1. The Grand Illusion
The grand illusion here is that you’re about to listen to a black metal record made by someone who doesn’t worship Satan or burn churches or go out in public in corpse paint or anything like that. That’s the message of the song: you wanna call me a poser? That’s fine. The two-handed crash-cymbal accent section at the very end is my hat-tip to Abe Cunningham, one of my favorite drummers of all time.
2. Twist Ending
I’m a sucker for a big, fat, slow, sad song, so this is my take on one of those. The lyrics are kind of a retelling of Tom King’s Mister Miracle run from 2018, which is just an absolutely gutting, heartbreaking “superhero” story.
3. Draw the Beast
Right about the time I had started demoing tracks for this record at home, my dear friend Ryan Wichmann (who sings in Chicago grindcore outfit Sick/Tired) reached out about how he wanted to write and record a song based on Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X comic books. Wolverine is something that Ryan and I have bonded over, and I knew he’d be able to bring an unhinged vocal performance, so I shot him the demo that I had just finished, and that’s how we wound up here. The track was “punker” than all the others so it made sense to have a punk singer on it. His idea to hop on a song also got the wheels turning for me as far as getting some outside collaborators on the record, so I gotta thank him for that. My friend Brett Naucke is a synth wizard, so he added some layers of heavy keyboards to the end drone part to make it even more huge and evil.
4. Winter Song
I take a lot of shit from my friends for my outspoken hatred of summer. I don’t like heat or the sun or humidity. This is a song about how much I love dark, gloomy winters, and how I’d be fine with having cold-ass weather all year round. The demo version I recorded last year had a horrendously out-of-key synth part over the final coda that I vetoed when it came time to make the record.
5. The Voice of Shai-Hulud
This was the first song I wrote for this album, and I knew the second I finished it that I had to “up my game” when it came time to record it. The whole record had to be bigger, more layered, heavier, and deeper than the last, and this song guided that vision.
AMA are the initials of a very close friend who I unexpectedly lost at the very beginning of the year, and this song is about not just me, but the entire creative community we’re part of finding our way after his passing. The guitar solo in the bridge is performed by my old friend Dan Binaei, who’s played in a bunch of classic Chicago metalcore bands like Racetraitor and Arma Angelus. I wanted a nasty shredder solo in there, but I’m not very good at guitar, so Dan dropped in and laid down something full of divebombs, sweeps, and tapping.
7. Isolation Tracking
This was the last song I wrote for the record, and maybe my favorite one. It was written at the peak of COVID quarantine—dead of winter, spending days on end holed up in the house, looking out the same windows and the same scenes, sitting around, laying around, thinking you were about to die any time you coughed or sneezed. This is a song born of those fears and frustrations. I bought a really cool giant 80s Tama drumkit right before I recorded the album, and I really went for it on this song as far as the ridiculous over-the-top Dave Lombardo fills go.
8. Song From the Sky
I love this song, and I can’t take much credit for it. My parts were super simple. What makes this one shine was Brian Case of FACS and Disappears on vocals and Trevor de Brauw from Pelican’s outer space guitar part. Those are two of my favorite Chicago musicians ever, so it was really cool being able to put them both on one track. The outcome kind of sounds like Cave In meets Slint or something. Brian was kind enough to let me borrow one of his lyrics for the album title. Sitting in the control booth at the studio, when I heard him say, “follow a song from the sky,” it immediately connected with me and stood out, it just kind of summed up the entire feel and energy of the record.