Published Sep 27, 2011With End Time (Brutal Truth's second album since reforming in 2006), the NYC grind masters prove that comebacks can actually yield stellar new releases. While 2009's Evolution Through Revolution exhibited all of the glorious grimy, visceral twistedness that only a Danny Lilker-formed, pioneering grindcore act can, the band take all of that and toss in some new dynamics on End Time. Brutal Truth start the 23-track album off in their classic style, with the wailing, guitar-driven "Malice," while "Fuck Cancer" also features the band's trademark chaotic, unorthodox approach. Midway through is where things start to get more interesting, with a change of pace. Standout track "Warm Embrace of Poverty" contains tons of sludgy groove and 15-minute closer "Control Room" features an onslaught of unrelenting, cacophonous shrieks and feedback. An overarching apocalyptic theme ties End Time together, with lyrical subject matter that couldn't intermingle more perfectly with the record's cataclysmic sound. With increased production quality and some excellently written tracks, End Time even rivals 1994's Need to Control.
What's been going on since the release of Evolution Through Revolution?
Lilker: We've been doing some shows and we wrote another record, End Time. Brutal Truth's activity ever since we reformed has been a lot more limited because, first of all, we don't have to go out and jump in a van and open for some other band because, apparently, the whole time we were broken up we got bigger [laughs]. But also because it's a few years down the line now and we have families and kids and stuff like that. We have been doing shows, it's just we haven't been doing it like back in the day when we were doing long, extended tours.
Is there a particular theme behind End Time?
I think it's just very apocalyptic. Kevin's [Sharp, vocalist] the one who really does the lyrics, so it's kind of funny discussing them. But, basically, it's not a very uplifting record; it's kind of just stuff about how the world's going to end. I mean, there's different things contributing to that: the Earth itself, all the crazy shit happening with the weather, certain apocalyptic politicians and people who are a little too involved with going to church every Sunday and they get a little reckless and they don't give a shit what happens because of the rapture and all that. It doesn't make you too confident about the longevity of the world.
When do you think the "End Time" is?
Well, we hope it's not too soon [laughs]. We're not sure. You know, in the song "End Time," the chorus of it is "This is the end time," but Kevin's lyrics can also be interpreted [differently] and not all of the lyrics are very direct. A lot of it is more like anybody who reads it might get something a little different out of them and they fit with the music, phrasing-wise and everything. It's funny answering questions like this because I pretty much just write the music, but from what I can deduce, so I can answer the question at least somewhat, it would appear that we're in the grip of the end time, although we hope it doesn't happen. I'm not going to give you a date, like the Mayan calendar or anything like that, it's just things are going to fall all on our laps, that's all.
Lyrically, do politics still play a role in the subject matter Brutal Truth are drawn to?
Yeah, but I wouldn't want to call us a completely political band. I think that's more the realm of punk bands, you know, with very direct lyrics. We've always been politically aware and had socio-political lyrics and, yeah, we are continuing with that; we're not going to switch it up now and start writing goregrind or anything [laughs]. Grindcore is originally a combination [of music] with a lot of punk rock in it; it's like punk rock and death metal sped up, and we just didn't take the lyrics from death metal. The origins of grindcore come from punk rock, so a lot of early grindcore was political/socio-political in nature and that's something we've always had and will continue to have.
Is the message you convey as important as the music?
I would say so, but then again, we realize that a lot of people that come down to our shows just come to check us out because we're fast as fuck. I mean, I'm not going to be disappointed if somebody comes down to see us play and just enjoys the intensity and doesn't get something out of the lyrics. I mean, as long as they're not like, you know, I don't want people who are into the KKK coming to see us. But I'd say it would be good if the lyrics were as important as the music, but if they aren't and if somebody comes down to our show just because we're totally intense, then that's fine with me too. It doesn't matter to me.
Musically, was there a specific direction you wanted to go in for this album?
No, not really. Our songwriting is a very natural, organic process. In other words, we don't think too much before we write stuff; we basically just write stuff that we like and it just comes out sounding like Brutal Truth. We don't have any meetings and decide about directions or anything like that. It's just more like we write music that we think is Brutal Truth music and, sure, we tweak it once it's written because we don't rehearse like a normal band because we don't live in the same area. Rich [Hoak], our drummer, will come up from Philly to Rochester, NY and jam with me and Erik [Burke], our guitar player, because we both live up here. He'll come up for a weekend and we'll write some stuff then he'll come up for another weekend, like a month-and-a-half later. We'll take the stuff we already have and refine it because now we've had a little time for it to sit and then we'll write more. The only thought process might be refining the stuff we already have, but again, it's not like a plan like, "Oh, we want this to sound like this." It's just, "Alright, let's make this shit sound better" [laughs]. That's really it.
Is the writing process more difficult for you guys since you live in different cities?
Even when we wrote back in the old days, Rich was still in Philly and our original guitar player, Gurn [Brent McCarty], was in Connecticut and we rehearsed in NYC, but we rehearsed three days a week, which given, is more than we do now. But it's also not the worst thing in the world because, writing songs, you can't rush something like that. I think we look at it as an advantage, that when it's time to write songs again, it's been a month-and-a-half and maybe some fresh ideas have taken root, so we put a positive spin on that. Yeah, it might be better if we all lived in the same town and anytime you had a riff you could run over to the drummer's house, but we just look at it like that, like we've had some time to sit and now we're going to write some more stuff.
Some tracks on End Time showcase some new dynamics. "Warm Embrace of Poverty," for example, is a sludgy, groovier track. Was that intentional or did it come naturally in the writing process?
I think it came unconsciously. It's interesting; I think that when we did Evolution, we had to come back and show the world Brutal Truth are back and we're not fucking around and we were just like, "Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam" with the songs. Maybe on this record, we're still going to have all the complete intensity, but maybe we decided to mix it up a little bit just for ourselves, just to go, "Okay, we've got nothing to prove this time, we showed the world that we're back and we're fuckin' loaded for bear, so this time let's throw a little bit more mid-tempo and sludgy stuff in." And again, I don't know if this was a conscious decision; I think it's more like we unconsciously realized that we could throw in some more mid-tempo stuff in now that we've already shown that we're back. We don't actually sit down and go, "Let's write some slow stuff." It's just, we came up with some stuff that sounds cool and thought, "Hey, we already got fuckin' 20 fast songs, let's throw in some slow songs, why not?" It's just mixing it up; it makes it more interesting for us. If the whole record is just like a fuckin' jackhammer, then there's not enough contrast. If you put more slow stuff in, the fast stuff sounds faster.
How would you compare Brutal Truth's sound now to your sound in the '90s?
Well, I think when we reformed and Gurn wasn't going to be playing with us anymore and we got Erik, I think he has definitely put a new dynamic into things with the way he writes and the way he plays guitar, and even in the way he plays the old stuff. He really brought some fresh blood in with his approach, so that makes the band sound different. Besides that, it's still the basic songwriting process. I write a lot of the music anyway, so it's hard to say; I think the production on these new albums is what I like the most. I realize that's not a stylistic thing, but the production has a lot to do with how a band sound. I think these records, these newer ones, have come out really, really well. It's kind of a natural thing for musicians to like the most recent stuff they've done, and I like the stuff we did back in the old days, but I think the production on some of those records is a little muffled. I certainly don't disown any of them and, of course, I realize that our first two records, Extreme Conditions and Need to Control, for different reasons are considered classics in the genre. They certainly are, I guess, but I just like the production on these records and I just like what we're doing now.
How has your bass-playing style changed over the years?
It might have changed a little bit to accommodate Erik's guitar playing. Erik writes some crazy shit; he'll write some stuff and I'll be like, "I've got to find something interesting to do under that." He's given me some challenges, in a good way, in that I have to find counterparts to some of his parts. He'll just introduce a flurry of notes and go, "That's a riff" and it's like, "Dude, I'm not even going to try to play that [laughs], but what notes are you doing here, here and here?" I think Erik's wacky writing style has challenged me as a bass player and made me come up with interesting counterparts. Besides that, it hasn't changed really; I'm still just the undertow. The bass for Brutal Truth has been quite distorted and it's part of the sound; it's that fuckin' rumble in the bottom, that good old Harley-sounding thing. I'm trying to stick with that, basically.
What do you think of grind these days?
Well, I'm glad to see that it's still going strong. I think that some of it these days is getting a little stale sounding because of the advances of technology. I think some bands when they go into the studio, they use too much technology, they move every kick drum over and have silence in every spot where there could be just noise on the bass, like shit that we always keep. I mean, it's good in general that the genre is still real strong, I just think that some people are kind of too critical and it gets lifeless; they just have to let more air into their music. But there are still great bands ― bands from the States, bands from Europe ― and it's still going nice and strong. I just don't want people to use so much technology that it just chokes all the life out of it.
How are fans receiving the new Brutal Truth material live?
Well, what we did when we played Extreme Music Festival in the Czech Republic in July was we did a little experiment, even though the album wasn't out yet, and we played the whole album in a row before we played some familiar stuff for people, and they seemed to dig it. I mean, some people were a little perplexed because they weren't familiar with the material, but the one show we have done since then, we did play the whole album, whether people were ready for it or not, and people seemed to dig it.
Brutal Truth also played Evolution Through Revolution in its entirety for that album's touring cycle. Is that something you will continue to do for future albums?
Probably. It's an interesting, brave move to do. I mean, there are people who just really like our first record, so it challenges them. If you're going to go see Brutal Truth, you don't know what you're going to get and we like to keep it like that. (Relapse)