Like the best psychological thriller, there’s an unnerving yet gorgeous quality to Genghis Tron’s wonderful comeback record. Dream Weapon, out March 26 via Relapse Records, is their first release in over a decade, and it represents both a seismic shift in sound and a refinement of all the things the band do so well. It’s decidedly more melodic yet also more menacing. It’s best experienced in one complete sitting, though the likelihood of repeat listens is high.
What a welcome back after 13 years Dream Weapon is. Genghis Tron have been pretty upfront that the break was a hiatus not a break-up, but what led to the band picking up your instruments again to create another album?
“Although we always intended to make another album,” guitarist Hamilton Jordan answers, “I don’t think either Michael or I had any idea that it would take this long. The years just flew by, and we lived on opposite ends of the country, and during many of those years we were each writing very little music because we were so busy with other stuff in our personal lives.”
“But in 2018,” he continues, “my family moved from California to Michigan. Along the way we took a road trip to visit Michael for a weekend, and I brought one tiny seedling of a song idea with me. We weren’t even planning to work on music — we were just going to hang out — but when I played the melody for Michael, he pretty quickly had an idea to lay some chords on top of it. It just sounded so good to us. The chemistry was immediate, and we got super excited to turn it into a song. That song would later become ‘Alone in the Heart of the Light’. We decided then that if we were ever going to write another album, we had to start then. It was a ‘now or never’ sort of moment, so we dove in pretty hard. Two years later, we finished the album.”
With all those years between records, did the pandemic affect the final product at all? Jordan notes that it did have a logistical impact on having drummer Nick Yacyshyn record remotely in Vancouver rather than with the rest of the band in Massachusetts. As to whether it impacted Dream Weapon, Jordan expands:
“Although most of the songs for this album were already written and demoed before the pandemic hit, the album really came together during the Spring and Summer months of 2020. That’s when [vocalist] Tony [Wolski] and [drummer] Nick [Yacyshyn] added most of their parts, and when we all put some key finishing touches on the songs and arrangements that were still in progress. So those early months of the pandemic were critical to finishing the album. We already had a loose lyrical concept in mind, so I wouldn’t say the pandemic affected the album’s lyrical themes, but I do think those dark months left some sort of psychic imprint on what we created.”
Board Up The House is a landmark experimental metal record, showing a remarkable ability to combine the extremes of metal and electronic with a shocking melodic undercurrent. Did having to follow that new classic up play a factor in how they wrote the record?
“I’m proud of our previous work,” Jordan states, “and I still enjoy listening to (most of) our old songs. Most of my ‘new’ music listening over the last decade has involved me discovering older music. More recently for me, that means listening to a lot of Tears For Fears, Peter Gabriel, and King Crimson.”
“But our old material definitely did influence Dream Weapon, if indirectly. By the time we started writing a lot in 2018, ten years had passed since Board Up the House. I still love that album, but that decade gave us plenty of time to reflect on it and think about what we wanted to try differently this time.”
Michael: “Well, first off, Tears For Fears fucking rules. In terms of how this all impacted Dream Weapon, I think with Board Up the House, we tried to move away from the novelty-style ‘genre mashing’ that defined our first EP and a good chunk of Dead Mountain Mouth. I think we got pretty close to ‘our sound’ on Board Up the House, but we hadn’t quite figured it out. I feel like Dream Weapon continues where Board Up the House left off in terms of trying to find the best ways to naturally pull from all our various influences, but we are more confident now to just write the music that we want to hear and not worry about much else.”
A lot of people will hear this record and think Genghis Tron have gone soft, but I can’t help but feel like Dream Weapon is just part of the band’s natural evolution, rethinking what “heavy” can mean. Was the push away from more traditionally harsher elements intentional or organic? I can hear similar motifs from Board Up The House that exist in a song like “Ritual Circle” that is propelled by Nick’s incredible drum work.
“You touched on something very true,” Jordan responds, “which is that we still wanted to make a ‘heavy’ record, but without relying purely on caustic tones and brutal vocals and cluttered blasting rhythms to get there. I still love (and listen to) my share of ‘brutal’ extreme music, but for Genghis Tron, that sort of approach just didn’t feel genuine to Michael or me anymore — at least not for this record. We still aimed to make something dark and ‘heavy,’ but we wanted to explore heaviness through other means so that it came from the arrangements themselves, which are more layered and repetitive. Nick’s powerful drumming was critical to achieving that goal. Maybe this is just because I’m getting older, but sometimes a beautiful melody can kick me in the gut much harder than some shredding riff or brutal blast beat can!”
It’s impossible to not feel overwhelmed at times with the record’s beauty and quiet brute force. The title is extremely appropriate here, as this record does feel like it connects to a deeper subconscious than even Genghis Tron’s previous records that focused on the power of noise. Thematically – whether musically or lyrically, what were their aims for this record?
“Sonically, we had a strong goal to create an immersive world that the listener can get lost in,” Jordan answers. “As music fans, Michael and I both really dig albums that achieve that. Part of that for us is creating a coherent album that flows as a single piece of music, instead of just being a collection of songs. That was also our goal with Dead Mountain Mouth and Board Up the Hose, but I think Dream Weapon achieves that better than either of those albums did.”
“Another thing,” keyboardist Michael Sochynsky adds, “that we were really interested in exploring with Dream Weapon was writing songs that you can listen to on multiple levels. For example, Meshuggah is great at writing these incredibly catchy songs that you can just rock out to on a very passive level, but if you stop and actually try to figure out what they are playing or how they put the song together, your mind starts to melt. We definitely don’t sound like Meshuggah, but we wanted to create that kind of environment where you might not even realize how the time signatures are changing or how the riffs are evolving, but if you do want to listen to the songs on that more active level, there’s a lot to explore.”
That sense of duality exists in the lyrical themes of the record – there’s an initially haunted, disoriented feeling that eventually makes way to a sort of comfort in the face of cosmic fear. Jordan concurs:
“It’s important to us that the lyrics for each song be left open to interpretation, but broadly speaking, I would describe Dream Weapon as an album-length meditation about finding acceptance with the fact that humans’ time on Earth is inevitably limited. While it can be sad and scary to reflect on this, I think there is also something beautiful and comforting to realizing that the planet will endure and flourish long after we’re gone. In the meantime, there are so many opportunities for us all to feel gratitude for our time here and to experience beauty and love.”
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