Over the next few days, I’m going to be making available some of the content I generated for MusicMatters, the little music publication that could–then couldn’t–then could again–then finally couldn’t. Since it didn’t have much of an online component, most people haven’t seen these before. Anyway, today’s first up is Century Media’s In this Moment. Some of it is a little dated, but most of it still makes for a decent read.
In This Moment
The first meetings of rock’s great song writing duos are the subject of mythic lore. One wonders how John Lennon sized up Paul McCartney when the two first met at a church party in 1957. One wonders how much whiskey was consumed the first night between Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. And one wonders just how many pairs of deck shoes and white slacks were on hand the first time Kenny Loggins went sailing with Jim Messina. Luckily, the first meeting of In This Moment vocalist Maria Brink and guitarist Chris Howorth is readily remembered by the two.
“I thought he was a complete jerk,” offers Brink, recalling the scene with affection. “He didn’t want to audition me because I was a girl—and I thought ‘this guy is a total douche.’” At the time, Howorth couldn’t have known that the Albany, NY native was raised by a young, rock and roll mom and had been around rock music her entire life. He also couldn’t have known that the driven single mom (Brink, a young mom herself, has a 14-year old son) could sing, scream and, most importantly, match Howorth’s monomaniacal desire to get a real band going.
Howorth doesn’t sugar coat the moment either. “A friend (eventual ITM drummer Jeff Fabb) came over with her and said, ‘I met this girl who sings and wants to get a band going.’ I had other bands going and was reluctant to do it, just thinking ‘I don’t want to jam with a girl.’ She came back the next week when we were jamming and got up, a capella, and started doing this thing. Her scream just blew me away, and immediately we started working together.”
The trio’s first stab at a collaboration, Dying Star, wound up more on the hard rock end of the spectrum and petered out after a couple of shows. Redoubling their efforts, the three changed focus. Says Howorth, “We decided to mix what I do best, which is the real metal stuff, with what she does best, which is a mix of metal and hard rock.” After adding guitarist Blake Bunzel and bassist Jesse Landry, the band’s first six songs were quickly recorded as demos. Their brand of melodic metalcore, along with Brink’s commanding stage presence and fallen angel good looks, led to a deal with metal stalwarts Century Media.
Five of these first six songs would make their way on to their debut, Beautiful Tragedy (Century Media). Though narrow in its musical focus (many tracks have the same tempo, feel, and structure, which tires on repeated listens) the record is packed with high energy, sing-along choruses, and enough breakdowns to keep pits circling for a good forty minutes. At the center is Brink’s voice, which veers between guttural barks reminiscent of Arch Enemy’s Angela Gossow and the operatic, pseudo-gothic melodies of Evanescence’s Amy Lee. As of writing, their record is doing extremely well—over 10,000 copies sold in just three weeks of release—and the band is in the midst of an incredible slate of spring/summer touring that includes the entire Ozzfest, European dates with Devildriver, Austria’s Nova Rock festival, and North American club dates with Lacuna Coil and Kittie.
Though the band acknowledges they’ve been quite fortunate, their success hasn’t been accidental. The creative tension between Brink and Howorth produces a sound that’s at once heavy but still melodic and tuneful enough to grab mainstream fans who might be put off by the extremely heavy, punishing sounds of label mates like Cryptopsy or Behemoth. For Brink, it’s part of an ever evolving creative relationship–one that can be tumultuous but ultimately productive.
“Honestly, it was, and still is, a constant struggle between me and Chris. It’s really extreme. He is like a really solid metal dude and really into heavy stuff. I like heavy stuff, but I also love a lot of mellow stuff,” says Brink. “I’m really all about diversity in an album, singing, and not just staying with in one genre. I love heavy stuff, but I play heavy shows every night. In my own time I like to listen to mellow stuff.” When asked if Howorth finds her melodic favorites distasteful, she responds quickly. “I’m sure that there’s a lot of stuff I love that he absolutely hates–probably 80 percent of it.” With all the touring they have on deck, it’s hard to imagine the band abiding each other’s radio selections. Fortunately, they all travel armed with their MP3 players of choice. “Whoever is driving controls the radio, so if I’m driving I plug in the iPod and blast Death Cab for Cutie,” says Brink. “Then Chris gets behind the wheel, and he’s blasting Slayer.”
Howorth grew up playing in metal bands in his native Topeka, Kansas, before heading west seven years ago. Like Brink, he made the move with the firm idea in mind to start a band that would become a full-time job. In the meantime, building a band meant making ends meet–and finding a steady paycheck that would accommodate his band’s deafening roar.
“When I moved out here I got a job at Public Storage. I got a house at the site as part of the salary, which was out in this industrial area. Every band I’ve been in up to and including In this Moment had rehearsed at that house,” he admits, smiling and chuckling at his band’s good fortune. “In This Moment was born right there in that industrial park. Right before we left for the Powerman 5000 tour (in 2006) we had the whole band living there, plus a friend on the couch—and two dogs. It’s the only job I had the whole time…” he pauses, grinning a little bit, “…though I wasn’t too sad to give it up!”