new band Mortification’s Scrolls of the Megilloth was a unanimously-acclaimed classic of the genre in the early 90s. The other standout in those days, Living Sacrifice’s Nonexistent, was fronted by another Lead pen pal, Darren “DJ” Johnson.

And I did have both Scrolls and Nonexistent. Unfortunately, they sounded kind of monotonous to my ears and I couldn’t get into them. I was getting old, what can I tell you?

But then something magical happened in 1994: Living Sacrifice’s Inhabit and Mortification’s Blood World came out. I was immediately smitten with both of those records. Songs were generally shorter and catchier. There was a real hardcore influence (fast 80s and slower 90s kind) on Blood World. The guitar tone on Inhabit made me salivate.

By late ’94 I was downtuning my guitar and making Marc downtune his bass. I started getting to work on the songs that would comprise Neoblasphemies. There’s nothing more I can say it this point about the process of making the record in ’95-’96 that I didn’t already, back in the day, say here, here, here, and here.

I said all this to say that Neoblasphemies was our way of catching up with the 90s as well as “out-90s-ing” the other 90s bands after all the metal anachronisms of the first CD. The songs are still complexities, but most of them do their business in a couple of minutes and leave you for dead. Lyrically, I stopped writing dissertations and went for the heart with brevity and economy (and the judgmentalisms of the first CD were traded in for all-out introspection and angst as the Christian discovers he really is not of this world).

Most crucially, we went for sonic extremes when we made this record. Besides the downtuning and Luke Renno/Cookie Monster vocals, I shamelessly tried to copy Inhabit’s guitar sound. And Marc and I had these DOD stomp boxes like the Buzz Box and the Meat Box and we added them onto just about everything above and beyond guitars and basses. As a humorous aside, that Meat Box would end up breaking Marc’s speaker cones on tour.

Speaking of Marc, he became confident and in full flower as either an insane emo screamer or a Louis Johnson on crystal meth (or both at once).

And Alex drummed faster than ever and provided his fiancee’s vocal skills for the opener and I goaded him into attempting a guitar solo for good measure.

And we thought we did a pretty good job of getting it all onto the DAT. We then edited and ordered  the songs at our friend Blake Osborne’s studio in Lakeland and then did mastering proper with the legendary Mike Fuller of Fullersound in Criteria.

All we wanted out of the mastering was to be as loud as other people’s CDs. But we didn’t achieve it.

Thank goodness for today’s technology, though. Those waveforms don’t lie. I know darn well this remaster is as loud as we wanted it to be in 1996.

Above and beyond that, though, the brutal parts are more brutal (listen to the opening riffs on “Cauldron” and “Cannibalized”) and the softer parts enjoy a unprecedented clarity.

Marc’s production touches on the vocals for “Hanging on a Tree” and especially the out-of-left-field closing funker “Stephen Hawking walked Away” shine like never before.

Some of the transitions between songs were designed to knock your butt to the floor. Now it’s a real possibility. Just listen to the end of “Uncalled For” going into “Torturer” to see what I mean. I mean, it was insane enough in ’96 already.

But enough, let’s let the REYmastered Neoblasphemies roar for itself:

 

 

 

I'm the $$@??** that named you Frank.