Since their debut When All Became None was released about four years ago critics have struggled to find a moniker that fits Coffinworm. Are they blackened crust? Doom punk? Blackened death? Blackened tilapia? After a while all of these phrases begin to sound a lot like the Applebee’s menu so we’ll settle with the trustworthy “excellent.”
Coffinworm’s second album IV.I.VIII was released earlier this year and Carl Byers dropped by the shredder’s studio to give us an overview of the riffs that shaped him. Byers has so much game that he actually switched to guitar after spending time behind the drum kit. Does that mean he can also appear in our, er, banger’s studio?
Please welcome Mr. Byers to the shredder’s studio, our 13th episode.
Entombed – Sinner’s Bleed from Clandestine
Talk about a riff buffet. My first exposure to extreme metal was Entombed’s second album when I was 12 years old. I bought a used copy on cassette at a pawnshop near my father’s house based on the cover art and song titles. Entombed has always been my favorite death metal band and was a tastemaker for further influences. Clandestine had it all: driving two-beats, those reverb-drenched guitar solos that hang like a thick mist, probably the best guitar sound on a classic record using HM-2 pedals, and the song structures are killer. I generally prefer death metal firmly rooted in punk, but Clandestine is the best of both worlds: complex enough to not sound like Left Hand Path mach II (although, who the hell would complain about that?) and things slow down occasionally to let the riffs breathe.
Celtic Frost – Human/Into the Crypts of Rays from Morbid Tales
An obvious song, but totally undeniable in the effect it had on me when I heard it for the first time. Morbid Tales was responsible for more guitar players in both the punk and metal realms than a heap of other albums in the ‘extreme music’ world. Tom Gabriel Fischer and Martin Eric Ain influenced my writing and guitar playing when it comes to creating heavy music, and this record was the guidebook. What I’ve always loved about Frost is the balance between mammoth, driving riffs full of aggression and a counterbalance of very straightforward song structures. It’s almost pop in that respect, so it’s memorable and catchy. The music is fuck ugly, but there are riffs to grab onto and the arrangements are familiar because they’re usually written in a verse-chorus structure.
Motörhead – I’ll Be Your Sister from Overkill
The best, hands down. Motörhead is all I ever need if I had to choose just one band. It’s hard to choose just one song, but Overkill is my favorite record and ‘I’ll Be Your Sister’ is a perfect song. Fast or slow, they are the masters and a daily soundtrack to my existence. When I think of rock ‘n’ roll, punk, or metal it sounds like Motörhead.
Black Sabbath – War Pigs from Paranoid
None heavier. When I was a kid there was a guy working in acquisitions at the public library that would consistently add great metal and punk cassettes and CDs to their audio collection. This was my first exposure to a lot of music; the most important album was a copy of We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll. I checked out the summer between sixth and seventh grade. I constantly dubbed tapes, but that Sabbath compilation got the most play for years. The band sounded scary, the riffs were huge, and the lyrics were heavy. I made my guitar instructor teach me how to play ‘War Pigs’, which was the first full song I learned. Iommi will forever be the riff god.
Black Flag – Police Story from Damaged
Up through the Damaged album, Black Flag’s output is perfect. I love later Flag as well, and no less, but my favorite songs are the short bursts of feedback and intensity rather than the slow dirge. Greg Ginn sounds like a mad scientist and his arrangements/solos don’t sound like he was overthinking them, more like he’d never play the latter the same way twice. The guitar tone on Damaged is fucking nasty and every song sounds like it’s in danger of falling apart. I don’t feel like I’ve ever been able to fully capture that type of immediacy in my playing, but it’s always something I strive to do.
Nirvana – Dive from Incesticide / Drain You from Nevermind
Seemingly a pair of odd ducks in this list, but Nirvana had a profound effect on me and has continued to be one of my all-time favorites since I heard them in 1991. Their influence has colored my playing as a guitarist and a drummer, as well as my approach to songwriting (back to the point of Celtic Frost’s song structures). Two favorites here: The churning riff that anchors ‘Dive’ could cycle on forever, and that turnaround before the chorus descending to the open D chord and the noisy build-up in the middle of ‘Drain You’ – all so simple, but there’s a power there that hits harder than a barrage of notes or a 200 BPM blast beat. Pop structure or not, they were a band that knew how to write heavy and memorable songs.
The Dream Is Dead – Redefining Progress from Hail the New Pawn
Jared Southwick was a friend and an inspiration, despite the fact that we weren’t that far apart in age. In high school I saw several shows his death metal band, Legion, played and it seemed larger than life. He was this tall, gangly guy with an amazing energy. His fingers looked like a bunch of snakes on nuclear-grade meth pummeling the fretboard. Dude was an animal and so amazingly talented. When The Dream Is Dead started they were a game changer – I wanted to be able to play like that. They were my favorite Indianapolis band from the first time I heard them. My old band did a split 7” with them and we toured together, which solidified this bond that eventually led to me joining TDID as a second guitar player. Learning to play those songs taught me so much and pushed me to become a better guitarist. RIP, Jared.
Slayer – Mandatory Suicide from South Of Heaven
Another band on the short list of which I will never grow tired. Master of Puppets was in constant rotation in my formative years, but hearing Slayer had a more visceral effect. South Of Heaven is the album that hits me hardest and ‘Mandatory Suicide’ is a perfect example of Hanneman and King’s power. Slower and plodding, with that harmonized top-end riff descending, it’s always been a favorite. This record has also been a point of reference for Coffinworm when writing and arranging.
Melvins – Roman Bird Dog from Lysol
A band that has evolved and reinvented itself many times, and I love almost everything they’ve done. This EP was the first release of theirs I heard and the early 90s period of the band is my favorite. Buzzo is such a great guitar player, especially in that he’s understated most of the time. The riffs speak loudly and there’s a slow-motion tidal wave of low-end crashing over and over. Also the reason for my using a Rat pedal.
His Hero Is Gone – Raindance from Fifteen Counts of Arson
His Hero Is Gone had some of the most inventive two guitar arrangements and every song was a total banger. This album is the one and ‘Raindance’ has always been a favorite cut. Beyond heavy and the top-end discordant parts made a huge impact on me, which has had direct influence on us trying to incorporate similar types of ‘creepy’ high parts in Coffinworm.
Read previous installments of Inside The Shredder’s Studio:
#1: Elizabeth Schall of Dreaming Dead
#2: Mike Hill of Tombs
#3: Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy
#4: Alex Bouks of Incantation
#5: Kurt Ballou of Converge
#6: Mark Thomas Baker of Orchid
#7: Andre Foisy of Locrian
#8: Eric Daniels of GSBC and Asphyx
#9: Kevin Hufnagel of Gorguts
#10: Marissa Martinez-Hoadley of Cretin
#11: Eric Cutler of Autopsy
#12: Woody Weatherman of Corrosion of Conformity