For a few months, Johnny Crowder of Dark Sermon had been posting teasers of a new project. It was never clear whether or not this was a side project or if he was leaving Dark Sermon. On May 3rd, he took to Facebook and wrote that Dark Sermon was no more. They had fulfilled their record contracts, rotten luck, and members out right retiring from touring. We here at Metal Lifestyle were fans of their work and let loose with them during last summer’s Coffin Dragger Tour. In that same statement, Crowder announced his new band Prison with an EP, N.G.R.I., set to release on June 9th and the single “The Knife and the Dying Dream.”
We’re fortunate to interview the band and talk about the single, the EP, and more.
Probably a good place to start: how are people reacting to the single?
Luckily, the response has been better than I was anticipating. I was nervous, largely because Prison is so different from Dark Sermon, and I didn’t want to put off people who have been following me since 2008. To my surprise, nearly everyone has accepted it with open arms, and they’ve been treating it like a breath of fresh air.
The single has these eerie guitar tones, powerful bass groove and brings the heat around its chorus. I want to call it nu metal, but I’m hesitant to call it that, or anything that binary. Where do you do think the single, and the EP, fall genre-wise?
You are allowed to call it nu metal haha. We are definitely shooting for a more dated vibe than most bands right now. I’m very happy that people are comparing us to bands like Spineshank, Chevelle, Korn, FLAW, and Deftones. It’s hard to put out anything acutely heavy in 2017 without being pigeonholed into a genre that can limit your scope and reach as an artist. We are cool with alternative metal, nu metal, rock, any of that. It seems like people are really picking up what we’re putting down, and I’m so thankful for that.
Expanding on the previous question, where do you pull inspiration from musically? There seems to be a number of styles that come come together here.
A majority of what we jam together is older stuff like Coal Chamber, Korn, Slipknot, Adema, bloodsimple, Mudvayne, Ill Nino, and other bands from the 90’s and the 2000’s. We just wanted to put a semi-modern spin on the music we grew up listening to, and that’s a lot harder than it sounds.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time you’ve done clean vocals. Was this a conscious step or just what felt natural, especially since it's so prominent compared to before?
So, it is the first time I’ve done cleans on a record. I’ve been working on my singing voice for years, but I’ve never found an appropriate outlet for it in heavy music. Dark Sermon was never one of those bands that would be able to incorporate that tastefully (at least, it hadn’t become that just yet), so I kept it in the holster. I am not the type of guy that wants to force something to work just because I want it, so I waited for the right time. With Prison, I feel like the cleans sit very naturally in the mix, and don’t feel like pop or Hot Topic cleans. I think they’re dark and emotional and minor, and that’s exactly what the song called for in my eyes.
The song tackles suicide and has a bit of a religious edge to it, but what’s really surprising is how genuine it feels. Did the narrative and theme come from any particular place?
Definitely. And I’m glad it came across as genuine, because it is. Every word I write for this band is taken from personal experience. Anyone who has followed me through the years know I’m not fronting when I talk about suicide, faith, sobriety, abuse, mental illness, or anything in that realm. These are all things that I’ve lived through and I’m determined to use my platform to speak about these things through music and let people know that they’re not alone.
About a year ago, you uploaded a demo of another song, “Rape Me.” It sounds incredibly cathartic, maybe more than “The Knife...” Are these two songs indicative of the places N.G.R.I. will take listeners?
N.G.R.I. is unsettlingly dark, but there’s a tiny glimmer of hope underneath it all. “Rape Me” is the closing track on the record, and we reworked it to breathe new life into the piece. If you’re planning on listening to the album, understand that it is going to stir you and heal you in ways you aren’t familiar with. But that’s exactly what we’re going for. Not all of the songs are quite as dismal, but they certainly all have a signature edge to them.
Glancing at the tracklist, just about every title stands out in some way. But the title of the EP is perplexing. The art certainly adds weight, with the letters carved into the arm, but what does N.G.R.I. stand for and mean in the broad context of the EP?
“N.G.R.I.” stands for Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. It’s a legal term for the insanity defense. When someone commits a heinous crime, but their lawyer can prove they were not in their right mind when the crime was committed, they can be acquitted. There are two audio clips in the first track that explain this better than I can. The implications of the title are too far-reaching to delve into here, but I can promise that if you read through the lyrics while you listen to the record, something will click for you.
Is there something on the EP that you are particularly excited to share?
It’s the audio clip, believe it or not. It says more than I could ever say.
On Facebook, it's seems like you guys will be playing your local area Florida. Are there any plans to tour after the EP drops? Who would you like to hit the road with?
We are playing the long game right now. When I was younger, I would throw caution to the wind and just hit the road immediately. But we’re trying to be smarter about everything and take it slow and steady. You know, treat it like a game of chess rather than a race.
Obviously we would love to tour with some old-school bands that we look up to, but we have a lot of good friends who are active in the modern scene that we’d love to tour with. The Last Ten Seconds of Life, The Acacia Strain, Knocked Loose, Kublai Khan, Darke Complex, and Sworn In are just a few of them.
Lastly, I’m always curious about what people are listening to. What's currently on your playlist?
Other than the bands I’ve already named, I’ve been really into Red, Three Days Grace, Seether, 67, Ingrid Michaelson, No Zodiac, TesseracT, and the new Bethel Music album, “Starlight.”
You can find N.G.R.I. on their bandcamp, releasing on June 9th