Fresh out of Seattle, Colony Drop are your favorite new thrash band, with enough twin leads and anime references to shake a stick at. Front man [and former Invisible Oranges editor-in-chief] Joseph Schafer’s crossover crew are wrecking necks and having a blast doing so. From their outset things have changed for the band stylistically: originally conceived as a death n’roll band, it became crossover thrash that is otherwise difficult to define.
Schafer’s vocals can at times remind you of GWAR’s Sexecutioner, which he himself refers to as his 'anime villain voice.' It adds another layer of complexity to the songs that are in your face and well curated with an attention to detail that is tough to compare against. Guitarists Ben Burton and Ryan Moon channel the very best to ever do twin leads, Ari Rosenschein’s bass and Eric Harris's d-beats, “Tank Beats”, and more keep things chaotic yet stable. Throw in a cherry on top of all of this with the excellent artwork from Matt Stikker and you have Brace For Impact. It is our pleasure today to present the full album stream from this quarrelsome quintet; from our site to your ears.
Read on below for an interview with Joseph Schafer where we discuss all matter of influences and the absolutely draining experience of recording this album that helps cash the checks his mouth writes.
How would you say the band as a whole has grown since you released your demo up to recording Brace For Impact?
Joseph Schafer: It’s kind of an extraordinary story. We had 9 out of the 11 songs written, and the 2 songs on The Demo came from the session where we tried to pre-produce the album at Buster Room Studios. Ryan (Moon) recorded it, and he is a really talented recording engineer. This was when we were supposed to be a death n’ roll band, and though it is still an element of ours, after we did that demo, we had a conversation about where we were gonna go. I was happy with the stuff, but Ryan played it back and said, “Dudes, a lot of this stuff could be better.” The band said to me, “Your growls are fine, and you are a charismatic frontman, but your cleans are special.” This was difficult for me to hear since I had spent so much time on my growls. My cleans are what I call my “anime villain” voice; At the time, it was just me trying to sound like a voice actor for Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure’s English dub. I almost thought of the cleans as a gag. I was on one for a second, but the guys wanted to re-focus the music to make them really work as the focal point, and I realized they were right. That said, at that time we were trying to play live stuff, and we didn’t have anything recorded and released yet, so it was hard to convince people we were even ‘real’ without a Bandcamp and music people could hear. So, I said, “Look, let’s just drop 2 songs as a demo to prove that we exist first.” So we picked “Stand Against The World” and “The Guillotine,” which both worked in those sessions. Most of the other songs were then rewritten many times. When we were transitioning from growls to more singing, we said, “Let’s not talk about new bands; let’s just think about what got you rowdy when you were 12 years old.”
There are even some elements of Slough Feg present on the album too.
JS: How could I not think about Traveller? It’s got high speed and twin leads, but it's also like those early War Hammer-inspired Bolt Thrower albums in that it’s a great example of a band playing in someone else’s imaginative wheelhouse. It’s not like we are going to get Bandai on board to help with this the way Bolt Thrower got Games Workshop in their corner, but it got me thinking, “What from Mobile Suit Gundam could we pull into the art and lyrics to make it work?” I don’t think you need to like the source material to like Colony Drop. It was more about thinking, “How do you take that imagery that means something to you when you are a kid and use it?” I was discovering Metallica and Judas Priest while I was watching Gundam Wing when it first aired in America. To me, they will always be connected.
You said the name Colony Drop came from an incident from Mobile Suit Gundam?
JS: Yes. In the original Gundam’s main storyline, the Colony Drop is a terrorist act that kicks off the plot. It becomes a declaration of war and a tremendous disaster, the worst war crime ever committed. The villains in the plot, the Principality of Zeon, call the Colony Drop ‘Operation British.’ The joke is that decolonization ended the British Empire, so the idea is that they are going to ‘decolonize’ space and end the Earth Federation. The Zeons don’t see themselves as villains, even when they are committing genocide for no reason. They completely lack self-awareness as to how wrong what they are doing is, which is very ironic, and I think the band's name also carries some dramatic irony. The social commentary I pull from the show is: America sees itself as a post-colonial power but has interfered with democracies in other former colonial nations, CIA-backed coups in Central America, for example. I see parallels between America and the Principality of Zeon. It's personal to me: my mother’s family fled the former military dictatorship in Brazil, so that was my emotional path into the material. To be clear, Ryan came up with the band name but didn’t know how deep I was into Gundam. I was probably more enthused than the rest, but they said, “You seemed excited!” So we ran with it.
What has the live environment been like for Colony Drop?
JS: We’re lucky. We have never played a bad show, and we make new fans every show. The support locally has been heartwarming, even if we are a hard band to put a bill together with. Thrash isn’t gone, but a lot of new thrash has a blackened vibe, while we are more trad metal influenced. The black metal we’re thinking of is 1st wave black metal like Celtic Frost and Venom. Other bands are trying to make Mayhem more rockin'. Instead, We’re trying to make Mercyful Fate into a hardcore band—that’s where we fit in.
What were the recording sessions for this record like?
JS: There was a long break between tracking the instruments and recording the vocals. Working with my lovely wife Emily as a voice coach as well as performing live really helped me to refocus on how I wanted the vocals to sound. The drums were all done in one weekend at The Unknown, and then there were weeks of weekend sessions for guitar tracks and solos at Buster Room Studios. I did show up one day to watch Ben rip his solos, which was a ton of fun to watch. We did all the vocal takes in the small studio first, and they were not gelling. “Was it the performance or the equipment?” Turns out that it was the space itself.
We went back to The Unknown studio, which used to be a church, and is owned by Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie in Anacortes, Washington, and Nich Wilbur was our engineer. We set two mics up, we did one close-up and also a room mic. You have one in my face, which was intimate and clear but you also had this crazy natural reverb going into the microphone. Blending those 2 is how we got the vocal sound we wanted. Doing the gang shouts there was so much fun. I had asked Nich if they had many other heavy bands there and it turns out Sumac and Deathcave had recorded there. I told him that it was my first time recording vocals professionally and asked if I fuck up to make sure to cue me in on that. We got the first playback of the vocals and the band just told me to keep doing what I was doing because it was working. Later, decently well off into the evening, and my vocals were getting tired. I asked if we could stop for the day, and Nich came on from the control room and said, “You did this longer than any other screaming person does, Aaron from Isis did half a day; you have been here for 7 hours.” I asked why he didn’t stop me, and he said “It seemed like you were in the zone and we just let you go.” There was a lot of vocal rest on the 2nd day. Don’t yell for that long!
What is the story behind “(MS-07) The Gouf”?
JS: Go on Youtube and search “Gouf vs Ez8 Fight Scene” It is a 10-minute-long fight scene, from Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, and it is one of the best fight scenes I have ever seen. We were almost done writing the songs, and I said.” This is all a bit fast; what if we did kind of a Bolt Thrower song?” Sometimes my only note on drums is to do the “Tank Mk.1” beat, slow on top, double kicks super steady on the bottom, I like them more than blast beats these days. That influenced the songwriting. Ben sent us a “sludge death song,” demo and we pulled that and added the “Tank beat.” I went on the Gundam fank wiki and just started listing the stats for the mech into the microphone, and the song got put together really quickly. “MS-07) The Gouf” became our live closer, it’s our “boss fight.”
I know that a record that has also influenced the band’s sound is Entombed’s To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak The Truth.
JS: The first points of reference that Ryan sent me were Entombed – Wolverine Blues and Carcass – Surgical Steel. As the songs started to get weird and I thought more about To Ride, it made more sense. It’s kind of like Entombed’s version of The White Album. When I need to get into Colony Drop-mode that’s the record I reach for. If you come into Wolverine Blues from the punk side of things and even in the simplicity of the records — Heartwork has some glam in the drums — those were big inspirations for being honestly punk on other side of the coin while still maintaining that we are a metal band. We want to play with some hardcore bands even though we have been playing trad bands. We even want to play with the most over-the-top power metal bands. I would like nothing more than also to do this in front of a d-beat crowd as well.
Any live dates in the pipeline at the moment?
JS: A week after the record releases, we are playing Sabertooth Festival in Tacoma, Washington. Us, Year of the Cobra, Helms Alee, Ludicra, and Yob. We played with Year of the Cobra once before, and Amy watched our merch during our set - thanks Amy! We probably have the most in common with Ludicra which is probably the first time any band playing with them has been able to say that. Being able to play with a band like Ludicra, who are already an inspiration has me excited and nervous. This room is already bigger than any space we have played to this point. This is likely the last date we will play in 2023.
The artwork for the cover is pretty awesome; who is responsible for that?
JS: So, the artwork was done by Matt Stikker from Drouth. We went all in on the album art. It had to be good. I saw a sketch of a planet blowing up on his Instagram and sent it to the guys, and said, “This, but with a colony going into it”. Matt said he was into it and the band so we decided to do it. The art was fucking perfect; he was a dream to work with. We love you Matt; you are a fucking champion. My fiancée Emily did the band logo. The logo is a visual double entendre: there is the bee colony thing, but also hex bolts. She had this insight, brought it to us and said listen “This band is about machines; it should look like machines and fit together.” It all worked perfectly.
Was the 20XX on your logo and ‘High-Speed Twin Lead’ tee shirt a Mega Man reference?
JS: Ben intended that to be a ‘Fist of the North Star’ reference, but, video games are in the mix, too. I know Ryan is a big fan of the Sega Sound Team. There are a whole bunch of samples that aren’t on the record that we play live, and there are definitely some Mega Man X sound effects among them. We played an early show with a band called Alucard, and I apologized to beating them to the Metroidvania punch wen we played “The Clockwork Grip”; it’s a castle full of traps — it’s Castlevania!
Since the twin leads are such an integral and defining characteristic of the band, how did that come to be?
JS: I think Ben and Ryan had both been in bands before but not ones with another guitarist. They started playing with all the Downing/Tipton, Denner/Sherman, Hanneman/King dynamics. They learned to solo together. I think Ryan’s favorite band might be Thin Lizzy, and if you think he compares to Scott Gorham, he might do a backflip.
The attention to detail and the care for this release is second to none.
JS: I have to give big horns up to everyone in the band, Eric, Ari and Ben, and especially Ryan. They are all perfectionists. Sometimes I am the one trying to push things to take it to the next level. Ryan is always like, “Precision, attention to detail, these are the things that matter”. I know a lot of beloved bands that, for a myriad of reasons when writing, don’t pour over new material with the same fine-toothed comb that we chose to use. And I can see why bands don’t! We started in 2019; it took us 4 years to get the record out. We care about quality first, then fun second, and aesthetics third. Putting quality first is exhausting. There were definitely moments where we asked, “Is this worth it?” but when we saw the art and when we heard the final product, we knew it was worth it. Now that we’re working on album #2, we must find ways to surprise ourselves. It’s got to be fun. If we aren’t constantly finding joy in it, then no one else will.
Any parting words?
JS: Big fucking hails to Brandon Corsair and Andrew Lee from Nameless Grave Records and Sean Frasier from Wiseblood Records. They were really taking a gamble on us with our 400 Instagram followers, and pressing hundreds of vinyl records is a big ask for a new band. It is crazy that anything gets made these days. Every record is a miracle, and if I believed in heaven, I would consider it a gift from there. I never got to see it as a journalist; now that I have seen it firsthand, those guys are angels for taking a chance on us.