Suspend your disbelief for a second and
imagine an explosively sinister wall of sound echoing elements of nu-metal
heroes Korn bridged with post Rob Zombie Industrial only to meet in a dark
alley with goth legends the Cure. The seemingly unrelated sounds and styles
come together into one elegantly cohesive package with Professional Murder
Music and their self-titled debut album from Geffen Records.
When promoting the album, Geffen promises
the listener a soundtrack for the dark side of the distraught human psyche.
That contention rings true as the listener is enveloped in a collection
of dark moody songs that are rapt with power and melody.
Fans of Finger Eleven, Korn or Godhead
will all find familiar elements to cling to, yet PMM takes Goth/Industrial
music to the next level with a precise attention to detail not found with
their contemporaries. This CD provides a delicate melding of electronic
resonance with the heavy riffs of nu-metal that creates a modern sound
that has the driving beats as well as unwavering melodies.
Producer Josh Abraham (Orgy, Powerman 5000)
helped vocalist Roman Marisak, guitarist Brian Harrah, bassist Jeff Schartoff
and drummer Justin Bennett form their sonic vision and create this indispensable
PMM frontman Roman Marisak manages to project
strong emotions without resorting to the primal screams that so many vocalists
utilize these days to get their point across. While Marisak can scream
with the best of them, he appears secure enough with his vocal ability
that he doesnt go overboard with the technique and the songs dont suffer
for intensity in the process. If anything his vocals carry a hint of desperation
that give the songs far more emotion than a simple scream would.
Guitarist Brian Harrah further helps the
band distinguish themselves. While applying powerchord riffage to give
the songs structure Harrah further showcases his skills with understated
leads that carry the melody of the songs in much the same way that Billy
Duffys unforgettable leads provide the magic element to the music of The
Often overlooked, a rhythm section can
make or break a band. PMMs co-founder and bassist Jeff Schartoff earned
his rock and roll credentials as part of the Human Waste Project, now with
Professional Murder Music he joins with drummer Justin Bennett to create
a vital musical canvas for the rest of the band to apply their unique colors
to. There is no taking the easy road with this band, Justin Bennett ignores
the tendency of other goth/industrial groups and goes far beyond simple
driving beats, he provides the extra sonic tapestry that helps give the
songs their intense power with fills at every possible turn.
The result of these individuals joining
their separate talents together is one of the best releases of 2001. From
the melodic hard rockin sound of the first single Slow to the modern
interpretation of the Cure classic A Night Like This, PMM provide a catalyst
for the Goth/Industrial sound for the 21st Century. Dont delude your eardrums
with impostors; PMM is the real deal as their debut album surely shows.
of Geffen Records.
Music's vibe is at once foreboding and vital--and as intense as the band
name suggests. The quartet's dozen-song Geffen debut provides a penetrating
soundtrack to the psyche, yet within the potent sounds lies an "unerring
sense of melody and structure," as one journalist raved. On PMM's self-titled
bow, produced by Josh Abraham (Orgy, Powerman 5000), songs like the hypnotically
upbeat first single, "Slow," to the futuristic melodicism of "Fall Again,"
to a cool take on the Cure's "A Night Like This," showcase the band's wide
range of organic and electronic stylings. It's a distinct, signature PMM
approach, based in the memorable songs, not a mere collection of striking
sounds. "We wanted the album to be as multi-dimensional as the band is
live: to have mellow moments, ambient sounds, plus the real aggressive,
faster, heavier songs," explains singer/band co-founder Roman Marisak.
Formed by Marisak
and bassist Jeff Schartoff, Professional Murder Music was a dream that
took several years to perfect and realize. Schartoff was in the band Human
Waste Project, touring the world as part of Ozzfest, and with bands including
Tura Satana, which featured future PMM guitarist Brian Harrah. Marisak,
who, at several points, was also briefly a member of Human Waste Project,
worked constantly in his home studio, honing PMM's music and approach,
and whenever Schartoff was off the road, the duo conspired on Professional
And it paid off.
Completing the lineup with drummer
Justin Bennett, the Los Angeles-based PMM signed with Geffen. Yet much
national and international awareness of Professional Murder Music preceded
their record deal. Shows with everyone from Orgy to Static-X to Fear Factory
and strong press reviews piqued industry interest, though Professional
Murder Music were more concerned with making music than landing a deal.
In fact, in 1998, the band recorded their own EP at Marisak's Plan A Studio
and sold it via the Internet, where several PMM fan sites existed. Clearly,
the band couldn't stay a secret for long, and by late 1999, PMM's "Slow,"
a version produced by Toby Wright (Alice In Chains, Metallica), appeared
on the star-studded "End of Days" soundtrack next to the likes of Korn,
Guns N' Roses, Limp Bizkit and Rob Zombie. PMM's track was a standout,
garnering airplay and finding its way into the bed/background music of
several syndicated radio shows as well as being utilized by MTV and sports
Prior to recording
Professional Murder Music, the lineup landed a tour with Kid Rock and Powerman
5000. Since Schartoff had been spreading the PMM name and lore while on
tour with his previous band, "a lot of people knew who we were," the bassist
relates. "And we were playing 5,000-seater gigs where kids were into us
even though we hadn't even recorded our major-label debut yet! Plus, musically,
we were going onstage like this big dark cloud, so it was a great contrast
to Kid Rock." After that tour, in March, 2000, the band's debut record
was cut in L.A. with producer Josh Abraham. After its completion, PMM once
again hit the road, landing a slot on the cutting-edge Tattoo the Earth
tour, where they earned a strong response from the aggro masses.
The tunes on Professional
Murder Music enjoyed the benefit of live playing to hone and intensify
the sounds that often began with band-created loops. The songs, explains
Marisak, are very visual, and in fact, Schartoff wanted to have a screen
and project movies like "The Shining" and "Apocalypse Now," during the
recording process. Although that didnt come to fruition, many of the tunes
have an epic, soundtracky feel to them. "Some of the sounds in "Of Unknown
Origin" and "Sleep Deprivation" were inspired by movies like '12 Monkeys,'
though it's not obvious. It's more like, 'how do I make this guitar part,
or bass part, sound like the way I felt when I saw that particular scene
in that movie?' Like the tension in one of my favorite scenes in 'Reservoir
Dogs'... we are about capturing that musically."
And they did. The
dozen songs were tracked first at the band's own Plan A Studio, before
going to L.A.-area studios NRG and Westlake with Abraham at the helm. Subsequent
mixing was from the revered Tom Lord Alge (Oasis, Peter Gabriel), and several
cuts were also mixed by Skinny Puppy's Dave Ogilvie (Marilyn Manson, NIN).
Musical guests, too, helped flesh out the PMM fantasy. A Perfect Circle
(and former Failure) guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen is on "Fall Again," a song,
Marisak says, that "demanded his particular signature style." Knox from
Siouxsie and Banshees contributes cello to "Sleep Deprivation" and "Darker,"
while ex-Motley Crue drummer/current Methods of Mayhem member joined for
a track called "Disconnect," which is not on the album, but will likely
appear on a soundtrack or future album. Finally, Schartoff's former singer
in Human Waste Project, Aimee Echo, contributes background harmonies to
"Does It Dream," and DJ Lethal is on the CD's last cut, "Painkiller Intro."
An "intro" at the end of the record? "It's the start of the next phase,
maybe," Marisak hints. "It's a look into the future, though not necessarily
the next direction. We leave the doors very open for that."
Doors are also open
as to interpretations of the band's name. Like much of PMM's approach,
it's not what it might seem. The band name and their music have nothing
to do with serial killers or homicide. Rather, the band moniker is more
a reflection of PMM's dead-on intensity as well as a statement of musical
intent. "I mean, really, would you ask Korn if they like it on the cob
or creamed?" queries Schartoff. "Likewise, it's silly to assume we dig
serial killers. Our name isn't contradictory, but it's more a statement
of how we feel that much of pop music is contrived crap. I mean, we're
pretty sarcastic about that stuff, but on the other hand, we don't care
about musical battles or competition. We do our own thing."
And always have.
In fact, it's the D.I.Y punk ethic that fueled Schartoff growing up in
Huntington Beach, California, and that drove Marisak, at 18, to move from
Florida to Los Angeles. The two actually met old-school style, via an ad
in a music mag. While Schartoff dug everything from the Doors and Sabbath
to hardcore punk like Discharge, Crass and Rudimentary Peni, Marisak was
working on taking programming to a new level. Marisak's ad that caught
Schartoff's attention? "He listed influences as Public Enemy, Jane's Addiction
and Slayer," recalls Schartoff, "and I thought, 'this f***ing guy is for
real!'" Plus, Schartoff adds, "I was always into sound effects, movie sound
effects, and stuff like Bauhaus, more cinematic and atmospheric, and Roman
and I are on the same page where that's concerned, and utilized those vibes
in PMM." At first, Marisak was guitarist and programmer, and the duo, when
Schartoff wasn't on the road, were auditioning singers. About a year and
200 failed tryouts later, it became clear that Marisak was the one to give
voice to PMM's music. Indeed, England's Kerrang! called the band a "razor-sharp
blast of industrial noise shot through with rock guitars and Marisak's
vocals." And those vocals have something to say. Though the CD doesn't
have a set theme, much of Marisak's musical musings are "the emotions of
career and success; trying to free your mind and life and art and from
frustrations and people who try to hold you back. I was always focused
on what I wanted to do," furthers Marisak. "And although my lyrics are
not always specific incidents or stories, like the music, there are twists,
turns and individual interpretations."
With the early 2001
release of Professional Murder Music, fans will find their own meanings
in PMM's debut outing. The band's mesmerizing live show, too, will enhance
PMM's fierce aural soundscape, creating a cohesive and memorable melding
of music and performance. "However," assures the band, "nothing will detract
from the intensity of the music." As if anything could.
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