HEAVY METAL & THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC: Vancouver’s Progressive/Death Metal Collective Neck of the Woods

Heavy Metal and the Global Pandemic is a new series that focuses on examining how metal bands are dealing with the COVID-19 world. Heavy Metal is unique as a genre for often writing songs steeped in dystopian imagery, the darker side of the human condition, and of course – death. However, these are unprecedented times for everyone, including musicians with an inclination for chaos.

Defying genre boundaries since 2014, Vancouver’s Neck of the Woods has established themselves as one of the premiere live acts on the metal circuit. Featuring vocalist Jeff Radomsky, guitarists Dave Carr and Ron Holloway, bassist Bryan Gobbi, and drummer Jeremy Gilmartin, the band has released an EP (self-titled, 2015), and two full-length albums, 2017’s The Passenger and this years’ The Annex of Ire.

From the press release:

The group’s complex and dynamic sound, along with their resonating live performances, helped the band quickly rise to prominence. Captured by producer/engineer Jesse Gander at Rain City Recorders in Vancouver, the relentless seven track offering capitalizes on Neck of the Woods’ already ravaging recipe of rabid, methodical, and absorbing extreme/death-tinged metal.

Released on March 20th, The Annex of Ire is one of many albums that had the misfortune of being released when lockdowns began and live music stopped. Effectively killing the bands touring plans and stifling their expectations of an upward trajectory, the band has been forced to wait out this difficult time with the hope they can resume the positive momentum they had built up prior to the albums release.

We caught up with vocalist Jeff Radomsky to talk about how the band is managing through the pandemic. You can follow Neck of the Woods on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The Annex of Ire is available via Bandcamp.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your band, be it cancelled tours or studio time?

Jeff Radomsky: NOTW was unlucky enough to release our new record, The Annex of Ire, right at the beginning of COVID-19’s tremendous upswing. Unfortunately, the lockdown began three days before we were schedule to perform at SXSW. It was no surprise that our months of spring touring and summer festival appearances were cancelled shortly thereafter. These cancellations coupled with a constant stream of eye opening headlines in the news, that kept most people’s attention, caused our release to go almost unnoticed. We felt confident this release would put us on the radar for larger support tours and European festivals while bringing us to a new level of professionalism as a band. Unfortunately, our plans have been completely derailed.

Where are you sheltering in place and what are your circumstances? Are you alone or with family? How are you coping?

Jeff Radomsky: I’m living comfortably in my East Vancouver apartment with my partner and my dog. Having been laid off from my bar tending job, I’ve been relying on the CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) to get by. I struggled with the steady disintegration of my bands projected touring career, most of which I had built up myself, but am now working hard to reschedule as much as I can. I find it best to look at the situation as a non-consensual vacation and make the best of my time by focusing on things I don’t often give myself the time for – like reading, cooking and yoga.

How are the members of your band staying connected?

Jeff Radomsky: We chat daily through text and calls. Dave and I chat the most, usually about non-band related things as he and I share a good handful of common interests.

Concepts of “virus” and “pandemic” are no strangers to heavy metal lyrics and imagery. Is it strange that we’re now living in such a world? Also, have the current circumstances provided any inspiration for writing new material?

Jeff Radomsky: To be transparent, no. Things in the western world have been on a steady decline for as long as I’ve been alive. I’m surprised it was a global pandemic that rocked the boat the hardest, I would have put my money on climate change to cause such a widespread rude awakening like this. I’ve found some inspiration here and there due to the pandemic, I suppose that is a silver lining.

The absence of live music is no doubt affecting the audiences and communities who thrive on the experience of seeing bands perform. But, as performers, what’s it like for you not knowing when you will be able to return to the stage?

Jeff Radomsky: Crippling. We are a live band, that is our strong suit. Our collective goal is to tour on a full time basis as a career in the coming years. We’re all getting older and we’re all seeing that window of opportunity shrink, the pandemic has only further closed that window. All we can do is keep our heads above water until the storm clears and hope that the music industry recovers.

Music provides solace for many in times of hardship. What have you been listening to in these strange and uncertain times?

Jeff Radomsky: I’ve had a wide array of music in my ear to help keep spirits up, a few of my favourites have been the Gypsy Kings, Tommy Guerrero and Peach Pit.

Neck of the Woods’ LP, The Annex of Ire, is available via Bandcamp.

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