Swarm – Devour – Review


Devour (Industrial Strength)
by Scott Hefflon

Funny that with such great pedigree (three ex-members of Death Angel), this sucks so badly. But I’m sure George W.’s parents still wonder what went wrong… Luckily, in both cases, the boys get a little help from their friends. Swarm has done opening jags for Jerry Cantrell, and members of Metallica, Stone Temple Pilots, and Primus have jammed with the band. But this five-song EP, as I said, sucks. It calls itself rock, and I guess that’s what it is. Bad, local, unsigned-for-a-reason rock. Death Angel, of course, was pretty darn good. They started young, humble, and a little rudimentary (the drummer was 14, but could hold his own), but they grew and matured quickly. The main trouble, of course, was that the singer wasn’t very good. He could sing/speak and snarl well enough to cover, but after three records, ya kinda realized it just wasn’t going to get any better. Then there was the near-fatal bus wreck and the band broke up rather than go on while drummer/vocalist Andy Galeon healed.

Years later, a new band made its presence know: The Organization (or The O, as the stickers and tee shirts read). Death Angel singer Mark Osegueda was nowhere to be seen, and that was fine. Guitarist Rob Cavestany’s voice had really developed into something magical, and cousin Andy piped in some amazing harmonies from behind the kit, sometimes even taking over on lead, as odd as that feels live. The first album, graced with a predictable “Excuse me, boss?” mobster illustration, was released on Metal Blade in ’93, and did pretty damn well. It was kind of a musiciany thing – especially in the drumming – so that only players really “got” how spectacular these guys were. Emoting metal was not exactly en vogue, but songs like “Wonder,” just floored you emotionally and then launched into a solo Testament woulda been pleased to’ve written.

The second record, Savor the Flavor, tanked due to a terrible title, a terrible cover (in ’95, we all fiddled with PhotoShop and thought inversed images were really cool), and the fact that punk had its resurgence and limping metal bands were put out to pasture. “Young upstarts” like The O were back to being underground faves to clusters of fans who wondered why no one else got it, but ain’t that always the way? The record relied on a lot more funk and jazz than most metal doods usually care for, but again, the soulful singing over tight-as-shit chugging rhythms compensated for the sometimes “dumb metal” lyrics and titles. I mean, “Doomsday Eve” may be sung in a passionate voice, but it’s still called “Doomsday Eve,” ya know? And there were, come to think of it, a lotta dogs on that one too. But the combination of the two vocalists and a driving rock beat were like those two brightly-colored fluids ya see in action movies all the time that, when mixed, are pretty damn explosive.

Oh, but all that’s ancient history… Swarm’s best song is “Heavens Cage,” which is still so bad they didn’t bother to put the apostrophe in. Most of it’s crap, a lame-sounding chug with Mark’s unsteady Megadethian sneer yapping about something, but The O boys lay down a rich chorus backdrop, and that’s the best it gets.

To end on a good note, I’ve met the guys a number of times, they’ve been up and down a number of times now, and they have good heads and a lot of heart. Why they’re dumbing down to this rudimentary level is beyond me. And why they let Mark sing again is beyond me as well. It’s like when Anthony of the Red Hot Chili Peppers shuts his trap and ya realize just how amazing John Frusciante is. From what I hear, that’s a real sore spot for the band, as it should be. Anthony can’t sing to save his life and John could lull a nun into a backstage menage with Beelzebub.