When Thine Eyes Bleed listen to Bon Scott sing “It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll,” they know all too well how those words ring true today as they did back in 1976. In an industry filled with false hope and promises, TEB understands you can’t wait around for some hack in Los Angeles to turn dreams into reality while other bands are fighting for the same fanbase and album sales.
In the four years since TEB formed, the band members have traveled all over the United States and Canada and finagled their way into a festival or two in Japan. Even with all the time clocked playing shows, they scheduled nine days in the studio to record a full-length album. But getting to the point where the band is at now, as they gear up for the underground International Extreme Music Festival, has been filled with its share of ups and downs. From being led on early by certain record labels to fallouts with booking agents along the way, they have come to some serious realizations not only about life on the road, but the nature of the music business.
For longtime Acacia vocalist and current TEB frontman Justin Wolfe, the guys are extremely pleased to spend the fall months on such a prestigious festival with fellow artists representing countries including Greece, Sweden and Germany. “We are excited to start the tour in a few weeks because there are about six or seven bands total and not one stands out as a headliner. The shows will be all over the map musically, but within the same vein of heavy music,” says Wolfe from his home in Ontario, Canada. “It’s not only good exposure for the fans, but also the bands…We’re also ecstatic the shows are all ages because a lot of the kids need to hear these bands and hopefully this style of music stays with them as they get older.”
In an age where so many extreme bands think it’s all about wearing cargo pants and playing the same power chords over and over, the members of TEB approach the music quite differently. In metal terms, they never underestimate the importance of precision and accuracy in songwriting. Songs like “Live to Die” showcase classic thrash metal beats, with dissonant melodies that prove the members aren’t confined to any sort of preconceived boundaries or limits. Other tracks, like the debut single “Cold Victim,” offer crunching riffs fused with modern themes of brutality and darkness.
With the release of In the Wake of Separation, TEB combine elements of old-school metal such as dueling solos between guitarists Derek Ward and Jeff Phillips and rapid-fire drumming with complex time signatures and odd beat changes throughout the album. The band redefines the dying art of soloing made famous by the likes of Testament, Death Angel and Slayer. While the growling vocals are more reminiscent of bands like Carcass or At the Gates, ultimately the precise guitar craftsmanship differentiates the band from its contemporaries in the metal world. The members may not dress the part or even look like average metelheads, but once they plug in, it’s an uncompromising audio assault of blast-beats and wailing guitar work from start to finish.
While the new album has received glowing reviews from various metal magazines, it all couldn’t have happened without making the decision to sign with Utah-based The End Records. Prior to the release of the album, the guys spent months on the road supporting bands like Candiria and Kittie without any sort of label representation. By signing with The End, TEB could finally have a place they call home to help them get the exposure needed to continue musical pursuits and aspirations. Now, instead of constantly fretting over the business aspects and dealing with different band managers, they put more time into doing what they do best—playing their unique brand of heavy metal.
For Wolfe, the relationship with The End came at a time when honesty and integrity counted most. “They were straight with us from the beginning and gave us solid answers. It’s one of the only labels where we actually sat down and talked to someone as opposed to just sending e-mails and exchanging phone calls,” says Wolfe. “We’re not tied down to anything too long and the guys have nothing but good things to offer. Since June when we released the album, we’ve had all these great opportunities to continue touring and I think with the label's future plans to increase distribution in a few months, it will only help us get stronger as time goes on.”
As the International Extreme Music Festival makes its way through the United States and into Mexico and Canada, the band members have their work cut out for them well into December, when they get their next break from touring. The Ontario quartet is optimistic that by 2006 it will have played more cities, picked up new fans and learned even more to help make a louder, more in-your-face sophomore effort. But on the flipside, the band isn't so naive to believe that the road from here on out is going to be an easy trek. Vans break down, fuel prices go up, close friends come and go, but that’s all the nature of the beast.
For Wolfe, he likens the first few years to a slow process of pulling teeth. But with all the momentum and elements falling into place, TEB proves it has what it takes to get stronger in both psychological and musically creative terms. And it’s possible that with a few notable tours behind them and more studio releases in the near future, it won’t be long before the band members find themselves in the upper echelon of current extreme metal connoisseurs alongside Lamb of God or Dimmu Borgir.
The International Extreme Music Festival takes place Sept. 11, 2005 at The Combat Academy (751 W. 800 South). Check out http://www.iemftour.com for more information.