There aren’t many records that you can point to and say “this album changed my life” but I know that for me, this is one of them. I was sixteen when GlassJaw’s debut album came out in summer of 2000 and at that time I was on a massive Metallica binge, as well as indulging in some nu metal, which seemed to be growing in popularity. Raised on a diet of classic rock bands by my dad, I’d grown up appreciating vocalists: Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot, Whitesnake’s David Coverdale and Queensryche’s Geoff Tate – all immensely talented singers and guys that I looked up when I was growing up.
I’ve always been a sucker for melody and these classic rocks bands had it in spades, however they lacked the edge that I heard in Metallica, so from the moment I heard Master of Puppets I didn’t look back. Though not in the same league as the guys above, I always appreciated Hetfield’s vocal style as he was still able convey melody that cut through the heavy guitars. To this point in my musical heritage, if I didn’t like singer, I didn’t like the band and that was the end of it.
In the summer of 2000 I bought a copy of Rock Sound and on the sample CD that came packaged with the magazine, I heard ‘When One Eight Becomes Two Zeros’ by GlassJaw. It had a great, fuzzy bass line and intense melody, helped in no small part by this incredible singer with a voice like nothing I’d heard before. It wasn’t polished and refined like the classic rock singers I was used to, yet the tone was unforgettable and heavy in the way that I enjoyed from the Metallica records. The arrangement of the melody got itself locked in my head and I loved the song so much that on the day the album was released, I headed to the record shop (for the younger readers – look up what these were!) and picked up a copy.
And I hated it. The first track ‘Pretty Lush’ kicked in and the vocals were a bit weird. Then the guy started screaming his face off. The more I went through the album the more the instrumentals appealed to me, but I couldn’t tolerate the vocals – why did he feel the need to scream all the time? For a kid brought up on the velvet throats of classic rock singers, it was all so foreign and so unappealing. I shelved the album and thought nothing more of it.
A month later, in the next addition, Rock Sound ran an article on front-man Daryl Palumbo, detailing his health issues and the impact it had on his life. After being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, Palumbo’s then girlfriend left him, citing that since they were both so young, she didn’t want to be left looking after him for the rest of her life. Why have I told you this back story when really what you want to know is what I think of the album? Because it provides context, and context – as I found the day I opened up the album’s lyric booklet and started to read – is EVERYTHING.
“The way you play with lives is such a big disguise we swear that we’re not gonna’ take it” and “eyes don’t fucking weep, your weak eyes cry tears of the meek” give you an insight into Palumbo’s feelings at the time of writing the record, but what permeates the record more than anything is his sheer anger in relation to everything that had happened to him, most notably aimed at the opposite sex. At various points in the album he vents his frustration with the likes of “I know a girl who sells herself around and I’m sure that one day she’ll sign autographs in your town” and “I pray to keep my head, though I like your pretty eyes better blackened And my fists all fucking red.” This is a man who had a lot of anger inside of him and he chose music as a vehicle to get it out. Knowing his back story and feeling the rage from the lyrics I replayed the album and I’ve never been the same since.
What seemed like pointless screaming that ruined the musicality of the record before, became the the very essence of raw emotion. Those feelings poured straight from the heart into the microphone without any filtering at all. The intakes of breath before each yell, the little cracks in the voice during the melodic parts of the vocals – with every note Palumbo bears his soul and every ounce of pain he felt bled into me on the receiving end. ‘Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence’ was no longer a record ruined by bad vocals, it was an audible diary of teenage lust and anger and my emotional reaction to it was deeper than anything I’d experienced with music to this point.
It wasn’t just Palumbo either that made this possible. The guitars are equally ballsy; the tone of ‘Pretty Lush’ is as dirty as the subject matter and as the drums pound and harass, it all accentuates the deep passion of the vocals. Though this album is raw, unrestrained chaos on the surface, beneath it all there’s an undeniable craftmanship. These songs didn’t come together by accident; the slow tempo lull of the album’s midsection draws on the band’s wonderful melodic capabilities with ‘Majour’ and ‘Her Middle Name Was Boom’ before once more ripping you apart with ‘Babe’ and ‘Hotel of the White Locust’. It’s varied, it’s well structured and it’s perfectly executed.
Once I let this album consume me, I played the album so much I feared I’d wear it out. I learned every note of the lyrics and sang it back with as much gusto as Palumbo recorded it. My band starting covering ‘Piano’. I was in deep. But I wanted more – not just from GlassJaw but more of this same feeling. Music was always just about enjoying songs before; I didn’t know it could connect this way and make you feel so much.
I say with no hint of hyperbole that this record changed my entire outlook on music; not only my listening tastes but shaping the music I wanted to create as a musician as well. My tastes diverged from Metallica and the nu metal influx of Disturbed, System of a Down and others that were coming through at the time and I went headstrong into finding more emotional music of GlassJaw’s nature. Thanks to this band I found more of my favourite artists: Underoath, The Receiving End of Sirens, Funeral for a Friend, Thrice, Saosin… the list goes on. In fact, many of the bands that we’re covering as part of Flashback Friday may never have graced my ears if I didn’t discover this record.
What started as an irritating and disappointing listening experience kick-started my love affair with post-hardcore. What really gets to me with this type of music is the deep emotional connection between musicians and their art. If I can hear how much a song means to a band – if they can convey that through what they do – I can reflect on that myself and make it mean just as much. I’m still a sucker for a good vocalist, but what qualifies as a good vocalist for me, was forever changed by Daryl Palumbo. Now, I’m much more likely to appreciate a singer who has an average tone but a shit load of emotion to Joe Elliot’s flawless voice, but on a song that means very little.
If, for some reason, you’ve never listened to GlassJaw’s influential debut album, now is very much the time. Watch Mike cover ‘Siberian Kiss’ below and enjoy yourself. Phew, that was a long one, but I hope you enjoyed reading how much this record means to me!