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.