Brendan K. Duff, singer and lyricist for metallic hardcore band Pristina, did not want the band's new album, HopelessGodless, to be another album about addiction and recovery. As he recently explained in an Exclaim! interview, "The whole last album, [2010's] The Drought (ov Salt and Sorrow), was about using and getting through, and I wanted it to be a success story, but no. I ended up getting so low that I didn't care any more."
After his marriage ended in 2011, Duff found himself in a downward spiral. "In the span of about two years, things went from bad to worse. At first, the band was still going, and we'd still play shows, but I was in no condition to tour, I was in no condition to do anything."
After a near-fatal overdose, Duff found himself in rehab. Whereas in the past he had quit using heroin by himself, he found the structure and form of rehab an immense help, describing it as "what completely changed my life. That was the greatest thing that I have ever done."
Though the specialized counselling and treatment meant an easier and more successful recovery for Duff, he found himself faced with specific roadblocks.
"I didn't have an awakening, like I found god and all that shit," he says. "I struggled the 12 step program that I am sure works for a lot of people and I am sure is a wonderful program, but I only got to about step three, because after that you can't progress without finding a higher power."
In fact, a few of his counsellors told him that, because he was unable to accept or believe in a higher power — he was a "hopeless" case.
"Some of the people there let me know that they thought I was wasting my time and money being in rehab because I haven't found my god, and without my god I can't achieve my 12 steps," Duff explains.
While he also found many more understanding and supportive allies in rehab, that resistance stuck with him, and ultimately became the title of the record. "The album is a direct reflection of all that."
Rather than redemption through a higher power, Duff was effectively able to exorcise his personal demons through music. The result is a much more raw, personal record than anything Pristina have ever released before. Duff says that "this one was like tearing my ribcage open."
HopelessGodless is out now on the Path Less Traveled.
You can read more of Exclaim!'s very personal interview with Pristina here.