Mar 192010

NO CLEAN SINGING is the name of this site, but no singing at all can work just fine, too. Especially when the music slams us in the head like an intricately carved club. Case in point: The Brown Book.

It’s a daunting task for extreme metal bands to find a reward for their efforts, even when they’ve got talent and drive. The challenge of getting noticed and signed to a label is even more daunting for bands that dwell in the smaller crevices of that already small niche. But as The Brown Book proves, there’s some really interesting shit going on down there where not much light shines on the toilers.

The basic facts: Three dudes, two who live in Quincy, Mass (Jay O’Malley on guitar and Ryan Lavery on drums), and one who lives in Brooklyn (guitarist Mike Kvidera). No vocalist. One self-released album last year called Thirty-Nothing, which was written in a room by that name, pictured on the right — basically a utility hallway in the basement of an old shipping mill in New Bedford, Mass. With any luck, maybe a new album later this year.

So, you get the picture — a poster child for DIY metal. But with a twist: Instead of launching themselves into one of the more recognizable subgenres of extreme music, The Brown Book have been impelled into what some lazy commentators might call “experimental” or “noise” metal.

We know what those labels are meant to signify, and laziness is one of our favorite states of existence — but what The Brown Book are doing isn’t so easily classifiable. The music is heavy, it’s pummeling, it’s hypnotic, it’s discordant, it’s melodic, it’s unpredictable, it’s organized mayhem. It’s all of those things, plus some, and it sure as fuck hits our sweet spot. (more after the jump, including a short interview and a sample track to hear . . .)

The problem with terms like “experimental” and “noise” is they don’t tell you very much that’s meaningful, and worse yet, they can communicate the wrong impression. I hear “experimental,” and I think of a guitarist saying, “hey man, I wonder what it would sound like if I used a cheese grater instead of a pick.” I hear “noise metal” and I think of a room full of kids at playtime making random, uncoordinated racket.

Thirty-Nothing isn’t unplanned or uncoordinated. It’s not wanking about with a bunch of electrified noisemakers. It’s an intense, thoughtfully constructed, serious-minded approach to conveying and inducing powerful emotions, created by people who are talented musicians and inventive songwriters.

Depending on the song, or the moments within particular songs, the guitars shriek in distorted agony, or drone in pulsating waves, or flutter like birds, or inject passages of simple melody. And often the guitars simply lay down a background wall of sound and allow the bass and drums to take the lead with punishing power or surprise you with their entrance, like bombs going off.

The drumming is especially impressive — it’s as much a lead actor in this play as the guitars. No blast beats here, but an enormously varied attack that by turns is hypnotic, violently compelling, and disturbingly chaotic.

Songs like “Family Outing” and “Snuff King” begin slowly, even quietly, but then erupt into a sonic maelstrom, with riffing that sounds improvisational at times (though it surely isn’t). Rock ‘n roll rhythms appear in “Jump the Shark,” only to be overcome by a building crescendo of howling guitar with a hint of melody weaving its way in the background.

The album is full of contrasts in rhythm and tone and densely layered in its textures. But it’s also got a garage-band kind of production quality that strips it of any pretensions and roots it in organic earth. It is, in short, very powerful and very interesting.

No doubt, there are some rough edges to the music, but the raw talent that’s evident on Thirty-Nothing stokes our interest in what will come next. Here’s a sample of what The Brown Book has to offer:

The Brown Book: Snuff King

If you like what you hear, you can order the album here.


We had the chance to ask guitarist Mike Kvidera a few questions about the band and its future direction:

NCS: Looks like there were four of you when Thirty-Nothing was recorded, but your MySpace page suggests you are now a three-piece. Which instrument is missing? And are you looking for a fourth when you record the new album?

Mike: We recorded Thirty Nothing with Todd Bowser on bass guitar, but he is no longer with the band.  We wrote the songs as a 3 piece, while Todd lived in Texas and sent him recordings so he could lay down the bass tracks in the studio.  We don’t have any bass players on the horizon to fill his shoes right now, but Jay or I might record bass in the studio, or just have this album as a three piece.
NCS: Are all of you still in the Quincy/Boston area?
Mike: The drummer Ryan Lavery, and other guitar player Jay O’Malley still live in Quincy, and I live in Brooklyn.  We met while I was living in Providence, but were in different bands that toured together.  I ended up moving to nyc when my band broke up and started writing with Ryan and Jay when I went back to visit.  That was nearly 3 years ago now and I have driven up there to practice/write/record 1 – 2 weekends every month since.
NCS: What can you tell us about how you guys learned to play (eg, previous bands, musical training, etc.)?
Mike: Jay and Ryan grew up together outside of Boston and were in a band called Banana Hands that merged into what the Brown Book is today. I was in a hardcore band called Preacher Gone To Texas in Iowa (were i’m originally from) and met those guys when I moved to Providence and was playing in band called marah-mar.  None of us have formal training.  We learned to play like many people, by getting together with our friends and pushing each other to be better as we learn.
NCS: How would you describe what you’re planning for the new album and how it compares to what we hear on Thirty-Nothing?
Mike: The new album will be called Pyramid Scheme and the songs in general are heavier and more concentrated.  We dropped the tuning to C and started writing every song to be more brutal than the last.  You’ll still recognize the style from Thirty-Nothing to Pyramid Scheme, but the main difference is we want to slay anything that we’ve written before this album.
NCS: If all goes according to plan, when would the new album be finished and ready for distribution?
Mike: We have studio time booked in May and we’re aiming to have it out by tour in late August/September.  We are looking for a label to help put it out and distribute, so if anyone is interested, we’re all ears.

  4 Responses to “THE BROWN BOOK”

  1. If you talk to these dudes again I’d be interested to know if the band’s name is a nod to the volume of Wittgenstein’s notes collected under the same name, in which, among other things, he develops the notion that meaning emerges from games people play with language rather than some connection between language and reality. It would be kind of fitting based on the cut you shared.

    • I did ask Mike Kvidera where the band name came from, and he told me it was the name of a self-release label that Ryan Lavery and Jay O’Malley used to put out records for their previous band, Banana Hands. Course, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong in your surmise about Wittgenstein. It just pushes the question back one step — where did Ryan and Jay come up with the name for their label?

  2. New Brown Book album being recorded this month!

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