Back in 2017, all that veteran hardcore/doom-slingers EYEHATEGOD wanted to do was tour, and for about three years that’s all they did. They even back-burnered plans to finish the follow-up to 2014’s incendiary EYEHATEGOD album in order to storm stages across the U.S. and play exotic nations they’d never visited such as Indonesia, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Israel, Tasmania and more. They played and toured with some of their favorite bands, such as OFF!, Negative Approach, Sheer Terror, Corrosion of Conformity, AntiSeen and the Obsessed.
“To be able to play with these bands and have them as our peers is really great. We were touring with these people and exchanging war stories, and at the same time I knew they supported and dug what we were doing.”
EYEHATEGOD’s new album, A History of Nomadic Behavior, is a reflection of the chaos and euphoria the band experienced over the past three years21 of touring crossed with the past two years of political turmoil, pandemic terror and remorseless hypocrisy.
“We’re not a political band, but it was hard not to be affected by the news from the past year,” Williams says. “During this recording, I thought a lot about how stupid humanity has become and how America is now completely divided with these people who don’t believe in science and blindly follow liars and nonsensical ideologies. Some of those feelings maybe found their way into these songs, but it is mostly subliminal.”
Like EYEHATEGOD’s best albums, including 1993’s Take as Needed For Pain, 1996’s Dopesick and 2014’s comeback EYEHATEGOD, the band’s first new full-length in seven years, A History of Nomadic Behavior, is a blowtorch-distortion and blues-saturated combination of mostly mid-paced songs pierced with scarring pain and disconsolate fury.
The first release from the album, “High Risk Trigger,” encapsulates the filth and damaged beauty of EYEHATEGOD. The song starts with a chugging groove reminiscent of SST-era Soundgarden before erupting into a doomy minor pentatonic passage that wouldn’t sound out of place on an ‘80s Saint Vitus album. Lyrically, the song -- like most EYEHATEGOD ditties – is cryptic and abstract, but it touches on the all-pervasive fears bred by an invisible germ storm sweeping through the nation and a society sickened by police brutality. (“Infection is the way, disruptive crowd takes aim/ Burn down the rail yard house, destroy the U.S.A.”).
“These songs don’t tell any stories, but there are a few themes in there that people can figure out if they listen closely,” Williams says. “The riots and the elections and COVID were all happening and all that was in the back of my mind when I did the vocals for the record.”
Another highlight of A History of Nomadic Behavior is the jarring “Fake What’s Yours,” which begins with a low-frequency buzz before shifting into an off-kilter start-stop riff that leads into the spoken line, “Silence was their trademark/won’t say it, never talk.”
“That’s another one that has some ideas about the current situation in the lyrics, with a line like, ‘Post-death ballot box/ Hands off stabbing block,’” says IX. “Having said that, once again, we’re not a political band, it’s not like I ever sit down and say, ‘Okay, now I’m going to write a song about a certain subject.’ For me, I just write down these phrases and ideas over time and then I use a William Burroughs style kind of cut-up method. I randomly mix everything up and put them back together so they’re inherently strange, but start making sense in other ways.”
If the three-year EYEHATEGOD tour period that preceded A History of Nomadic Behavior was a wild ride down desolation lane, it was also a grim affirmation of the present and a foreshadowing of the future. The band started the tour with a birthday celebration in Detroit for Michael on April 14, 2017. The revelry was especially sweet; just four months earlier he was confined to a hospital bed, weak from liver failure.
“Death is a part of life, it’s a roll of the dice. Sometimes you take life as it comes, other times you fight to stay alive. I was hospitalized for three months while I waited for a donor. I was a goner and it was definitely a close call, but I made it out safe.”
Literally reborn and feeling healthier than he had in years, Williams was excited to embark on a lengthy international road trip. In addition to proving he could still barrel his way through a fierce hardcore set, he and the band played to audiences overseas that had not yet seen EYEHATEGOD. However, of course the group won over the crowds. That doesn’t mean there weren’t moments when EYEHATEGOD found themselves wishing they could communicate with the locals while experiencing a longing for the comforts of home and feeling sensory overload and exhaustion. EYEHATEGOD have learned over the years that misery loves company.
“To a certain extent, we thrive on being miserable,” Williams admits. “Sometimes you just hate everything and for some strange reason we’re motivated by that vibe.”
During the time Mike IX was ill, his bandmates wrote songs that were a natural extension of what they had done for the eponymous EYEHATEGOD album, but more structurally complex. At one point, they thought they were finished with the album, but then they listened back to it and decided it didn’t live up to their standards. So, they kept working, recording between tours, adding parts and removing others. They also recorded some brand-new songs. Finally, all they needed were vocals, but Williams wasn’t ready to head directly into the studio when they had a bit of time off, opting instead to relish the little time he had. “Having a small break like that, I needed to decompress, breathe and let it all sink in, I knew I would get it done when the time was right and that was what happened.”
“We toured our asses off for three years and that’s where A History of Nomadic Behavior basically comes from,” he says. “We were living in vans, hotel rooms, back stages and tour buses constantly, and we survive like that. We love to tour even though it can get really tense when you’re living so close together for so long. But everybody in the band has got a tinge of mental illness, which makes us work together really well. The dysfunctional family syndrome. There can be tension there, and I think that push and pull works for us in the songs and at live shows, when we’re onstage.”
As with many albums composed in the COVID-19 era, A History of Nomadic Behavior was fraught with challenges. The first, and most significant complication, hit in the middle of the night when the band was in the heart of Eastern Europe doing a few headline gigs after a full tour with Napalm Death. Everyone was abruptly awakened at 3 a.m. while in Kiev, Ukraine and told that the borders were being closed due to the pandemic and they should probably immediately leave the country to guarantee the band weren't stuck overseas for an additional 30 days.
“We called to get tickets back to the United States and some airports weren't letting people change planes in certain countries, so there were limited ways to get home,” Mike recalls. “The tickets shot up to thousands of dollars within minutes. It was pretty insane. Luckily, we got someone at the airport to help us and she got me routed through Istanbul, Turkey and back to America”
Fortunately, Jimmy Bower, drummer Aaron Hill and bassist Gary Mader were done with all the basic music by the time the music industry shut down. In July 2020, in full social distancing mode, Williams flew to producer Sanford Parker’s Hypercube Studio in Chicago and tracked all of his vocals in eight days. While Williams wrote some of the album lyrics in advance, others were written on the spot or rewritten right before they were recorded.
“Different things came from all over the place,” he says. “But it flowed pretty well, and if I came to a point where something wasn’t working and I couldn't figure out what to do next --which does happen when you're recording – Sanford [Parker] helped me out. I’m in another band with him, Corrections House, so we work well together.”
The disjointed assembly process for A History of Nomadic Behavior may have led to the unsettling, chaotic tone of the album. Or maybe EYEHATEGOD have simply taken their next step towards complete creative nihilism by following their self-titled release with another scathing, scabrous slab of cacophonous physical stress. At the same time, there’s no question that the band members have evolved musically.
“It's an obvious word to use here, but we've matured as a band,” Williams says. “Whether we knew it or not and, whether it’s what we even wanted, we somehow became more professional. But we’re still keeping it raw at the same time and that’s satisfying.”
In keeping with the longtime aesthetic of the band, songs like “Built Beneath the Lies” and “Circle of Nerves” confront the thrall of negativity through fiercely aggressive and inventive sounds, riffs and lyrics. But there are glimmers of light between the blackened filth; EYEHATEGOD expose ugliness and brutality to offer therapeutic release.
“Some people think EYEHATEGOD is completely negative 24 hours a day,” Williams agrees. “And we definitely give off those negative vibes when we play. But really, this band was always meant to be fun for us and it still is fun. Back in the ‘90s, when I didn’t know if I was going to make it another day due to excessive chemical and alcohol abuse, I enjoyed life on the edge and living day by day..., however this is better. I’m actually loving being alive.”
“I hate to use the word positive, but I kind of think what we do is about clawing through the misery of life and making it to the next day,” he says. “And there are definitely exciting
positive moments along the way. Me and Jimmy always said when it stops being fun that’s when we’re done. And after 33 years in the band, it’s still fun.”