Photo: Graham Donath
Photo: Graham Donath

Even judged alongside its contemporaries from those fertile, boundary-obliterating metallic hardcore glory days of the late 90s, the discography of Tampa, Florida’s late, great Reversal of Man — a singularly potent amalgamation of powerviolence, post-hardcore, grind, indie, and impossibly abrasive hardcore — stands out and, in many ways, remains ahead of its time nearly two decades after disbanding.  

“Reversal of Man was a reaction to growing up in the early 90’s hardcore/punk scene in Central Florida,” vocalist Matt Coplon tells Decibel. “There were minimal shows here due to both Florida’s not-very-conducive geography for touring bands and the backlash from the state’s violent, neo-Nazi threat spilling over from the late 80’s. We took what we could get…and those into goth, indie, punk, death metal, and hardcore melted together, attending any and every show that came through town. And then at some point, in the mid 90’s, Instead of pining on what band would make the trek down our peninsula, the Central Florida punk/hardcore scene began making it’s own music instead: Assück, Palatka, End of the Century Party, Scrotum Grinder, Combat Wounded Veteran, Hope Springs Eternal, Floor, Dragbody, etcetera…

“In a short period of time, our ethos shifted from doing everything in our power to leave the state, to doing everything we could to stay.”

To celebrate the digital re-release of the band’s catalog via Archivist Records, Coplon kindly agreed to give Decibel the inside scoop on five of Reversal of Man’s most beloved jams…  

1. “(These) Hills Have Eyes”

“These Hills Have Eyes” was written originally by Jason Crittenden and Jeff Howe’s side project “The Christ Kill.” After breaking up after a short stint — and never playing out — Jason and Jeff brought the song over to ROM where the chorus line’s lyrics “You’ll be gone” were switched to “Hills Have Eyes.” This became a staple song in our sets from 1998 to 2000. “These Hills Have Eyes” followed “I’m a New York Detective” in changing Reversal Of Man’s sound. Much more visceral, and I feel, lyrically, much more existentially pissed off.

2. “Get The Kid With The Sideburns”

“Get the Kid With the Sideburns” was written quickly one Saturday afternoon in Jeff’s parent’s living room while they were away on vacation. It was a response to the prior weekend’s “all out war” with Earth Crisis.

Here’s the actual story: We showed up to their show dressed as the village people. EC wasn’t stoked, so they had their south Florida minions come after us. A bunch of tough guys against a bunch of skinny, punk nerds. Makes sense, right? But all they could get their hands on was my afro wig. End of action. Once EC began setting up, they asked the venue to turn out the lights. My buddy Charlie spoke up and said something to the effect of, “So you can try to fight us again in the dark?” Those words sparked a riot. Instantly, multiple factions were fist fighting…and at one point, Karl from EC jumps up on top of their merch table, spots me in the crowd without my wig, exposing my patchy sideburns, and yells, “Get the kid with the sideburns.” John Willey, our drummer, happened to be fighting their guitarist next to that table. He fell to the ground, rolled under it, ultimately making it collapse, Karl and all, on top of the two of them. By that point, we were all making a beeline out the threshold to safety.

“Get the Kid with the Sideburns” was a staple in our set from 1998 to 2000.

3. “I’m a New York Detective”

“I’m a New York Detective” was written by Jasen Weitekamp. It took him several practices to finish the song. And he practically wrote everything: the guitar work, the drumming, and the vocal pattern. At that point, he was heavily influenced by One Eyed God Prophecy — we had just played a basement show with them. In a post show conversation, they mentioned to him how draining their song process was. Jason took it to heart…this was the catalyst for Reversal Of Man spending more time writing music and being ok with tossing a lot of it out onto the cutting room floor.

4. “Quantis”

“Quantis” was a letter written to the band from Dan Radde. It was a response to him hearing the recording of “I’m a New York Detective.” We literally turned his letter, verbatim, into lyrics. At that point in time, Tampa/Orlando was such a tight knit scene. It almost felt that ROM was less the 5 members, and much more everyone we were friends with from those scenes. “I’m a New York Detective” breached on expressing that idea, but “Quantis” really encompassed it. I feel, of all of our songs, lyrically, this hit home the most. A couple months later, through a coincidental chain of events, Dan Radde would actually replace Jason Weitekamp on guitar. Soon after that, Dan became the brains of ROM. He was, looking back, the most important member…”Quantis” was kind of our ode to him.

Another staple song in our set from 1998 to 2000.

5. “Burial of the Dead”

“Burial of the Dead” was the first of the last five songs we’d written inspired by TS Eliot’s “The Wasteland.” This was a 6 month period where ROM was functioning, internally, as a band, at it’s best…but at the same time, we were all experiencing the weird existentialism you feel when you breach twenty. In that, we were, unbeknownst to us, starting to go our separate ways and into separate interests. Looking back, the “Wasteland” collection was a subconscious indicator of that…