ENEMYMINE MAKE A FABULOUS and smart riff-racket—call it introspective metal, noise turned inwards. The six-month-old debut album, The Ice In Me, by these three Olympia/Port Angeles twentysomethings is precisely 30 minutes’ worth of tension/ release, tension/release, and more tension/release. It’s the record Sebadoh would have made had they been raised in some remote outpost solely on a diet of King Diamond, the Melvins, and Minor Threat. That is totally a compliment.
Enemymine (opening for Modest Mouse)
Paramount Theatre, Friday, April 27
The Ice In Me bears the distinction of being among the final projects on Chris Takino’s Up label. And though the songs employ the stop-start machine chug that propels the finest metal, it’s arty and ponderous in a way that recalls Louisville’s finest, Slint. (Enemymine guffawingly refer to their sound on the record as “Slint Bizkit.”) I have difficulty describing their music—and singer/guitarist Mike Kunka (the scruffy, bright kid who was once half of godheadSilo) is not much help. “I would say that we play rock music—maybe punk rock,” he offers. “I don’t think I would call it ‘metal,’ but other people seem to want to call it that.” Come to think of it, the singing style is way closer to the godfathers of emo-punk than anything on a Maiden or Varathron album. With theatrics and guitar solos the principal dividers ‘twixt metal and punk, what happens when you lose them? For one, Enemymine’s vocals are less warbled—on the loud songs, the screams are reminiscent of classic Dischord sides, while the speech singing on the couple of slow tunes recalls Seam or Codeine.
The band’s setup is the first thing you notice when you see them play; there’s one drummer and two bassists. They get a surprisingly wide range of sound from such a minimal arrangement. “My bass has eight strings on it—four guitar and four bass,” Kunka explains. “The strings are doubled up like a 12-string guitar, not like a Les Claypool canoe paddle.” From what I can figure, Ryan Baldoz (ex-Some Velvet Sidewalk) is in charge of the more low-end stuff, while Kunka plays the riffs and melodies. Drummer Danny Sasaki (ex-Mocket) has the sickest-looking kit on earth, and his high hat playing is very much about accent and power, like some jazz-drumming bodybuilder. Sensitive folks should wear two sets of earplugs when they watch this band, whose members will all be wearing white.
You see, Enemymine embrace shtick on multiple levels. Their songs have a slight ironic remove from metal at the same time that they revel in it; let’s call it emo-post-metal. “GodheadSilo were more on the ironic tip as a band, and while Enemymine have a couple of ironic personalities in the band, the music is dead serious,” Kunka explains. “That’s the problem with calling us a metal band. If we considered ourselves metal, we would need to take a completely different route. I mean, we would be playing metal shows to metal-loving people, not indie-rock shows to indie kids. I think some bands do try to get away with that by playing straight-up metal or straight-up rock and selling it to indie kids as something else—and that is a total chicken-shit way to be. Also, who said you needed to be a serious asshole to play loud music? We aren’t assholes off the stage, so we don’t act any different on the stage.”
THIS IS NOT ONE of those bands with an overinflated sense of its own importance. “Being a good rock band right now is like being good at calligraphy—it’s a dead art,” Kunka states. Enemymine songs are about breakup and betrayal—the blues, basically, but from a perspective that’s far more self-directed than the typical metal or punk tune (I guess that’s the emo part). “We are the sum of our memories,” Kunka sings over and over again on one song; he does not seem happy about this fact. “The new record has to do with how I deal with people and have dealt with people in relationships that I’ve had,” he says. “I read [the lyrics] and realize what a dick I’ve been to lots of people. I just feel like shit, but at least [the lyrics] are accurate.”
Enemymine are less original—at least on the surface—but they’re a much better band than godheadSilo, one of those promising avant-noise groups who tried to do too much at once. Enemymine, which initially featured Zak Sally from Low on second bass, have learned that less can be far more. In between the insane soundblasts is a lot of silence, or at least space where you can hear yourself think. One could easily make a case for Enemymine as the Pacific Northwest’s best live band. Lastly, look for the Mike & the Melvins record on Sub Pop before the end of this millennium, and sports enthusiast Kunka just might turn up on ESPN one of these days: “I’m thinking about racing this summer at Port Angeles BMX—probably against all the dads.”