Vilipend made the news recently after their bassist, Mike Crossley, and his wife were approved for and then denied a Toronto apartment. The landlord, you see, in the last step of a lengthy application process, typed the local metalcore band's name into Google and didn't like what she found, informing the couple in writing that she felt uncomfortable with the energy Vilipend's music manifests.
A number of media outlets picked up on the story, including Brit music rag NME, and the band quickly amassed a legion of supporters (and some consequent haters who crop up everywhere online), who railed against the discriminatory act.
"The reason I think people cared so much is that metal is traditionally a genre that's been attacked," says singer/lyricist Chris Gramlich over the phone. "It was attacked in the 80s by the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center). It's always the genre your parents and politicians and religious people don't want you listening to. I think people reacted to that because, like, ‘It's 2012. Why do people still think metal is evil?'"
Aggressive music is an art form, says Gramlich. It tries to express some sort of positive or cathartic experience through a negative.
"So you're confronting people with negatives, aggression, harsh music and screaming. I'm not going to pretend Vilipend isn't loud and heavy and abrasive. We sound like a wood chipper at times. People fear that. They react instead of seeing if there's anything to it."
Though Crossley is, unfortunately, still searching for a new place to live, the publicity comes at a fortuitous time: five-year-old Vilipend are just about to release their long-awaited debut full-length, Inamorata (A389/No List).
Its eight tracks (averaging five-plus minutes apiece) form a cohesive showcase for the four-piece's tension-filled blend of metal and hardcore. Menacing power chords, pummelling rhythms, guitar noise and sludge heave against Gramlich's screamed, hostile lyrics. Leon Taheny, best known for his work with decidedly non-metal acts like Owen Pallett, Ohbijou and Death from Above 1979, produced it.
"When you work with someone who does metal or aggressive music exclusively, sometimes they can be used to working within a box of constraints," Gramlich says. "They know how to get a metal drum sound. They know where to place the mic on the guitar amp. We knew the sounds Leon could get and the way he'd come at it would be totally different."
The album itself, or its conception, at least, arose from the ashes of another set of negative and painful circumstances. Three years ago, Gramlich broke his back during Vilipend's opening set at a Dillinger Escape Plan show at the Mod Club. For the last song, he did something he'd done dozens of times: jumped off the monitor into the crowd.
But the monitor slipped from under his feet, and he landed on his heels in the empty eye of the pit. A vertebra fractured. The moshers, not realizing he was hurt, piled on top of him, breaking his wrist and fingers in the process. He was in a back brace for months - time the band used to begin carving out songs with musically thematic threads.
"We had a tour lined up at the time. It felt very much like our star was on the rise. With one little jump, I put a halt to everything. In a lot of ways, it feels like we've been trying to crawl our way back ever since."
So, has breaking his back tamed his onstage antics?
"I try to go harder, I think. I don't want to say, ‘Oh, I appreciate life so much more.' But you honestly never know which show could be your last. I don't know what will happen with my back. And bands break up all the time. So I try to make sure at every show that if it's my last, people will be like, ‘Wow, he went as hard as he could. Vilipend put on a hell of a show.'"