New York progressive metal outfit Dead Empires had long mastered the art of frantic, sludge-drenched instrumental music but on third full-length Designed to Disappear, the band upped the ante with the addition of vocalist Jason Sherman.
The end result is an album that is just as exhilarating as their previous output, the vocals adding another dimension of intensity. You can stream the entirety of Designed to Disappear now and read an interview with bassist DJ Scully (also of The Number 12 Looks Like You and Black Table) about the new record.
Designed to Disappear is your first album with a vocalist, Jason Sherman (Torrential Downpour). Why did Dead Empires decide to add a vocalist to the lineup?
Initially we thought we would ask a few friends to do some vocal demos for some potential guest spots on the album or something like that. Phil [Bartsch, drums] is the one who thought of Jason and we asked him to throw down a quick demo on the song “Slay Rider.” What you hear on the record is more or less what his demo sounded like, so after we heard that, we were like ‘uhhh… do you wanna try some more?’ and before we knew it, he was in the band! It was all very organic and Jason’s approach was really seamless and easy. It never felt like some big decision. Just like being instrumental was never really a decision, it’s just kinda the way things went.
Does having a vocalist change the way you write music, since vocals are like an additional instrument?
The weirdest part about this album is that it was 95% written before we even had Jason on board. We ended up changing and tweaking a few things here and there, but the overwhelming majority of the instrumentation was done and ended up recorded the way we had it before Jason joined. What Jason added is especially amazing because now it’s almost impossible to imagine the songs without his parts. His vocals, noise and keyboard parts are just so deeply entrenched in the songs that it’s inconceivable now that we thought the album was ‘done’ before we ever even heard them.
Jason was fearless when he approached the songs. He never asked to change parts or rearrange stuff for the sake of his vocals. He just went and crafted these parts. John, Phil and I all had ideas of what we thought we would want on any specific song or part, but we never really told him what they were because we wanted to see what he would do. I don’t think he matched a single one of our ideas and it’s for the best because all of his were infinitely better and more creative than what we had in mind. We’re looking forward to writing whatever’s next with him in the room the entire time.
What influences the band, whether that’s other music or something outside of music?
The single biggest thing for Dead Empires is fun. It’s fun to be loud as fuck. It’s fun to write happy riffs, it’s fun to write punishing ones too. It’s fun to scream and headbang like a lunatic on stage and blast everyone out with strobe lights.That is the core of what we’re trying to do. We hope it comes through on the record and on stage on our upcoming tour.
Musically, we all come from really different backgrounds. Phil is more of a punk than any of us, Jason is into some bizarre leftfield shit, John [Bryan, guitar] likes big riffs and sludge, I tend to get hung up on like one or two albums a year and then just grind them into dust. I think the only band all four of us can agree is basically perfect is Pantera, and Pantera is fun as hell!
The music on Designed to Disappear seems pretty complex from a non-musician’s perspective. Is there a hardest song on the album to play? What about most fun?
For me personally, the hardest song is “Ones and Zeros” because I really tried to push my bass playing pretty far out. Big chunks of the song were improvised in the studio and relearning those parts and playing them live has been a challenge. As a band, I think the most difficult might be the title track, “Designed to Disappear,” mostly because it’s like 12 minutes long. We’ve written a bunch of long-ass songs in the past, but that one has a lot of movements and interlocking parts that can be very easy to get tripped up on if you’re not paying attention.
The most fun song is probably “The Form.” It’s super simple and comes early in the set, so it’s a great way to get hyped for everything else that’s coming. I pretty much ride my low B for like 4 minutes straight and it’s honestly just as exhilarating as nailing the more complex riffs because it’s so guttural and grimy. You can really get enveloped in the sound and feeling as it builds rather than trying to listen to a sonic math problem.
Purchase Designed to Disappear through Silent Pendulum Records.