Capital City speed freaks

Isyou kickstarts metal counter culture

Photo courtesy of Dave Locane

Trenton tech-metal warriors Isyou (guitarist Paul Plumeri Jr., guitarist Al Rende, bass player Chad Looney, drummer Mike Castro and singer Chris Proniewski) take on the 449 Room in Trenton August 31.

The Trentonian  Thursday, August 24, 2006

— It’s hard to believe, but tech-metal wizards Isyou do not intend to torture ears.

Instead the thunderous five piece band aim at expanding minds, or at least changing mainstream views of brutal, heavy metal.

Sure the county’s loudest musical experience is brutish and terrorizing has erratic song structures with expansive time signatures and rock blasts of pure mayhem — but it’s not what an expert ear would consider traditional heavy metal.

It’s not evil or rejected.

It’s styled to perfection.

And has these irregular guitar collisions that aren’t there to intentionally wallop your brain, but to expand it.

In fact all those preconceived notions people have of metal’s morbid communion and devil-worshipping fanbase is an old school idea.

If you’re looking in the right places, metal’s seen a technical makeover over the years which has expanded the genre to mind-boggling musical soundscapes.

And Isyou wants to join that growing trend.

“This is why I love metal,” said guitarist Paul Plumeri, the name sake son of the famed Trenton bluesman. “It’s because metal is really indescribable in words.

“People try to describe bands (like us) as tech, math rock, whatever it is, but you can’t do a band justice in words alone. Because in metal you can do whatever you want. All it has to be is a bit heavy and it’s metal.”

Isyou, which is the Japanese translation for together, shy away from the mainstream style most would consider “metal.”

Get Disturbed, Metallica, System of a Down or anything in make-up out of your head right now — Isyou’s more in line with the current, kick butt, hardcore charges in between the Buried & Me, Converge (the grandfathers of spastic metalcore) and Jersey’s Dillinger Escape Plan.

In fact musically, Isyou — like its contemporaries — are closer to King Crimson’s erratic waves of explorations, but faster and more barbaric.

The drums are head crushing, the guitars strive on breaking land-speed records, the vocals are throat-gargling yet thought-provoking and, unlike most metal bands, bass player Chad Looney makes his own galloping attempts instead of just following along with the guitars.

“At the start of this project I want to have musicians that all had their own identities,” said Plumeri, a Nottingham grad.

“Bass is notorious in metal for being just totally pointless,” he said. “It’s basically like a tuned- down guitar. But our bass player does his own thing. He’s totally out side the box of what we’re doing, plays outside of the lines of melodies of what the guitars are doing and is totally out of his own mind.”

Isyou’s 2005 demo is like this steel-cage match with barbed-wire baseball bats, that’ll either give you a brain aneurysm or make you punch through a brick wall, except there’s this dash of Luchadorian beauty to it.

But it’s not the band’s best effort, Plumeri admits.

Being in a genre that Plumeri explained is open to constant change, Isyou has some of the same critical breakdowns seen in Meshuggah. But there’s also this blistering instrumental scheme that’s constantly changing, with odd time signatures and funky bass grooves.

At times Isyou uses these solemn, free-jazz elements to trap listeners into its next wave of savageness that’s used to completely damage your soul.

As Plumeri said, Isyou’s technical edge is there to battle and test the normal psyche — even to shake up the status of modern metal.

“Really the goal of the band is to break away from any genre definition for a metal band,” Plumeri said. “As I told the drummer, and as I told the rest of the band, if we can ever be described in one word then we failed. So in that way, we want to be known as versatile and want be able to appeal on a lot of different levels but still be brutal and technical at the same time.”

Confused yet?

It happens when the band’s style is so obscure.

But a lot of what Isyou’s gone through, Miles Davis, Frank Zappa and even Converge went through in gaining acceptance.

It’s always a valiant idea to knockdown barriers — especially in a musical landscape owned and operated by the media and money making giants in the record industry.

Metal, and bands like Lamb Of God and Trivium, has found its niche lately that has allowed loud music to poke through a bit, but it’s not the kind of style Isyou projects or even relates to.

For instance, the guys (Plumeri, Looney, guitarist Al Rende, drummer Mike Castro and singer Chris Proniewski) were battling it out at KatManDu a few weeks back as part of Russo’s Music $25,000 Battle of Bands.

It was one of the band’s typical blurring live sets, with Proniewski spitting his usual fiery, political prose, as the rest of the gang shreds its ear-smashing audio punch.

Most of the people there were waiting for the next band — who sounded kind of like this Hootie and-Blowfish-type band that makes all the girls swoon.

During Isyou the babes seemed to hide under the tables — peeking out a bit toward the end at the musical mastery and jazz wanders, while still frighten by the auditory attack.

Since, the guys have moved onto the finals this October, probably because of Isyou’s unmatched musicianship and because one of the judges said its music that night was so fast and insane his pregnant wife had to leave the room because the baby seemed to be kicking its way out of her belly, Plumeri said.

“The musical climate makes people hear one way,” explains Plumeri, who wasn’t shocked the guys moved on or that many people remained dazed at Isyou’s speedy musical profile.

“They have one musical mind. They either want to hear a Fall Out-Boy-type of a band or some kind of rap,’ he said. “But the line is really thin between those things, and they don’t want to be challenged. I don’t think people want to be challenged by music.

“At one point, I can’t blame them. Maybe the stress of life makes them listen to some mediocre garbage.”

Still Isyou sees itself as the black sheep of the Trenton music scene. It’s the only tech-metal band around, so its not always get ting the type of audience it deserves.

Yes the Trenton scene is just as erratic as Isyou’s metallic blasts, but the band’s aspirations go beyond the Delaware River.

It sees Dillinger Escape Plan and Between the Buried & Me as its contemporaries — psycho metal musicians who push the math-core style boundaries past mainstream standards.

Plumeri wants to challenge listeners just as King Crimson challenged him.

He remembers when Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were pop bands who were also awesome musicians and doesn’t under stand why a progression in style, like in his band, can’t be considered the norm.

“I’m not worried about the main-stream, but I’d love to make peo ple open their minds to this kind of stuff,” Plumeri said. “The crappier the mainstream gets, the stronger the underground gets, and I think that’s hit the high- water mark now.”

— Check out Isyou with Towers Open Fire at the 449 Room (339 S.Broad St., next to the Conduit) Aug. 31.

— Scott Frost is a music columnist for The Trentonian, covering the Mercer and Bucks county music scenes. He can be reached at: