Suicide Silence: Silence is Golden
Originally published in Guitar World, September 2009
Suicide Silence are the stars of deathcore’s dark firmament. With No Time to Bleed, the pressure is on to shine even brighter.
Being in a metal band is, by definition, the most metal job in the world. But if any gig is a close runner-up for the title, it’s the one that Chris Garza formerly held. “I worked in a hospital where I cleaned the blood and bones and guts off of medical instruments,” he says. It’s about 1 P.M., and the Suicide Silence guitarist is hanging out backstage before a headlining show in California, enjoying a rare moment of downtime.
Garza was 20 at the time, with a year or so of college under his belt, a close family, and a girlfriend. He says he was making “a shitload of money” and enjoying the responsibility. He’d still be there today, he says, if it wasn’t for one small detail: his band. “We started touring and I left school, left my job, left my girlfriend...” His voice trails off. “It’s not the life I thought it’d be. I thought I’d have everything, but I lost everything instead.”
Mark Heylmun, Garza’s co-guitarist, adds, “You don’t have time for girls—they always want to know why you’re so busy. And being on tour all the time—home stops feeling like home, you know?” At the age of 15, Heylmun lived and breathed guitar; school wasn’t doing much for this self-described “weird little degenerate,” so he told his parents he wanted to drop out to become a musician. Surprisingly, his parents gave their blessing, though the law made him wait an extra year.
It’s easy to dream about playing in a band when you’re a young kid sitting in your bedroom, jamming along to your favorite records while the members of Pantera stare down approvingly from a poster on your wall. But making the dream come true means taking a risk and making sacrifices, things that Garza and Heylmun know well. “There are always risks in life,” Garza says, “but looking back, I don’t have a single regret. It’s the power of music.” It would be tempting to write off “the power of music” as a naïve, even flaky, comment by a young guitarist, were it not for the fact that Garza did give up a pretty sweet life playing in blood and guts so he could tour the world in a metal band.
If he who dares wins, then each of the five members in Suicide Silence get to take a victory lap. Since breaking out of Riverside, California, in 2004, they’ve gone on to become the second-biggest selling act on Century Media, the venerable metal label that’s home to such legends as Napalm Death, Deicide and the Haunted. Suicide Silence are a massively popular touring band, playing 280 shows last year to thousands of fans. Their online presence is nothing short of gigantic, with more than 250,000 friends on MySpace and 70,000 YouTube channel views.
It’s against this impressive backdrop that the band prepares to drop its latest release, No Time to Bleed, and expectations are understandably high. It’s a make-or-break moment for Suicide Silence; the new record either justifies the hype surrounding the band, or it flops and Garza maybe gives some thought to getting his old job back. “There was definitely some stress involved,” he says. “We knew a lot of people would be watching to see how it turned out. We did not want to fuck it up.”
Despite the stress, both guitarists say making the new record was easier than creating the band’s first full-length, 2007’s The Cleansing. The greater amount of time allowed for the new album gave Suicide Silence the freedom to explore their songs. Rewrites were common, and every idea was given at least a test run to see if it might lead to something interesting. The band also took advantage of their producer, Machine (Lamb of God, Every Time I Die), whose experience made him a valuable advisor.
Garza says, “He wouldn’t tell us what to do; he’d just say something like, ‘That doesn’t have anything to it. Find something with more beef. I’m getting coffee, I’ll be back in 20 minutes.’ And we’d work on the song, he’d come back and be like, ‘Yeah, I knew you could do it.’ It was just a really encouraging situation.”
The result is a metal album that’s full of “beef,” as well as fast, razor-sharp riffs, fierce beats and punishing breakdowns. Stylistically, it’s not too far a cry from The Cleansing. However, No Time to Bleed does demonstrate a leap forward in quality and maturity. Suicide Silence clearly benefited from all those live shows, a lengthy writing process and focused studio time. The album showcases a band that’s tight enough to deliver precise, technical riffs that nonetheless remain as heavy and frighteningly effective as a wrecking ball.
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