The end of Attack Attack! was a disaster, says Andrew Wetzel, who was once the drummer of that doomed Columbus, Ohio, electronicore outfit. There was a time, at the beginning of the decade, where the band was in rarefied air on the Warped Tour circuit. Attack Attack! toured the world, sold a bunch of records and earned some crossover meme notoriety for the crab-like power stances they’d strike while holding their guitars. But fame was fickle in the last gasps of skunk-streak emo, and after lineup changes, label shakeups and an increasingly bamboozled bastion of critics, Wetzel felt chewed up and spit out. In many ways, he’s still licking his wounds.
“When I left to go on my first tour I had just turned 19, I had just graduated high school. I got my diploma and two months later I left on tour, and I didn’t come home again for two years,” he says. The other members of the band were several years his junior, which forced Wetzel into an unlikely ringleader position. There’s no way anyone could adequately prepare for those pressures, and more than a decade later, he’s learned that a whirlwind can leave lasting damage.
“I was smoking packs of cigarettes and crushing Monsters left and right. It’s amazing that I’m in as good as shape as I am right now,” he continues. “The way Attack Attack! fell apart was pretty spectacular. It was a huge fucking mess. I only just recently finished just cleaning it up. There was tons of financial and legal fallout. After everything exploded, you’re like, ‘Wait a second, you mean this wasn’t paid for?’ I’m getting shitty letters delivered to my house about how I owe 80 grand. It was a fucking catastrophe, but it’s funny to me now. I had to sell my house and I moved in with my parents. For four months I just sat in my bedroom, and I thought to myself, ‘Do I really want to do this?'”
The answer, of course, was yes. It is fitting that Wetzel’s latest band carries the name Nine Shrines — like nine lives. Music industry lifers always find a way back in, even when the grind threatens to swallow them whole. In many ways, Wetzel is still playing the music that made him famous; titanic, DayGlo metalcore, with sparkling antiseptic hooks jutting between the growls and drop-D crunch. This time, though, he’s flanked by a savvy group of veterans all plucked from Ohio’s mid-2000s underground: bassist Devon Voisine and rhythm guitarist Andrew Baylis from Life on Repeat, lead guitarist Evan McKeever from Downplay, and singer Chris Parketny from Strangers to Wolves. Together, they entered the studio to write songs about tenacity, about fighting and surviving in a brutal business, about earning retribution by starting a new band. “That was the one thing that really bonded us, that we’ve all done this before and have gone through the meat grinder,” says Parketny. “It all related to us.”
Nine Shrines debut record, Retribution Therapy (which is due Friday, April 26th, and available for pre-order now), was produced by Dan Korneff, an engineer who’s been summoning up pit-destroying choruses from behind a mixing board for more than a decade now. Take a survey of the previous 15 years of Hot Topic hardcore, and you’ll see his name attached to Paramore’s Riot, My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade is Dead! and Pierce The Veil’s Selfish Machines. According to Parketny, it was a no-brainer as soon as they booked their first session.
“He’s like a maniac,” he says. “He’s up to 3 a.m. working with soldering circuitboards, and making microphones. He makes a lot of his gear from scratch. A lot of the things he uses are completely original — you’re not going to get that sound anywhere else. There were nights where I walked in, and Dan is passed out on the floor, because he was up all night working. It was great that he cared about the record as much as we did.”
The result is a record that plays like an alternate universe where Attack Attack! had a few more years to age in the barrel. Opening track and lead single “Nimrod” is about an angry, long-festering revenge — themes that no 19-year-old could fully understand — but the sound? Wetzel’s bass drum fires off like a cannon, Parketny’s vocals are liquid clean and puncture right through the mix, there’s an Avenged Sevenfold guitar solo somewhere. It’s pop-metalcore with some added grizzled perspective. Honestly, it’s reassuring to know that despite all the career tragedies that befell young Andrew Wetzel, his personal muse was undeterred.
So it’s good to see him finally find his second chapter. Success in the music industry can be self-defeating — there are so many talented musicians who’ve gone down with the ship — but Wetzel rode it out, and at 29, he’s primed for a new beginning. A little older, a little wiser, but just as excited to be in the show as he was when he first arrived. It’s all gravy from here.
“I’m ecstatic. It’s very exciting to me, especially given how much time we put in this album, and the group of guys that I’m with. I love the songs that we’ve made. I love them. They’re the best things I’ve ever been involved with, musically,” he finishes. “Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve been a part of a record release, but I don’t feel like I’ve lost any time. It’s all forward progress to me. I’m over the moon to drop this record.”