Paralysis – Mandatory Life Sentence

Wednesday, 12th July 2017

A common moniker plus a common theme of development for the craft of songwriting, technique, and performance – New Jersey act Paralysis have been assembling the right musicians and seasoning their take on thrash since their 2010 inception. Infusing the work of many pioneers in the crossover thrash/hardcore business along with the added advantage of access to newer artists at the speed of sound, previous EP’s like No Turning Back and You Can’t Win only hinted at the explosive energy when delivering the material on the live front.

The latest full-length Life Sentence elevates Paralysis to another realm – tighter, focused, aggressive, and melodic when necessary to achieve a sound that rivals many of their contemporaries. You’ll get the chance to hear gritty vocals, bass work from Patrick Harte that embodies a Steve Harris/D.D. Verni spirit, and riffs and rhythms that make you want to slam, explode, or release adrenaline and sweat without fear or contempt. Fresh off his high school graduation and in rehearsals for an upcoming US summer tour with Xenophile (which shares members in guitarist Ron Iglesias and drummer Matt Pavlik), vocalist/guitarist Jon Plemenik sat down with Dead Rhetoric for a chat about the developments of the group, the new album, the Tri-State metal scene, as well as what the future may hold for these gentlemen.

Dead Rhetoric: What are your earliest memories of music growing up- and how did you make your personal journey into heavy metal and eventually pick up an instrument to play in band(s)?

Plemenik: I first started off because I was big into football as a kid. Myself, my mom and my dad when they were still together, we went out to the Football Hall of Fame, and the last day that we were out there, on the way back we stopped at a mall and my mom bought a CD, it was a Greatest Hits album for Queen- and we played that the whole ride home. That got me into music. I wanted to play guitar, and then I was watching a football video and there was “Crazy Train” from Ozzy Osbourne on in the background of this video. That’s how I got into metal per se. I loved Ozzy, all of his solo stuff, not really the Black Sabbath side. And then I got into Metallica- and I had a neighbor in this small town I lived in called Manville for a couple of years with my mom, we had a neighbor Jim and he was into all of the hard stuff like Anthrax. He brought me to my first Anthrax show, my first hardcore show, Cro-Mags and D.R.I. – that’s how I really got started from there, I really wanted to play music and my friend and I started a band.

Dead Rhetoric: You mention through your social media page for the band assembling an early Paralysis lineup that would regularly play at mid-week open mic nights in Long Valley, New Jersey. How do you think that seasoning shaped your outlook and where you wanted to take the band stylistically? What types of feedback did you get in that environment from other musicians and audience members?

Plemenik: Performing was great, I loved it. We performed every Tuesday night, I had guitar lessons on Tuesday night and after that was an open mic night so we would perform. Myself, this kid Rhett Mattson and this kid Jeremy Grosenstein, we were all playing together and we would do the open mic nights every week. We did “Seek and Destroy”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Peace Sells”, material like that. It was mainly our friends that we hung around with that would come around. Once that came to a stop because the place closed, we wanted to play at different places, we booked our first show in Trenton and that’s how we got into the local scene, started playing more shows, and started writing our own material.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the two EP’s you’ve released to date – what are some of the takeaways you’ve had in terms of songwriting, recording, and performances?

Plemenik: I personally don’t like them at all. I look at it as those were me as a kid, I’m 19 now. Some people would still consider me a kid but I feel like those were more efforts where we were just trying to write (as to) write music. We weren’t sitting down to focus on what really sounded good, it was more of a trial and error thing. I believe with this new release that’s coming out, it shows how we’ve matured over time- especially myself I feel that I’ve matured with my songwriting so much from those releases.

Dead Rhetoric: How did you get the guest appearances with Gerre from Tankard plus Bobby Gustafson and Josh Christian on guitar for the You Can’t Win EP? Do you believe these contributions help the band gain more attention from outsiders who normally may be hesitant to check out a newer thrash band?

Plemenik: I think it has. We contacted all of them, they liked what they were given and became good friends with them. What’s the worst it could do? I think it does bring in a lot more fans that maybe wouldn’t try a new thrash band.

Dead Rhetoric: As a result, you also got Gerre to appear in the “You Can’t Win” video shoot…

Plemenik: Yes, that was pretty cool. At first, we thought, let’s go out on a limb and see if he will do the vocal itself for that song. And he said yes, we told him we were going to put a music video out for this, let’s see if he would be willing to be in it. He said he would film himself in his practice space, and that’s what he did.

Dead Rhetoric: There have been numerous lineup changes over the past couple of years for Paralysis – how did you arrive at the recording lineup for this newest album Life Sentence? Are you hopeful that you have a solid set of musicians who share your visions and goals for the band?

Plemenik: I think this lineup is going to stay (together) for a while. I’ve been friends with the Xenophile guys for probably as long as the band has been together. They are great friends, I consider them some of my best friends. Really, all of the past guys, they were all high school friends of mine and they are all still friends of mine. Sometimes kids go through phases and this for me wasn’t a phase- this is something that I’ve really wanted to do with my life (since) I was younger. A lot of people get into this, and then they find they love other things. I know a good friend of mine Rhett that was the guitar player for a couple of years, he found love in hockey and now he’s joining the Army. He had some things he wanted to figure out that he really wanted to do.

Dead Rhetoric: Life Sentence features nine new songs plus a re-recording of “All Your Lies” from the previous effort. How do you feel this album stacks up against your previous efforts – what areas of emphasis do you feel you improved upon as it sounds livelier and varied compared to your previous work?

Plemenik: It improved in every spectrum of it. Songwriting-wise we really improved, my vocals we really improved. It’s more like me, and not trying to do something that everybody else does. The production of it has changed. We went with this guy Joel Monet, he couldn’t have been any better to work with. He sat down with us and helped us out with everything. He was a fifth member basically. Overall, it’s a step up from everything we’ve released in the past, and I think a big step up too.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you have a personal preference between recording or playing out live for Paralysis- or do you feel different satisfaction for the two activities? How would you describe the philosophy of Paralysis when it comes to playing out, and what have been some of your favorite shows/tours through your history?

Plemenik: It’s a different type of satisfaction. I personally love recording, and it’s what I’m trying to do on the side. I might go to school for it, I might not- I’m not too sure yet as I just graduated high school. So when it comes to recording other bands, I try to do as much as I can when it comes to that. Performances (are) like comparing apples to oranges. It’s a different type of enjoyment. When you are recording, you get to sit down, take your time with things. Performances you are rushing, but you are putting all your energy right there. Go as big as you possibly can, or don’t bother going at all. It’s two different things.

We have done our decent share of things. We’ve done two tours so far, one over the summer last year where we had to cancel half of it because we broke down in Florida. But we did a tour in the fall with Xenophile and Hellwitch from Florida, a death metal band. That was a lot of fun, everything went perfect, no one broke down, no one got sick- it was an overall fun time. Fun shows that we’ve played just locally, we opened for the Toxik reunion- and that was awesome, that was the first time we had played in front of a big crowd. We were introduced to a lot of new people. We built a great friendship with the guys in Toxik. Another great show that we played recently was with Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre who are from Chicago. They did a show out in New York, those guys are cool.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe your metal scene in the tri-state area- do you feel there is a decent circuit and proper support between the bands, promoters, and venues to allow for good turnouts not only for the nationals that come through but the local bills?

Plemenik: It really depends on where you are. New Jersey, that can be a hit or miss. New York is great for metal- whether it’s a local show or a national headliner coming through. New Jersey, it’s more of who is on the show, who is promoting it, where is the show at. Philly is good, we haven’t played there yet though.

Dead Rhetoric: What has metal and more specifically thrash meant to you personally? Can you think of specific times in your life where the music really changed things around for the better?

Plemenik: It’s the thing that has always been there for my life. If I’m really happy or really sad, going through a hard time in life, it’s always been there for me to make things better.

Dead Rhetoric: Who are three bands that have made the most impact on your outlook of thrash – and how do you feel about the evolution of the genre from the first generation of bands in the 1980’s to the current crop of newcomers?

Plemenik: I think thrash has really changed. I know a big band that has influenced me ever since the day I got into the genre is Megadeth. They were huge inspiration for me, a lot of their catalog in the past and stuff now that I’ve written. One of the newer bands that I’ve gotten into is Power Trip, they are crazy and really (we) almost tried to (use) them as a template on this new album. I think it’s really changed over the years. The internet has done some good things for bands, but it’s also done a little bit of damage. Back in the day, as I could tell, it was more appreciated when you got a product. I’m listening to something new- but now everything is judged upon, the production, the artwork, the musicianship.

Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of the scene? What improvements (if any) do you feel need to be considered to the benefit of the fans and the bands involved?

Plemenik: People just need to really do whatever they can to make their fans happy. That’s what really matters- you wouldn’t be doing anything if it wasn’t for them. You have to do as much as you can for the fans.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next twelve months shaping up for Paralysis in terms of supporting the new record? Will there be more videos in the works, as well as touring?

Plemenik: I’m hoping to tour a lot for this record. We are hoping to release a video for one of the songs in the next couple of months- over the tour we are going to make a compilation of the footage for us playing and goofing. We’ll see what comes about with that. Now that I am done with school, I really just want to tour a lot and do whatever I can.

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