Friday, June 8, 2018

"Chimera" by ISA

Music that's off the beaten path is something that really turns my crank. On a good day, that's something we've never heard before and on a bad day, it's just a mish mash of bones on top of dead squirrels.

So, there's a guy in New England that's put together a progressive psychedelic death metal album.


Gotta be honest, you really should be checking this record out. It's all of those things I just mentioned. In order to explain this monster to you, I'd have to be one of the musicians involved I think.

But, as I'm just a lowly blogger in a sea of screaming voices, it seems best to ask the man in charge about what in the world this thing is.

Glacially Musical: First off, let's begin at the beginning, were you hit on the head? 

ISA: Probably. Something odd must have happened to me, since I sure didn't get my anti-establishment tendencies from my folks. 

Or maybe I did - reverse psychology, y'know?

GM: Psychedelic Music and Death Metal are diametrically opposed. This is a lot like Jimi Hendrix singing about a positive light. How did you get those two types of music to mesh so well?

ISA: Firstly, I'm stoked you like it! Thank you so much!

I think I was fortunate enough to set out on this project with a clear objective, without actually defining ISA's sound. I wanted to write a technical metal album that was a trippy, psychedelic dream journey. 

I wanted the album to tell a story, and to carry the listener through from beginning to end. I wanted it to not necessarily demand your full attention, but to generously reward it. These goals really influenced every decision I made on Chimera.

I wrote most of the lyrical story first, split it up into songs, and then did my best to make sure the music told the same story. Because my primary goal for Chimera didn't define the sound - to be fair, I don't think I had anything like "a sound" when I started! - I never worried too much about genre or style, I just wanted to build an aural world as colorful and encompassing as what we see in our dreams. 

I was listening to a lot of Between the Buried and Me and Obscura when I began writing, but by the time the arrangements were done, I had spent two years listening to nothing but my own unfinished work. As I listened over and over to the bits and pieces I had written, I would get a little bored and my imagination would wander, and I gradually realized the kind of listening experience I wanted to produce. 

Spending that much time in your own head will have a profound impact on your output!

Inspiration and goals aside, the nuts and bolts of writing Chimera involved figuring out basic song structures and cool riffs, then fleshing them out with other instruments until everything sounded and flowed the way I wanted. 

From there, it was a matter of also remembering what I initially wanted the album to accomplish, and applying psychedelic effects like the icing on top, to really give each section enough sparkle that once you understood the structure, there would still be something interesting to decipher.   

I think at the end of the day, I wanted it to be death metal, but I also wanted it to not be death metal, and I just kind of wrote what I wanted to listen to!

GM: Hit shuffle on your electronic music device and tell me what the first five songs to pop up are.

ISA: Oh boy, this makes me really miss my 160GB iPod classic! RIP. How about the first song from each of my Spotify daily mix playlists?

- Trash Talk Landfill, Pyrrhon
- Marching to the Hearbeats, Cult of Luna
- The Devil's Dick Disaster, The Number Twelve Looks Like You
- Warm, Quiet Centuries of Rains, Falls of Rauros
- Irish Steel, Fox Territory
- Triangle, BadBadNotGood

GM: I'm imagining that my kiddo is going to grow up like you because she listens to such a wide range of music between her mom and me. What music did your parents introduce to you?

: When I was a kid, I got my hands on a cassette tape of the Carpenters, and forced my parents to play it on repeat until they bought me a CD player so they could regain some of their lost sanity. Of course, I had nothing of my own to play in it, so I went rummaging. 

My dad's bedside table contained Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, and Metallica (Ride The Lightning was the first CD I ever put into that CD player), and my mom's included Pat Benatar, Natalie Merchant, 10,000 Maniacs, and Sheryl Crow. I listened through both of their collections, but found that neither genre would make both my parents happy. 

It didn't take long before I started buying my own CDs in middle school, and since the Carpenters were already established as problematic (and vehemently eschewed by my father), I think I overcorrected and brought home Heartwork by Carcass. I didn't want to play favorites - if they couldn't both enjoy what I wanted to listen to, I'd make sure neither of them would! 

Clearly, I didn't "just outgrow that God-awful screaming fad!"

GM: I can't help but go back to this mash up of styles. Did you find other musicians to assist you with this, or did you handle it all?

I wrote, recorded, and mixed the whole thing. I used to write a bunch of music with one of my closest college friends, and learned almost all I know about songwriting from him, but when I tried to get him to help me actually write, he said I was crazy and my music was weird. 

He wasn't wrong! 

So, I carried on, solo. I did bounce some of the early versions of the songs off both him and my girlfriend, asking what they liked and didn't, but beyond that, there wasn't a whole lot of input from anyone else. 


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