If there's one criticism people throw about when discussing the current crop of heavy metal acts, it's that their sound is generic. We have to agree that when it comes to the most popular groups in metal, particularly death metal, the bands aren't only generic, but unbearably derivative. However, Hollywood-based Orbweaver is one group rails against the grain with an experimental flare.
Featuring former members of Hate Eternal and Gigan, the band, armed with a carefully selected array of effects pedals, theramins, and synths, applies a Zappa-esque sense of adventure to the tried and true heft of death metal. Where some of the favored psych-rock bands of the day might be compared to the utopia of a Star Trek film, Orbweaver marries science fiction to sonic horrorscapes in the sonic equivalent of Event Horizon.
The group releases its debut EP today. Titled Strange Transmissions from the Neurlnomicon, the album's five tracks were recorded at Pine Crust studios in Miami with Torche bassist Jonathan Nunez, mastered by death metal heavyweight Brian Elliot at Mana Recording Studios. It will be released in limited edition cassette form via Shroud Eater guitarist/vocalist Jean Saiz's new label, Primitive Violence and in CD form direct from the band. The cassettes feature comic cards and unique visuals conceived while listening to the band's music. We spoke with Orbweaver figurehead, Randy Piro, about his vision for Orbweaver, the album itself, and the double-edged sword of promoting a new project via prior associations.
New Times: Between the complexity of the songs and the packaging, Strange Transmissions is a serious undertaking for a debut release!
It was a lot of work, but it's what we do, so, it's not like it was something that was contrived, we just wrote what came out, you know?
Are you pleased with the result of all that effort?
Oh, absolutely! I cried when I heard the record the first time, I cried again when Jean presented us with the artwork. Yeah! it's the most awesome thing I've done so far and I am beyond pleased with it!
The album has a story, but the lyrics are not readily available. What was your goal with that?
Personally, I never listen to lyrics when I listen to music. I imagine the voice is another instrument -- like a horn or something like that. So, I wanted the listener to be able to look at the artwork (if they get a cassette copy), read some of the comic cards that come with it, and draw their own narrative.
The basic concept is this: The songs follow a character called the Zonetripper, who is a mortal trying to expand his mind and his consciousness through the use of ancient occult rituals that also happen to incorporate a pinch of ancient extraterrestrial technology. So, the songs follow him through the process of him doing this, and the one thing people need to remember is that he is mortal and mortals make mistakes. In the world of ceremonial magic, if you skip a step or make a mistake, chaos ensues.
Is there a specific message, political or otherwise, that you're trying to express with the story?
To be completely honest, it's a little bit more personal than that. All of my lyrics are somewhat autobiographical. There are a few songs on that album that are based on experiences that have happened to me that I've put down on paper, but there is no overall theme or message. Even though some of my favorite bands have preached their messages of politics or religious beliefs, or lack of religious beliefs, I've just never found music to be the vehicle I want to use to spread my beliefs.
The artwork that I've seen for the record is pretty wild! Anything to say about the concept there?
Jean knocked it out of the park! She really, really... I mean, I couldn't have asked for anything better or more concise than what she provided. When I was a kid listening to music, I would just sit there in my room and zone out on all of the art and just match things to the art, and whether I was right or not, that was the experience that I had and I want people to have a similar experience with this. Every single piece of art or visual relates to a lyric or section of the story.
How do you do describe what Orbweaver does to someone that hasn't heard the band?
I guess the short answer would be that we are an experimental metal band. The long answer would be like a traditional death metal or black metal band with a strong Zappa influence and a strong sci-fi or "B" movie influence. I don't know, I try to let other people describe it (laughs)!
Orbweaver is pretty far removed from its members former bands. Being a band with an "ex-members of" stamp, but such a specific vision, do you ever find promoting as such to be counterproductive?
Do I mind? Not at all. I mean, Hate Eternal was my favorite band in the world when I got to join, and I still love their music very much, and Gigan's music is still very close to my heart. I do think that people who would listen to us based solely on the past musical work I or Sally have done might not necessary fully get into what we are doing because we are far removed, but I got to write in both of my former bands as well, so, the common denominator there is my writing and there are parallel lines.
Orbweaver's album release party is Friday, August 2, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE 2nd Ave, Miami. With Shroud Eater, Holly Hunt, Hollow Leg, the Tunnel, and Reapermanser. Show costs $5.