Power Trip: “It’s natural progression through regression”

Welcome to their nightmare

Power Trip: “It’s natural progression through regression”

By Glen Bushell

Feb 20, 2017 11:18

With their blend of heavy hardcore and thrash metal, Power Trip have made a name for themselves that is impossible to overlook. The Texan band released their debut album ‘Manifest Decimation’ in 2013, and the aggressive music world has been eagerly awaiting a follow up ever since. Finally, that time has come with their ferocious new album, ‘Nightmare Logic’.

Whether vocalist Riley Gale will admit it or not, ‘Manifest Decimation’ is a modern classic in heavy music. “I think calling it a modern classic is an enormous stretch, but I’m flattered nonetheless,” laughs Gale. “There are a lot of things I think we would have done differently if we were able to go back and do that album again.”

That may sound like Gale is just being modest, but to say he is confident about ‘Nightmare Logic’ would be an understatement. “As blown away as I am at the success of [‘Manifest Decimation’], I think Nightmare Logic smashes it!” he enthuses, before looking back on their debut further. “It was the first LP Blake (Ibanez, guitar) or I ever recorded. It was a daunting task. Chris (Ulsh, drums) had some experience, but the sheer amount of pressure, exhaustion, and frustration to meet the high standards we set for ourselves was a bit of a surprise, but also a huge learning experience.”

Fast-forward to ‘Nightmare Logic’, and Gale says they “learned from mistakes, and had a better plan of attack this time.” Still growing as musicians, he confesses that their songwriting has not only got better, but also more interesting. “Sonically, I’d say ‘we trimmed the fat’, took the riffs to the gym, and did some serious cardio along with beefing up.”

To use an age old rock ‘n’ roll analogy, ‘Nightmare Logic’ is Power Trip turned up to 11. By Gale’s own admission, “It’s faster, heavier, and has catchier hooks, vocally and musically.” Even in the way the record has been arranged and put together is far more cohesive than before in the eyes of the band. “I think it flows much better than [‘Manifest Decimation’] as well; coming together like a seamless full length recording, as it should be,” continues Gale, admitting he himself felt more confident in his own delivery this time. “To be perfectly honest I’ve hated all my recorded vocal performances until this one. I took some risks, I was content with what I produced, and I hope people enjoy it.”

That’s not to say it is easy listening in anyway. It is, if anything, far more dark and aggressive by comparison. “I suppose this is an oxymoron, but it’s natural progression through regression,” says Gale, discussing the nods towards classic thrash and death metal in their sound. “The changes you hear in Power Trip are us opening our minds to the way heavy music can be written, and a lot of that entails reaching further back into metal’s history. Now, we’re not gonna turn into some prog metal or classic rock band, but there’s two facts to note: we’ve simply gotten our chops up, and we love pop music.”

“This also has two results: we’ve been able to play around with some more interesting influences, and we focused on a more classic, often “pop” song-writing structure,” he continues. “Most of the songs have clear verses and choruses. I feel like [‘Manifest Decimation’] had a more non-linear song writing approach at times, especially in my vocals. I focused more on the lyrical content than the style I did them in. In contrast with [‘Nightmare Logic], things are much more structured, and I was able to find a satisfying balance in making a catchy song without sacrificing substance.”

Power Trip: “It’s natural progression through regression”

On the subject of death metal being part of Power Trip’s lexicon, Gale admits that the band have a fond affection for it. There are, however, some parameters when it comes to incorporating it into their sound. “We have this band rule of no double bass drum, ever,” he emphatically states. “Death Metal, broad a genre it is, has produced some of our all-time favourite bands, and hundreds of the nastiest, most monstrously heavy riffs ever. It’s only natural to want to write riffs like some of our favourite death metal bands, but it gets filtered through our more traditional hardcore punk style.”

While Gale keeps his cards close to his chest when it comes to what specific songs on ‘Nightmare Logic’ are about, he explains that they are very much tied together by a central theme. “It’s about how to identify and cope with this waking nightmare we currently call our collective reality,” he says. “It’s about developing the “Nightmare Logic” to navigate this rapidly changing, totally fucked path of civilization we’ve found ourselves going down. I hate when bands try to shoehorn cool phrases into songs just because they have this good idea or one liner, but can’t follow up and develop real meaning behind the song,” he admits.

“I’m not saying every song has to be something deeply profound, but I read plenty of bands lyrics that sound like complete nonsensical phrases strung together because they sound cool when they’re delivered,” continues Gale, who takes his writing very seriously. He states that “every word matters and has meaning,” and that he tries to say something intelligent, but ensures it’s catchy and has style.

“On the surface, it could sound like cliché metal imagery to some, but there’s always a deeper meaning there for those who want to find it,” says Gale of his way writing. “One of my goals with this band is to get people to think differently, about anything, or hell, to just think at all. Big changes to society on a global level are coming, and they are coming fast. I don’t want people to hide from reality until it comes knocking down their door.”

Through devastating tracks like ‘Executioners Tax (Swing Of The Axe)’, ‘Firing Squad’, and ‘Ruination’, the main thing you get from Gale’s lyrics are that Power Trip are pissed off. Gale doesn’t dress things up with ambiguity or metaphor. “The world’s only gotten shittier, so of course I’m more angry,” he admits. “I wanted to make it very clearly I am more pissed off this time around. In a lot of ways, this album is a very symbolically violent album and it wouldn’t upset me if it motivated people to resistive action.”

Gale is quick to say that he doesn’t mean for people to “butcher their boss because they won’t give you a raise,” but that he is referring to resistive action on a wider scale. “In the absolute broadest term possible, America, and the better part of the entire world, need serious governmental reform,” he says, as the tone of the conversation heads down a darker path.

“Actually, the entire human race needs to reassess just what the hell we are doing with ourselves, and redefine what it means to be human,” he continues. “The imbalance of power has gotten so bad, we don’t value human life or growth anymore. We’ve grown wildly paranoid of our own neighbours, and not because they’re bad people, but because our freedom is not in our hands; it’s in the hands of people who control with fear and teach everyone to live with hatred and paranoia.”

As we are very aware, the recent election of Donald Trump has resulted in protest unlike our generation has ever seen. It is a volatile time, not just for America, but for the world as a whole. People are scared. “As we’re quickly learning with our new president, peaceful protesting isn’t accomplishing anything,” says Gale, the determination growing in his voice.

“When the violent forces of large, systematic governmental oppression finally come to your front door, when people are dying in the streets, are you just going to hold up a sign and chant or are you willing to defend your fellow-man at large with collective brute force? He continues. “The 1% is just that, 1%. There will always be more of us, than them. I believe we can turn their armies against them. I believe we can win.”

Power Trip: “It’s natural progression through regression”

From there, we turn our conversation on to the hardcore scene from which Power Trip were born. With the world as it is, we need a place of sanctuary and inclusivity. This even goes for musical styles, and the lines between what is and isn’t hardcore are far more blurred these days. While Gale admits that the hardcore scene has its issues, the Dallas scene in which he grew up was an open-minded place.

“I saw mixed bills from a very young age and have always carried that appreciation with me,” he reflects. “Who wants to go to a show and see very similar sounding bands 4-6 times? I’ve played/gone to plenty of shows like that, but always prefer diversity. I feel like with punks/hardcore kids, there’s a kind of enlightenment that is missing from “civilians” or “normies”. Hardcore has always been a very progressive place, where new ideas, sounds, even fashion seem to appear within it’s spaces earlier than many other places.”

As Gale states, hardcore has never truly gone mainstream. No matter how many bands get tagged as ‘sell-outs’. It is, in the grand scheme of things, still very underground. “I suppose it still has its finger on the pulse any time some new idea or sound emerges,” he continues. “Look up how many “ex” hardcore folk are huge musicians, designers, and influencers all around the world and you’ll always find someone new and surprising. I will say sometimes it feels like metal-heads can be a little more resistant to things that aren’t familiar to them, but that’s why we like to tour with a diverse cast of bands.”

The diverse cast of bands Gale speaks of brings us to the topic of one of their biggest tours to date: A national U.S tour alongside Lamb Of God, Anthrax and Deafheaven back at the start of last year. It was on that tour that Gale learned Power Trip “could maybe really make a career out of this,” due to the way they were embraced by a larger audience.

“I certainly don’t want to jinx anything, but the reactions we got as an opener were so positive,” remembers Gale. “I knew before the tour that we could play to these crowds, we had just never been given that opportunity to until then. We brought it as hard as we could every night, and made sure to have fun on stage all while still being true to ourselves.”

With those shows being the biggest crowd’s Power Trip has played in front of, Gale says fondly that it was both “fun and hilarious,” learning to work an audience that size. “It just felt good playing to a room full of people who had no fucking clue who we were, showing them our brand of a good time, and then walking away loving it. People reacted so positively it really made me think that maybe this band is capable of more than I ever imagined.”

Having accomplished so much, Gale admits that when started Power Trip in 2008, there was never really a goal. It was only about starting a heavy band, influenced by what he loved, and maybe getting the chance to see the world. Naturally, there are still some things left for the band to do, and Gale isn’t taking any of this for granted.

“I’ve never had true expectations or goals for this band, and that lack of expecting anything has only made me that much more gracious and appreciative of all the insane things we’ve accomplished,” he says, humbly. “I’m beginning to trust myself and my band mates enough that we can achieve anything if we sincerely try, don’t give up, and don’t ever forget about the people who helped and supported us at any point along the way.”

Being no strangers to heavy touring, the immediate future of Power Trip is filled with many more shows. However, considering Gale started with little to no expectations, he is casting his eye on the bigger picture more. “I would absolutely love to become a “legacy” band,” he says, admitting that is probably the dream of any heavy metal musician. “I’d like to be able to do this forever, but touring as much as we do is not easy or glamorous, despite what anybody who isn’t a musician thinks. I want to get paid just enough to live a modest lifestyle, hopefully buy a house one day, save up a little for retirement and generally just be comfortable enough on the road that I can give it 100% to our crowds every night.”

The drive and determination of Power Trip is one that few bands posses. They have already created a legacy, and deserve to be mentioned alongside their heroes and peers. While there’s a lot of work involved, it’s not something Gale is concerned about at this point.

I read the average person has 2-3 careers in a lifetime, as in a job running nearly a decade or longer,” he says as we wrap things up. “I’m not worried about my profession, I likely won’t be doing this my whole life; but as of now, this band is my full time profession and I’d like to keep that running as long as possible, preferably until I’m dead.”

‘Nightmare Logic’ is released on February 24th via Southern Lord, and is available to pre-order now.

Power Trip will also be back in the UK later this year supporting Napalm Death and Brujeria, which you can see the dates for below.

09 BIRMINGHAM 02 Institute
11 MANCHESTER Rebellion
12 LONDON Electric Ballroom