Altars of Skronkiness: A Guest Post from Dystrophy

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Shortly after we published Edward’s excellent interview with Doug Moore from Pyrrhon, guitarist/vocalist Pete Brown from dissonant death metal doomsayers Dystrophy reached out to us about penning a guest post for our humble blog. Over the course of a few emails, we decided it would be cool to get an inside perspective of the skronk scene. As you’ll see below, Dystrophy have certainly earned their spot in the subgenre, so who better to be our guide? Before you go spelunking, press play on the band’s excellent 2015 release, Wretched Host, and prepare to get skronked.


 Over the past decade, and particularly within the past 5 years, extremely dissonant and avant-garde death and black metal has gone from being a favorite genre of message boards to topping year end lists and headlining tours. Borrowing elements from death, black, progressive, tech death and ambient metal, bands are blending these very dissimilar styles together into a new and aggressive sound that delivers the best of their respective genres while leaving plenty of room for experimentation. “Skronk”, as a way to describe music, has its origins going back to describe the abusive, abrasive and dissonant sounds of the 1970’s punk scene. “Skronky death metal” has more recently been adopted as a favorite way to describe highly experimental metal bands.

 

Dystrophy is a technical death metal band from New Jersey. Our new album, Wretched Host, isn’t tech-death in the sense of a million notes a measure or solos every other riff, but technical in the sense of how we think about using extremely dissonant chords, melodies and rhythms to construct a jarring and cohesive piece of music. We didn’t immediately jump into this style but developed our sound as we discovered weirder sounding bands like Voivod, Atheist and Martyr, and much darker and dissonant bands like Gorguts and Deathspell Omega. So how did we get into this style of music?

 

*Sidebar – Urban Dictionary’s top definition for skronk is, “The Snorting sound made by the former WWF/WWE Wrestler The Ultimate Warrior”. I’m also fine with this definition being used to describe dissonant metal.

 

How we got into it

 

Just like most people, I got into it by word of mouth. Friends, YouTube, Metal Archives and my local record store, Vintage Vinyl, were invaluable for discovering bands. Around 2008-2009, Pete Lloyd (the other Dystrophy guitarist) really got me into the weirder side of tech death. The mix of dissonance and thrash/death on albums like Martyr’s Warp Zone and Voivod’s Killing Technology started having a huge influence on Dystrophy’s sound. Discovering Gorguts and Ulcerate were total game changers in how we looked at songwriting and abstract sounds.

 

2009 was one of the first times I remember hearing Gorguts. Pete showed me From Wisdom to Hate, and I hated the intro riff to “Inverted”. I was in a total Necrophagist / Arsis tech-death frame of mind and coming off that, I couldn’t understand why he was so excited. A few days later “Inverted” came on my playlist again. Then a few days later I listened to the whole album a few times. It took a little time, but I was hooked when I realized “Elusive Treasures” was stuck in my head for over a week.

Why we like it

 

Albums like Gorguts’ Obscura and Ulcerate’s The Destroyers of All were completely different from anything I’d heard. Hearing these bands break any “conventional” rules I had about metal genres was like hearing my first death metal band all over again. Their back and forth between extreme dissonance and monstrously crushing riffs was a new sound and challenge we wanted to explore in our music.

Gorguts used chords I had never seen, and their riffs were so jarring to play that even just trying to learn them was an exercise in being uncomfortable. Ulcerate hooked me the first time I heard them. The Destroyers of All sounded like the world was coming to an end and I had no idea why. I couldn’t make out any of the chords, and all I wanted was to learn how to make that horrible screeching noise. I couldn’t just listen to it, and I had to see how they were making these noises with a normal guitar. The problem was that Luc Lemay hadn’t reformed Gorguts yet, Ulcerate lived in New Zealand, and today’s bigger underground bands were either brand new or didn’t exist yet.

 

Skronk in the scene

 

Around early 2010, Dystrophy was invited to play one of Curran Reynolds’ Precious Metal Showcases in New York City with Pyrrhon and Flourishing. This was the first time we’d seen these kinds of bands in the underground scene. Since then, newer bands like Artificial Brain, Baring Teeth and Dimesland have released critically acclaimed albums, and older bands like Gorguts, Portal and Deathspell Omega are finally getting the recognition they deserve from a much wider audience.

 

Last year I saw Gorguts open for Carcass in Silver Spring Maryland. Standing next to me was a group of kids who I assumed were there to see The Black Dahlia Murder. During Gorguts’ set, these kids screamed every word to “Le Toit Du Monde”, “Forgotten Arrows” and “Obscura”. Presumptuous asshole = me. There’s no denying there’s a growing audience for these kinds of bands. Proof enough for me, Gorguts got back together and is a full time touring band again, and international bands like Ulcerate and Wormed have come to the US multiple times.

 

What’s next?

 

If there’s one thing metal loves, it’s labeling and dividing bands into subgenres, and skronky metal is no exception to the rules. On the black metal side you have bands like Leviathan, Deathspell Omega and Krallice. For death metal, bands like Gorguts, Ulcerate and Wormed. Progressive and symphonic influences show up in bands like Unexpect. Then there are bands like Portal and Jute Gyte, who almost seem to defy classification in their pursuit for the most jarring noises possible. Whatever your niche, there’s a growing list of bands.

If you’re into avant-garde metal or brand new and looking for bands, check out: Deathspell Omega, Gorguts, Voivod, Martyr, Ulcerate, Portal, Demilich, Human Remains, Wormed, Baring Teeth, Pyrrhon, Artificial Brain, Orbweaver,  Dimesland, Unexpect, Dysrhythmia, Inquisition, most death metal from Canada (especially Quebec) and most of Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston’s bands.

 

If you’re into mid-tempo skronky death metal, check out Dystrophy’s new album Wretched Host.

 

http://dystrophyband.com/


Thanks again, Pete, for reaching out to us! If you’re into skronk and have yet to hear Wretched Host, you’re in for a treat. As far as technical death metal goes, this album is meticulous. Riffs and rhythms materialize and vanish in plumes of noxious smoke as musical motifs and common themes emerge from the haze. It’s quite the evolution from the Voivod-worship of their previous full-length, Chains of Hypocrisy. The music, though lacking the sheer speed and ferocity of Chains, is far more measured and calculating. The way that the band uses blank space and atmosphere to build tension and heaviness, perhaps best witnessed on “Anhedonia” is mesmerizing.

Every instrument on the album is performed admirably, each working as a single gear in an intricate device, never overwhelming its counterparts. Gregory Bueno’s bass rumbles along menacingly through every song, distinct, snarling, and solid. Matthew Thompson’s drums never overpower the other instruments and are instead used to reinforce and anchor the efforts of the string instruments. Rest assured, though, the rhythmic changes and focused percussion are always hypnotizing, especially during the slower, more collected segments. Pete Brown’s vocals provide a strong, Corpsegrinder-esque focal point for the music without ever distracting from what the instruments are doing.

Perhaps most impressive, though, is the overall feeling of the album. Lloyd and Brown’s bottomless chugs, pick scrapes, and emotive solos (see “Exoparasite” for a perfect example) never feel forced. Everything is used to enhance that dissonant tone that always feels like a slow march to the grave, every black hole dive bomb of a downtuned riff taking you one step closer to oblivion. This record fills a great niche between the more claustrophobic dissonant releases like Ad Nauseam‘s Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est and spazzier efforts like Gigan‘s Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes. Slow, sinister skronk is always welcome here in the Toilet.

Be sure to give the band a like on Facebook and pick up Wretched Host on Bandcamp. Thanks again to Pete Brown and the rest of Dystrophy for this guest post!

(Photo VIA)

 

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  • Super Nintendo Chalmers

    Skronkodiles report.

  • Tyree

    Glad Human Remains was mentioned.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mv6XHdtf9vg

    • Dubzlinger, Malandro Slayer

      I always get this band and Nuclear Death mixed up.

      • Tyree

        Wow. Nuclear Death is a name I have not heard in a while.

        • Dubzlinger, Malandro Slayer

          Bride of Insect is one gnarly record.

          • Tyree

            Damn straight. I may have to add the to my playlist here. Been a long time since I’ve listened to them.

    • Peter Lloyd

      Hell yea! This band was so far ahead of their time. I really wanted to pay respect to the original gross NJDM bands (Human Remains, Ripping Corpse, Damonacy) with Wretched Host.

      • Tyree

        Yes they were, and very underrated. It’s kind of a shame really. As a drummer I studied Dave Witte’s playing like crazy in high school. One of the best drum performances I’ve ever heard is during his days with Human Remains and Discordance Axis. Dude was a beast! His one footed blasts are untouchable. Well, then they were untouchable. Not today, haha.

  • Guacamole Jim

    This was an awesome skronk overview. Very cool idea!! Thanks, Mr. Brown, for dropping into the Toilet to dispense mints ov good tunes. Wretched Host is rocking my socks this morn.

    http://www.funnydam.com/uploads/you_rock_my_socks_874232654.gif

  • Pagliacci is Kvlt
    • Guacamole Jim
      • Pagliacci is Kvlt

        Awkward? What would be awkward about He-Man patting my back?

      • Lacertilinger

        I know why you’ve been on a He Man kick Guax

        • Guacamole Jim

          Shhhhhhhhhh don’t tell. What happens in Weirdo Chat stays in Weirdo Chat.

          • Lacertilinger

            What are you talking about?

          • Guacamole Jim

            Exactly.

          • Sir Tapir The Based :]

            You two are scheming something.

          • Guacamole Jim

            Us?? No. Never. Nuh uh. No way. Nada.

          • Sir Tapir The Based :]

            Australian and Canadian. Hot and cold. I will unravel this ruse.

          • Guacamole Jim

            This may expose me, but Tapir: don’t go any farther down this road. You won’t like what you find.

          • Sir Tapir The Based :]

            I will dig deeper. There is something going on. I don’t like it when other people have some kind of conspiracies going on. I’ve got my own fucking new world order shit to run m8.

          • Guacamole Jim

            There is no conspiracy. Please believe me. I am telling the truth. I have no reason to lie. For I am your friend, Guacamole Jim, whom you have known for some time.

          • Sir Tapir The Based :]
          • Lacertilinger

            You’re such a weirdo!

  • Hubert

    Heaviest SKRONK riff of ever here (starts at almost immediately):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9eebFfDjkE

    • Guacamole Jim

      30 seconds in and there’s fucking NOTHI— oh okay. Dis gud.

      • Hubert

        Oh, yeah, I forgot that the intro is pretty long.

      • Jim is this your first taste of Ulcerate?

    • CyberneticOrganism

      This is cool shit.

  • These riffs tickle my jimmies just the right way.

    GL

  • Hubert

    This stuff is SKRONKY gold. Black, dripping, dissonant, confusing gold.

  • KJM

    Voivod >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  • what a fantastic read! guest posts = pure rocket fuel. and dis band fucking rips

  • NJ represent – this is my kind of death metal.

  • Tyree

    Negativa was a short lived band that most of you should be aware of. Steeve Hurdle and Luc Lemay’s band after Gorguts was finished.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtQpIx2JOdE

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      Apparently Dominic “Forest” Lapointe of Beyond Creation was a member too.

      • Tyree

        They got a female singer later on too. I would have been curious to see what this band could have turned into.

        • Dubzlinger, Malandro Slayer

          I remember reading about them but just never got around the checking them out.

          • Tyree

            Get on that EP. It’s chaos.

          • Dubzlinger, Malandro Slayer

            I’ve got it queued up now.

          • Tyree

            Usually, I’m not into stuff as zany as this, but there is something very primitive and hateful about them that I crave.

          • Dubzlinger, Malandro Slayer

            Oh yah, this is tight

          • Tyree

            Nice! Did you find the whole EP?

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            Maybe it’s got something to do with this slowness? I’m actually reminded of Primitive Man at times.

          • Tyree

            True. Even the faster stuff is killer though. But, the slower sections I like better. Reminds me of Clouded. One of my favorite Gorguts songs.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUcl-UkfItw

          • Dubzlinger, Malandro Slayer

            Tyree, this Dystrophy album might be a bit more on the tech side for you, but the slower parts are killer.

          • The Fish Boz

            This is the first time I may have outskronked you. Sadly, due to piracy. I doomloaded Gorguts’ discography and the Negativa stuff came in the torrent years ago.

            RIP Steve Hurdle.

        • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

          It sucks that they seem to have been active from 94 to 2010 and never did more than an EP. Also yeah the female singer could have been good, especially since it seems they were to move towards a new sound.

          • Tyree

            Indeed. I feel like there must be some other material floating around that was never released or mastered.

    • Peter Lloyd

      Pete L from Dystrophy here – I love this EP! It was a big influence on the album. This was my favorite from them, which was never recorded. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLTJzdb4IpI

      • Tyree

        Excellent. Its been years since I’ve listened to Negativa. This post reminded me of them which is awesome. Thanks!

    • Pete B here. I remember reading an interview with Luc Lemay where he said Steeve Hurdle and Negativa got him into using seven strings and Steeve pushed Luc towards leaving the band bc Steeve wanted to see Gorguts come back. Either way, great band that should have been around longer in a perfect world

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    This a great read, love the idea of having an inside look at the SKRONK scene. Going to jam many albums mentioned here a little later, Dystrophy too.

    • Dubzlinger, Malandro Slayer

      Dystrophy took me a few listens to “get”, but the slower pace really works well for them. The album starts out a bit more on the tech side but then settles into a brooding atmosphere.

      • Angry Ghosts In My Boogers

        Same here. If it got sped up too much, it would’ve ended up sounding like wankery/white noise/Origin. The slow pace lets things build up and sink in a bit more.

      • The chuggs along the bass rumbling makes it more dirty. I can jam this.

  • Angry Ghosts In My Boogers
  • Thank you very much, mr. Pete. This is a great introduction to the dissonant extreme scene and I value that this artist provided his story with the genre as a way to show older and newer jams.

    I’m glad that Martyr had a mention. It was one of the first extreme metal bands that I liked a lot, because it was more ‘arcane’ than unsettling. Great stuff.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVewgdyQvkE

  • tertius_decimus

    Snob alert.

    Inception of [whatever]core = false.
    Inception of Djent = false.
    Inception of Sludge = true.
    Inception of Skronk = true.

    Dixi.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Good write up 🙂 Hopefully will convert some souls to the Church of Skronk, should do at any rate. Nice to see some unfamiliar names in the recommendations (Martyr, Human Remains, Orbweaver). And really good band. Like the use of sloth and atmosphere, easing up on the speed and ferocity can be all the better for crawling under the skin and laying eggs.

  • tertius_decimus

    Dystrophy absolutely rips. Thanks for the input! The album goes to the top of my “Best of 2015” list.

  • Dystrophy is very good. Have a discrete balance between straight-forward brutal merol with those piercing and chaotic shifts of the dissonant material.

    • tertius_decimus

      What I like the most, they don’t copy what Gorguts and Ulcerate have done. Between influence and aping there’s thin line. Good for them for being on the “right” side.

  • Celtic Frosty

    Shit, how have I not heard Dystrophy before? I’m digging the fuck out of this.

  • CT-12

    Cool shit, and I’m glad to hear Voivod getting their due so much in this post.