Meat Wave – the Chicago punk band of Ryan Wizniak (drums), Joe Gac (bass) and Chris Sutter (vocals, guitar) will release their fourth album Malign Hex on October 14, 2022.
The 10-track record, which features “What Would You Like Me To Do” as well as previously released singles “Ridiculous Car” and “Honest Living,” was recorded by bassist Joe Gac in 2019 at the band’s rehearsal space and respective apartments. Following 2017’s The Incessant, Malign Hex is the band’s most cohesive, dynamic and ambitious work to date. “Our sound in the beginning was consistently very driving,” says Gac. “Now, that characteristic is merely a tool we can reach for. I don’t think it completely defines what we’re doing.”
The band spent the last half of 2019 chipping away at the record, choosing to work on it slowly in spurts, as opposed to their last album The Incessant, which was recorded and mixed in four days. “We recorded [Malign Hex] the same way we always have— live in a room together,” says drummer Ryan Wizniak. “But we allowed ourselves to embellish more and take more chances with extra instrumentation.” And while the band did indeed incorporate more synths, organs and walls of guitar, it provides only nuance and atmosphere, not distraction from what Meat Wave does best. “We moved further away from the principle that we need to recreate every element on the album live,” says Gac. “There was no shame in adding extra overdubs and different sounds.”
The album’s lyrics center around themes of lineage; where we come from, and where we’re going. Malign Hex explores a litany of subjects and circumstances— addiction, greed, unreliable memory, obedience. All through a surrealist, collage-like lens. “Everyone wears a backpack full of hexes,” Chris Sutter explains. “It’s heavy and familial. And it’s yours”
In early 2020, the long-standing three-piece lineup of Kal Marks dissolved. This left Carl Shane, the band’s vocalist, guitarist, and de facto leader wondering if the Boston noise-rock institution he’d started nearly a decade prior would even continue. “Dylan Teggart (A Deer A Horse) reached out to me and asked if I wanted to play music. I knew he was a great drummer, and if anyone could play this kind of music it was him. It got me thinking that I could start a new version of the band. I had all these songs that I wrote for Kal Marks, and it seemed like it would be a waste if I didn’t use them.”
Shane decided to push forward and reached out to Christina Puerto (Bethlehem Steel) to become Kal Marks’ second guitar player—a first for the long-running band. With John Russell joining on bass shortly thereafter, Kal Marks was ready to tread into unknown waters. The result is My Name Is Hell, the band’s fifth album out August 5th on Exploding In Sound Records.
From the first notes of the album opener, “My Life Is A Freak Show,” there’s something distinctly different about this version of Kal Marks. While Shane still sounds like himself, he allows his voice to sit front and center without any adornments. His vocals appear more human and vulnerable, which matches the band’s new musical trajectory perfectly. Of course, Shane still kicks in screams that shake the speakers, but he sounds less like a monster and more like a person exorcising their demons.
From track to track on My Name Is Hell, the lyrics tackle everything from losing friends, religion’s toxic touch, the crushing weight of debt, the monotony of the suburbs, and the disgusting nature of the human race. Much like he needed his band to be torn down to build this new version of it, Shane’s songs never give the sense that he’s wallowing in these subjects. Instead, he’s trying to make sense of them and find some peace throughout that journey. By plumbing the depths of his anger, frustration, and sadness, My Name Is Hell admits that we’re all a little scared, angry, and confused, but we’re still trying to navigate the world the best we can.
“A lot of the tragedy and destruction that I’m talking about isn’t happening directly to me, but it affects me,” says Shane. “Any anger I have has boiled over and faded anyway. There seems to be no point in being angry, because it’s not going to change anything. Anger makes a shitty situation worse. Nobody is coming back to life, and more loved ones will die. I have an emptiness that can never be filled but I’m coping with it.”
On tracks such as “Everybody Hertz” and “Ovation,” the addition of Puerto on guitar shows that Kal Marks is able to evoke new depths as her and Shane’s guitars build off one another, allowing them to serve as meaningful counterpoints and counterbalances to the subject matter of the songs. In tandem, Teggart and Russell build off the bass-heavy, propulsive sound the band is known for, but they expand upon the sonic palette, weaving in influences from krautrock, electronic and funk. These are big, weird, burly noise-rock songs, but the hooks feel more pronounced and accentuated. At its core, My Name Is Hell is a pop record.
My Name Is Hell sounds and feels like a fresh start for Kal Marks. After 10 years spent digging into the ugliness of the world, here you can feel the catharsis and commitment to moving forward baked into the music itself. In the face of death, Kal Marks chose to live, and My Name Is Hell is a document of every one of those moments along the way.