Published Apr 23, 2011The buzz around Pulling Teeth's latest has been palpable for the last couple of months. The quality of their preceding Paranoid Delusions/Paradise Illusions was such that Funerary has become a "can they top that?" record. The Baltimore, MD fivesome burst out of the gates with "From Birth" and in an instant they sound more intense, furious and fierce than ever. Indeed, the first half of Funerary rages harder than the laudable Martyr Immortal ever did and this is also the consistently fastest material recorded by the group to date. In addition, this is Pulling Teeth at their most metal ― calling them "metallic hardcore" suddenly sounds like an understatement. Six songs deep, after being beaten to a pulp, listeners are treated to the relief that is the slow, melancholic title track, marking a significant change in mood and pace for the reminder of the album; it's all darkness, gloom and scary atmospherics from here on out, but some of the excitement and urgency are lost. Aside from the stellar "At Peace" and the Melvins worship that is "Waiting," this half doesn't add enough to this side of the band, first introduced on Paranoid Delusions two years ago. But, fear not, it is still an essential listen ― never have the band sounded this formidable and the multitude of guest appearances is fantastic.
On Funerary, your love for metal is more prevalent and better executed than ever before.
Guitarist Domenic Romeo: It wasn't intentional; it just happened that way. There are a ton of incomplete song skeletons kicking around in my iPod; I'm what one might call a musical pack rat. Since the band were playing a lot less, that gave me a lot of time to sort through some of the ideas and build them into complete and interesting songs.
From Martyr Immortal and onwards, the band began to sound like a surge, like a rush towards something or against something. What are you warring for or against on Funerary?
This time around, we're racing the clock towards the end of it all: death and the world we leave behind when we get there. Funerary was completely inspired, from its inception to its completion, by the recent passing of both Mike's (vocals) father, as well as my own.
Pulling Teeth's lyrics, even when angry and grim, have emitted calls for positive change and even hope, as well as constructive criticism of society, but on Funerary, I sense a very strong misanthropic view on humanity and its destructive/wasteful ways, yet underneath are layers of melancholy.
As we get older, we watch so many of the same situations repeat themselves, ones that could have been solved with common sense. But instead, they turn into a huge, unresolved, time wasting ordeals; I'm speaking on both a personal and universal level. Sometimes it just feels hopeless to even try to do more than keep your backyard clean, and sometimes you can't even do that. But you wake up every day and do what you need to do, and hope for the best. The time will come when you aren't going to wake up anymore.
How you lined up the songs brings to mind the old days of metal when side A would include the obvious hits and fast tracks, but side B would be more pensive and peculiar. Was this a goal of yours?
Always. The first half usually makes anyone with a short attention span happy, but I think the real magic always lies on the second half of our records. Songs like the original "Dismissed In Time (As Perfection Unwinds)," "Paranoid Delusions" and, more recently, "Funerary" are some of my favourite tracks. Whenever I go back and listen to those songs, I always discover something new I like about them. Turn off the lights, put on some headphones and get weird.
Pulling Teeth are touring less with every release. With you becoming a father, members getting married and your label (A389 Records) kicking into a higher gear, how did these factors affect the songwriting process and the realization of Funerary?
It gave us the luxury of hitting the studio every week and working on the record a bit at a time without the distraction of tours or rehearsals. On the flipside though, I was definitely torn between spending long hours in the studio and being at home with my family; it's tough finding a balance as new priorities enter my life. Everyone else had stuff going on as well, but we all made it through intact and ended up with a record that exceeded all of our expectations.
The music industry has changed dramatically and the landscape that labels have to deal with and continuously adapt to has as well. More and more, smaller labels and the bands themselves are taking the reins and seizing control, finding ways to get the music out to people in the best economical fashion possible in this age of downloading for free.
It's really no different than when I was a kid and the thing to do was tape your friends' records, and if you liked them enough you would go out and buy them. I'm in support of free music if it's already been released, but disagree with the sense of entitlement that a lot of people display on the internet. I like free music as much as the next guy, and like turning my friends onto new records, but I don't feel like I have the right to publicly demand that specific releases be put up for download. A little discretion would be nice. As far as dealing with it goes, A389 offers most of our releases as really cheap digital downloads. This way, people with a conscious can feel like they're giving back something.
In the past, you've worked with the prolific Deathwish Inc. Records but not this time around. Why was better to take this one yourselves and how has it been different as far as finding a place for this newborn in this world?
There just wasn't a need anymore. We are no longer a touring band, so we don't really have any desire to exist in a realm where there are expenses, budgets and deadlines beyond our control. We wanted to exist completely on our own terms and answer only to ourselves. The split twelve-inch with Irons was actually the last record in our contract. We did everything we were supposed to do and vice versa, and there are no hard feelings, as far as I know.
You've always been open to inviting guests to participate in your recordings, but this time around you have five or six guests, mostly vocalists, but also musicians that add sounds and noise. This number of guests is quite rare in metal, let alone hardcore, reminding me of a hip-hop album.
I love when opportunities arise to create music with people whose talents I admire, or just enjoy being around. We were lucky to have a lot of great contributions on this album. Everyone was great; I can't pick a favourite. Aside from all the guest vocals, our friend Dougie, who was actually the original Pulling Teeth bassist, circa the 2005 demo, was the unsung hero of the recording. He hung around and helped with a lot of vocal harmonies and even did little cello piece in the middle of the title track. His talent knows no bounds. In the end, the sum is better than the individual parts and I think it creates a more interesting listen overall. It's like putting down that PB&J sandwich you brought for lunch and deciding to eat at a buffet instead.
You've been known to record more songs than needed for your records that later come out on splits or other projects. Can we expect more Pulling Teeth material this year other than Funerary and the Irons split?
I doubt it. No one really has time these days to take on anything else, but maybe that will change in the future. Most of us have other bands that still make records as well. We're working on a new Virgin Witch record, Chris (bass) and I do Hatewaves, who have a new seven-inch coming out this summer. He also plays in a weird band called Pala, who just released a new LP on A389, as well as a pop punk band called Invitational. Mitch (guitar) is always working on some band or another; he's an industry insider. The other dudes are busy with work, school and being old.
You have a direct affiliation with the Ontario hardcore and metal scenes from your time in Day of Mourning and growing up here. After being away for such a long time, how does it look from afar seeing as you've had this distance and unique perspective for years now? What are some found memories from those days that you lived here and had a hand in the scene?
So many. Obviously I'm glad I got to see bands like Haymaker, Left For Dead and almost every Swarm show that happened in Ontario. Hamilton aside, it was cool to get to see bands like BFGs and Dayglo Abortions play, but there were a lot of gems outside of the punk/hardcore realm that left a lasting impression on me. As a kid, I honed my tastes watching Toronto Rocks and Much Music's Power Hour. I loved Thor, Triumph, Rush, Gowan and Helix. Later on it became hair bands like Slik Toxik and Big House, and then bands like Malhavoc and Sacrifice. I loved it all then, and still do now. By the time the '90s rolled around, I became actively involved in the local scene. Bands like Tchort, Mundane, Soulstorm, Association Area and even Monster Voodoo Machine really presented a diverse range of heavy music. Everyone did their own thing, which in theory should have made for an awesome local scene, but I think the problem was a lot of these bands didn't get much recognition or acknowledgement from their home. When they did, it was a pat on the back for being Canadian, not necessarily for musical merit or any sort of real accomplishment. It's cool to look back at those bands almost 20 years later and realize the impression they made on me. I think the wave of bands that followed, such as No Warning, Moneen, the End and ultimately Fucked Up definitely went on to do great things and be recognized for their own musical merit and not just being from Canada. I actually just put out the first Pick Your Side (ex Haymaker) seven-inch, which rules. Burning Love play out a lot. Vilipend are pretty sick. There are a lot of cool bands going on up there nowadays, but I definitely feel like an outsider since I haven't lived there in over a decade. That's the beauty of it all: no matter where or when, music scenes just live on no matter who comes and goes. I will tell you this much though, I really wish I still had that second Gush Underdrive demo. (A389)