They say only the strong survive and for Louisiana swamp grinders Soilent Green, no truer words were ever spoken. Hardly strangers to adversity, Soilent’s two-decade-old history is fraught with lineup changes, van collisions, murder, suicide and a hurricane casualty. And yet, they soldier on, driven by passion, patience, perseverance and a will to dominate.
Named after a 1970s sci-fi flick about a scandalous food substitute made from dead people, intended to save a nation crippled by the effects of global warming, Soilent Green was formed in 1988 by guitarists Brian Patton, Donovan Punch, drummer Tommy Buckley, and vocalist Glenn Rambo following their communal exodus from NOLA death metal troupe, Nuclear Crucifixion. Rambo eventually left the band and Patton — doing double-duty with his “side” gig Eyehategod —Punch and Buckley were eventually joined by bassist Scott Williams and vocalist Ben Falgoust of local death/grinders Paralysis. Following a bevy of demos and myriad local gigs, the band signed to Dwell records and released the now-legendary 1995 Pussysoul debut upon unsuspecting ears. A raw, downtrodden fusion of death, grind, dark hardcore and doom with subtle blues swagger seemingly inherent to bands from the Bayou State, Pussysoul proved without question that Soilent had something viable to offer adventurous ears. But it was the band’s live performance that told a far more detailed story. Marked by Falgoust’s commanding stage presence, a penchant for instrumental precision and a collective sonic crush, Soilent Green quickly became a cult favorite among ‘heads searching for something more ominous in their metal diets.
Two support slots with Pantera helped stir the interest of the uninitiated. By ’98 the band signed to the higher profile Relapse Records and released the now-infamous String of Lies EP. Graced by the stunning artwork of Czechoslovakian painter Alfons Mucha, the String Of Lies EP was a 13-minute torrent of unapologetic, chest-caving brutality and a precursor to the quick-tempered Sewn Mouth Secrets. Bottom-heavy, maniacally brooding and adorned again with Mucha’s illustrations, Sewn Mouth Secrets helped redefine the meaning of “extreme.” Driven by its innovative guitar work, plunge-to-pummel rhythms, bipolar pace fluctuations, blues-based swamp grooves and razor-grazed vocals all seething under Falgoust’s tense, sadistic lyrics, anyone with ears agreed: Sewn Mouth Secrets was every bit the proverbial diamond in the rough. Even Rolling Stone reacted to its far-reaching ferocity, tagging the band "One of the ten most important hard and heavy bands." Despite their still relatively underground status, the band had earned a place among metal’s most elite.
Donovan left the band following the SMS touring cycle and was replaced by Ben Stout who played with Falgoust in the then-newly formed Goatwhore. Together they recorded the critically acclaimed A Deleted Symphony for the Beaten Down in 2001. Carrying on the band’s now signature method of aural disobedience, A Deleted Symphony…’s tighter, moodier, slugecore/blues concoction was immediately received by raised horns, open arms and media accolades across the board. But a van collision in Washington during the close of the Extreme Music For Extreme People tour with Morbid Angel, Exhumed and Zyklon brought Soilent’s momentum to a halt with Patton and Williams suffering significant shoulder injuries. The crash forced the cancellation of all remaining shows. Following several months of recovery, the band — an apparent black cloud shadowing their every move — suffered a second van crash on the outskirts of Chicago while on the Gwar tour in the spring of 2002. The accident left touring bassist Jonny Model with a broken collar bone and Falgoust incapacitated from the waist down. Undeterred by the sudden flux of bad luck, the frontman underwent a series of surgeries and intensive physical therapy and by the summer of 2003 — donning a leg cast and cane — was patrolling the stage on a 26-date “comeback” tour which featured new recruits, Tony White on guitar and Scott Crochet on bass. Arguably the target of some ancient voodoo curse, tragedy struck the band again in 2003 when former bassist Scott Williams was found dead, the apparent victim of a murder/suicide.
2005’s fittingly titled Confrontation was the sound of a band unleashing four years of hostility and frustration. Recorded at Mana Studios in Tampa, Florida with producer/engineer Erik Rutan, Confrontation served as a cooperative band purge of sorts; a releasing of demons as it were. Dirty, down-tuned and booming, laced with see-sawing tempo shifts, suffocating sludge riffs and a penetrating production, the record was another solid Soilent display of but it would hardly break their streak of bad luck. Just a few weeks after its North American release, Hurricane Katrina, one of the five deadliest hurricanes in US history, destroyed much of the north-central Gulf Coast, particularly Louisinaia and greater New Orleans. Former vocalist Gene Rambo was found dead in his home, while friends and family members were temporarily displaced.
The New Chapter…
Newly signed to Metal Blade, this year’s aptly titled Inevitable Collapse In The Presence Of Conviction sees the Soilent Green machine — Buckley, Crochet, Falgoust and Patton — strengthened by its hardships and rejuvenated by a new label home. Recorded again with Erik Rutan at Mana Studios, Inevitable Collapse bleeds with debilitating emotion from the epically heavy salvo of “Mental Acupuncture” to the bare-knuckled exigency of “A Pale Horse and the Story of the End.” Blast-laden and confrontationally heavy with the manic time shifts, sludgy breakdowns, Southern charm and sheer instrumental prowess for which the band has become so synonymous, Inevitable Collapse In The Presence Of Conviction marks the band’s most varied and instrumentally accomplished record to date.
“It’s definitely the most level-headed record we’ve done in a long time,” comments Patton, whose more-lethal-than-ever guitar skills add a new dimension to the Soilent landscape. “All the chaos we’ve had in the past few years has kind of calmed down a bit.”
Based loosely around the band’s history of struggle and general feelings of hopelessness and dejection and punctuated by John Van Fleet striking cover design, Inevitable Collapse is a 42 minute soundtrack to reality; Falgoust’s varying vocal tones and cutting verbalization bringing its concept to the forefront with crippling urgency.
“It’s the basic idea of no hope. It’s in reference to the history of Soilent Green and also just life in general,” Falgoust notes of the record’s unofficial theme. “Everybody is always picturing things with a happy ending, but life’s not always like that. Every individual out there gets to a point where they feel like they’ve struggled to a point and never got anything out of it. It happens every day. That’s the point of this record. Sometimes, even when you put your all into something and work hard, things don’t always work out in the end. That’s just the way life falls sometimes.”
“It’s a pretty heavy name,” adds Patton. “I came up with it. I’ve been dealing with a lot of issues in life. We’ve had a lot of deaths in our little circle. Glenn passed away in the hurricane, our old bass player ended up getting shot and you know, we’ve had a lot of issues with just family. It hasn’t been all peaches and cream out in this area. So it’s just a depression type theme; when you’re given hope and it’s taken from you. It’s pretty heavy. Ben’s got a lot going on in his brain so. And I must say,” he adds with a laugh, “he makes it really hard for crowds to yell out titles of songs.”
Inevitable Collapse In The Presence Of Conviction will be released in North America on April 15th, followed by a series of tours throughout 2008.