By Gary Wright
Murder Earth 'Waiting (For The End Of Man)' (2015)
Murder Earth is a 5-piece hard rock/heavy metal/groove metal band from Des Moines, Iowa. The band consists of scene veterans and take onboard many influences.
For this review, I'm going to mix up a band overview, band history, review of the album, and also some personal memoirs. This album is quite personal to me for a number of reasons, which will be explained as we go. Murder Earth's debut album, 'Waiting (For The End Of Man)' (2015), was recorded by the renowned Griffin Landa at The Establishment Recording, in Des Moines, Iowa. It is symbolic for a number of reasons, including the fact that it is a single, concerted effort to display a solidarity in the band's previously unsettled nature. Murder Earth is one of those bands that has taken on many forms over the years, going through a number of name and line-up changes, its future, always uncertain. I'm also going to refrain from trying to use big, descriptive words in this review... as the facts and history of this band are impressive enough.
At time of writing, the band's current line-up is Ben Murphy (also of Hangover, ex-Bartyr In Blood, ex-The Fallen) on vocals, Tim 'Dominic' Flor (ex-Dredge, ex-Painface, ex-PygWalk, ex-Shedd) on rhythm guitar, Jim Stockham (ex-Dawn Of Destruction, ex-Facecage) on lead/rhythm guitar, Rick Stuber (ex-All That Crawls, ex-Nothing, ex-PygWalk, ex-Tripwire, ex-Vice Grip Throttle) on bass, and Jared Albertson (ex-Absolute Power, ex-Cannot Justify, ex-Mars On Fire) on drums. Note that Jim doesn't appear on the album, having joined at a later date after the departure of previous stalwart lead/rhythm guitarist Ryan Thornton (ex-Calous, ex-Nothing, ex-PygWalk).
The first track, 'Derailed', is a song that is often performed live and this is the first time that anyone has heard a studio version of it. Previously, it has only been available as a live recording from The House Of Bricks Sessions, in downloadable MP3 format from the band's ReverbNation page. The album version features a soundbite intro, clean production and Donnie Steele (ex-Body Pit, ex-Killpact, ex-Slipknot) on lead guitar. Yes, that's right, Donnie Steele was gracious enough to step-in after the band were left in a bit of a muddle after Ryan left for personal reasons during the lead-up to recording the album.
The second track, 'Fear', is again a regular live song and this, again, is the first time that a studio version of it has been heard. This is a dark, brooding track, where Ben's abrasive vocals can be heard layered on top of perky guitars, pulsating basslines and Jared's uncompromising double-bass drumming.
The third track, 'Big Top (Under The)', is an up-to-date rendition of a popular old-school number. First appearing on PygWalk's 'Soundtrack To Violence' EP (circa 2000), and often called simply 'Big Top', Murder Earth took this song and originally just started to introduce in into their live set. It became so popular that it was the most requested song to be played live, much to vocalist Ben Murphy's amusement as it was the only song in the band's set that he hadn't contributed lyrics to. In a way, this could be seen as the soundtrack to the album, and is a welcome return in an even truer form, harking back to the old days for a nostalgic 3 minutes and 45 seconds.
The fourth track, 'Tears Of Jesus Christ', is another historic track that previously appeared on Shedd's untitled demo (circa 1997). For those of you that don't know, Shedd (known previously as Noisegate) was an early band of Chris Fehn, where he played drums, and who would later become Slipknot's second custom percussionist. Aaron Peltz (ex-Deadfront, ex-downthesun, ex-On A Pale Horse) was on vocals/guitar, Tim Flor was on guitar/backing vocals, and a guy called Sean Imler was on bass. Another welcome addition, this is the first time that I have heard this track, in any form, and offers up a modern take on an otherwise lost treasure.
The fifth track, 'Mr. Hyde', was first heard on the band's 'Within' single (2014), as the second track on that release. Featuring then lead/rhythm guitarist Ryan, this is one of the band's first studio tracks to be publicly released. Note that drums on this track are performed by an earlier session drummer by the name of Paul Mathieu (ex-Little Queenie, ex-Veritas, now in Corpse). In fact, this track was taken directly from the single as the band had already paid for it and didn't want to have to pay again just to re-record the drums with Jared.
The sixth track, 'Within', was first featured on the aforementioned 'Within' single, as the headlining track. It features Kris Anderson (ex-Heroes End, ex-Realitys Flaw, ex-Upon Deaths Arrival) on vocals (alongside Ben), Ryan on lead/rhythm guitar, and Paul Mathieu on drums. This is my favorite song on the album, and is also possibly the standout track. When I was first getting back into the Des Moines/Iowan music scene during January of this year, Tim was one of the first people that I made contact with and he was a really nice guy from the start. I asked him about possibly acquiring some old PygWalk tracks as they had always eluded me on previous attempts to find them, and he suggested that I check out his new band, Murder Earth. He sent me the MP3s of 'Mr. Hyde' and 'Within', and although the former caught my attention, it was indeed the latter that struck a chord with me. This song is an epic 7 minutes long... from that gripping, bass heavy intro to the contrasting clean and dirty vocals, that emphatic guitar solo towards the end, and the solid drums pounding out a message of hope... that still brings tears to my eyes today and never fails to reinforce why I'm here doing what I do for these bands. I can't explain it, it's just a really emotional piece for me, that must have touched something deep within my soul at a time when there was a hole in my life. A true masterpiece, every musician is on point and I defy anyone to say something bad about this track. Again, this is the single release version of the track, from the same sessions as 'Mr. Hyde'.
The seventh track, 'Shit Fire', is a brand new track that hasn't appeared on any medium before. Kicking off with a determined pace that doesn't ease up throughout, the overall sound of the musical component reminds me of any number of the more modern Stone Sour pieces, that is a breath of fresh air for the band and potentially shows where they're headed with their future sound. Donnie, again, features as lead guitarist adding chaotic lead guitar solos to an otherwise precise and pummelling, anthemic track.
The last track, 'Waiting (For The End Of Man)', was the first track released to the public as new material off the album. It is a very significant track for the band, for a number of reasons. One, it is the first single off this, their first, album. Two, it is the track used for the band's first ever music video, which they also shot and edited themselves. Three, it features special guest vocals by Joe Day (Apathy Syndrome) and guitar solo by Donnie Steele that is performed in a very signatory style for him. The title track of the album, this brooding and dark beast is a pure bar brawling soundtrack of broken bottles, flying fists and bloody noses.
At just over 40 minutes in length, this 8-track album is the much anticipated release for a band that has been through what many other bands couldn't get away with... multiple line-up changes, name changes, musical direction shifts. For me, this album represents what is great about the Des Moines music scene in general, the ability to overcome setbacks, change things up and come out the other side with something better than what was started with. Composed of scene veterans, Murder Earth is a force to be reckoned with, and could in fact be seen as a supergroup as the current line-up members have performed in over a dozen bands collectively. The band have said that they are actually getting prepared to write for their second album already, only a couple months after the release of this one. The future looks bright for Murder Earth, and it is an absolute honor to be acquainted with these men. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the band for sending me a bunch of merchandise including this very CD, and if that wasn't enough, for naming me in the credits section of the album's CD booklet! I got the shock of my life when I saw that (they had kept it quiet all along)!
This album is a must-have for fans of the Des Moines, and wider, Iowa, rock/metal music scene. Who am I kidding? If you're a fan of the Midwest scene, or just rock/metal in general, get this album! Plus, the fact that Donnie Steele features on this album should, really, open the band up to a whole new audience of any self-respecting Slipknot fans across the globe.
If you'd like a physical copy of the album in the form of a CD, please get in touch with one of the band members or pick one up at a show! For a digital copy of the album, please visit their CD Baby link below (it will be available at all major download sites and for streaming on Spotify very soon)!
A Brief History Of The Band
Murder Earth's roots kind of go back to a hardcore/metal band called 'PygWalk' (circa 2000), where Tim Flor and Rick Stuber played guitar and bass, respectively. They were joined by Carl Burton (later of Awakened, Chemical Deep End and World Under) on vocals and Chad Valasek (ex-Painface) on drums. The meaning of the word 'PygWalk', according to Tim Flor, "... was just about having the attitude and being able to back it up."
* Notable songs by the band: Big Top, Kill Yourself, Pressure Valve, PygWalk.
The next iteration of the band came in the form of hard rock/heavy metal/groove metal band 'Push' (circa 2010), where Tim Flor played rhythm guitar, Ryan Thornton played lead guitar, Rick Stuber played bass, and were joined by Paul Kingery on vocals and Craig Lankford (ex-Body Pit, ex-Nothing, now in Down One Digit) on drums. Push was the name before Murder Earth, the band changed it when they got a new vocalist, Ben Murphy. The original drummer was Craig Lankford, then came Nick Medina (ex-Donnie Steele studio project, ex-Onslot), then Paul Mathieu, then finally Jared Albertson.
* Notable songs by the band: Mr. Hyde, Within.
The band as 'Murder Earth' (circa 2010) formed shortly after 'Push'. Named after an unreleased PygWalk song, the band was originally Ben Murphy (also of Hangover, ex-Bartyr In Blood, ex-The Fallen) on vocals, Tim Flor (ex-Dredge, ex-Painface, ex-PygWalk, ex-Shedd) on rhythm guitar, Ryan Thornton (ex-Calous, ex-Nothing, ex-PygWalk) on lead/rhythm guitar, Rick Stuber (ex-All That Crawls, ex-Nothing, ex-PygWalk, ex-Tripwire, ex-Vice Grip Throttle) on bass, and Jared Albertson (ex-Absolute Power, ex-Cannot Justify, ex-Mars On Fire) on drums. Ryan Thornton later departed and the band were left as a 4-piece 'interim' line-up for upcoming live shows. Donnie Steele (ex-Body Pit, ex-Killpact, ex-Slipknot) later filled-in Ryan's position as lead guitarist to finish the recording of the album. John Hintz (ex-Alter Ego, ex-Painface) was later announced as tentative live lead guitarist for the band but he left before he even started as he had too many other commitments. Finally, Jim Stockham (ex-Dawn Of Destruction, ex-Facecage) was announced as the band's permanent replacement lead/rhythm guitarist. The meaning of the name 'Murder Earth', according to Jared Albertson, "The title is a look in the mirror...our initials are M.E. We write songs about how we as people are doing things to hurt and alienate each other."
* Notable songs by the band: Derailed, Fear, Golddigger (Kanye West cover), Mr. Hyde, Within.
Sons Of The South
And let's not forget 'Sons Of The South' (circa 2014-2015), a hard rock/stoner rock/heavy metal band that ended up essentially as a sludgier, stoner variant of Murder Earth, and with a different vocalist. This band itself has a colorful history as well. Starting off with Ryan Thornton on lead/rhythm guitar, Tim Flor on rhythm guitar, and Rick Stuber on bass, the band had no drummer and it was Tim who did the drum programming for the band's early trial songs. Jason Boten (ex-Superchief, now in Nest Of Snakes) was vocalist. The first proper line-up added Jerry Spargur (ex-Inbred, ex-On A Pale Horse, ex-Painface, later in Crown King Revival) on drums. The latest line-up sees Kris Anderson (ex-Heroes End, ex-Realitys Flaw, ex-Upon Deaths Arrival) on vocals and Jared Albertson on drums. Although the band co-exists alongside Murder Earth, it is currently on hiatus.
* Notable songs by the band: Dancing Around The Bend (Until Your Sorrow Ends), Walk Me Back To Hell (Hell Awaits).
*** I'd like to thank Ben Murphy, Jared Albertson, Paul Mathieu and Tim Flor for providing and confirming details. ***
Note that this review was written for the [Midwest Mayhem] website, where an edited version of this review is published. The version that you are reading on this page is the original. This review is published on this website with permission.
Further note that this review originally appeared on the [Midwest Mayhem Facebook] page, during December 2015 as part of their '12 Days Of Christmas' feature, where it showcased on the 8th day. It was later featured as a regular album review in January 2016, where it enjoyed the normal album review cycle on the website.
Murder Earth's 'Waiting (For The End Of Man)' album is available to download now on CD Baby and other good digital music outlets.
Murder Earth - Waiting (For the End of Man) (CD Baby Music Store)
Murder Earth (Facebook)
Murder Earth (ReverbNation)
Murder Earth "Waiting (For The End Of Man)" Official Music Video