The Apprehension Engine – New Djent Band or Metal AF Instrument?


Scene: You’re at a party with some of the local bourgies, and one rad bro in a deep V turns to you and asks, “Hey man, have you heard The Apprehension Engine?” How you respond will determine your social standing and potentially impact your future daughter’s chances of getting into Harvard on a legacy ride. What are you going to say?

As your face begins to perspire, you press a cold can of the Banquet beer against your furrowed brow and quickly scan through your mental rolodex to see if this is some newfangled prog band you’ve never heard. “The Apprehension Engine? Hmmm, that’s not a Verb the Noun band! Were they on warped tour? Did I see them posted in that Facebook Djentlemen’s Club? Crap crap crap!” Things are looking dark for little Piper’s free-ride…

Suddenly, you hear a goat bleating from the corner of the yard (people totally rent goats, btw), and a lightning bolt of clarity cracks through your Zima-addled brain. A goat? Black Phillip! The Witch! Mark Korven! “Of course I’ve heard of the Apprehension Engine!” you loudly boast, your chest puffed out with braggadocio. “It’s cool, but that goofy thing isn’t a real instrument,” you laugh preemptively. Maybe Johnny here will help you land a summer internship at his old man’s Tampa office and…

Suddenly, the whole crowd is quiet. You can feel the baleful glances of every single attendee at this soiree boring into your exposed vulnerability. “Uh, what?” Johnny intones pedantically. “Of course it is. Just ask the man himself.”

Well, you may have blown your chances of impressing all the socialites and placed a black curse upon your family’s financial well-being that will hang around your surname’s neck like a dead albatross for generations to come, but at least you have a chance to learn yourself about the raddest new instrument around.

Photo VIA

The Apprehension Engine is a custom, multi-function instrument built by famed luthier Tony Duggan-Smith specifically for renowned composer Mark Korven, the genius behind the soundtrack of the critically acclaimed horror drag The VVitch. Korven is best known for marrying traditional instrumentation to dreadful atmospherics, an approach that fits his oeuvre (which also includes Cube and The Twilight Zone) perfectly. Frustrated with the over-digitalization of modern film scores, Korven sought out Duggan-Smith to craft a real, playable machine that provides the requisite tension and feedback necessary to provide a raw, heartfelt performance. Korven wanted to actually write and perform music that had weight and texture to it in order to craft the kind of dread and atmosphere he saw in the films he scored. It’s an interesting approach, one that echoes the motives of Author&Punisher creator Tristan Shone who famously opined that electronic music should push back against the artist, for without pain, how can there be art.

Korven’s device itself is pretty ingenious, expanding upon the rather simplistic creaks and groans created by means of a waterphone with which most horror fans are familiar. No, the Apprehension Engine features a set of rulers of different lengths to provide mechanical resonance, a reverb tank to emit unsettling echoes, and all manner of strings, levers, cranks, and other metallic appurtenances to be manipulated with an ebow in order to evoke different pitches and drones. It’s all very textural and used to craft a strong atmosphere of brooding weight. It’s also metal AF and as scary as any riff dreamed up by Impetuous Ritual. As you can see in the video below, in the hands of a master like Korven, the Apprehension Engine can replace any number of traditional instruments and create a startling soundscape for on-screen terror.

Most importantly, however, the device is used to elicit an emotional response. And, to the maestro himself, that alone is enough to constitute the sounds emitted by this device as music. The Apprehension Engine certainly makes me feel things (mostly bad vibes, man), and watching Korven manipulate his custom instrument is witnessing art in motion. I can’t wait to hear how Korven will use the apparatus to inject terror into some creepy films in the future.

You may have failed Johnny’s previous test, but there’s still hope yet. Perhaps you should counter with a list of bands you’d like to see use the Apprehension Engine in the future. Would you like to hear Khanate exorcise some demons with the ebow? Would the device provide the perfect introduction to a new Incantation record? Would you pay to see The Curator from Portal play a solo show on the Apprehension Engine (I totally would). Sound off in the comments below and save little Piper’s Harvard chances.

(h/t Jonathan Barkan at Dread Central)

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