Idol Listening: Earthside Drummer Ben Shanbrom’s Top Ten Money Leads
Earthside’s A Dream in Static comes out on October 23rd (pre-order: physical and digital); you’re likely already familiar with the Connecticut-based progressive metal outfit’s music from their collaborations with Soilwork’s Speed Strid and Sevendust’s Lajon Witherspoon, the latest of whom produced an absolutely breathtaking video with the band for an absolutely gorgeous song.
In anticipation of the album’s release, we asked Earthside drummer Ben Shambrom — also known as MS contributor Shanbomb — to compile a playlist for us. His response? A list of his top ten “money leads.” It’s interesting tack for a drummer to to take, but it’s not like we’re complaining; the list rules! Check it out below, followed by a brief Q&A.
1. Misery Signals – “Reborn”
Section: 1:02 (choruses)
This lead is like uncovering your hidden potential and winning a life supply of truffle oil. Ryan, our bassist, is getting pretty good at playing this on trombone.
2. At The Gates – “Head of the Hydra”
Section: 2:45 (outro)
I was six when Slaughter of the Soul came out — cut me a freaking break! Being a fan of most things melodeath, though, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with ATG’s long-awaited comeback album. I have a number of go-to songs on this record, but as far as epic leads are concerned, this one takes the cake.
3. The Contortionist – “Flourish”
Section: You’ll know it when you hear it
THE FEELZ … THE FEEEELZ
4. Mors Principium Est – “Pure”
Section: 0:41 (pre-verse lead) and 1:39 (synth lead in chorus)
Why do people not know this band?? EPIC!! Something is in the water over there in Finland.
5. Dir en grey – “Different Sense”
Section: 1:16 (chorus through solo)
Band doesn’t get nearly enough love — obviously they’re not for everyone (I’m the primary fan in Earthside), but their juxtaposition of heavy and melodic is in a league of its own, and their clean sections are always goosebump-inducing. It’s also neat to hear Kaoru and Die add electric sitar and mandolin, respectively, to the unique melodic pallet of the band. While most of the lyrics are indecipherable to Western ears, none of the emotion gets lost in translation.
6. Oh, Sleeper – “I Will Welcome The Reaping”
Section: 0:54 into 1:01 and the climax at 3:02
I really tried not to like this band, believe me, but this album is just too good to pass over, and Shane Blay is an extraordinary lead guitarist. His playing adds a whole dimension of emotion and technicality to this band’s visceral and haunting sound. For such a brief song the goosebumps are numerous.
7. Septicflesh – “Oceans of Grey”
Section: 1:47 (chorus- lead up to it in second verse is really nice as well)
I’ve seen how difficult it can be to incorporate an orchestra into metal with any sort of convincing result. Greece’s symphonic death metal front-runners do it better than virtually any other extreme metal band on The Great Mass. The way Christos Antoniou layers strings into his already very epic lead lines on tracks like this one, “Five-Pointed Star,” and “Apocalypse” is awe-inspiring.
8. Textures – “To Erase A Lifetime”
Section: 0:55 (lead over intro riff and later in reprise)
From a guitar standpoint, Textures are a really interesting band; they don’t really have solos, yet their songs are filled to the brim with winding leads and epic guitar “textures.” Jochem Jacob’s lead motif in the epic closing track of Silhouettes (a record Earthside aren’t very subtle about declaring its unbridled love for …) makes me feel like my mind is being sucked into a black hole — in a good way!
9. Animals As Leaders – “On Impulse”
The other Earthside guys and I have a real affinity for these dudes, but as talented as Tosin is on the shred end it’s really in the emotion and feel of his playing that he shines most. This track is a good example.
10. Fallujah – “Starlit Path”
Section: 1:38 (lick at the end of verse phrases)
These guys make me feel like I’m walking on sunshine! Their leads are so soulful and glorious, they make me momentarily forget that I’m listening to some electronically-enhanced nonsense masquerading as a drum set!
MetalSucks: What makes a good lead?
Shanbrom: What are you doing asking a drummer this?? There are certain musical modes and harmonic devices that I consistently enjoy (my bandmates will appreciate it if I don’t make too big of a fuss about those). I’d say the universal requirement for me is that a lead evoke a very poignant feeling or mood, the more specific the better. A really amazing lead will draw my mind immediately to a significant moment in my life or feeling I once had. It’s powerful stuff. I latch onto leads (vocal, guitar, otherwise) even though I’m in a rhythm musician because they are really the “soul of the song,” and creating the right architecture under them to allow for maximum impact is a very important job.
I wrote the whole song “Crater,” with some help from our guitarist Jamie, starting with a lead that I first hummed out a few years ago (3:48); everything else I just filled in around it.
Who is your favorite lead guitarist of all time?
While I love leads, I don’t think any one guitarist stands out to me as my unequivocal favorite; I don’t think I really have a favorite anything, come to think of it. It might be more interesting in this case to point out a couple really neat lead players that are a bit more up and coming and are doing very cool things at the moment. Austin Peters and Cody McCarty of Outrun The Sunlight have a lovely feel to their “wall of leads” style of playing and complement each other in a very natural way. If there were ever a Russian Circles or Pelican equivalent in the djent world, these guys would fit the bill.
1:49 is so simple, but really brings the feelz, and those octaves at 4:58 hnnnnng
Eddie Van Halen or Slash?
Neither — I didn’t really grow up listening to either of them and neither player makes much use of the harmonic structures that make guitar leads effective to me. I stress the “to me” at the end. For many people, wailing on pentatonic and blues scales (especially on Saturday afternoons at Guitar Center) is the cat’s meow, but that wasn’t the kind of playing that made me, a drummer of all people, passionate about guitar leads and songwriting. I don’t mean to sound dismissive of their accomplishments; I just haven’t felt their work on that level.
Let’s talk about rhythms for a second… who’s an incredibly skilled rhythm player that doesn’t often get recognized for it?
It’s a draw. For Europe my answer is Andrien Grousset of Hacride who is a monster of a player in virtually all areas — songwriting, textures, harmonic diversity, and absolutely rhythmic creativity. He creates such a devastating and oppressive atmosphere with his highly percussive playing. I’d say that Hacride are still European metal’s best kept secret.
On the American front, my choice is Joshua Travis of Glass Cloud and formerly of The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza. I LOVE this man’s playing. It’s crazy, br00tal, and it’s totally stupid in the most intelligent way, if that makes a lick of sense. The chords this guy comes up with are insane and the groove he has, not from following the kick drum at every juncture but jabbing artfully through the space around him, elevates any project he works with.
What will Earthside be up to rest of the year and in early 2016?
Geez, lots! We’ve just been confirmed for Prog Power Europe 2016 in the Netherlands, and we’re all hands on deck getting our debut album, A Dream In Static, out on October 23rd. We are doing a special CD release showcase at Toads Place in New Haven with our Tri-State progressive friends in Jolly and Head With Wings on Sunday October 25th, and after that we’ll be doing a whole lot of touring. We have a really unconventional multimedia-rich live show model that initially raises some eyebrows, but has been very well received overall. We’re excited to share this unique experience with our fans and skeptics :)
Also you can expect more cooking videos to come soon: