In Memoriam – A God Forbid Retrospective

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It’s only been a week since we closed the door on God Forbid, but with so much outpouring of affection, sharing of memories, disclosures of sadness bordering on mourning from friends, fans, fellow compatriots in the music industry, and my own reflections burrowing their way from my subconscious to the surface, I thought I should share some of my thoughts about what kind of legacy we left.

In all honesty, it feels silly to use a word like legacy when talking about my own band, but I was actually having some sentimental feelings about the musical catalog God Forbid has amassed when I was preparing for the last couple shows we did, before I decided to leave the group. I was practicing a few songs I hadn’t played in a while, and in that time, I started listening back to some songs and albums I hadn’t heard to in quite some time. And in that moment, I felt a deep sense of pride and accomplishment. For perhaps the first time, I heard a distinct sound that permeated from our first album to our last. Although that sound had evolved over time and become more nuanced and composed and lost some of it’s teeth, much of the feel was there. The groove was consistent. Dynamics always played a part. Darkness and melody persisted and coexisted. The words spoke about pushing through and striving for better.

It’s unfortunate, but only a small fraction of the fanbase made the full journey from Reject the Sickness to Equilibrium. (I consider Out of Misery to be a demo to this day.) And the ones that didn’t come along for the ride usually fail to see the link that ties it all together, perhaps me included until now. Our fanbase seems to be split up into a few different pockets.

1.) There’s the aforementioned lifers.

2.) Fans that were generally into the band for Reject the Sickness/Determination (1999-2002) and than fell out of step with the band or wrote us off.

3.) The biggest constituency of fans being the group that caught the band at it’s apex of momentum and exposure for the Gone Forever/Constitution of Treason records (2003-2006).

4.) People who caught wind of the band on either Earthsblood or most recently Equilibrium (2009-2013). It took us 7 years to put out these last 2 albums, and I think people just move on, so it’s understandable. These eras were so drastically different, it becomes easy to see how difficult it is to maintain a career through so many trend shifts which were quite seismic.

I spent so much of my youth desperately doing everything in my power to get God Forbid over the proverbial hump. Whatever that next step was; Getting on a big local show, playing out of state, getting signed, getting on a big tour, hitting certain sales landmarks, and after seeing the big leagues on Ozzfest first hand, trying to become a big leaguer ourselves. The key word there though is desperate. Going from being a regular schlub working at Kinkos and mowing lawns to being a “rock star” was intoxicating. I didn’t go to college. I didn’t have a back up plan. THIS WAS IT. Failure was not an option. I didn’t want to go back to being regular.

I had an interesting conversation the other night with an old friend who happened to be God Forbid’s booking agent during first professional phase of our career. He gave me some personal constructive criticism that I’m sure I needed to hear, although I don’t know if it has totally sunk in yet. I think the gist of the comment was that I am a little too analytical for my own good, and perhaps I tried in the past to manipulate too much strategy in regards to the band and how things were presented and moves were made. Perhaps even from a creative standpoint. This explanation may sound cryptic and it’s impossible to tell if it’s totally true in hindsight, but I understand the point he is trying to make and he is probably 100% right.

I think what he meant was that God Forbid probably would have been more successful if we were a bit more comfortable in our own skin and just allowed things to come to us naturally. Maybe desperation to be a “big band” put us and me specifically out of step with what people truly connect to: Pureness of intention and expression.

I can’t posthumously get into our collective heads when we were writing any of the records that we made, but I do think it’s an error to try and head shrink any band and attempt to decode what the intentions were when they were making an album that is a definitive creative shift.

Some people have not liked the band since adding clean vocals on Gone Forever. But most people don’t know that we wanted some clean vocals on Determination, but Byron didn’t do it, so that’s why Dallas started singing. It wasn’t a power play. We just liked music where the vocals fit the dynamic of the music. The music was melodic, so the vocals should match. Some of my favorite bands in 2000-2003 were Jimmy Eat World, Incubus, Glassjaw, Deftones. I felt that screaming alone made us somewhat of an inferior band in terms of musical ability, and several of us felt that way. Also, it’s important to know that there are arguments that happen internally within bands on how drastic changes should be, and I’m sure some band members didn’t agree with me or Dallas. There was always a battle over the power dynamic in the group.

I do sometimes wonder sometimes what the band would sound like had we stayed closer to the Determination/Reject sound or if we were even capable of making more records like that. Would we have been closer to a Between the Buried and Me or After the Burial?Ultimately, we found our comfort zone in wanting to be an authentic American metal band. Groove, hook, precision, songs, tradition. Maybe that territory was too crowded. Maybe some other bands just did it better. It’s hard to say, but I love all of our records. Only now do I really hear and fully appreciate the inventiveness of Determination, but my tastes have changed, and I think others appreciate the intensity and frenetic shifts more than I do now.

It’s probably the same reason I’m not a big punk fan. People listen to Black Flag because of the raw energy, not because of brilliant arrangements and stunning production. My favorite tracks are the epic, more proggy songs like “Washed Out World” or “Crucify Your Beliefs” or “The New Clear”. I have a better taste for the grandiose.

I look back at that time, and recall it as a constant grapple with inadequacy. I remember having a manager, who also managed Thursday and Shadows Fall at the time, explain to us all of the opportunities that were closed off to us because we were too heavy or jarring musically. I remember Century Media Germany and the European market not really “getting” Determination. I remember not being able to draw flies on headlining tours with bands like Bleeding Through, Avenged Sevenfold, and Trivium opening up, and being flummoxed as to why it wasn’t connecting. I remember watching 1,000 people walk out the door before our set at a local headlining show at the Birch Hill Nite Club when Thursday, Glassjaw, and Diecast opening in 2001. I remember physically watching the entire crowd leave our set at Hellfest 2003, to go watch Howard Jone’s first gig with Killswitch Engage.

I’m not sure if I was naturally insecure, or if I was just reacting appropriately to disappointing events. With that said, these developments shaped our perspective and collective insecurity. That’s part of the reason we had a chip on our shoulder that would never really go away. Maybe my ex-booking agent is correct.

Looking back at the entire group of work as objectively as possible, I would still mark Gone Forever as the clear watershed moment, for better or worse, where we hit the perfect stride of tunefulness and grit. We finally hit the pulse of the heavy music community at large even if the underground perceived the album as a slight. That album attracted heroes of mine to take notice of the band like Rob Flynn (Machine Head), Dino Cazares (Fear Factory), and Adam Jones (Tool). I also don’t regret the evolution of presenting more singing into the band. The early stuff might have more visceral, jugular impact, but the later stuff breathes more and speaks more to the totality of human emotion. Currently, I don’t listen to much music where it’s all screaming. The music itself has to be pretty unbelievable like Lamb of God or Meshuggah to keep me interested for an entire album.

Overall, I am really proud of our legacy. Whether that legacy is being a trailblazer in the Metalcore or NWOAHM scenes or being one for first well known ethnic metal bands. People were inspired, and they tell me how important we were to them, and it’s still difficult to wrap my head around that. Depending on who you talk to, we were either overrated or underrated, overhyped or underexposed. Time will tell. The body is still fresh. Let’s let it lie and the end of the story will write itself.

17 Replies to “In Memoriam – A God Forbid Retrospective”

  1. Doc – thank you for taking the time to express your feelings at a time when your feelings Im sure are pulling you in all directions. I think you made several valid evaluations about GF’s career and I believe you hit it the nail on the head in many different areas. I was ALWAYS a huge fan of the band (you know that) & I truly thought GF always had it within to be a band that could go all the way. I would agree that the strong individual personalities within hindered that path though,….either with backend relationships OR how the individuals were perceived in the market by fans. I always loved the dual brother attack that you & Dallas presented live. To me it was what gave GF that edge. In my book,….losing Dallas was a big blow. AND, knowing the details of his departure,….maybe internal relationships could have been better served. Anyway you cut it ‘politics’ sux all the way around,…but it is vital to be saavy in all facets of life. With all that said, I will share that I love each and every album the band released,…& still jam profusely to them all the time. You should be very proud of what you accomplished & the legacy are you ARE leaving behind. Because no matter what happens – those records will live on long after we’re gone (forever 😉 As you look ahead, I will also add this. You are an extraordinary guitarist & more so, songwriter. I will pray that you dont put music down. I truly believe with new musical collaborations, friends, & relationships that the best is yet still to come from you. I know there are some pretty solid peeps who would luv to work on something new with you. Do it – we will be watching. Thanks Doc for bringing your music into my life & for always being a cool dude. ~ El Mero Metal, Robb Chavez

  2. Doc,
    Just finished up the Metal Sucks podcast, which ultimately led me here. The first time I had heard God Forbid was when Gone Forever had just come out in 2004 when I was finishing up high school. I remember being blown away by the heaviness and the overall production. One thing a lot of people fail to not about God Forbid was that you guys always had excellent tone and production. You were ahead of the pack. I think that album has a perfect blend of different genres. But, I must say that listening to Reject the Sickness and Determination is still a treat for me. These albums are so ahead of their time. You guys were doing a lot of tech stuff that really didn’t get popular until the last 4-5 years. I really prefer Determination now more so than your other albums. I used to be into a lot of bands like Unearth, Killswitch, and Shadow’s Fall. Now, I cannot even listen to their music with the exception of Unearth’s ‘The Stings of Conscience.” To me, God Forbid was always a step ahead of the other other ‘Metalcore’ bands as far as pushing the limits of technicality. I think that’s the only reason I kept listening to you guys. Maybe it was an issue of you guys being too technical for metalcore, but not technical enough for guys that liked bands like the Dillinger Escape Plan. At any rate, I always enjoyed your music, and enjoyed your shows. You guys were always good to me at shows. I look forward to seeing what is next for you.

  3. I only actually heard GF when Equilibrium came out. I checked out the previous albums and need to get my collection completed. I like to think I’ve listened to a lot of metal. Equilibrium is one of if not my favorite metal album of all time. I was lucky to see you guys when you hit Seattle. It sucks that the band is done, but I am glad to have at least heard it. Not even being biased because a friend is in the band or because more than one member “looks like me”. But being a black musucian into metal, that was cool to see. Everyone always makes their assumptions when I say I’m a musician…sometimes as if I was in the wrong genre. I guess i ran off on another story that you probably already know.

    I guess the bottom line is: it totally sucks to see the band disappear, but thanks for making such great music and i guess pushing the limits of what metal can be. I wish you all the best and I’ll see ya here and on FB…and will keep an ear out for whatever each of you ends up doing in music. \m/(o_O)\m/

  4. Awesome outpouring of your thoughts, once again. I enjoyed the brutal honesty, especially about watching people leaving the shows and the “breakdown” of your fans.

    Looking forward to any future music endeavours you may have.

  5. Doc-very sad to learn of the end of GF, but happy to read what you and Beeker had to say, and the old memories are definitely flowing. You guys are one of a kind. You were a success. There are very few frontmen who I get excited about, and Byron was the real deal. Corey is a sick drummer and Beeker always nails it. I loved watching you and your bro play live, and I loved hanging out with you guys every chance I got. I miss you guys and will miss buying your albums and supporting God Forbid. Some bands hit it big and some don’t, and it isn’t worth agonizing over. Obviously you want to be paid for the hard work you put in, and for the all of the years of hard touring in a van, and the commitment to the writing of the albums and the evolution of the live show. But success is viewed differently by different folks. I believe God Forbid was a success. Metal fans hold God Forbid in a high regard. People comment on the ability of each of you. My friends in Joliet love you guys. I love you guys. And not just because you’re my old school Jersey homies. Keep writing, keep playing, remember why you love heavy music and why you wanted to play in a band. I know you will stay focused and continue to produce excellent music, whether its rock or metal or something entirely different. Rock on dude. DLH

  6. Doc, your posts get more thoughtful and appreciated every passing day. Thanks for the insight. I remember hanging out with you guys after a show at the Blackthorn in The Bronx, where the place was unceremoniously ghosted by a previous band. You guys were mainstays and its a shame to see you go.

  7. Well, you knows I am a lifer, and it upsets me that you are no longer with GF. But I completely get why you need to leave and regardless of what you do, you’ll always have me by your side man!

    And as per usual, the reads on here, definitely tickle my brain which just makes it even MORE awesome.

    You are an AMAZING artist, and I hope to see you soon, so GENTLY slam hug you darling!

  8. Lifer here.

    Excellent read as always. Pretty much hit every nail on the head as I expected.

    To echo a previous comment I’d like to point out Godforbid is in every way a musical success and that is all that matters. What wonderful pieces of art left for the future generations to enjoy. Sure id like more but I am so pleased to have these records for the rest of my journey. Life needs a kickass soundtrack, here’s to already having found some of it.

  9. Doc,

    I have lost touch of what was going on with GFB after Dallas left and then picked back up a few years ago and was digging the new stuff and waiting to see you live again but it never happened so sad to see the end. We all move on and do our own thing but it was a great time in my life getting to meet you time and again over the years while I had Groove Or Die! Magazine but life changes us all. Glad there’s the internet where we can still see how our guitar heroes are doing.

    Take care

  10. Doc, For what it’s worth…when I watched you guys play in SLC I was blown away! I wasn’t even going to like God Forbid cause of the name and I’m a Mormon girl, I just like my music heavy lol. I have never seen a band play with such confidence and in synchronicity. That was in April 2012 and I still have Equilibrium in my car CD player. Haha. Anyways, you’ve got it…it’s about evolving as an individual. You will continue to find your way; you’re a very talented musician! ❤ Alda

  11. Hey Doc,

    This is really just an honest, amazing read. It’s unfortunate that God Forbid has come to the end of the road, but at least you’ve had a moment of clarity that has allowed you to look back at your awesome work. No matter what, this band is the one I refer to when people ask “so, what kind of metal do you like?”. I started listening to you guys in about 2006 when my friend showed GF to me, and I’ve never changed my mind on how fucking awesome you guys are since. I’ve seen you guys play twice, most recently in PA with the Trespass America tour for which me and my friend actually made the trip out to see you guys. I hope wherever you end up, it’s somewhere good because you deserve it and the world needs to hear more of you!

  12. I met you guys several times when you toured through Seattle. (I know Matt from Days in the Seattle music scene.) I was always a big fan. I remember you guys coming through El Corazon and there was hardly anyone there because there hadn’t been much press about the tour. You guys Ripped as though the club were full. I always got a nod from Byron when ever you were in town. Some people used to mistake me for him since I happen to be a black guy with dreds. You know how it is. I’ll always treasure the music you guys made and your influence on me was clear. Peace

  13. I am a new listener and was bummed to hear that you guys broke up, because you guys made such great music. Whether it was Reject all the way to Equilibrium it is difficult to find a band who evolved the way that you gentlemen .did I wasn’t fortunate

  14. I am a new listener and was bummed to hear that you guys broke up, because you guys made such great music. Whether it was Reject all the way to Equilibrium it is difficult to find a band who evolved the way that you gentlemen did. I wasn’t fortunate enough to listen to God Forbid from the beginning or go to any shows but I hope you and the band mates the best of luck. Also can’t wait to hear what you have in your upcoming projects I hope that you find what you what you are looking for and good luck

  15. I almost feel obligated to say something here. I was 15 when I first discovered God Forbid in early 2004. It was this time period where I was quickly learning to love heavier and heavier music. It didn’t hurt that you were semi-local(I’m in Long Island) I had heard a one or two tracks(probably Better Days & Antihero), but it didn’t hit until I saw GF at Ozzfest that summer at Jones Beach. Perhaps you recall, YOU SHOWED UP MAD LATE and missed your scheduled set. I was concerned that you wouldn’t play. Damn, that could have changed everything. I don’t care that it was a 20 minute set, I was blown away. I was immediately listening to Gone Forever every day, then I listened to Determination in its entirety. Look, I love Gone Forever but IMO Determination blows it away.

    I never choose absolute favorites in anything- God Forbid became the exception. I remember hearing Divinity for the first time ever live at The Downtown in Farmingdale, NY; before I knew anything about the upcoming album. It was fucking angelic or something.

    Between 2004 and 2009 I had seen God Forbid live at least ten times. After that, that was it. I have missed God Forbid every time since then. I even had tickets twice, and it just didn’t work out(I had to miss the metal suckfest and accidentally entered late on the LOG tour) I’ve referred to it as the curse of Dallas; since he left all sorts of freak events prevented me from seeing God Forbid live again.
    *Bonus fact: I planned on going to the Webster Hall gig next month.

    God Forbid was the most important band to me as my preferences in metal began to take shape back in 2004, and still GF is the only band considered ‘metalcore’ that I thoroughly enjoyed. When it came to modern american metal it was Lamb of God, DevilDriver, but mostly God Forbid.

    I’m all sentimental because I’ve been drinking. Just one last thing- if you ever feel like jamming with the band again around NYC(or Long Island, possibly even NJ), feel free to do so. I’ll show up and give you my money.

  16. hey ya…I just want to say I’m a big fan. You are one of my heroes and I stumbled upon this blog just trying to find more news of what your future will hold….I have to say that your writing is awesome…I’ve spent the last couple hours reading your entries. You are so very insightful. Keep up the good work. I am proud of you individually and collectively with GF and just want you to know that no matter what you do, you will have my full support (for whatever that is worth).

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