Somewhere on the outskirts of Chicago on the final leg of an epic cross-country road trip in a cramped Honda Civic piloted by his girlfriend, Tim Yeung is describing the recording process for Divine Heresy’s sophomore release, Bringer Of Plagues, when a sharp thwack! interrupts his thought. “Oh my f’in God! Baby, you’ve got to be careful! That’s enough to rip the wheel off the car. You’ve got to slow down a little bit.”
It’s not the first time he’s called his girlfriend out for driving too fast. But is Yeung worried about pothole damage, or could it be that this notoriously fleet-footed speed demon is starting to go soft on us?
Behold, Exhibit A: The title track on Bringer Of Plagues, which, clocking in at 255 bpm, is “probably one of the fastest songs I’ve recorded to date,” says Yeung. But here’s the kicker: “When we demoed that song out, it was like 266 [bpm]. It was, like, so fast we had to slow it down.” Oh yeah, you read that right. In a genre where speed has become the ultimate marker of success, where drummers are often viewed more as competitive athletes than musicians, Yeung has the audacity – or the good sense, depending on your perspective – to put on the breaks.
Maybe it’s because Yeung was approaching this album from more of a songwriting place, even branching out into lyric-writing duties to fill in for the absence of singer Tommy “Vext” Cummings, who the band fired in April of last year after a high-profile onstage scuffle (new singer Travis Neal didn’t join the band until after the vocals and lyrics had been written and demoed). “I wanted this stuff to be very catchy, very tasteful. I didn’t want it to lose any musical integrity with trying to be over the top,” Yeung explains. “It seems sometimes that, especially nowadays, there’s a lot of metal bands that are just so over-the-top with technicality that there’s nothing left memorable of a song. There’s no song. There’s just four-and-a-half minutes of riffs and technical parts.
“It’s like, that’s cool, you play 260. That’s awesome. You have arpeggio sweeps and you have, like, gravity blasts all over everything. But do you remember one riff you heard in the song? You remember any of the song?”
Words of wisdom, no doubt. But on the flipside of that, Divine Heresy isn’t about to cede the match. “We wanted to be able to definitely say that we can hang with some of the fastest bands,” Yeung says. “And we can groove like some of the grooviest bands.” So when he and guitarist Dino Cazares got together in L.A. and started writing the music for this record – with bassist Joe Payne kicking in some ideas from his home in Atlanta – giving it some cajones was important, but not at the expense of balance. “There’s blasting, there’s break-bell parts, there’s grooves, there’s slow mellow parts, there’s odd-time signatures – it’s very well rounded,” Yeung says.
He wrapped up his drum parts in about four days at Mid City Sound in L.A. under the direction of Logan Mader and Lucas Banker of Dirty Icon, and with more than a little help from modern technology. “I record all my stuff nowadays through sections,” he says. “I can play the stuff all the way through live. But I mean, nowadays, if you’re going to steady record all the way through, it’s nothing more than a pain, right? It is almost more of a burden because if you mess up on a certain part then your whole take is ruined. I mean, we can even punch in feels, which is pretty incredible.” But that doesn’t mean the player and his equipment aren’t important anymore. Yeung used his Ddrum Dominion Maple kit throughout, with shallower toms than on the last album. But the real surprise was his choice of snare. “I actually used a Ddrum Grey Ghost snare drum,” he says. “It’s like one of the cheapest snares they have on the line. I had probably 13 or 14 different snares to pick from on this album, but, yeah, the Grey Ghost ended up sounding the best.”
In fact, he’s grown so fond of his Grey Ghost, having used one on the majority of last year’s tour as well, he’s working on his own signature line based on this entry-level steel bruiser. The character of his cymbals also shine through on this album, like the massive ding of his 22" Power Bell ride that cuts through with authority in the middle of “Monolithic Doomsday Devices.” “It’s the same ride I used on Bleed but just cranked it in the mix for this album,” he says. But that trashy hi-hat sound you hear throughout is a new addition, a Sabian AA 14" Mini Chinese on the bottom with a 12" AA Mini Hat on top. “That’s probably one of the big things I did on this album, using that setup. I’ve been using it live and it sounds really great, actually. I love it.”
As for those runaway feet of his, Yeung will lay them only on his trusty Axis A Longboards. “I play them right out of the box,” he says. “No major modifications. I even use the small stock plastic beaters.” The only change is that he gets his footboards made sans the engraved logo. Why? He only ever plays in socks, and “the engraved metal really chews up your socks and your feet.” Of course, he probably could have worn high heels for this album. After all, he was only maxing out at 255, which is Yeung’s idea of taking it easy. It just so happens it’s not everyone else’s, which means Bringer Of Plagues is still going to knock the competition on its ass. “This album crushes. It’s awesome,” Yeung says. “I think this album is several steps above where Bleed The Fifth was. We really upped the ante with everything. The aggressive heavy parts are more aggressive – they’re heavier. The fast parts are faster.” But most importantly, he says, “it’s music,” as if to clarify for those who still don’t seem to get it. “At the end of the day we’re writing music. You know?”
Band: Divine Heresy
Birthplace: Buffalo, New York
Influences: Sean Reinert, Gavin Harrison, Dave Weckl
Current Release: Bringer Of Plagues
Web Site: myspace.com/divineheresyband