A hand grenade with wings adorns the cover of bydeathsdesign's brand-new EP, Only Hits. Is it just a cool image, or is it a mixed metaphor (primed to explode and poised for flight) predicting the Las Vegas hardcore band's rise to fame and glory?
Whatever the image symbolizes, it's permanently tatted on drummer Matt DeCarlo's neck, so the band better learn to love it. Which shouldn't be a problem, at least for a while. See, bydeathsdesign, after being together for a little more than a year, is quickly making things happen.
First and foremost, the band recently signed with Vegas-based start-up indie Embryo Records, releasing the previously mentioned EP before recording a full-length album that's set to drop in the spring with national distribution. In addition, both UnitedPunk.com and the on-hiatus LVLocalMusicScene.com deemed the hardcore "band of the month" in the fall. All this and opening for bands like Superjoint Ritual, make it seem like bydeathsdesign is, like, actually getting somewhere. This is no easy task, especially if you consider the hardcore genre, which goes down about as easy as a chainsaw sandwich.
Listening to Only Hits, you're instantly smacked down by savage screams, gut-wrenching guitars and bloodletting beats, making the band's name more of a sonic manifesto than a nod to the horror flick Final Destination. The opener, "In Reverse," rips a hole in the time-space continuum with a weird speech about "the Teutonic gods of war" before rocket-launching into a two-minute taste of what World War III must sound like. From there, things just get uglier, with songs like "The Result of Tragedy" and "Conceived by Art" showcasing bydeathsdesign's refusal to submit to conventional subject matter --namely girls.
In this light, the title Only Hits becomes a joke. After all, what kind of hit songs have so much sound and fury signifying such reshaped myths as "Icarus"?
"It's funny," explains frontman Sean Delanty, "because they're the only songs we've ever recorded. It's not an album, really, and we didn't want to title it. Embryo pressed 'em, put their logo on 'em. They kinda wanted (the EP) for themselves."
Soon the band will be sharing its music with more than its record company, at least if everything goes well in the studio, which is where bydeathsdesign is spending countless hours in an effort to assemble 15 kick-ass tracks.
"We put our brains together," says Delanty, regarding the studio experience. "We don't want (our music) to be heavy all the way through. We practice and kick the songs around until we get something decent. We don't say, 'We're gonna write a song today,' because that never works. It's just a real collaboration on everyone's part."
Delanty takes his job seriously, refusing to compose lyrics at the last minute. "I write it all down beforehand," he says, "so all the songs have a personal meaning." However personal the words are, Delanty's not above collaborating in this regard, either. The lyrics for "Icarus" were co-penned by second guitarist Matt Amundsen. Asked whether such tactics can make a song sound inconsistent, Delanty replies: "In the end, it's just a song, and you'll be able to understand it on its own."
Speed is key to understanding Delanty and Co. (Amundsen, Edwards, bassist Jarod Mirowski and drummer Matt "Spanky" DeCarlo), and Spanky is the man behind the drum-crazed plan, pushing every song into overdrive, careening alongside, into and through bydeathsdesign's gauntlet of hardcore guitar-riffs.
This is in stark contrast to an earlier band called Spilltowne that included Delanty, Edwards and Mirowski. By everyone's account, it was an effort that yielded mixed results.
"It was a mess," confesses Delanty, "mainly because everybody was getting used to each other's individual styles."
Those varied styles had a lot to do with the band's geographical make-up, as each member hailed from a different part of the country. Delanty, for example, got into hardcore in Virginia, where outside-of-D.C. bands like Minor Threat and Dag Nasty birthed the hardcore genre. But Delanty was and remains a huge Cure fan, while Mirowski continues to adore the Smiths and Morrissey. As a result, there was very little edge to the band.
"Spilltowne wasn't nearly as heavy-sounding as bydeathsdesign," says Delanty. "But it was fun and an experiment. We played here and there in town, but we never took it seriously."