Goblet of Shock

Posted: March 14, 2016 in Goblet of Shock, Michael Aronovitz, music, Rock Reviews, Uncategorized
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Serious commentary on horror and how it relates to new bands that matter.

A Breach of Silence

Review by
Michael Aronovitz

The concept of the “human condition” is a fascinating one, because it is a story we are writing about ourselves, with whispers coming from the dark creases in the room on all sides that would suggest to us what the plot should be. Seems simple enough. Shit happens. A wide spectrum of life phenomenon unfolds all around and we sit in the middle of the space taking it all down, less the writer and more the painter, with a canvas, easel, and color palette, developing a never-ending portrait we hope will eventually dictate that we found our place in the world through some profound personal presentation that adds beauty to the mosaic.

A Breach of Silence 1

The problem is that it is not so simplistic. The human condition is an ideal, or rather some pristine illustration that we would like to believe entirely circumstantial, exemplified by reactive behaviors based on those aforementioned whispers from the dark corners: cultural influences, religious pressures, economic hierarchies, class distinctions both subtle and overt, inner psychology, personal perceptions of implied public view translated by the media and national tradition, various social constructs, biases, and thousands of other external factors that would shape a human being through time. The issue I raise here is that the human condition is not formed solely by external factors imposed on us in conjunction with the ones we might exact upon others. It is fabricated by our interpretation of said factors, and being that these elements are based on multiple interpretations themselves, we create a never ending ping-pong effect as opposed to something concrete, a hall of mirrors. Sadly, (and also wondrously) the human condition is not some dusty book we can just take off the shelf when we have pain and peril in our lives, stopping the world, adjusting our reading glasses, looking up remedies. We are caught up in the whirlwind of writing the text (or painting the picture) as it plays out in live time, chained to our chairs, shoulders to the wheel, teetering on a foundation of ever-shifting cause and effect, a slippery structure based on the learned and instinctive reactions and counter-reactions of others caught up in the same cyclone.

All of us listening to the dark whispers.

Translating them into our living, connective murals.

Of course, we would like to think of ourselves as individuals, developing internally in a manner divorced from the voices coming from the shadowy creases, the soft suggestions, the overt and inadvertent agendas trying to shape our own, but in the end that “verbal mist” is a part of us, poison or sweet. Realizing this might be the truest form of self-actualization, and it would expose the more accurate artistic representation of self, the more permanent statement, painful and somehow glorious.

The problem is that circumstance doesn’t always play fair, keeping its place as a dormant sort of “idea,” buried inside the dark whispers. Sometimes circumstance drops tornedos in populated areas, burns your house down, sneaks cancer into your pancreas. It is with this rare type of scenario that you, the author, the painter, the architect, are cast from your perch straight down to the floor. And now there’s a choice. Fight for your place in the mural, or start crawling toward the dark whispers.

In a rather benign and subtle manner, Robert Frost connected images to this idea with his poems, The Road Not Taken (1915) and Stopping by Woods (1923) respectively. In the former, an unnamed traveler recalls being caught at the crux of “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” (845), the proverbial “crossroads” that has been romanticized in our folklore as the symbolic point where one must make some sort of difficult life-decision that will re-forge the path of his or her given life journey. The latter poem seems to connect to its predecessor, in that another unnamed traveler, this time on horseback, stops before a wooded area, no longer yellow, but dark and “[filling] up with snow,” (548) at what seems to be the tail end of his odyssey. Many critics claim that “The woods…lovely, dark and deep” (548) represent death, possibly a desired release to be self-inflicted, and that our traveler decides in a melancholy sort of resignation that there are things he still must attend to before finding peace, as made evident with the lines, “But I have promises to keep / And miles to go before I sleep” (548).

Ironically, on a first read of the former poem, The Road Not Taken, many novices feel that the theme is one of rebellion and triumph, a testament to those who blaze forward on the road “less traveled by” (846) where others would choose the more popular path to conformity. Still, in this primary scenario, again, the man is not currently standing in the yellow woods, those which are filled with vibrant potential. The decision he made is represented by flashback where in the present tense looking back he sighs, regretting his initial decision. Then through a flash forward effect to Stopping By Woods, he currently sits on horseback, contemplating the woods now shadowed, considering with fondness the idea of crawling toward the dark poison.

This is a wonderful example of the human condition on a pessimistic sort of platform, but I would argue that the module remains incomplete. Life is not always about coming to a fork in the road, taking a path, and later regretting it, even if circumstance has fucked us so bad we are thrown from our chairs and left on the floor.

Some of us choose not to crawl or consider gentle defeat with fondness.

Some of us decide to get up.

The power core metal band from Australia, A Breach of Silence, offers a potent statement of hope and triumph with their single, The Darkest Road, and it is here that we can celebrate perhaps the most important component of our evolving human masterpiece, providing balance and beauty, even when the horrific whispers from the corners would impose upon us the darkest of prophecies.

A Breach of Silence is Mat Cosgrove on guitar, Blair Layt on bass/vocals, Rhys Flannery on lead vocals, and Kerrod Dabelstein on guitar. As mentioned, the song/video that will be discussed here is the title track from their sophomore album of the same name, The Darkest Road, yet it should be noted up front that this particular band is musically outstanding, representing their record label with what appears to be a signature we also observe with other Eclipse projects such as Saint Diablo and Our Last Enemy, in that the rhythm section is particularly tight, powerful, complex, and satisfying. There is also a wonderful vocal dynamic this project offers, in that the death growl is used for climactic effect by both Blair Layt and Rhys Flannery, both whom additionally possess the ability to unveil traditional singing both potent and beautiful. In The Darkest Road single, however, we are given much more than a demonstration of musical proficiency. Here, A Breach of Silence takes a concept softly delivered by one of America’s greatest poets, and fills in the side of the proposed human paradigm that would give us all a fresh and insightful view of the canvas.

The video begins with an informational banner almost like a disclaimer-graphic on black background, with a similar effect as a Hollywood production announcing that the forthcoming film is “Based on a True Story,” (creepy because it implies that there will be a lot of truth in the presentation) or “Inspired by Actual Events,” (creepier, since there will be less “truth” and more tailoring in order to create climactic dark symmetry). The difference here, is that A Breach of Silence is offering an absolute truth, not only affording us no poetic distance from the devastating impact of the song’s subject matter, but letting us know they have given over their artistic expression to the song’s concept in the purest possible manner, all in, heart top to bottom and the soul to its core.

“Christmas Eve, 2012: A near fatal water slide accident occurred leaving our close friend, Dan Graf, quadriplegic. Now with the offer of treatment he has decided to achieve the medically impossible and learn to walk again. This film clip is dedicated to Dan Graf and his journey along “The Darkest Road.”

A Breach of Silence 2

It is no coincidence that in the opening shot (and through much of the video), A Breach of Silence performs in front of a stand of woods, colored light green by floodlights facing backward at the base of the drum kit. Of course, it would seem that the woods would preferably be “yellow” in order to tie in to the first Robert Frost poem, but one must remember that the band is affixing their own thumbprint on the symbol. Also, their friend Dan had an accident involving water, and green is more the color of the sea, more appropriately the way a pool might look at night with the moon reflecting off of it.

When the music kicks in the guitars are working with the bass and drums in hard, tight syncopation, but there is a notable difference between the technique here and other metal rhythm tracks. Usually, these patterns are played at the bottom of the given guitar’s neck, as it makes the sound fuller behind and in between the vocal. Here, A Breach of Silence risks starting the pattern at a mid-point on the neck, next moving it up dramatically at the end of the riff. Musically, this makes the chorus (where the song begins) exciting, and on emblematic grounds, it could easily be interpreted as a man underwater struggling upward to break the surface, relating in direct parallel to the devastating result of Dan Graf’s experience on the waterslide and soon after.

If there was any doubt that the band was completing Frost’s paradigm, or rather, rewriting the accepted world model, there is a yellow flash spliced in between the musical performance footage and various shots of a symbolic Dan Graf sitting before a candle he has lit in a state of personal remorse or prayer, then carrying the candle in a lantern canister through a number of settings where a stand-in is shown walking as if in Graf’s own wistful recollection. Here, the band formally acknowledges that the yellow wood is a thing of the past, a poetic blink lacking truth and form, with “the crossroads” better represented by real-life (and more current) footage of Dan Graf in his wheelchair entering the rehabilitation facility, like the second Frost poem, in the latter part of his journey sitting on his own proverbial horse, passing through the doors of the center with hope and determination.

The middle of the song The Darkest Road depicts the journey, showing us clips of Dan Graf getting his legs stretched and working on Universal weight machines. It is no coincidence that one of the band’s performance shots during this section shows Mat Cosgrove demonstrating his own form of acrobatics, hailing back to Philadelphia’s Cinderella, flipping the guitar around his back and catching it in rhythm almost to show Dan that he realizes just how difficult and wonderful these motor functions can be.

The conclusion of the song The Darkest Road contains one of those aesthetic moments of consummate epiphany where all of the symbolic threads, allusions, and pieces of foreshadowing come full circle. Robert Frost proposed that we make choices, sometimes regretting them later and then giving up, crawling toward the voices in the corners, the mist in the creases, the woods that have turned dark and welcoming in a seductive attempt to bury us in the depths of the shadows. A Breach of Silence rewrites the metaphor by having the figure with the lantern finally join in with the wakened, living spirit of Dan Graf to throw his candle-lantern on a pile of kindling, in effect burning down those dark fucking woods and creating new light.

 Watch The Darkest Road Video

A Breach of Silence is not just an important project. They are not just musicians, though few could argue the superiority of their technical expertise. Guitarists Mat Cosgrove and Kerrod Dabelstein prove they can stand on their own as “premier modern ax grinders” with incredible intricacy and dexterity, while also performing, at times, in such clever unity, one would swear they were one instrument. Blair Layt is a master musician, making complicated patterning on his bass both massive and at the same time accessible, and in terms of vocals, both Rhys Flannery and Blair Layt demonstrate an unbelievable amount of versatility in their use of the harshest growls juxtaposed against some of the richest traditional vocals I can remember from a band playing metal, though one would have to go “extra-textual” to more fully experience this and listen to The Darkest Road, the album in its entirety.

Clearly, A Breach of Silence are not just rock performers. They are poets, rewriting our verses, retelling our stories, and offering a world view that would suggest we are not limited to one or two pathways.

For the roads are endless. And hope and possibility make for a bonfire we can always choose to ignite.

Michael Aronovitz has always loved hard rock music, and fronted a heavy metal band that played Philadelphia and New Jersey clubs in the mid 80’s. He is a Professor of English and currently co-hosts a radio talk show linking horror and new metal called “The Wikked Goblet of Horror” with DJ WikkedLiss on her station WCR247 WikkedChikRadio.

Aronovitz’s latest novel titled Phantom Effect was just released February 2nd, 2016 through Night Shade Books. http://tinyurl.com/jcg59wo

Past Publications:

Seven Deadly Pleasures (collection), 2009

The Voices in Our Heads (collection), 2014

Alice Walks (novel), 2013

The Witch of the Wood (novel), 2014

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