ALIENATÖR are a sludge metal band from Ontario, Canada who combine punk, hardcore and noise rock elements into a stripped down package, full of razor sharp riffs and memorable hooks. Their debut album, “Pariahs,” moves from fast and aggressive to slow and swampy with touches of experimental weirdness. Many of the lyrics are about how we numb ourselves to the pain and disappointment of every day life. We have teamed up with them to dive deeper into the subject matter and the result is an insightful description of each and every track from this adventurous offering.
“Pariahs” shows ALIENATÖR firing all of their creative cylinders and marks a multifaceted, all-consuming sludge opera delivered with convincing force and accents. Play it for yourself and check out the full track by track breakdown below!
Recorded and mixed by Sean Skillen at Exit Music Studio. Mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege. Guest vocals on “Morgue Bait,” by Curtis Wilson.
This is a little intro I pieced together from old public domain hygiene film samples and clips of cult leader Jim Jones. All the sounds underneath are from guitar pedals. I think it gives a nice build up to the first song and I like messing around with effects and making noise almost as much as I like writing songs and playing guitar.
This song is about how we hang on to hope, despite the fact that the deck is stacked against us and how dishonest people often get ahead by stabbing honest people in the back. The opening line of the album is “best of luck in your future endeavors,” which is what you say when you fire someone. It’s a polite way of saying “fuck off.” The line “try some booze and antidepressants,” is kind of sarcastic and based on the way I was dealing with some personal problems at the time. It’s not a knock on medication but more about the combination being unhelpful.
During the breakdown you’re hearing a socket wrench that we used as extra percussion, which is an idea I borrowed from the Frank Zappa song “Willie the pimp.”
I work in social services and teach addictions in my spare time so I read a lot of books by folks like Gabor Maté. This song is based on some of the concepts from “In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts.” In a nutshell our society is becoming more and mor disconnected from each other so use other things like drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping etc to numb ourselves or stimulate the happy chemicals in our brains.
There’s a guest vocal spot from our friend Curtis Wilson from the band Norris at the end which is pretty badass. Josh and Sean who play drums and bass in this band play in Norris also. It’s a pretty fast hardcore song but it gets into a drone part at the end with a symphonic gong on it that I really dig the sound of.
Wish In One Hand …
The title is based on the expression “wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which one fills up first,” so, obviously, it’s another hopeful song. This one’s pretty emotional and cathartic. It’s about being beaten down by the drudgery of life but still wishing for something better. Musically, I’m pretty happy with how it came together. It has that big breakdown and changes tempo right in the middle. What sounds like handclaps is a bunch of beer cans on a string, that the guys recorded pitch shifted. We also tried using a paint can full of nails but no one liked that as well.
Fun fact: did you know that iTunes and Spotify won’t let you submit a song with just parentheses as a title? That’s why this track is called “interlude 1” on those sites. I wasn’t too happy about that but what can you do? Our digital masters have spoken.
I really had fun doing the interludes. One reviewer compared them to a sorbet between courses in a big meal, which is the whole idea (and also sounds classy).
I recorded the frog sounds at a local pond. The crystal bowls have a hypnotic feel and it’s a real jolt when the next song comes in. The words are about a drug overdose or an out of body experience. I was at a party once that turned out differently than I expected and a girl who was nodding on heroin said “I feel like I’m dreaming but I’m awake,” so that where that comes from. The creepy kid voice at the end is my daughter, Violet.
Renovicted (Ode to Vancouver)
I used to live in Vancouver for about a dozen years and the city got so expensive and gentrified that my family and I had to leave. Renoviction is when a landlord kicks people out to do renovations, and then rents the place to yuppies for more money.
“It’s poverty with a view,” is what we used to say about Vancouver cause the scenery is breathtaking but the gap between rich and poor is huge and it’s too expensive for decent folks to live there.
Musically I tried to fit a few different styles into this one. The bridge is my attempt at a ZZ Top style riff and we threw some cowbell in there for the hell of it.
Drag the River
So, from Vancouver I moved back to my old hometown of Thunder Bay, which is where this band is based out of. I really enjoy living here but the city also has a problem with racism that’s made the national news a fair bit. This song is about the many indigenous people who were found dead in the river under suspicious circumstances. The cops just assumed the people were drunk and drowned and deemed the deaths accidental.
Thus the line “blame the victims and cover your tracks, not suspicious the pigs all relax.” I had a hard time with this one. I wasn’t sure if it was my place as a white person to write this song and I didn’t want to be disrespectful to any of the families. But then I thought, it’s actually my duty as a white person in the city to speak out about this crap, so here it is.
LRH is what scientologists call L. Ron Hubbard. This song is about what a nasty cult scientology is. It’s another fast punk type song with a fun breakdown.
This is another short interlude that breaks up the album and adds a bit of a WTF moment. Sean and I were screwing around with his analog synth and then decided to throw an Earthquaker Devices data corrupter on part of it, which sounds crazy. Then we brought a sinister sounding synth in underneath. I wanted to try bitcrushed drums so I had Josh lay down some simple beats, chopped them up and ended up using a GarageBand plug-in called super fuzz that’s meant for guitar on it.
The title is a bit of a nod to Spinal Tap, I guess. This is just a quick and dirty instrumental tune that’s fun live cause I don’t have to stand still and scream into a mic for it.
The oldest tune on the record.
Lyrically it’s inspired by David Icke and the sci fi show V where reptile people infiltrate the human race.
Musically it’s a mash-up of styles. It’s got maiden style gallops, some thrash bits and a bit of a “stoner rock,” ( I hate that term) style breakdown. I think we have played this one at every show. And then Converge released a song on their called “Reptilian,” on their most recent album. I’m a big fan of theirs but we wrote and demoed this one way before theirs came out.
This tune started out being about phosphenes, which are the weird shapes you see sometimes when you close your eyes in the dark, but it morphed into being about treating depression through psychedelics, specifically mushrooms. I’ve been a depression sufferer most of my life and it’s that cathartic thing again, I guess. We tried out some more synths in the outro and I think it sounds cool.
This one is about wanting to give up on yourself or on life in general. I’ve almost given up on things, like playing music for example, cause things were hard. I kind of flip the perspective and take on the persona of the negative voices inside my head on this track.
For me it’s about taking something negative and turning it into a positive by making music out of it.
We put a pedal called a bass synth wah on the bass and guitar during the bridge, so what sounds like a synth actually isn’t. Then the last thing you hear on the album is my daughter playing a little piano outro, which I thought was pretty cool.