That Backslider have built their stellar reputation on a brilliant debut album and a long series of potent shorter releases, that they have earned the hard-won respect of even the most discriminating heavy music fans, and that they have not only maintained but increased their leave-no-stone-unturned writing prowess over more than twelve years as a band; these are only three of the reasons this band’s sophomore LP, Psychic Rot, has inspired such enthusiasm among the music community.
Six years after their debut LP, Motherfucker, the highly anticipated follow-up is an exhibition of some of the tightest, most innovative songwriting happening in metal and punk today. Logan Neubauer, Jake Smith (also of Cain Corso, Penetrode, Eye Flys), and Jake Cregger (also of Triac, Reeking Cross) are spectacular in the truest sense, defying you to shift your attention away from their prodigious musicianship and uncommonly elegant songcraft.
With their considerable tenure as purveyors of ultra-short grind and violence songs that pack more creative elegance into the time it takes to heat a Pop Tart than most bands manage to explore in an album’s worth of songs, they have, again and again, demonstrated mastery of short-form song structure. On Psychic Rot, though, Backslider’s songs have room to breathe. Never gatekeeping their own ingenuity, Backslider writes songs rife with riffs that last just long enough to become your favorite ever, before being supplanted by the next, even more brilliant section. Tactfully weaving the countless branches of metal and punk into artful bludgeoning instruments, Backslider has composed ten songs for their sophomore release that will appeal as much to the discerning and studious musicologist as to the thickest-knuckled moshpit enforcer.
Cvlt Nation is proud to debut the third single from this highly anticipated full-length. Like so many Backslider tracks, album opener “Asymmetric Torment” is a tour through the great and diverse stylistic potential of angry music. The longer song length affords the band more time to linger on specific sections, to ruminate on particularly meaningful sections to great effect. At various times, the song recalls grooving death and thrash of Kataklysm or Burn the Priest, the art-school grindcore of As The Sun Sets, the raw speedcore of Septic Death, and the post-everything noise rock of Today is the Day. Riff-centered and expertly calibrated, the trio sounds monstrously huge and as technical as ever without losing any of their spontaneity or guts.
As if there was any doubt, Psychic Rot builds on every monumental release Backslider has produced to date. While the band continues to take creative risks, supplementing their already unparalleled toolbox, these risks feel perfectly logical in the confident and capable hands of Neubauer, Smith, and Cregger. Even though the band could have maintained a devout and evangelical fanbase by continuing to release dense-as-osmium splits and 7″s for the rest of their career, they have managed to outdo even themselves with this tour de force for the band but also for heavy genres more generally, as clearly indicated by “Asymmetric Torment” and earlier singles, “Corpseflower” and “Pseudomessiah.”
Enjoy the world premiere of “Asymmetric Torment.”
Guitarist and vocalist, Logan Neubauer, shared some thoughts with Cvlt Nation about Backslider and Psychic Rot.
You’ve written songs that are as short as 5 seconds and as long as 8 minutes. Can you talk about the difference between composing short songs and long songs?
Logan: The biggest difference is the intention. I kind of want different things from short songs versus long(er) songs. I want short songs to have a propulsive sort of energy, shit that makes your blood boil, and if a song is going to be longer, I want it to pull you in and take you somewhere. More than anything, though, I only consider a song finished when it feels finished. Sometimes that’s a few seconds and other times it’s several minutes.
As an extension of the last question, this is your sophomore full-length, following a series of excellent shorter releases. Is the creative approach to composing a full-length different from the one for shorter releases?
Logan: Thanks for that compliment. Similar thought process as with the song lengths really. If it’s a shorter release like an EP or a tape or whatever, I basically want every single song to have immediacy and intensity. Or sometimes shorter releases can be a cool way to explore more left-field ideas or as a fun one-off project. To me, LPs are supposed to be an artistic statement, almost all of my favorite records, regardless of genre, have less than 12 songs and each song is distinct and recognizable and complement one another as a part of the whole package.
These last two years have been especially interesting for artists (and everyone). What are the main musical and lyrical influences for these songs, and how have the last two years influenced you as a band?
Logan: Something we joked about was making this record the Master of Puppets of extreme hardcore haha. Basically, that means that we wanted to push the extremity further and balance it with memorable riffs/structures while exploring the outer limits of some of our weirder ideas.
Between Covid and the utter insanity of the social/political landscape, I think that I’m warier of other people than I was before, which was already a lot. I don’t want to feel that way though, to be honest. It’s something that I have to actively work around in my head. There’s a bit of that vibe that I think may be reflected on that record, whether it was intentional or not.
You have been playing on some really amazing bills lately. Can you describe the return to the stage after such a long hiatus?
Logan: I have some mixed feelings about it but it’s been mostly really great. We’ve been lucky to play with bands that we dig and also bands that we’re tight with, so a few gigs kind of felt like little degenerate family reunions. My anxiety in general is much higher than it used to be though, so my bandwidth for socializing is much lower. I get overwhelmed easier and need to get away. We’ve also only played vax/mask shows, and it’s been refreshing to see that most everyone has been very respectful about it.
Logan: We’ve been recording with Kevin for almost 10 years now, he’s a close friend and similarly-minded maniac. I feel like most people know him from his longtime involvement recording extreme, ugly underground bands but he has a great ear and talent for capturing other sounds and forms of music as well. We’ve actually not worked face-to-face with James but we’re obviously huge fans. He always nails it the first or second time. I actually saw Khanate when I was 17 and that band had such a profound impact on me that I had to send him a bit of a fanboy e-mail letting him know how much I appreciated him working on the project.
Logan: Again, we’ve known Will, or I have, almost since the beginning of the band, he’s a solid dude. True fan of short, fast, and loud music and really places a big emphasis on running his label in a serious manner. It’s still totally DIY but he doesn’t fuck around. He puts out huge bands that get a lot of hype, and he also puts out obscure blasters from isolated locations but treats each record with the same amount of care. I think that’s pretty rare and valuable, especially within the realm of extreme music.
Can you describe the Philly scene at the moment? What are some bands that more people should be listening to?
Logan: Philly is poppin’ off right now! There are a lot of cool bands with totally different sounds and vibes and so many of them are connected somehow. Also lots of people putting in really serious work to make sure that bands have places to play. Dark Thoughts, The Ire, Durian, Half/Cross, HIRS, Zorn, Sheer Mag, Crossspitter, Timelost, Plastic Ivy, Penetrode, Delco MFs, Nightfall, Bandit, Korine, Quarantine, Poison Ruin, Dridge, Screaming Females. Every single one of those bands fucks. I could keep going and still miss so many good ones.
What do you love about heavy music right now? What should change?
Logan: I mean I still like all of the things that have always drawn me to extreme music. I like the audacity of playing something that’s obnoxiously loud, or fast, or slow, or whatever. I love the energy that goes into it and the energy that you can feel from it. It can be such an exciting and powerful musical medium.
I’m hesitant to say what should change or not because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m some sort of authority. I feel like I don’t interact with or pay attention to bands, or things in general, that I don’t really like so I don’t have much to comment on. Although, if your band or members of it are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, fatphobic, etc., you should probably take a look in the mirror and do some thinking.
What should people know about Psychic Rot?
Logan: It’s a fuckin’ bloodbath. A lot of physical pain and manic energy went into it and we’re very proud of the results. Play it backward.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Logan: Thanks for the support and Google Danny Casolaro.
Order Psychic Rot at To Live A Lie Records.
Cover art is by Logan Neubauer.