Inter(Re)view – Lazer/Wulf: The Beast of Left and Right
This year I discovered a mostly instrumental heavy metal band called Lazer/Wulf and instantly fell in love. Their style is not easy to describe, and people have experienced brain implosions trying to attach a genre to the band; I’m going to skip all that and let you hear it for yourselves. The track they previewed a few months ago is called “Beast Reality”, and I’ll share it with you first so that you can instantly fall in love too:
The Beast of Left and Right is Lazer/Wulf’s latest full-length effort and it was created as a musical palindrome, with “Beast Reality” being the centerpiece of it all (and the most instantly headbangable song, plus dat bass). What’s a musical palindrome, you ask? The following is taken from a press release:
“For instance, the first song on the album, “Choose Again,” uses the exact same chords, riffs and drum tracks as the final song on the album, “Mutual End” but one is major and the other is minor.“
In fact you might not even recognize the palindromic nature of the beast until you’ve given it a few listens. I sure didn’t; but I also am not a musician and don’t have the most trained ear. At first I was simply banging my head and enjoying it as, well, a mostly instrumental heavy metal record. After scrutinizing the album for this review, it all clicked! My enjoyment of The Beast of Left and Right skyrocketed. No, that’s a bad description as it implies that I didn’t like it as much before… This album is like a delicious chicken burrito, deep fried. It was still great before, but it’s been punted into the stratosphere after. [Joe Note: That would be a chimichanga, Jimmy]
The one word that best encapsulates the album’s musical stylings: ENERGY. The songs range in length from two to nine minutes, and Lazer/Wulf is simply a perpetual motion machine throughout. You will never get bored, never wonder which track you’re on, and most of the time not realize when a track has ended and the next one began. Often in heavy metal a song might come to a stopping point of sorts for a solo or a breakdown (which isn’t intrinsically bad); but somehow Lazer/Wulf just keeps the metal coming at your ears. Even when slowing down or bringing the volume down a little, the energy never stops. If the pace is slowed down a bit, get ready for it to pick back up. The places in which you can take a break from headbanging are few and far between. The drums, bass and guitar (three out of three ingredients) just keep the momentum throughout. Every player is batting 1.000 during the entire album, and nobody truly outshines the other this way.
Since Lazer/Wulf is a mostly instrumental band, when the vocals DO come into play, they satisfy a desire you didn’t know you had. When something is kept from you for a long time, you just crave it that much more (and satisfies you beyond expectation). Sprinkled every now and then are some insanely catchy melodic vocals, metallic screams, and gang shouts. The music itself is catchy enough that it doesn’t rely on vocals to stay memorable, but those vocal segments will stay glued to your brain.
“The Beast of Left and Right” is an immensely enjoyable album, both on the surface and scrutinized with a set of trained ears. It’s not overly technical, yet you will know that these musicians have brought the skillz. There are some killer guitar solos thrown in and they’re so seamlessly blended in with the music that they might catch you off-guard. You aren’t going to find many surprises with this kind of music, but I guarantee you will have a sore neck from the immensely catchy and headbangable riffs contained within. This album will grab ahold of your attention for its entirety if you choose, but can also be listened to casually in the car or at the gym. The sense of urgency and energy contained within is something that we, as metalheads, don’t find very often. It’s a consistent, catchy, proggy masterpiece; an album that occupies a niche spot in the metal universe. I can’t find any faults with “The Beast of Left and Right” and I highly recommend that anybody who enjoys the clips contained here, give the entire album a good listen (though on the flipside, if you didn’t enjoy one of the tracks you may not enjoy the whole of it). Go ahead and take a shower if you need one, for NO flushing will take place right now!
Lazer/Wulf is (left to right):
Bryan Aiken – lead guitar
Sean Peiffer – lead bass
Brad Rice – lead drums
I’ve had a few correspondences with members of the band and they are trvely authentic dudes. They’ve asked me to spread the word about Lazer/Wulf, and it is my absolute pleasure to do so. Rarely do I hear a band so excellent and deserving of more exposure than I have with Lazer/Wulf. And it was the band’s sense of humor and honesty that prompted me to perform my first ever interview. The following questions were so kindly answered by lead guitarist Bryan Aiken:
Jimmy: Why are you such a nice guy?
Bryan: Haha, thanks so much, man! You probably know this already, but most dudes in metal bands are total sweethearts. I sometimes forget, too; we’ll see a band that is so thoroughly antagonistic on stage that I never want to cross their path, but they’re all hugs when you actually meet them. We’re on tour right now with Weedeater and Full of Hell, two of the most chaotic and violent bands possible, but they were seriously the most open and kind dudes from the moment we met them. I think we all groom our negativity so frequently that it never gets overgrown. I’m calling out King Parrot as the nicest guys in metal, though. We’re all rabid dicks compared to those guys.
Your CD came with a postcard that said I should share the album with friends, to get the word out (I didn’t do it… yet). Do you feel that the sharing of music (illegal or not) helps the industry at all?
Oh man, that’s a huge question; I struggle with it. I’ve got essays of response to no real conclusion, because there’s no right answer. Obviously we all want to pay our rent, but that’s not why we do this; so where does that leave us? All we want, all any band wants, is to be heard and build a family. But without some financial sustenance, we can’t maintain what we we’re trying to say or foster those relationships. It’s a paradox that we pour into a gas tank.
So much of the fun of being a music lover is sharing what you find, passing on that secret. That’s the culture of music, and of course I want Lazer/Wulf to be a part of that. All you can hope for is that that initial sharing can lead to an ongoing sustaining of the music: coming to shows, supporting bands on tour, even simple moral support, so they can afford to do it at all. Culture doesn’t have to undermine Industry, but it requires a lot of honesty and dedication on the part of the listener. No one owes a band their support outright, just because someone slipped them a disc, but if you really dig something, you should try to support it in some way. That should be the code.
You had a unique experience with Lady Gaga. U jam?
I definitely jam. I like a lot of pop music, and I have respect for anyone who builds an empire on giving so few fucks. When we met her at SXSW, she was as anarchic as ever, barefoot and windmilling her dreds all over the place. She seemed to really know who she is, and so few people ever know themselves so… loudly. So to have someone like that, who isn’t required to give a single shit about what we do, put a hand on my shoulder and be like, “You’re amazing.” I just… man, yeah, I jammed. It was thoroughly surreal.
Let’s skip the talk about musical genres. What are some artists who’ve influenced Lazer/Wulf?
We’re all three all over the place, so we surprise each other with ideas. I listen to a lot of electronic music, and that requires an attention to pacing, so Nine Inch Nails, Portishead, stuff like that. Sean likes it fast and weird, Pig Destroyer and Dysrhythmia. Brad just likes rock and roll without a lot of patience for bullshit, so he keeps us in line. None of us are into “great players;” music is ever only as great as the songs themselves. We get filed in the “prog” drawer a lot, and that’s cool considering our love for shit like King Crimson and Rush. But the more modern stuff, total the shred worship – that’s not really interesting to me. So I still flinch at the prog label, for sure. There’s a cliche in both prog and instrumental music that it’s gotta be airy and melancholy and delicate and gluttonous. We were hardcore kids, man. We like Botch and Refused, we just never found a vocalist and kept doing it anyway.
We’ve got a few musicians in the Toilet. What methods do you find are the best for shameless or shameful self-promotion?
For better or worse, I do everything through Facebook. It allows me to talk directly to our audience, and they can message us directly in return. As I said before, so much of being in a band is about building a family, so having a direct line to our fans to thank them for things, answer questions and keep in touch privately is the best thing for an upstart project like ours. I’ve made some lifelong friends in this business already, and that’s all thanks to how easy the internet – or Facebook in particular – makes it to keep in touch across the continent or overseas. Just keep answering your emails and thanking people who took the time to check you out; you can’t take that for granted. There’s such so much music out there, and so much internet to get lost in. If someone finds you in all that space, you should recognize what a fucking miracle that is.
The album is mainly instrumental. Are you trying to ride the wave of success of bands like Animals as Leaders and Return to Forever?
We used to have a vocalist, actually, but when he left the band, we just never replaced him, haha! The consensus at those first shows though, was that we were at our best when we tried to write around the structure that vocals can require. It wasn’t our choice, to be suddenly instrumental, but it was a fortunate accident. It makes writing a little more challenging and rewarding, I think. There’s no excuses for weak ideas, nothing to hide behind. We still have a lot to say, most instrumental bands do, so we just have to try to hit the mark with music rather than outright explaining what we’re writing about. We don’t listen to a lot of instrumental music, but it’s really rewarding to try to find our own way in that world, because there’s still so much left unexplored there. I will say, Mahavishnu or GTFO, though. That’s our motto. It’ll be sewn into our national flag one day.
I’ll admit that I don’t have a keen enough ear to understand the palindromic nature of The Beast of Left and Right. Care to brag about it by providing a few examples of your best palindroming from the album?
It’s not really important. Like I said before, a band is only as good as its songs, so even as we were experimenting with reading notation upside down and learning rhythms backwards and all that, we still made sure each song could stand on its own. It was just fun is all, and it was the best way to make sure our thoughts were still prevalent in the music, even if we weren’t going to actually say much. We built it into the structure of the whole thing. It was a cool experience and rewarding to finish as a player, but that’s as far as that goes, really. At the end of the day, it’s just supposed to be good music, and a cathartic listen; no magic tricks.
Can you describe the band’s approach to songwriting?
A lot of experimenting and erasing and correcting and scrapping and laughing at ourselves and trying to outsmart each other. Every song has to touch something different and vital, so that when we play it that 150th time, we still feel that unconditional connection to it. They’ve gotta be lovers, not mistresses, y’know? But you can’t really know a song until you play it live, so once we frankenstein something we think is rad, we’ll cough it up live and address the parts that are killing the vibe, or worth expanding.
Lastly, we’ve got plenty of nerds in the Toilet who like gear. Can you tell us about your gear? I know nothing of the stuff, but I will claim that the hearables on The Beast of Left and Right are simply perfect.
Thanks man! Yeah, most of my gear belongs in the Toilet. I’ve been through a couple robberies, so a lot of what I have are hand-me-downs and borrowed kindnesses. A lot people rag on Mesa/Boogie, but it’s a diverse amp that can be personalized pretty easily. The cornerstone of my sound comes from my Classic Custom Les Paul with Bill Kelliher’s Lace pickups, all through a modded 808/TS9 with the old Maxon circuitry that Analog Man makes, and a homemade cab to my specs. Sean runs a Sans Amp through a GK solid state, and Brad pared down to a simple 4-piece kit with minimal stands. All else than those few, key ingredients are bells and whistles that can give you texture, but obviously a palette of effects isn’t the same as writing a cool song. The simpler we go, the less we have to hide behind, which keeps us focused on making the music weird enough on its own. We just try to write the fuck out of some tunes, because you never know when your pedals are going to explode or get stolen, and you can’t let that stop the killing. Nothing should stop the killing.
I want to offer my sincerest gratitude to the band for allowing me to conduct this interview. (And I have not copied the album FYI, I feel that would be disrespectful!)
On a final note, if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read and heard, I leave you with a video of Lazer/Wulf performing one of the best tracks off the album, Choose Again (Right Path):