What exactly are Surrogate Prey? Well, according to biochemistry, biology and ecology research journals it’s equivalent to, for instance, lions being forced to hunt cattle in place of wildebeests. Apparently, the surrogate predator/surrogate prey relationship can be transformative as well. This kind of “in the wild alchemy” is capable of causing scorpions to adapt their venom when exposed to atypical predators.
Now, in its own right, you’ve got to admit, that’s pretty metal, but not nearly as metal as the Surrogate Prey I was lucky enough to meet this last weekend at Catch 272 in Quezon City.
Scientifically speaking, the environment and its make-up are vitally important to the behavior of ecology. I haven’t yet figured out what it is, but there’s something. Something present and silently lurking in the dark like a kapre in the depths of the jungle. This spirit, whether engkanto or demonyo, perhaps is responsible for playing the part of dark muse to the likes of Q.C.’s own transgressive art legend Manuel Ocampo and many a metal musician haunting the area, of which Surrogate Prey are a stellar example.
Surrogate Prey have recently released their first full-length album this year. Titled Wisdom to Scramble Your Brains Lysergik, the album follows a 2004 demo single and a 2011 demo, Antimatter Invocation. After this, an album split between our Surrogates and fellow Filipino metalmeisters Death After Birth was released. The split EP Burning Water, from 2015, was SP’s last studio outing before their official, full-length debut this year.
The band is made up of Rallye Ibanez on bass and vocals; Gani Simpliciano, an editor for the beautifully dark underground art zine Malantot, contributing imagery and art for the group when he’s not beating the tattoo on drums.; Allan Diaz offering up primal growls and screams whilst grinding the axe; and Bobby Legaspi also cutting up thick slices of grungy sludge on his axe while accompanying on vocals. The group inhabit the sludge/doom/stoner metal quadrant in the LeMarchand Puzzle Box of metal genre configuration.
Bobby tells me that some of the bands influences include Black Sabbath Eyehategod, Crowbar, Acid Bath Grief, Come to Grief, Primitive Man, Fister Fistula and the Melvins as well as “Weed, psychedelics, alcohol, delusions and misery. Hard times and good times with good friends.”
I must admit, I’m a pushover for goth and industrial music. When it comes to metal or punk, though, I am pretty picky. But, as the cliché goes: “I know what I like.” And I really like what I’ve found in Surrogate Prey. Like some of the best metal, they haven’t forgotten the dreamy, proggy, bluesy, and, yes, somewhat psychedelic roots of proto-metal predecessors like Black Sabbath.
The fuzz is laid on thick all through this unrelentingly headbang-able beauty. The riffs are laid on hard and heavy, but the group don’t take themselves too seriously. A playful, humorous side is evident in lyrics from the song “Rick James, Witch:”
“The night we dined with/ the chemical people/ the elite insiders/ and all these costumed bystanders,/
your cigarette dropped/ on a trail of gasoline/ We ignited the universe/ with kicks to the head and teeth/
and narcotic dreams/ Now you know my name/ I am…” [Cue Dave Chappelle flashback]
Their sound has been likened to Sabbath, Eyehategod, Soilent, Grief, and other groups. Occasionally, I even pick up a hint of the kind of post-punk sound Nirvana was rocking in the Bleach era. Still brutal, with no need for a speedy, breakneck pace. In fact, the droning, hypnotic backbeat’s slow, swampy heartbeat is probably part of the reason for the peculiar brand of wizardry woven by these malevolent masters of dark noise. Slow, steady, incessant, and occasionally erratic beats and the droning dissonance of “devil’s intervals” galore play into the shoegazey spell.
If you’re looking for a physical album, it may be tila medyo mahirap (a bit of a difficulty) scoring a copy stateside, as they haven’t secured U.S.-based distribution… yet. That said, you can hear the entirety of Surrogate Prey’s album for free at YouTube or get a digital download for $7 at Bandcamp, and there are also some tracks from earlier demos available at Soundclick.
If you end up in Manila, track down Camellinggus for hard copies. Bobby tells me that rather than a traditional label, “Camellinggus is more like a collective which would sometimes release home dubbed cassette tapes or CDRs and do productions. We’re really just a group of friends from different bands that came under one flag which is Camellinggus.”
And, I’d venture to say, the world is better for it. If you like your metal stoney and grungy with a sort of hallucinatory hiss and whir to it, then check this gang out. Are you looking for something new and awesome to introduce your metalhead buddies to that they’ve likely never heard or even heard of? Check these guys out. And yes, of course, you too, hipster who has to like every band before they make it big. You better hurry up and check these guys out.