Nathan Gray – The Modern Don Quixote Of Music
Nathan Gray is not a Don Quixote from the Mancha district with all his carnival madness. He is not taking a noble journey of nobility with a Sancho Panza and a donkey riding named Rocinante. He was not playing with schizophrenic symptoms that were breaking his days. Even Nathan wasn’t used to mossy armor and armor, while Don Quixote wasn’t punk either. But from the imaginative weaving epic narrated by Sayyid Ahmad Benegeli’s saga, we will understand that the effort to celebrate the banality of life in old age is the connection between Nathan and Don Quixote. If Don Quixote celebrated it by traveling to Toboso in search of Dulcinea, then Nathan did it by continuing to release albums every year — both with the band and his solo projects.
Speaking of Nathan Gray, of course we can’t ignore Boysetsfire. That was inseparable from how Nathan worked in Boysetsfire since the beginning of its formation until now. Nathan, who was instrumental in assembling Boysetsfire’s lyrics from the album The Day the Sun Went Out (1997), ultimately gave his own political style to the Boysetsfire digital field. Boysetsfire’s name became known as the “political emo band”. They are known as a band that controls canon lyrics in their album magazine. Nevertheless, Boysetsfire is said to have been full-time when they released The Misery Index: Notes From The Plague Years in 2006. Although after that they still released two new albums, but still the golden era of Boysetsfire will not be repeated.
During his time in Boysetsfire, Nathan also initiated another project such as The New Recruits, The Casting Out, I Am Heresy, to the latest Nathan Gray Collective. The New Recruits themselves play gospel punk music, The Casting Out banged on melodic punk beats by Bad Religion, I Am Heresy darkened with chaotic metal exploration, while the Nathan Gray Collective was an industrial darkwave duo project between Nathan and multi-instrumentalist Daniel E. Smith.
Even during I Am Heresy, Nathan worked with his own son, Simon Gray, who had previously been the bassist in the metalcore band The May 4th Massacre. No wonder Nathan is called a prolific musician. Year after year Nathan passed with the release of a new album with his project bands. Even in quality, the albums that we released cannot be taken for granted. But this past, Nathan released his solo album no longer under the name Nathan Gray Collective. Nathan insisted on carrying his own name as the main creator.
Exactly January 19, 2018, End Hits Records released the album Feral Hymns from Nathan Gray. Pete Steinkopf from The Bouncing Souls is believed to produce this album together with Nathan as well. On this album contains 12 tracks, half of which were re-arranged from Boysetsfire’s songs, The Casting Out, and Nathan Gray Collective. While the other half is a new song that Nathan created especially for his new album. In the process of this album, there is also a Matthias Lohmöller who manages the mastering kitchen. As for the cover album, sleeve photos, to design and layout, done by Tom Bejgrowicz (Man Alive Creative).
Even though Feral Hymns was held as a solo album, but in the process, Nathan involved several of his friends when recording. Starting from Elyse Mitchell who filled the cello, Jesse Skokos on the piano, Becky Fontaine and Darren Deicide on backing vocals, until Pete Steinkopf also undoubtedly also filled the guitar in several numbers. In addition to these names, a Rebekah Latshaw was also thrown in a row of friends who helped Nathan during the recording process. Rebekah herself was the sister-in-law of Joshua Latshaw, the guitarist of Boysetsfire. At Feral Hymns itself, Rebekah acts as a song writer for one of the numbers entitled “Damascus”.
The opening number on Feral Hymns album is filled by “As the Waves Crash Down”. Nathan’s guitar sound undoubtedly brought back listeners to the musical feel of “Walk Astray” from the album The Missery Index (2006), as well as the similar atmosphere we encountered earlier in “My Life in the Knife Trade” from the album After the Eulogy (2001). This number deserves to be used as an opening because elan empowerment is so obvious. Nathan seemed to be banging back on each door of his friends’ houses which yesterday was beaten by a trellis of apathy. Out of the resistance that had been dimming, he revived through this song.
Even the proposals at the opening number are giving an early warning: “Better toughen up kid, this is war / Wolves are scratching at your door. You can find the way to learn through struggle. Where this all leads is up to you ” When the flare had been ignited to many friends, the lyrics then invited them to gather the remaining hope, to be ready to be cast into a katana: “There’s no turning back / Raise your fist, proud stand as the waves crash down. We can die in silence, or we can live out loud as the waves crash down.
Three minutes and eleven seconds hit the album opening. And in the final verse of the song, Nathan jokes about a choice — whether to join the barricades of combatants or kneel kissing the feet of the oppressive regime: “Yeah it all gets bad then it gets worse.” the art of standing up When everyone else kneels / […] Gotta learn to thrive in these killing fields.
The next number on the album Feral Hymns, entitled “Echoes” offers no bitterness. The EBow incision from Pete Steinkopf from the beginning of the minute increasingly gave a tragic touch to Nathan’s vocals. Whereas the refrain fragment “beyond the echoes in the dark” which was sung repeatedly, made this song even more like a soft voice from a traveller’s journey record. Nathan’s vocals gradually fade when singing the lyrics “Here in my heart, I’ve carved the words” you don’t own me “/ And well-divided scars have read the names of every journey”. Until the last verse which reads “And these are all that we have left, inside these walls of loneliness”, the lonely bran that ambushed along the journey then embraced.
On the number “Walk”, Nathan assisted Becky Fontaine on background vocals. While at “Burn Away”, there was also Jesse Skokos to fill the piano and Darren Deicide who contributed vocals. The two numbers are quite anthemic and become songs with refrain that are easy to remember and sing together on stage. The atmospheric texture of Nathan’s guitar is still maintained. The accentuation in a few words in the fragment of the lyrics was done quite neatly. As a result, even though the nuances built by the two songs were so moody, the lyrical composition both kept a progressive aura.
Continue on the number “Wayward Ghost”, this song is predicted to change the Feral Hymns atmosphere to be so dark. Not without reason, this song originated from Nathan Gray Collective’s Until the Darkness Takes Us (2017) album. It’s almost like the initial assumption before listening to this song. But then Nathan rearranged it very nicely. At first this song did save the dark halimun, but through Nathan’s composition at Feral Hymns, this song actually sounded so anthemic. Even choruses such as “Kissing corpses on display mouthing only words of agony” can be so overwhelming. Not to mention the closing verse which reads “For wayward ghosts from whitewashed graves / Tragic lives still begging to be saints”, actually makes the song’s atmosphere even more tragic.
There is still one more number on Feral Hymns which was re-arranged from Nathan Gray Collective’s song. The number in question is “Damascus” – which also keeps the atmosphere similar to the previous song. This song itself was written by Rebekah Latshaw. Intertextuality in the lyrics of this song does not explicitly tell about the Capital of Syria. But when viewed from the diction contained in the lyrics, this song is talking about the field of puputan and death with all its enigmatics. This number is the only song that has orchestral impressions. While the number “Light and Love” on the next list, gives its own color with a touch of EBow atmospheric filled with the refrain app “Yeah, there is a light where the darkness feels no shame / there is love that never has to fade”.
“Across Five Years” became the only Boysetsfire number that Nathan re-arranged on the Feral Hymns album. In the number from the After the Eulogy (2001) album, Pete Steinkopf filled the piano. This song has a deep impression. It is a kind of memento mori or death reminder for someone, especially when entering the verse which reads “Whatever poison you may drink / Another list of” no’s “persist / Antique and out of reach / I lose my life and take it back”.
Even in the album Feral Hymns, there are three numbers of The Casting Out that are rearranged by Nathan. The three songs are “Alone” from Self-Titled EP (2017), and “Ebbing of the Tide” and “Quixote’s Last Ride” from the album Go Crazy! Throw Fireworks! (2008). The three original versions of the song have a more energetic aura than the other numbers re-arranged at Feral Hymns. Of course it was inseparable from the sound patterns of The Casting Out which gave birth to typical melodic punk beats, Bad Religion to Rise Against. But Nathan remained consistent to put a bitter touch on almost all of his numbers. The compositions of Nathan and Petr Steinkopf were really serious about exploring a moody sound, but they still kept their progressive work working in the lyrical field.
“Ebbing of the Tide” is another number that breathes “Walk Astray” from Boysetsfire. The starting point of this song seems to depart from the most collapsing conditions. Nathan sang it nicely in the chorus section. “Through these years, this is my last tragic embrace. My last reason to stay / it’s getting over dramatic, but kinda like it that way.” This song is also a kind of serenade sung in the midst of the disruption of economic and political inequality today. He then disguised himself as a miasma that was confining the throat of the tyrants on the bruised nights. In a matter of two or three eyes, along with the final hook of this song and Becky Fontaine’s soft background vocals, the miasma then worked.
The only number on the Feral Hymns that is left still has a pizzicato atmosphere — or that excites the spirit of the original version — is none other than “Quixote’s Last Ride”. This time Pete Steinkopf had the opportunity to fill the guitar, while Nathan focused on filling in the main vocals. From the title, this song might be interpreted as the declaration of a punk guy on the tip of his twin. He was like a musical manifesto of a Nathan in his twilight age. But I hope the assumption misses. Perhaps Nathan did want to tell about the advent of Don Quixote who just realized that all his madness had to be sent home. The initial verse of this song illustrates that so nicely, it is very Quixotic: “Dear anybody who will listen to me this letter was written as a warning to those left behind / but what a mistake it was to see things as they were / Cause this world is cesspool and love has surely edited.
Don Quixote’s search for Dulcinea is only a journey to an impossible one. Dulcinea turned out to be only a complement to Don Quixote’s dream of knighthood. He is not the future and the dream of his journey so far. Instead, it was the dream of Don Quixote that it was the journey of chivalry itself. At this point, the refrain of the song “Quixote’s Last Ride” found its cracking crack: “So don’t look to me for sympathy. Everybody knows it’s not so damn easy. Oh no, you’ve got to bleed a little every day. the memories fade / Fuck hope, signed me / Yeah, fuck hope, signed “.From the end of Don Quixote’s saga, Nathan did not only display a fortune in the lyrics. He just wanted to say that no matter how crazy faith and Quixote love are in full occultation (in this case Dulcinea), there are things we can at least understand. Although Don Quixote’s journey was only a treasure of jokes and banter for life, the passion for not just going through those repetitive days became a crucial entity in the story of Don Quixote. “Don’t let another fall from your mouth. You know it’s not worth it. It’s not perfect. Don’t let you know it. You know that no one will listen, they’re too busy / Denying what they’ve found “said Nathan in the final verse of the song.
The closing number on the album Feral Hymns was filled by a song titled “Blue Hearts & Shades of Gray”. This ultimate number is so affirmative. He was a kind of retrospective note from the fragments of the story in the previous song. Nathan closed this sweet track with a slick verse that distilled strong energy: “As the curtain raised up and my heart hit the ground. You found your way home as I spiraled back down. And now I find I have nothing left to say. The horror scream of blue hearts and shades of gray “.Through Feral Hymns, Nathan proves that he hasn’t finished yet. Nathan, who previously loved the discourse of satanism – even reflected in the dark dimension of his project at I Am Heresy and Nathan Gray Collective – finally re-released the work from his political magazine. He dragged back the enthusiasm of the four Boysetsfire early albums so that they would collapse on every material in the Feral Hymns. Nathan put Boysetsfire’s anger and emotional epic in his own choice and composition. With the release of Feral Hymns, what had previously been the boundary in the genre for each band project initiated by Nathan, could be demolished with a nice composition with Pete Steinkopf.
Maybe what Nathan could do was called a Quixotic attempt. But in the midst of an increasingly banality of life, Nathan did not at all allow his passion to continue to work molestation at once. With con molta passione popping up on each song, Nathan’s performance seemed to return like his energy a decade ago while in the middle of Boysetsfire. Feral Hymns deserves to be listened to not only as a companion travel album, but also as a magnum opus created by a punk rocker who hit the street.
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