Local metal band As Legend Has It has crammed its new self-titled EP full of ideas. They're the kinds of ideas that aren't for everybody—the disc lumbers throughout its 28-minute duration from brutal hardcore breakdowns, high-pitched hyperspeed screeches, and guttural death-metal growls to towering passages of synthesized strings, melodic guitar interludes, and long, wide-open choruses with clean vocals. As Legend Has It is ugly and pretty in almost equal measure, often at the same time; sometimes it's hard to tell which is which. The band members call if "ep-neck," short for "epic redneck metal."
It's not quite sufficient to describe it as all over the place, since the collision of styles seems to be at least part of the point. But As Legend Has It's eclecticism isn't strictly a creative decision. The divergent approach represents a young band that's only been together since last fall, working on material left over from previous bands, and that went into the studio almost immediately.
"We've been together about six months," says vocalist Klint Monroe, who was most recently in the group Goatblaster with guitarist Zach Householder. "We actually came together from a lot of bands breaking up."
Houeholder joined Whitechapel temporarily to fill in for Brandon Cagle, who suffered nerve damage in his right arm in a motorcycle accident. When it became clear that Cagle wouldn't be able to return, Householder joined Whitechapel permanently and agreed to let Monroe take material they had worked up for Goatblaster to a new band. Monroe eventually hooked up with guitarists Jared Bivens and Nathan Palmer, bassist Brad Reed, and drummer Andy Cosby.
One of the songs left over from Monroe's Goatblaster days is "T.B.B. vs. T.K.P.T.," a nine-minute beast that closes As Legend Has It. The song is overloaded with downtuned riffs, a mind-blowing vocal intro from Monroe that sounds like he's puking down the front of his shirt, harmony guitar lines, synthesizers courtesy of Householder, wonky dissonant sections, martial drum patterns and blast beats, lyrics about maggots, blood, and violence, and even, buried near the end, hints of Southern rock. The whole thing is too messy to call a masterpiece, but audacious enough to stand as a powerful statement of purpose. (An early demo version of the song is still available at Goatblaster's MySpace page.)
"T.B.B. vs. T.K.P.T." (it stands for "Tricycle Bomb Brigade vs. the Kindergarten Playground Throwdown," whatever that means) was recorded, along with the rest of the seven-song EP, at Sound Lair in West Knoxville and mastered in Winston-Salem, N.C., by Jamie King, who's worked with math-metal titans Between the Buried and Me. "It took us the course of six months to record the whole album and have it done," Monroe says.
Production values will always be a priority for the band, especially as Monroe tries to steer it into more bombastic and symphonic territory. "I really want to do some more heroic sounding stuff," he says. "I don't want to sound like Whitechapel or Cannibal Corpse. I love those bands, but European bands like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, with the big epic, orchestral arrangements, I really like that sound. That European stuff is so amazing."
The members of As Legend Has It range in age from 18 to 25. Monroe is the oldest—"I'm the papaw of the band," he says—and he remembers a time, in the mid-1990s, when metal was at its lowest point. "Yeah, honestly, I can remember when metal wasn't as big as it is now," he says. "The end of Headbanger's Ball, the original Headbanger's Ball on MTV, when they even stopped playing old Metallica and Megadeth videos. But I like what's going on now even better than that anyway."
He's especially pleased with the local fallout of extreme rock's resurgence in the last few years. Record deals for Straight Line Stitch and Whitechapel and the big-label success of 10 Years (Cosby's brother, Lewis Cosby, plays bass for that band) have made everybody in Knoxville's metal scene optimistic. Monroe's hopeful, but he's not looking too far ahead.
"Right now, we're just touring, getting merchandise, selling merchandise," he says. "We're just trying to be a band that's available."