Empty Black by Greyhaven is an early album of the year candidate. The record features extremely intellectual concepts backed by crushing grooves and powerful dynamics. Opening with “Sweet Machine,” the opening thesis to a ten track orchestra with dialogue relating to universal conflict. The frantic pace of the opener blends chaotic measures and bombastic sequences, perfectly encapsulating what Greyhaven have to offer.
Both of the “Echo and Dust” tracks (part. 1 & 2) are cataclysmic with their frequent crashes, like hitting the button to set off a bomb. Lyrical content aside, the instrumentals find ways to bring introspective quiet to destructive progressions. Very few records have the poise that Empty Black does, bringing a human emotion to the release by relating the lyrics to things we all deal and suffer with; whether it be on an individual level or within the construct of the world, as on “Mortality Rate” as well as the two “Echo” tracks. How incredible is the former song by the way; because it is unbelievable. Whether clean vocals that help mimic an incredible guitar part or guttural screams packing a dire kick to thunderous heavy sections, everything the band blend together is phenomenal. “Day Is Gone” punches through the speakers with an immediate visceral urgency, gripping onto spastic drum work and never letting go. Even with that opening, the band find a way to grace the song with a melodic sweep – beautiful and intricate.
Simply put, there are few ways to completely describe this record. It’s one that shines as a pure light in a world full of smog and thick grey. Empty Black is detailed in full by Greyhaven in this exclusive track by track, which can be read below. This whole record is wonderfully mixed, allowing vocals to shine and breathe life into the explosive parts. Every turn finds the quartet finding a new way to detonate with their incredible range of attack. Don’t sleep on this release.
Sweet Machine – We’ve had his song written basically as it sits for a long time instrumentally but it took a while for me to really feel confident in what I was trying to say in this song. I pulled from several quick phrases and poems I’d written during the writing of the record as a whole to complete this song. All the moments during that time where I felt particularly bothered by our (as a population here at home) turning a blind eye to the horrendous nature of our wars over in the Middle East. We’re presented with an event of death and destruction, we talk about for a few days and then it fades away from the public forum and that’s kind of what this song is about and that theme kind of snakes it’s way in and of the record.
Blemish – This song came together rather quick, we’d been playing this one live for a while and not a whole lot changed from the version we brought in and the version we left the studio with. I think we really wanted to stand by it as it was because it translated so well live already. Lyrically this song came from a pretty bitter reflection on the world we live in today, at times I can be kind of disgusted at how we operate as this group of thumb-having animals. How lucky are we? To be able to take from earth and build and build and build. We build bombs and plastic.
Echo and Dust pt. I – This song is cool because it morphed into its current from with one late night rewrite session in the studio. Will left us with the live room for the night and we knew we were tracking drums on this one the next day and it just needed something else. After midnight, dead tired and hearing Nick play with this extra riff for about an hour, something clicked and we all picked up our respective instruments and tried it out together pretty excited about where we were going. Immediately the whole song needed to be looked at to make this work and we just worked and worked all night until we were happy. This song is about talking to someone who effectively just isn’t “there” anymore and you wind up being left with this feeling of talking to yourself. Sending your words out into a kind of void left unheard.
Mortality Rate – This is another old one. Anyone that’s seen us in the last year and half has heard this song. We kept this one basically the same also, we’ve been happy with how it felt and translated since we wrote it. This was actually one of the first few songs that we wrote together as this line up, paving the way for what this next chapter of greyhaven was going to sound like. I take a pretty sarcastic perspective and tone in this song. Playing with my ideas on how religion acts as a sort of shadow puppet in politics here in our country at least in rhetoric and justification for bullshit feel-good talking points.
Ten Dogs — Red Heaven – As sort of a continuation of ideas from ‘Mortality Rate’ this song takes it step further and plays on the praise of death of people on the “other side or on the other team”. This kind of tribalism we cling to sometimes when we don’t have anything invested in it. We’re just watching it play out on tv or social media and we’re keeping score, cheering when we make a play. Maybe this song is more pessimistic. Too many times I’ve been in the room with the news of our bombs dropping on cities we don’t even know the names of and a sick sense of pride rises up in the room. A classic “we got ’em” smile on the people around me. This song paints that picture.
White Lighters – We worked for a really long time on perfecting this song. This one was important to all of us but it held special significance for me. I brought the bare bones of this song as an acoustic melody with words to them one practice and asked if we could turn this into something bigger. I needed to hear this song, I needed to get this song that I’d heard for years out of my head. I don’t think it’s hard to figure out what this song is about.
Kappa (River Child) – Instrumentally this song I think is a collective favorite for us. It’s an odd one, it basically just does what it wants and we let this song write itself a bit. If I’m remembering correctly I think we wrote it pretty fast, maybe in just a handful of practices. We get pretty serious on most of the songs on this record, I’m expelling a lot of heavy shit from mind but this song was a fun song to write. Things were pretty light in all our lives while we were writing this. Don’t smoke marijuana, kids, or you’ll end up writing songs about Japanese river demons turning you into a lightbulb.
Day Is Gone – Back to reality. This song moves in so many directions and that’s something we really enjoy doing. This one showcases that the most I think. We go from the most disgustingly huge we get to as soft as we get in one song. It took some time to put this one together because we needed to make all these movements make sense which was a bit of a challenge but it turned out really cool. This song comes from a period in my life where I found myself too frequently waking up asking myself what I got myself into the night before. Not exactly making the best decisions and that started to take a toll on me and my relationship with those around me. I didn’t like where I was so moved away of those habits but this song is reflection on that.
Broadcast Network – This song was another fun one to write instrumentally. Nick had this idea in his head of making it pure chaos and again not really caring where it was going to go until we had it mapped out enough to reign back in. I kind of purposefully made the lyrics to this one a bit nonsensical because the music felt so much the same way but essentially it’s about being blasted with so much content and stimulation 24/7 that you begin to dissociate a bit and feel like you’re losing your mind. I took a lot of the imagery in my head from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.
Echo and Dust pt. II – So Nick and I had worked with the first riff in the song as an acoustic thing in the parking lot of a venue in Panama City a few tours before we hit the studio and it grew into this thing that it is now. As soon as we finished writing it we knew this would be the ending of the record. We just wanted something huge to send it off with. This was the last song I wrote lyrics for on the record. Fitting that it’s the last track. This song continues on the ideas from ‘Echo pt. I’ but resolves itself at the end. You have to kind of hit the bottom and dive in as far as you can into whatever void exists in yourself before your able to see what you need to dig yourself back out of it. Moments. Experiences. Relationships. They’re all cyclical. Constantly ending and beginning. Reimagined in new perspectives, in new people, in deaths, in births, I guess the ultimate message of the song is just to remain present.
Photo Credit: Mickie Winter