(Our Sacramento-based colleague DGR concludes a week-long effort to catch up on reviews before immersing himself in year-end LISTMANIA, with one last write-up today.)
Hey, have you heard of this place called Sacramento?
This one won’t be as much a review as previous pieces as it is a simple heads-up and a chance to reminisce a bit. If you had told me that in 2018 I’d be talking about Sacramento “too metal for the core kids, too core for the metal kids” band Conducting From The Grave‘s first album When Legends Become Dust without having to invent some sort of opportunity to do so, I would’ve laughed. But here we are.
The band is pretty much done by this point, with guitarist John Abernathy carrying on with an all-star cast of local Sacramento musicians in the newer, more shred and death metal focused project that is Wastewalker. However, much like Cattle Decapitation unearthing various corpses for the consumption of their fanbase with their Medium Rarities collection (reviewed here yesterday), the Conducting crew managed to pull off their own historical archeology dig back in early October, which managed to really pull back the curtains on the behind-the-scenes workings of what goes into recording a disc.
Thus was revealed an alternate version of their album When Legends Become Dust that the band had recorded and were going to release, before they were sent back into the studio under the direction of their label. The story, as relayed to The Circle Pit by the band, goes as follows:
“This recording was originally recorded Spring of 2008 and submitted to Sumerian Records as the official album. However, during a tour with Carnifex, Arsonists Get All the Girls, Embrace the End, and Broadcast the Nightmare in Summer of 2008, our singer Drew Winter quit and flew home. Since we needed a new singer anyways, our label Sumerian Records pushed us to revise and re-record the album with bigger name producer Zack Ohren at Castle Ultimate. A good chunk of the songs had already been released on the Trials of the Forsaken EP so those were set in stone, however replacement vocalist Lou Tanius had free range to change/write his own vocals on 4 of the songs. Drew went on to use some of these lyrics when he joined Fate (Metal Blade) which later sorta morphed into Shadow of the Colossus.
“Here is the original track order, original titles, original mixes, original lyrics, original riff arrangements etc. If you’re in a band and dig the production, hit up Mayhemness studios in Sacramento, Robert Swanson did a great job and he’s gotten even better in the decade since. We are making it free or pay what you want via Bandcamp, and I’ve even thrown in some of my new band Wastewalker’s tracks as a bonus at the end. Hopefully you all enjoy, thanks for the 15+ years of supporting my noodling and chugging!”
It is really interesting diving back into an album like this and hearing what is basically an alternate-universe version of their debut. There’s so much that is familiar, but it’s also a vocalist who prior to this was only on the group’s early EP works. Not only that, but you have whole new arrangements of songs and even stuff that didn’t make the cut.
Some tracks are like listening to songs that you thought you were familiar with, only to have them thrown into a blender and have different sections pop up earlier than you might’ve expected, and other times later. Some are unrecognizable, with parts having made it to the final disc and others getting the full re-worked treatment on the lyrical front.
It’s a crazy experience and comes from a band whose eventual history would play out just as oddly, including their revolving door of frontmen — save for vocalist Mikey Powell, who held down the fort for two albums and a number of years — so that their final show was this weird celebration of Conducting From The Grave karaoke, with people from all over their history, fans, and people from other bands taking over the vocal work.
Not only did the band put out this album, but (as noted above) they also made it “pay what you want”, and John included a mini-three-song collection from the Wastewalker project’s Funeral Winds album at the tail end (the band have mentioned that they’re heading into the studio soon to record their followup), which is a little bit like musical time travel. It’s a fascinating experience to undertake, especially if you were a fan of the band.