Starting out as a one-man project for UK musician Tom Stevens (All Of Space, Brown Stratos), the superbly-named Weston Super Maim recently released the crushing 180-Degree Murder. A release that marks a new level of intent, Stevens teamed up with US-based Seth Detrick of Los Angeles thrash outfit PDP.
Melodic, brutal, abstract, it’s a track that has it all in terms of extreme music. So, having had our ears suitably mauled by the song, it seemed like the next sensible option would be to find out what inspired the pair to create such an intricate piece of extreme music. The pair picked out six bands they thought were responsible for shifting the landscape of extreme music and, as you read through their list, you’ll soon start to understand what it is that makes Weston Super Maim and their music tick.
Seth Detrick: “The innovators of math metal. They jumped in on the thrash scene in the 90s and spiced it up with polymetrics and unforgettable breakdowns. They evolved into their own genre years later and only a few bands have ever come close to replicating their sound. Their addition of extended range 8-string guitars brought a whole new level of heaviness I had never heard before. I feel like every musician in the extreme music genre will mention them as the pioneers that brought a more rhythm-based focus to the scene. Their focus on production and live sound is unmatched, as well. They were definitely game-changers and the band that has influenced me the most in my musical career.”
Tom Stevens: “If there’s a tech-death band around today that isn’t influenced to some extent by Necrophagist, I haven’t heard them. Insanely fast, brutal as fuck, and peerlessly technical, they are the blueprint for the genre, despite having not released a song in nearly 20 years. Their 2004 album Epitaph easily stands up to any current tech-death release and actually blows the majority of them out of the water. What sets Necrophagist apart though isn’t the ridiculous musicianship or elite-level BPMs, it’s the songwriting. Packed with memorable riffs, tastefully integrated baroque influences, and ruthlessly effective song structures, this is extreme metal songwriting at its finest. Can’t wait for the new album.”
Seth: “I may be wrong, but I feel like they were the first to bring super melodic music with clean singing into the technical death metal genre. Extremely talented musicians that pushed tons of experimental boundaries. Every band member was heard in their own right and on their own path. Some of the members even wrote and recorded “Human” with Death before they formed Cynic. I still hear their influences in almost every technical metal release to this day.”
4. Pig Destroyer
Tom: “Stephen Hawking… on vocals?? The intro to Pig Destroyer’s seminal 2001 album Prowler in the Yard, with its Hawkingesque voice-synthesized narration, remains the best opening to any album I’ve heard. Along with its appertaining “postlogue” after the last track has played, “Jennifer” is essentially a short story that frames the 21 perfect grindcore songs in between. It’s a stunningly well-written section of prose, and there’s a commitment to lyrical craftsmanship through the rest of the songs that makes this album stand out in the pantheon of extreme metal. The last words before the first song kicks in cemented something for me about what extreme music can be: “No, no, no… this is beautiful… this is art.””
Seth: “I’m just going to say it. The number of amazing metal bands we have today is largely in part because of Metallica. They were the first commercialized metal band to hit MTV in a huge way. They inspired thousands of young kids to pick up the guitar or drums. It’s undeniable. It also seems that the only Metallica haters I see are the younger generation that wasn’t there when they were in their prime. So, maybe they were more of a timepiece? Regardless, incredible songwriting that touched many and will live on forever.”
6. The Dillinger Escape Plan
Tom: “Another hugely influential band, almost single-handedly responsible for a genre. Pioneering a particularly confusing style of impenetrable time signatures and jarring musical shifts, there’s a thousand mathcore bands today secretly trying (and failing) to sound this good. Renowned for the intensity of their live shows, Dillinger were always in the big leagues in terms of aggression and craziness, but again it’s the songwriting that makes them untouchable. By their second album (2004’s Miss Machine), an already focused sound had been refined much further and enhanced with brilliantly executed melodic sections, plus a greater overall sense of gravitas. Few bands in extreme music have a body of work as strong and expansive as Dillinger’s six albums, and if you haven’t heard them before, do yourself a favour.”