Now You Know: Victims of Contagion

Saturday, 15th November 2014

Formation: 2005
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Style: Technical death metal
Personnel: Bob Meister (Vocals); Chuck Forsythe (Guitar); Jon Haden (Guitar); Tim Church (Bass); Mike Rush (Drums)
Latest Release: Parasitic Unborn EP (Self Released)

Sometimes, the best releases are the ones that you don’t even see coming. Getting an email about covering Victims of Contagion’s new EP, Parasitic Unborn, turned out to be a real treat. Snarling technical death metal, there’s not much that separates Victims of Contagion from the genre leaders, so clearly we at DR needed to get some further information about the band.

Citing Death, Suffocation, and Cannibal Corpse as the band’s biggest influences (can’t beat the greats right?), Victims of Contagion started things out back in 2005, “as a band between some friends so they could play music they loved” says guitarist Chuck Forsythe. The name coming about from “a conversation about disease/zombies” back when the band begin. Over the years, the line-up has changed (drummer Mike Rush is the band’s last “original” member) as well as musically, leading us up to the band’s current line-up and most recent offering, Parasitic Unborn, released earlier in the fall of this year.

Parasitic Unborn is an impressive offering for an unsigned band, the type that many bands end up getting signed with. The band’s ability to keep things at the technically-driven level without compromising song structure and coherence is certainly impressive. So what’s the secret? “I don’t think there really is a set “approach” per say. It all depends on the artist and emotion they’re feeling or trying to portray at that time that dictates how they make the song/album. Experimenting with your inspirations or influences no matter what they are really helps with creating some unique writing. Using concepts and stories or utilizing different genres of music can really expand your thought during the writing process. For the EP we weren’t completely done writing until we pretty much finalized the recording of each instrument or vocal. There was a lot of improv-y/on the spot ideas that we came up with and it worked out nicely in the end,” says Forsythe.

Notably, the song “Subservience” contains a guest solo by none other than Death’s Bobby Koelble. For a smaller band, this is a huge grab (and could undoubtedly be a nice selling point). Forsythe explains, “We were just about to finish up guitar tracking for the EP and toyed with the idea of someone guesting on a song. It was around the time Death To All was doing its first tour with the huge musician line-up including Bobby that we realized he was still playing (and pretty amazingly I might add!) so I got in contact with him and he was more than happy to lay down a solo for the song. Bobby is a big influence on me so to have him on the album is quite surreal.”

Recording new music is great, but many times the final test of a band is in the live venue. Victims of Contagion has been rounding up experience, playing with the likes of Obscura, The Faceless, Arsis, and most recently, the Carnival of Death tour (featuring Suffocation, Kataklysm, et al) and Artificial Brain. Sharing the stage with these “big name” acts can often be a learning experience and there’s almost always something you can take away from these bands. “I think the biggest thing for me personally I take from opening for bigger bands is just how humble and friendly everyone is on and off stage. It’s definitely cool if they catch your set too and really dig it. It’s always nice to know the people you admire are still fans just like you and I.” Having a growing scene certainly helps in a band’s quest for being noticed. “It’s [Pittsburgh] definitely growing like most are. There are more fans attending shows which leads to more touring bands coming through town. I’m always hearing of new bands in the area too,” Forsythe adds.

Going alongside of shows, merch can often be key to spreading the word about a band. Getting something that’s outside the box or imaginative helps to make a band stand out. Victims of Contagion currently sells a Ren and Stimpy Show-themed t-shirt (which is also available on the band’s Bandcamp page). Forsythe gives some explanation on how the shirt came to be. “Mike, our drummer, has been tossing around the idea of a “brutal” Ren & Stimpy image for quite some time. We all grew up on the cartoon and have the same weird humor in common with what’s on the show so we’re most definitely fans. It was kind of a risk with the actual shirt being a bright blue color than the norm of metal band black but people are really digging it so we’ll probably do something else like it down the road. We always come up with odd merch ideas haha.”

Looking further towards the future, what might you be seeing Victims of Contagion doing a few years up the road? “I’d like to see us with a few more releases under our belt as well as a tour of some sort thrown in there. More shows opening for international bands would be cool. If we gained some label attention that’d be pretty awesome too!” So which label might the group be aspiring to sign with? Forsythe notes, “Relapse and Nuclear Blast both have some of our favorite artists. To be part of either labels roster would be killer.” But in the more immediate future, the band is already working on their next move. Forsythe concludes, “We’ll probably continue booking some shows as they come until winter then really focus on writing new material for a while. I’d would really like to record a single maybe before the summer so we can give people fresh music to jam to as well.”

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