Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer More than Zero

By Pat Mitchell

AUGUST 21, 2000:  According to their band bio, Nothingface is to hard rock what moveable-type inventor Johannes Gutenberg was to civilization -- course-changing and visionary. Two pages of press-release hype proclaim Nothingface "will be the benchmark for loud music in 2000." Of course, this is the work of an overzealous publicist, but then again -- and given the deafening buzz for the band in heavy circles -- it might just be true.

Signed to TVT Records, home of commercial metal faves Sevendust, Nothingface has all the good things going for them. They just completed the inaugural Tattoo the Earth Festival, which featured more than a dozen bands, including metal patriarchs Slayer and the genre's popular freak factor Slipknot. Nothingface is represented by Concrete, a stronghold of heavy music management that also handles the careers of acts like Pantera and Anthrax. Their new CD, Violence, is one of the most anticipated heavy releases this year.

The band has their own expectations.

"I want to be in the category with bands like the Beatles, Pink Floyd, even Metallica," says Nothingface lead vocalist Matt Holt. "Those were all bands that changed music. I want people to listen to our music and say, 'This is the new heavy band for the 21st century.' If you don't want to be your best at something, then why would you do it at all? By my definition of the word, I think what I do is art. I think art is anything audio or visual that replicates life and all the emotion that compels it along."

Born in the Baltimore/D.C. scene that thrived in the '80s and '90s, Nothingface is an amalgamation of the rebellious spirit that characterized the area's music. From the hard-core sharpness of Bad Brains and Minor Threat and the rocking soul of Bobby Parker to the smooth go-go rhythms of Trouble Funk, the area's scene was diverse. Yet Nothingface is more than just a band made by the Baltimore/D.C. scene.

Holt, along with bandmates Tom Maxwell (guitar) and Bill Gall (bass), began Nothingface in 1995 (drummer Tommy Sickles clinched the lineup this year) as an incarnation of everything they wanted in a heavy band. This reach for heavy-metal perfection comes out as vengeful guitar, furious bass, attacking percussion hurled forward by temperamental, sharp-edged vocals.

"We are a heavy band. We are angry, but we are not angry all the time," explains Holt. "There are all these emotions that we feel and our music expresses that. No one is angry all the time. That's why people have record collections because they want music to go with their emotions."

Nothingface's debut Pacifier built up fan loyalty. Released on the indie DCide, the CD threw the band onto agro radio around the nation, and the follow-up, An Audio Guide to Everyday Atrocity, put the group on the road with some of hard rock's stables. As MTV sorts were pigeonholing the genre into a small cup swimming with rap-metal hybrids and shock rock, Nothingface evolved.

Holt says, "We pressure ourselves to be something different. I always expected more from a band. There's nothing wrong with that. This band can be heavy and yet be melodic. What is the purpose of playing music if you can't explore it? We will not be forced into writing the same songs over again for the sake of popularity. That's why so much music sucks nowadays and we all know it, but don't want to admit it or do much about it."

The band's latest CD, Violence, not only links the group's avant-garde tendencies with a ferocious intensity, it captures a frenzied punch that hasn't been heard since perhaps Ministry's The Land of Rape and Honey. The release also reveals a band willing to take the responsibility of leading a new breed of hard rock faithful. Both reflective and contemporary, Violence offers an aggressive, haunting illustration that inculcates a journey within self.

"Have you ever thought what goes through the mind of a serial killer?" the singer asks. "One song, 'Same Solution,' explores that idea. The idea is that maybe for one second, if we could exist with another perspective, we would think differently. The goal of this CD is to try to get people to think about themselves or rethink some ideas. Some people are not happy with themselves and they have fooled themselves to believing they are. Violence tries to make us look at ourselves."

Violence was produced by Drew Manzurek who has also held the reins for post-punk rockers Jawbox and metal's performance-art monarchs GWAR. Technically, the 12-track release surpasses the repetitive hip-hop-driven riffs that seem to be the standard for modern heavy music by simply having some creativity. The CD has a few tracks that should be embraced by MTV and rock radio. The first single, "Bleeder," is so infectious that it's guaranteed to bring legions of new brethren into "the sick" (what the band calls their fans). Violence demands that the listener accept or reject the band, there's no room for the half-hearted. It's evident that the band hopes the rejection of smug middle-of-the-roadness will filter into other aspects of their listeners' lives.

"We all think we are so smart," says Holt. "But really we are all a bunch of dumb monkeys. Where have you been? What have you seen and how have you used it? This is what defines a person. Don't get me wrong, I'm not smart, it's just that someone gave me this microphone and a record deal and I'm gonna run my mouth and tell people what I see."


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