Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Fall of Humanity, or What's a Nice Guy Like You Listening to Music Like This
I wasn't that surprised when my new smoking buddy told me he was a drummer in a heavy metal band. Michael Rafferty is beefy and mean-looking, the kind of a guy you'd expect behind a massive kit emitting drum fills that sound like machine gun fire. He'd make a great bouncer in one of those out-of-control roadhouses just beyond the city limits, the kind of a guy who runs up against Schwarzenegger in one of the Terminator movies and well, you get the point.
As you might expect, real-world Michael is quite different: intelligent, thoughtful, easy-going--and a fellow brother of the leaf. (That means he likes premium cigars.) I've been settling into my new life in Central New York, and I've become a regular at TisMart Cigar Store, which is located about two hundred yards from my front door. Michael's a regular, too, and one night last week we got to talking--about cigars, Syracuse and finally music. Michael told me about the band he formed with his brother Marcus, Fall of Humanity. But this isn't a band full of Syracuse kids hoping to make it big--Michael and his brother have been playing in bands for years. Michael even performed in Richard Linklater's awesome 2003 film, School of Rock, as a member of one of the other bands that compete in the climactic competition.
Toward the end of our conversation I asked him if he had a CD I could listen to, and he seemed a little surprised. "It's pretty 'heavy'" he warned, which is metalspeak for hoarse, screaming vocals and a relentless, machine-like rhythm. Now, I know I don't look like someone who enjoys metal. A work associate once told me that I looked like the kind of guy who went home and listened to classical music in his house all evening. Sometimes, I am that guy.
I'm pretty sure no one cares what a 54-year-old guy thinks about today's metal scene, so I'm not going to dig that deep into Fall of Humanity's eponymous EP. After all, I felt a little out of my element reviewing that We The Wild CD last month. My main objection to that CD was the vocals that alternated between an atonal croak and arena-rock harmonies. There's some of that on Fall of Humanity's CD as well, which is what Michael probably meant by "heavy." He steered me toward the EP's single, "Hate, Love, Sex & Greed," and is excited about the direction the band is headed in right now.
On this song, brother Marcus' vocals find the sweet spot between those two "heavy" extremes and that's where the band really shines. He's actually covering the notes while sounding powerfully apocalyptic at the same time. I'm also a big fan of "Eternal Hatred," which for me is just a tight locomotive of sound. This music sticks to a formula to be sure, but it's a formula that provides plenty of adrenaline for middle-aged guys who still want to rock out once in a while.
But the real reason to listen to this band is, of course, Michael's drumming. I'm not just saying that because I know the guy. It's just that my attraction to metal is always tied in with sensational drumming (think Danny Peary, for example), and Mike's drumming makes me wonder how he gets through a song without his arms falling off. It's the magnet, the anchor and the reason, all wrapped up in one. Respect, brother. His fills are fast and lean, and sometimes they seem to go on forever while still maintaining a perfect beat.
Anyway, I've been listening to this in my car all week. I probably look kind of stupid listening to it. "Should you be listening to classical music quietly in your home, sir?" Yeah, probably. But as I told Michael at the end of our last herf, "the older I get, the more I like this stuff. It's like I need it to feel alive."
And that's kind of it in a nutshell.