The Showdown's new album, Blood in the Gears, represents the band down to its DNA, on the cellular level. Blood allows your body to survive. Gears make machines move. This rifftacular Tennessee band's gears are greased with the blood of their passion. And the end result is electrifying.
While some bands that experience membership changes give up or give in to that undeniable occupational headache, The Showdown didn't even think about going that route. No way, son. They elected to keep on keepin' on, a testament to their Southern work ethic and their passion for playing.
New bassist Jeremiah Scott produced early The Showdown records, so it made perfect sense for him to step into the rhythm section of the band and to man the boards on Blood in the Gears, their second album for Solid State Records. With Scott, the band gained a bassist and a songwriter! While The Showdown also enjoyed a measure of success in the past few years, including a slot on Ozzfest 2007 and even had the title track of their last album, 2008's Back Breaker, appear in the film Legion as well as on the wildly popular Charlie Sheen sitcom, Two and a Half Men, The Showdown continue to do things their way: without pretense and a whole truckload o' passion. The do things their way and the results? Well, they speak for themselves, especially with Blood in the Gears.
"We did it super punk rock and that had a lot to do with the way it turned out," vocalist David Bunton said of the process. "It's got different lyrical ideas that we had never really done before. But we got it done, which is totally metal, in that we didn't give up. We started in 1999 and played hundreds of show before we got signed, made a record or printed a t-shirt. Me and Josh were the two core members, making music and we love doing that still."
For Josh Childers, who previously wrote all of The Showdown's music, Blood in the Gears marked a significant left turn for him. He let the new members share in a bulk of the writing duties and responsibilities. "I did a lot less writing for this record," he admitted. "I wrote 90-95 percent of everything beforehand. This time, I have Jeremiah and Patrick writing riffs and arranging. I came into the process late and did more arranging and lyrics. They gave me more than enough material to work with." It wasn't any sort of changing of the guard in The Showdown camp; rather, it was a change of pace and new infusion of blood to course through those gears, with the band's signature, Southern metal sound firmly intact and in place.
Childers admits that giving up control and letting someone else take the reins was indeed scary. "I have been a control freak and I did not know how it would turn out," he said. "I was pessimistic, but when it came together, it came together. They did a great job and did it differently than I would have done it and that can be scary, but I have faith in the final product." Childers revealed that he stepped back because of simple writer's block and the fact that the band took some time off the road. "I haven't been with my guitar and hadn't written," he said. "Patrick and Jeremiah would spend six hours, locked up, playing riffs, so I respect the amount of work they did. Now, The Showdown is really collaborative, moreso than ever."
It was an unorthodox approach, but then again, The Showdown, like Ol' Blue Eyes, are content with doing things their way. "We have reached a pinnacle of doing things our way, internally within the band with this album," Childers said. "There was not even a consideration of pressure from anywhere else. We're not doing this because we want to be told what to do. I'd just work a 9 to 5 and make more money if I wanted that. We are not a slave to wage."
Childers admits that lyrically, The Showdown's first album, 2004's A Chorus of Obliteration boasted "Bible stories made metal" and that 2007's Temptation Come My Way was "more internal." He attests to 2008's Back Breaker being "all over the place," but says Blood in the Gears is themed around concept of the empire in history and the bad things it does to a culture. "It's the classic comparison of America to the fall of Rome," Childers said. "The central authority tends to distort and then have a revolution with the right intentions but when you centralize power, and it's not personal, it is bad for people in general and makes you less human. You become part of an empire, giving up more power to be more of a slave and less human. Dave and I really have something to say. It's not whining about breaking up with a girlfriend, but it's more world themes and represents a change in mindset. The whole theme is that we are the blood in the gears of the machine, that which greases the gears."
The Showdown also brought in guitarist Patrick Judge, who also serves as a guitarist in Demon Hunter. Judge joined the band because Scott kept "bugging me to jam" and Judge ended up "coming out, hanging out, playing a festival and never leaving. I was hanging around like a bad cough." Judge was happy to hunker down and write voraciously in his new role. "Josh and I trade off a lot [of the solos]. I do the first or second; he'll finish it off. There is a lot of that on the record."
Nearly every song has a solo, and there ain't nothing wrong with that. Judge even admitted, "This album is influenced heavily by Southern rock, like Pantera. With this record, all we listened to Pantera, Down, Black Label Society. You are supposed to ride a motorcycle while listening to this."
The rhythm section was for the recording was rounded out by Tim ‘Yogi’ Watts, a longtime friend of the band and member of Demon Hunter, who stepped in and helped out as The Showdown sorted through some membership revolving doors. Yogi moved to Tennessee with Bunton, sat behind the kit for the band during its spring and summer tours in 2009 and recorded the drums for the new album. Due to some personal matters, Yogi was not able to join the band full time, even though he was welcome to.
Bunton also deems Blood in the Gears "an open-minded record. We have a song on there that is our Bon Jovi/Warrant 'Dead or Alive.' It's called 'Digging My Own Grave,' and it's an acoustic, Southern rock biker ballad. There is a nod to death metal too. And songs that sound like the devil." Amen to that.
Scott, who worked with the band as a producer before he was a member, was able to contribute music and to help foster the sound on the album now that he was actually in The Showdown officially. "They were jumping styles each record," he said. "This is just heavy Southern metal. It is not super thrashy or detuned or fast, or poppy. We just wrote heavy, Southern metal. It can have singing or screaming. It can be catchy or not catchy. Whatever the case, it's just heavy Southern metal that hits the nail on the head."
The album's opening song, "Man Named Hell", was partially written, by Scott's Harley-Davidson motorcycle. "We wrote the song, recorded the bike, and started to write riffs to the looping of the exhaust. After trying at it for a bit, Patrick realized that we had a similar riff in one of our demos. There was already an entire song attached to the riff so basically the Harley picked a tune out from our demos to be made into the intro for the album’s first song,” Scott said. Not many bands can lay claim to a motorcycle dictating and morphing into a riff, but The Showdown aren't like every other heavy rock band from the South.
The old saying is "American by birth, Southern by the grace of God." For The Showdown, it's more like "Southern by birth, metal by the Grace of God." Blood in the Gears demonstrates that fact from start to finish.