You’re Not From Round Here, Are Ya? – Controlling Evolution

20 02 2012

STEPPING OUT OF THE GENRE BRACKET……..AND THE CONTINENT.

The return of this fortnightly segment sees me stepping out of the post-rock/instrumental genre bracket that I have been focusing on strongly and in to the other genre in which my biggest music passion lies. Metal music. Furthermore. I’ll be featuring a band who are from another continent. Hailing from Chattanooga, Tennesee, metal band “Controlling Evolution” are the focus of this feature and in the previous months in which I have been listening to them they have rapidly become one of my favourite metal bands, in fact, one of my favourite bands in general. These are three seriously talented musicians whose passion for the music they play shines through in their work. I’m kind of hazy over how I exactly came across Controlling Evolution but i’m almost 100% certain that lead singer Alex added me over Facebook and by a happy accident I stumbled across his amazing band. If i’m wrong I’m sure Alex will correct me but once again, Facebook brings home the goods. Controlling Evolution’s maiden E.P. “In The Wake Of Leviathan’s Campaign” is an absolute bruiser of a record. Grabbing you by the nuts from the get-go and dragging you, by the nuts, through a complex maze of astounding drum patterns (I’m pretty convinced the drummer Barrett is superhuman), some of the most intricate and jaw-dropping guitar playing I have heard in a good long while and, last but not least, some really dynamic vocals from the good Mr. Alex Hayden. In fact, it’s the vocals that really endear me to this band. Yes, there is a lot of low-end screams and the like but the thing about Alex is that he intertwines them with some brilliant and beautiful clean vocals. I’m really impressed by his vocal range and throughout the record it really brings some songs to life.

I’m going to be doing a bit of a double-whammy here. I’ll be doing a review of the pictured E.P but also I’ll be covering something I purposely missed out in the introduction. Alex recently gavce me the opportunity to do something I have never done before. Preview tracks that are not currently released. Basically. I got a sneak-peek at some new Controlling Evolution tracks and before I go on I must thank Alex for giving me the opportunity to hear them. But that review will come later on.

Right. As I said previously, this album begins by pretty much aurally assaulting you from the start. I mean that in the best possible way. The title, and first, track of this recording is the dog’s bollocks (a phrase I recently introduced to the band, which took some explaining). Kicking of with some monstrous drumming from self-proclaimed “Drum Demon” Barrett Parker the song launches you face first into some heavy hitting and complex riff-work complimented by Parker’s gleaming talent on drums. The one thing that really stands out here for me is the use of vocals throughout the song. As mentioned Hayden mixes some heavy screams and growls with some brilliant clean harmonies (which really shine in the choruses*). The track also showcases Hayden’s talent for writing music. I talked to the vocalist about it and he told me that the first two songs (In The Wake Of Leviathan’s Campaign followed by I Found My Inner Strength) are written as a two part fictional story by Hayden which is too complex and full of detail for me to include in this feature. Trust me. It really does show you just how much thought Alex puts into his vocal and lyrical work. Stand out track of this record, for me, is most definately “Caught In The Uproar” which could really become a song the band could turn into an anthem its that strong. The thing about this song as well is that it kind of debunks a few myths about the metal genre as a whole showing that not all lyricists are simply writing lyrics that are angry and hate-filled but incorporating serious messages and motifs into their work. For example, one such lyric in this song is “It feels good to be alive”. How often will you hear that phrase emit from a metal singers mouth? The answer is – NOT A LOT. I love this song. Deeply. The vocal harmonies are brilliant and the musicianship shown between Parker and guitarist Caleb Dykes really brings this song to life.

(*not entirely sure if choruses is a word but i’m sticking with it)

Listen to the track “Caught In The Uproar” here.

And on to the new stuff. Which I got a first hand listen to. First person in Scotland to here this me. I’m milking this for all its worth. ME ME ME. I have something completely unique and I get to review it. ME ME ME ME!!! – I sound like a smug prick and I don’t care.

The two (unmastered) tracks that I were sent and are to be included on Controlling Evolution’s next release were “The Habitual Transgressor” and “Gods And Astounding Arts” the second track is also, I am lead to believe, going to be the title for the upcoming release. I’ve got to say. Controlling Evolution have really refined and evolved (excuse the pun) their sound into something which, I feel, is really going to work for them.

“The Habitual Transgressor” kicks off with some riff-work reminiscent of early Mastodon (before they got boring and released “The Hunter”) and some solid drum blasts from Mr. Parker. And AGAIN Alex’s vocal dexterity shines through so brightly. Hayden is really showing that not all metal vocalists need to scream their lungs up to produce a great sound that compliments their bands music. Also, the groove of this track is pretty immense. It flows really well from start to finish and if this track is a taste of things to come from the upcoming release then I for one cannot wait. Second track “Gods and Astounding Arts” is infectious. hHorribly infectious. I’ve had the guitar melody stuck in my head for days. Annoying but impressive. Its fairly obvious to any listener that Dykes and Parker are completely comfortable with each others style and know their playing styles inside out. The meshing of their sound is flawless. And more of Hayden’s impressive clean vocal capabilities really make this song. Safe to say I’m bursting for this upcoming release. I’m also kind of gutted I can’t share the new tracks with you guys but at the behest of the band I am not permitted to post them which I can fully understand and appreciate.

You trust me don’t you? I know this is a blog more focusing on the post-rock and instrumental side of things but I know you all enjoy a bit of heavyness in your life. For the love of all that is good go check out this band. I am certain big things are coming up for this band. If not then there is something seriously wrong with the music market in their neck of the woods. “In The Wake Of Leviathan’s Campaign” is available for download on the bands BandCamp site (http://controllingevolution.bandcamp.com/) and I suggest you go pick it up. You can never have enoughloudness in your life.

INTERVIEW WITH ALEX HAYDEN OF CONTROLLING EVOLUTION

Alex Hayden – Beard Enthusiast, Singer Supreme and very nice person to talk to.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

Right. Before we get started give me a quick bit of background into Controlling Evolution. How long have you guys been going for and how did you start up?

 It started out as Caleb and Barrett messing around just jamming. Out of that they wrote the first version of Skullsplitter.

 At the time, Barrett and I lived together and that’s where they practiced at. I really liked what they were doing and we all decided to have me add vocals to the song and cut a quick demo. We’ve been rocking it for a little over two years since.

 One of the main things I have noticed about the band is the level of musicianship. What is your writing process like and do you find that ideas for songs flow easily between you guys?

 Thanks. We all work hard to get better at what we do. The writing process is still very much the same as when we started out. Caleb will usually just come up with a riff or two that he really likes, gets with Barrett to hammer it out and then I add my vocals to finish it off.

 Us playing together is the most natural flow I’ve ever felt between a group of musicians I’ve played with, and writing with them is the same.

 Alex. As you know we’ve had discussions about your lyrics before so for the sake of this feature I’ll ask again. Where do most of your ideas come from? Do you take inspiration from real life or, like the concept behind In The Wake Of Leviathan’s Campaign, do you enjoy playing with fiction and writing stories with your lyrics?

A little bit of both. Sometimes I write about a specific event or events in my life and other times I will come up with a fictional story and go with it.

 When I write in fiction a little bit of me is still attached because though it may be a made up story, my personal feelings on the subject are still involved. So really, all of my lyrics are from real life because I draw from things I experience and feel.

 As far as the actual way I write, I enjoy using metaphors and cryptic wording so people can come up with their own interpretation of what I’m doing. Makes it fun for me and hopefully the listener

.Having spoken to yourself and Jonathan Shrum from Unspoken Triumph it seems like the Chattanooga area, and perhaps in Tennessee in general, has quite a large market for bands in the metal genre. Have you found that you guys have received a lot of support and backing from music fans in and around your area?

Our band has received very good feed back on our music. People really seem to like it and Jonathan’s band is the same way. What they do is very good as are quite a few bands around this area.

 As far as the general “metal market” in Chattanooga and the surrounding areas, there are a lot of people that LOVE metal so there is definitely a sense that the metal scene could definitely grow into something more. Unfortunately it’s hard for metal bands to do well in this area because of the lack of venues for that type of music and the general sense that the people that are running things don’t want that type of music associated with “their” town.

Some people are still stuck in their old ways and refuse to believe that music with any signs of aggression can still be a positive thing. It sucks but it is what it is.

 How was your first E.P. “In The Wake Of Leviathan’s Campaign” received when you put it up for release? Did you get any promising feedback and/or positive reviews from anywhere following its release?

 I’m talking to you aren’t I? Lol. But seriously, it seems a good number of people have taken to it from all over so we couldn’t be happier with how it did. (You are, I just need to ask these boring questions to sound smart and stuff. Which doesn’t always work…..)

 Your second release “Gods and Astounding Arts” sounds really promising from what I’ve heard. What’s the plans for you guys after you release it? Are you going to be doing any tours or big gigs following its release?

 Thank you. We’re very excited about our new ep because we feel we grown a lot as a band both musically and personally and we want to share that with everyone through this ep. Here lately we’ve been playing mostly the new material live and we’ve been performing as much as we can anywhere we can. Future plans for a tour are in the works but for now we’re playing our local area and surrounding cities.

 I’m assuming you guys are working hard as a unit to try and get signed. Have you guys received any interest or press from anyone looking to sign the band?

 We’ve received good feedback on what we do but no, nothing official yet.

 Are you guys planning anything major during 2012?

 Just playing out a lot and looking forward to the release of “Gods and Astounding Arts”. We have a summer festival or two that we’ll be playing and information on those should be released in the coming weeks.

 How has your search for a second guitarist and bassist come along since I first started talking to you? Are you still looking or are you content simply performing as a three piece for the moment?

 Well it’s funny you mentioned that because we finally found a bass player. His name is Scott and he just got done playing his first two shows with us this past Friday and Saturday and he did an amazing job. We’re still looking for a second guitarist though so if anyone is interested hit us up!

 Before you go, hit me with a random fact about the band or one of its members. I already know about Barrett and his iron liver so you can miss that one out.

 Well, one little tid bit is that Caleb and Barrett have actually been playing together for somewhere around 9 years now. They started back in high school because they both played for the school us three went to doing various genres and styles depending on the event they were playing. So when they got together in the beginning of what would turn out to be Controlling Evolution, that initial chemistry was already there an they were just building on to it.

 Thanks for doing this man and good luck with the upcoming release. I loved it and am sure it will do well for you guys.

 Thanks for a fun interview and hopefully we’ll be able to come rock a show over in your neck of the woods…..sooner than later of course!

(If that happens I’ll probably lose all power over my bodily functions. Plus i’ve already challenged Barrett to a drink off which I’ll probably lose)

So. That’s number two of this wee feature done and dusted. Hopefully for the next one I won’t have to venture so far afield. Time zone differences are a bitch to remember and I’m pretty sure I kept pestering Alex at obscene times in the morning (for him) over doing this so I must thank him for making it so easy and I can only wish Controlling Evolution all the best.


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