Now You Know: HemotoxinTuesday, 17th May 2016
Location: Pittsburg, CA
Style: An exciting take on technical progressive thrash/death
Personnel: Michael Chavez (guitar/vocals); Michael Rohwer (guitar); Nathan Fruth (bass); Brandon Wilcox (drums)
Latest release: Biological Enslavement (Unspeakable Axe)
Hemotoxin is very much Michael Chavez’s band (it actually started as a one-man project), but make no mistake: it’s a team effort for him. Since their 2010 formation, the thrashers have endured the always-fun revolving door of members, happenings that sidetracked the promotional and live show endeavors related to their 2013 debut, Between Forever…and the End. But that appears to be settled, with Chavez rounding up a batch of dudes he can rely upon, thus providing Hemotoxin with their first stable lineup since, well, ever.
“The biggest frustration was always finding the right people,” begins Chavez. “Three like-minded people who can share an on and offstage chemistry as well as being competent musicians. You always end up making compromises, but if it’s for the right people, then it can work. I feel right now this is the strongest lineup we’ve ever had. We’ve all been friends since high school, and Brandon, Nathan and myself were in our first band Aeon of Death together, so we already had a history before I brought them into Hemotoxin.”
The band’s Biological Enslavement sophomore outing is a hard-handed drop into the sphere of technical death metal and thrash. While it’s quick to think of the band as another stare-at-your-fingers-and-do-nothing-else type, the truth is a good chunk of the songs on Biological Enslavement are catchy and immediate. “Between Forever …and the End was mostly written by Brandon and myself, this time around we were able to throw around ideas a lot more and create a song that was written by all of us,” says Chavez. “Certain songs were only written by one person, for instance, ‘Not of this World’ was one I brought and ‘Forgotten Faces’ was brought in by Michael Rohwer. The rest were all worked on by the both of us in a Guitar Pro file, then Brandon and Nathan would write their parts to it and we would jam at practice ’til we had a full complete song. It was the most fun I’ve had writing any music.”
The trick to all of this is writing songs that while remaining technical, come across as digestible. It’s a slippery slope, one that only a select few bands are able to navigate properly. Thus, one of the first bands who come to mind is Death, the undisputed masters of technicality-on-catchiness. Such a comment is music to Chavez’s ears, who says if he had a dollar for every time he was compared to Chuck [Schuldiner], he wouldn’t need a dayjob.
“We all grew up during a time when technical death metal was considered to be the most insane, flashy music,” he adds. “You had to do blast-beats and sweeps till the three-minute mark, but all of us were never drawn to technical music for that reason. We like to have technicality in our music, but we also like groove and a purpose for whichever instrument is being put on display. The ultimate goal is to make everything we put on our album to be distinguishable.”
Perhaps the best example of this would be the closing instrumental “A Journey Through Dreams.” A spacious, almost Goth-tinged number, the song finds Hemotoxin exploring fertile melodic territory. The song originally appeared on the band’s Divinity in Torture EP. “Once it was time to write a new album, we decided to bring back ‘Journey’ and update it for Biological Enslavement, which we did. Some of it is the same as the original, some was modified and some completely new material was added. I think it’s a great way to show people that we haven’t changed, we’re the same Hemotoxin from 2011 as we are in 2016, just updated. And I think the song showcases how far we’ve come since then.”
As for what lies ahead in 2016, Chavez says the band will be playing shows anywhere people will have them. This unfortunately excludes long touring runs, but it’s not like Hemotoxin won’t be busy…
“We have started working on new material for Hemotoxin. We have one full song at the moment so we’ll see where that goes. Brandon and myself are working on projects outside of Hemotoxin as well. Brandon’s involved with a project with ex-Archea drummer Kyle Wallinger, and I’m playing guitar with a goregrind band called Cartilage out of San Francisco. Hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have some new music for everyone.”