By Brandon McNeil
CALGARY — It’s hard to maintain a steady presence as a metal musician in Calgary. There isn’t a band around that won’t agree to that. This profession, if you can call it that, presents a new obstacle to overcome every day. It’s stressful, expensive and taxing, even more so if you can’t maintain a steady line-up.
No one can attest to that more than Train Bigger Monkeys, who had been effectively out of the game for a year after parting ways with their former bassist and vocalist. Now, with new additions Adam Benito (vocals) and Bryce Gorman (bass) onboard, the band is set to release their sophomore record, Divergence.
“There were times where we felt very close to the band folding,” says Jason Carter (guitars). “There were times where we were trying to make compromises to make the band whole again and that caused a little disagreement between the remaining members as well. We were really trying to make it work, but everything we did try just made it seem more hopeless.”
Carter and the remaining members, including Alex Dobbins (guitars) and drummer Kevin Donovan, soldiered on despite the grim odds, going through a number of unsuccessful auditions and fill-ins along the way.
“One of the biggest challenges for finding a bassist or drummer in this city is the fact that there’s not very many bassists or drummers looking for bands in this city, so that also makes times a little bit tough,” says Dobbins.
“Especially since, when you do find someone, they don’t really dig your style, or they don’t fall into the right criteria, or little things like that.”
It was during those auditions and the extended break that the band got the majority of the writing for Divergence done, with the majority of compositions coming from Dobbins and Carter. The result is an album that is better compositionally and far better recorded than their 2012 full-length debut, The Human Disgrace. The extreme metal influences and input of Dobbins are noticeable, thrusting elements of grind, death and doom in the death metal-with-a-sprinkle-of-core mix. The excellent artwork by Nathan Navetto of a cell that is splitting via binary fission is indicative of the technicality encased within.
“I especially took up a lot of the song-writing duties. Basically, it was a bouncing back and forth between Jason and I,” explains Dobbins. “The last couple years have been a little bit, for me, a bit of a roller coaster. So, there were times where I would just go to the jam space and hash out riff after riff after riff.”
Enter Benito and Gorman, who were recruited and then immediately thrust into a recording role, bringing a whole new element to the band’s brand of unforgiving metal and upping the ante. Train Bigger Monkey’s previous album suffered from thin vocals, whereas Benito’s growls are uglier and heavier.
“Specifically, when you talk about vocals, I think that’s probably the biggest change in our sound,” agrees Carter. “Our old style, it was a little more of an acquired taste. Now, we have vocals that we feel are stronger and that more people are expecting from a modern metal band.”
“When I joined the band back in 2009, the band was definitely more metalcore-oriented and as soon as I got my foot in the door I wanted to move us away from that,” adds Dobbins.
“When you listen to the new record, you definitely hear more influences coming from all the different subgenres.”
With the new changes and now stable members, TBM is poised to broaden their audience. It all started with Divergence, which officially puts an end to a long, dark chapter in the tale of Train Bigger Monkeys.
Attend the Train Bigger Monkeys CD release party on June 30 at Lord Nelson’s Bar and Grill with Bloated Pig, World Class White Trash, and Burning Effigy.AB, Alberta, Lord Nelson's Bar, Train Bigger Monkeys