On the dazzling, mind-bending upcoming slab of futurist progressive metal Terminal Threshold, long-running New York outfit Dysrhythmia continues to do what it does best: Find that frequently elusive balance between technicality and emotional resonance/feel, create ecstatic rather than numeric experiences, and catapult your brain into another dimension while melting your goddamn face off in our current reality. (Would you be surprised to learn two-thirds of the band serves in this wild latest incarnation of Gorguts?)
The record doesn’t drop until October 4 — preorder via Translation Loss here or Bandcamp — but we’ve got an exclusive stream of one of the standout tracks, “Twin Stalkers,” right here, right now, as well as a candid conversation with guitarist Kevin Hufnagel.
As an admirer of your work, I always find myself wondering as a new release is announced how you could after each release possibly top the preceding one…yet you always somehow do. I’m really curious to know whether you feel the same way. How much does producing a wild and apotheosis-begging record like Terminal Threshold take out of you? And do you ever in the immediate aftermath have doubts about whether you can do it again?
Thanks, man. That’s great to hear you feel that way when listening to the new record. It’s something we’ve heard for a few albums in a row now and it’s the highest compliment anyone can give us. I will admit it has been daunting with the last few albums to begin the writing process. I’m usually creatively paralyzed at first. Often after about six months of trying things out and throwing riffs away, things click, a direction seems set and things kick off again.
Colin had to talk me off the ledge when it came time to start writing this album. I basically told him and Jeff I didn’t think I had anything more in me, musically, for this band. Our last album — The Veil of Control — really pushed us creatively and technically and I was proud of that one, but also drained by the process of writing and recording it. Colin presented a new song first this time and that got me motivated again. I also discovered one way to to reinvigorate myself was to simplify things a bit. Write something that was a little more live-oriented and riff-based…mix up the writing approach, go back to some earlier influences and twist them up a bunch. Perhaps most importantly…fucking relax and realize how lucky I am to play with these dudes! I’m always learning something new from everyone I work with and that knowledge is always applied to all the musical things I work on afterwards.
How do you challenge yourself on a daily basis? Is it a lot of showing up to do the work and waiting for the muse to strike? Or are you one of those artists that finds the “new” in stepping away or clarifying silences?
I won’t ever force anything but sometimes if the magic just isn’t there that day, instead of giving up I will take a break and think more conceptually instead. That often gets things in motion again. For example, on this album there are 3 songs where Colin plays guitar with me instead of bass. That was something we’d never thought to do before and it made for immediate and exciting results. Also, I wrote a song for this record — “Twin Stalkers” — to a drum machine beat I programmed that was initially inspired by two things: Freestyle dance music and the old shred metal band Racer X. Probably not the most obvious influences, but that’s what keeps us finding the “new” each time. I also discovered that listening to works-in-progress as I exercise or go running give me a new perspective on my way of hearing things that I wouldn’t notice if I was listening to them in my home studio.
To go back, how did you first get into heavier music? Was there any particular record or artist that sparked your interest in the more technical side of things?
When I was in middle school the older kids would bring their boom boxes to class and be playing Twisted Sister or whatever on the bus rides. I was drawn to it immediately. Pretty soon I was buying all the latest metal magazines, tapes and shirts I could find. After receiving my first guitar I got more serious about the types of metal I was listening to and started getting into the more virtuosic stuff. I think early Fates Warning, or in particular Watchtower might’ve been the first really technical metal band I’d ever heard. Those bands then got me into checking out artists like Mekong Delta, Atheist, Cynic, Realm, Toxik — all these peculiar prog-thrash/prog-death metal bands that really didn’t fit in with the mainstream metal scene at all. I’ve always thought there was a lot to expand upon with some of the ideas those bands were exploring.
Is putting together these complex puzzles but maintaining that humanity ever a challenge?
That’s always been the goal since the start of the band. We just write what we feel. I just see our music as a reflection of life. I think the stress and chaos of living in New York City has a bit of influence on us too. Maybe another reason the music contains that human feel to you and hopefully others too is because the records are mainly recorded live, or at least on this album the drums, bass and most of Colin’s guitars were (I redid my guitars later to focus on different tones) and I think that live energy and aggression in the playing translated to the recording. What you’re hearing is how we really sound. Sometimes you can hear us almost losing it on a take or Jeff going for a drum fill that might land at a strange place in the riff. I think that tension keeps it exciting. There isn’t really any “fixing” things in the computer, which can often make things too “perfect” and clean, and thus sterile. We leave some dirt on it.
Is there any aspect of the writing of Terminal Threshold that took you by surprise?
Some of things I mentioned like having Colin on guitar instead of bass for a few songs certainly gave the material a different vibe and texture. We experimented with layering drum parts atop one another for “Twin Stalkers”. There is one song on the album, “Never Was Then Again,” which was originally written back in 2011 for a split that never happened with the band Loincloth. We were to swap drummers for that split with them and that was a song I wrote for their drummer Steve Shelton, who is one of my all-time favorites. The band broke up so it never happened, so I dug that one out again and I’m happy with what we were able to turn it into.
What advice would give an aspiring musician — or, really, any sort of artist or craftsperson — who hope to, like you, take a vision beyond the typically accepted — obeyed? — boundaries?
Don’t listen to detractors and stay true to your vision. You should create the music or art you want to hear or see. Hopefully those are things you haven’t heard or seen a hundred times already. If you’re like us, what you’re doing is never going to be “cool” or popular and probably never will be. So don’t go into it looking for fame and fortune. People with true passion and drive usually don’t need to be told these things though.