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Morbid Fascination
By Bill Ketzer

From humble roots in Glens Falls, Wasteform have quickly gained a following among death-metal fans around the country—and even more so in Europe

The full moon in the North Country in March has a sick pink ring inside it, like a Lyme bull’s-eye on pale skin, and it looms odiously low in the frigid late winter eve on the Northway. Death is everywhere: in the brittle scrape of trees in the wind, on the road with deer splayed wide open, in the death of democracy as imminent as a 28-percent Albany County tax hike. Death can also be found at a predetermined gas station at Exit 17, where I am soon face-to-face with Wasteform founder-vocalist Greg Kennedy and bassist Akim “Vladimir” Hovanetz. Joined by guitarist Kyle Hendrickson and drummer Kevin Carley, Wasteform have created an international stir with their latest release, Ignorance Through Sovereignty, and the persistence of the band’s punishing death-metal attack is written on the faces of the unshaven Hovanetz, cloaked in leather, and Kennedy, an Irish-American skinhead, a bear of a man with fists that could crush watermelons. Very little is said during introductions. It’s almost as if we’re in a covert liaison of some sort, and quickly Kennedy nods toward the road. “Follow us,” is all he says. “In the truck.”

We hammer down a lonely, desolate ribbon of tarmac off of Route 9 somewhere in Warren County, passing a Deaf Child Area. This is a last, curious sign of civilization, and soon I wonder if that designation was assigned before or after these guys infiltrated the region. The pavement blurs further and further into the rural night until the road just simply stops at a rickety old water tower, and from nowhere there emerges the last, crumbling vestiges of an old warehouse complex. We splash through unlit loading docks until his truck comes to a halt beside a tall steel door. We are greeted by several thin apparitions smoking cigarettes by it. Not for the first time, I fear they may kill and eat me.

But I am wrong. These apparitions are band members, waiting outside Ryan Murphy’s aptly named Hellbound Studios to record a single to showcase the band’s new lineup. Once inside, the fluorescent sheen of retrofitted lighting seems to animate their moods as we gather within this gaping expanse of water-stained brick and mortar, obnoxiously buttressed by 4-foot-thick steel girders. Talk of ’80s metal shows at Glens Falls Civic Center, like Accept and Iron Maiden, ignites good cheer as Big Bear Malt Liquor quarts are produced and the story begins.

“This is an entirely new Wasteform,” Kennedy says as we sit down in the amp room. He is the only remaining member from the original foursome that converged from area hardcore bands like Straight Jacket and Dying Breed in 2000. “It started after Straight Jacket, which we did for five or six years. I was always into metal, and me and this guy Grant (Matot) jammed this . . . kind of silly deathcore band. I didn’t see him for a few years, but then I met him at a show and we decided to start something brutal, something totally death-metal. I didn’t know any of the guys that well and I never sang death, but we jammed and right away we knew it was sick.”

Almost immediately, Skinless vocalist Sherwood Webber, who was working for Step Up Productions at the time, took notice. Even before they had a bass player, they found themselves performing live in front of large, hungry crowds.

“We only had four songs and we played our first show, no bassist, opening for Deicide and Marduk,” Kennedy explains. “I’ll never forget it, May 19, 2001, it was fuckin’ insane. That show kind of got us in the door, and soon we did a split CD with Traumaside for Step Up.”

This led to a full-length release on the local label (Crushing the Reviled, 2002), which with Webber’s connections at Relapse and some other companies, helped them get good slots on a number of high-profile festival shows.

“With Sherwood we got to do New England Metalfest, Maryland Deathfest, just these huge, huge events in front of thousands of people,” Kennedy explains. “And then we got this European thing, an outdoor festival called the Obscene Extreme Fest in the Czech Republic. I saw it online and I said, ‘Fuck, I’m gonna e-mail this dude and see if he’s heard of us,’ and it turned out the guy who runs it was a big Wasteform fan. It’s just three days of drunken Europeans, screaming, puking, barefoot, naked. . . . They’re fuckin’ sick about their metal over there, man. . . . They were everywhere, as far as the eye could see. We were signing autographs, pictures, for two hours nonstop.”

Since precious recording time is ticking away, we are summoned into a small partitioned area where the band members sit behind Murphy, who discusses the logistics of the new track. Most engineers are very particular about their gear, about smoking near it, touching it, looking at it funny and so on, but here the beer flows like the Thames and the ashtrays are packed with mounds of ash, spilling over onto the work areas. Murphy is gleefully indifferent to such contamination as Kennedy settles in to continue the tale.

“In 2003 we were able to hook up with Dave Rotten’s Xtreem Music label out of Spain and put out Ignorance Through Sovereignty,” he says. “I think signing to Xtreem is what really has given us such a huge fan base, especially in Europe. I mean, we go there and everyone knows the lyrics, you know what I mean? It blows my mind.”

With that exposure at hand, the foursome will again travel overseas (and will have left and returned by the time this article sees print) for an 18-show jaunt with Hungarian metallurgists Gutted, suitably titled the Wasting the Guts Tour. The entourage will hit clubs and festivals in Germany, Hungary, Italy, Serbia and Switzerland, an ambitious itinerary for a band with very little financial support from the industry.

“It’s coming out-of-pocket and I’m not sure how much money we’re gonna make, but we’ll get fed, we have transportation, we’ll have beer,” Kennedy says with a laugh. “Some guys can’t take that. I’m always gung ho, you know? I wanna play every weekend . . . new cities, new countries, play everywhere. We got back home in 2003 and had some bad shows, some guys weren’t feeling it, so they bowed out on good terms. There’s always roadblocks. You think it’s going well, then you get handed a string of shitty shows, or you start getting dicked out on pay, you’re not selling merch or you’re losing money. But my old man always told me you gotta eat shit to get shit, and it’s true, (you gotta) take the good with the bad.”

Once back from Europe, Kennedy hopes to get busy on a much-needed tour of the States, hopefully with a few of the more popular death acts in the country.

“We’re focusing on getting a decent agent and doing an extensive U.S. tour and getting a new album out there . . . build the fanbase, blow out the merch, learn from our mistakes,” he says. “And networking is the thing. You go out with popular death-metal bands like Cryptopsy, Suffocation, Dying Fetus, and these bands become your friends. We’ve known them for decades and you become their fans, they become yours. Their fans become your fans.”

Hendrickson still hammers away at the click track at a ridiculous amount of beats-per-minute, and Kennedy smirks, sated for now. He pulls the hood from his sweatshirt over his shiny pate, folds his arms and settles in for a long recording session.

“They’re not leaving, and neither are we.”


-No info this week

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