You probably aren’t familiar with Be Well, but you’re most certainly familiar with vocalist Brian McTernan’s production work with bands like Cave In, Converge, Drowningman, Snapcase, Darkest Hour, The Minor Times, Hot Water Music (his production sound on A Flight and a Crash is damn near perfect), Bane and countless others. Now, McTernan is teaming up with Darkest Hour’s Mike Schleibaum, Bane’s Aaron Dalbec, and Fairweather’s Peter Tsouras and Shane Johnson in Be Well, who are dropping their debut album, The Weight and the Cost, tomorrow on Equal Vision Records.
To celebrate the release of the album, which is a fantastic piece of melodic hardcore, we caught up with McTernan to find out what five heavy albums changed his life.
Cro-Mags – The Age Of Quarrel (1986)
This was one of the earliest hardcore records I was exposed to and it is still one of my favorites. One of the things that I loved right off the bat was that everything about this band felt larger than life. The art, the lyrics, the vibe—to be honest, the fact that the members all seemed fairly scary didn’t hurt—it all made this band terrifying, dangerous, and compelling. It’s a classic that has aged incredibly well. When I went on to play shows with them later in life, it was kind of a mindfuck at first because they’re such incredibly nice guys. The live show was still amazing, and I could hear all the energy that pulled me into that first record.
Helmet – Meantime (1992)
I went to see Helmet play at the old 9:30 club while they were touring on this record. It blew my mind. I knew nothing about Helmet when I got there—I had actually gone to the show to see Jawbox. When they started playing, it literally felt like the sound was going to knock me over. I had never seen a band that was so loud, tight, and powerful. It was heavy, melodic and the groove was mesmerizingly repetitive. I remember walking to the record store the day after the show to buy this. The songwriting on this record is smart and musical, while still incredibly hard-hitting.
Inside Out – No Spiritual Surrender (1990)
My older brother did a fanzine when we were kids and he received this as a demo to review. I remember being struck by how emotional the vocals were, as if every word out of Zack [de la Rocha]’s mouth may be his last. The guitars were melodic and metallic, and the overall feeling was raw. I didn’t know anything about the band at the time, but I fell in love instantly. I saw them play several times and the live show was unreal. The crazy thing about Inside Out is how many amazing bands its members went on to be in. Later in life, I was fortunate enough to get to work with [guitarist] Vic DiCara in the studio, producing 108’s Threefold Misery album. He was intense, inspiring and unlike anyone else I would ever work with.
Agnostic Front – Victim In Pain (1984)
This record is anthem after anthem of genre-defining New York hardcore. It’s relentless—almost none of the songs even cross the two-minute mark. The grittiness of this record grabbed me immediately. I had been listening to mostly British punk when I was first introduced to this, and Agnostic Front felt so real in contrast.
Damnation AD – No More Dreams of Happy Endings (1995)
The riffs and lyrics are on this record are unreal, and the production is kind of insane, but perfect. My older brother sings in this band, and reading his lyrics for “The Hanged Man” for the first time was painful. It was a perfect example of how you can know someone really well yet realize you’ve missed this huge piece of their experience. It actually made me realize that we were experiencing a lot of the same inner turmoil, and I was grateful that music had given us the bridge to share that. What’s interesting about this record is that it kind of catches you off guard—it tucks really vulnerable and personal introspection into music that remains crushingly heavy.