For Black Tide, evolution is a big part of growing up.
On Post Mortem, the band’s second album for DGC/Interscope, the Miami quartet has developed and deepened its sound, creating a collection of dangerously hypnotic hard rock.
Black Tide began a non-stop rollercoaster of touring since its debut Light From Above dropped in 2008, and it certainly fostered growth on album number two. During that whirlwind of shows, the band participated in the first-ever Rockstar Mayhem Festival alongside Slipknot and Disturbed in 2008, toured the U.S. with Avenged Sevenfold, played the main stage at Ozzfest 2008 and lit up the stage on Warped Tour 2009. Overseas, the group shared stages with legends such as Iron Maiden and Metallica. Meanwhile, Rolling Stone featured Black Tide as one of the "Best Rookies of 2008" and Kerrang! lauded the band as "Best International Newcomer," while numerous video games—from Rock Band to NHL 09—featured Black Tide tunes. The four members, all in their teens at the time, continued to collectively and personally grow as musicians, paving the way for this second album.
"We've experienced a lot since we first hit the road," explains frontman Gabriel Garcia. "You get into some crazy things, and you grow up so fast. That definitely influenced this record."
The band—Gabriel Garcia (Guitar, Vocals), Steven Spence (Drums), Austin Diaz (Guitar), Zakk Sandler (Bass)—has preserved the raw edge that made Light From Above so impactful, while sonically sharpening everything with flourishes of prog and just the right dose of melody.
The new material showcases the band's creative expansion, and the members of Black Tide collectively worked on writing the album together over the past two years, honing their skills. First single “That Fire" burns with an acoustic intro and a syncopated polyrhythmic groove while "Bury Me" breaks down with a mathematical madness as hard-hitting riffs crisscross and careen violently. Then there's "Ashes," which packs a pummeling punch, and "Walking Dead Man," a barn-burner of a track that Steven actually wrote on guitar. "Let It Out" resounds with that powerful punk spirit prevalent since day one for Black Tide.
"We grew as writers, musicians, people and friends,” says Garcia. “Most importantly, we became more of a family. Everything about our operation is a lot tighter, and we were all writing this time around. That made a huge difference in the vibe of the album."
Black Tide's immense progression is immediately evident. Garcia embraced a myriad of influences to add a new edge to the band's patented attack. "For this album, I was listening to The Beatles and U2 as well as Pantera and Metallica,” Garcia states. “My influences were all over the place, and I think everybody needs that so you can create a broader sound. Listening to classic bands opened our eyes to a new way of songwriting. We weren't afraid to go outside the box. As a result, there are no boundaries on this record."
One trip outside the box is "Into the Sky." The poignant acoustic cut shows just how versatile, yet potent Black Tide can be. Garcia reveals, "That song is for anybody who has ever lost somebody. Every lyric on this album means something, and I really want fans to listen closely because it gets deep and real."
Black Tide's sophomore offering has been in the making since October 2009. The band retreated to a Kansas studio with producer Josh Wilbur [Lamb of God] to pen the demos that would eventually become Post Mortem. After intense pre-production, they hit a New York studio with Wilbur and GGGarth Richardson [Rage Against the Machine, Mudvayne] in May 2010 and worked towards crafting this cohesive and dynamic second outing.
The addition of Austin Diaz also encouraged further evolution. He officially entered the fold on Mayhem 2008, but Post Mortem marks his first time writing with the band. Classically trained with years of music school under his belt, Diaz’s elegant thrashing brings a calculated refinement to Post Mortem. Zakk Sandler explains, "Given his classical influences, Austin's writing is different, but it's a huge factor of our style now. His ability to collaborate with Gabe is incredible. They've locked in great and written some of our most intricate music together."
"Studying theory helps you think about music more," Diaz divulges. "You become more mathematical; and you become more 'prog,' so to speak. You start thinking in different time signatures. I feel the music out and it makes the jam a little better."
In addition to shifting time signatures, the band has begun to experiment with Latin styles. Three of the band members—Garcia, Spence and Diaz—have Latin heritage as common ground, and that's been able to shine through in the new music. Black Tide even recorded Spanish versions of "Let it Out" and "Into the Sky" specifically for its Latin audience. "It's great we share that Latin American background. We spend holidays the same way, and our families cook the same food," laughs Spence. "It's important to realize where you come from, and there's a deep bond that forms from recognizing that."
That bond also comes from the fact that Black Tide is still a pack of regular kids. Diaz spends his free time making hip hop beats, while Spence still plays soccer with his buddies and reads voraciously. At home, Sandler will go longboarding at the local college, and Garcia manages to fit in a few video games here and there.
Sandler sums up where the band is at best. "This is a new horizon for Black Tide. Nobody told us what we had to be. This is what we love, and it covers the spectrum. This album has some of the heaviest music we've ever done and some of the softest. Here are our fucking songs. We don't want to make the same record over and over again; we want to progress as musicians and writers. We're going to continue to do that. This really is Black Tide." Garcia concludes, "We have an original sound on this record, and it's only going to get better. I want people to listen to this album forever. I want them to come to the shows and feel it. That's what I love in music—when it really moves you."
Post Mortem will move you just like any great hard rock record should.