The Maple Forum: Track-by-Track Through Blackwolfgoat’s Dronolith

We’re only one week away from the May 24 release of Blackwolfgoat‘s opus of progressive drone, Dronolith, on The Maple Forum. For those keeping up, forum030 is a six-track foray into the mind of guitarist Darryl Shepard (Hackman, Milligram, Slapshot, etc.). Loops and layers of guitar — all recorded live — building to the massive apex of the title track, closing out the album with a righteous, oppressive density you can feel in your chest. It’s not every drone record that demands you play it loud, but this one does.

Dronolith will be available starting next Tuesday, in a limited, hand-numbered digipak run of 100 copies with art by Alexander von Wieding. The album was engineered and mixed by Glenn Smith at Amps vs. Ohms Studio and mastered by Nick Zampiello and Rob Gonnella at New Alliance East. It’s all guitar, and it’s all Shepard playing it, and since the tracks are all instrumental, I though it might be cool to get the scoop from the man himself on what’s behind the songs.

So here it is. Darryl Shepard gives his track-by-track on Dronolith. Hope you dig it:

“Building Buildings”
This song is very influenced by Krautrock and bands like Neu! and Can. I was going for a heavily rhythmic vibe, almost hypnotic. I love how Neu! would have songs that were very simple and driving, but they were interesting to listen to. The rhythm on this one came out way better than I had even hoped for. Sometimes it actually sounds like there is a drummer or percussionist playing, mixed really low in the mix. It has a futuristic type of feel going on as well. After I recorded this one, Glenn (the engineer) and I didn’t think it was too good, but we kept it and worked on some other stuff. Then when we went back to it we realized that we really liked it, so I’m glad we kept this take. There were a couple of different mixes of this but I liked the one that ended up on the album because it’s kind of dark and muddy; it’s very analog sounding. I want to pursue this rhythmic type of stuff more and see where I can take it.

One of the cleaner sounding songs on the album. I named this after Billy Ruane, who was a promoter/all around music scene personality in Boston for years, who passed away in 2010, and that had a huge impact on the Boston music scene. It affected so many people. Way back in 1990 or so, I was in a speed metal band, and he booked us on a show with Melvins and Helmet, and that had a huge impact on me. I’ll never forget it. For this song I was trying to layer different guitar parts playing in what sounds like different time signatures, but it’s really all 4/4. It’s fragile sounding, and there are a few little glitches in there which I wanted to keep, because Billy, to me, was like that. He was a great, gentle person. He had his flaws, as do all of us, but there’s perfection in the flaws. The flaws are what make things interesting. When I was first working on this song there was no guitar solo, I was just layering part over part over part, and then I decided there needed to be a real solo over everything, something very melodic. I hope I do the memory of Billy Ruane justice with this song.

A real heavy track, played in an alternate tuning I like a lot. From bottom to top, it’s: C G D G B E. That tuning makes chords sound bigger and more majestic. I won’t lie, this song is very influenced by early Earth, like Earth 2 and Phase 3 Thrones and Dominions. I’m not trying to rip Earth off, it’s more of an homage. It’s basically just a chord progression I came up with that I thought sounded really cool. This song is more about the actual sound than anything else, although there is structure to it. I named it after the hypothetical planet that scientists “may have” discovered, Tyche, which supposedly is as big as Jupiter but has more mass, just a massive thing way out in space. I love super heavy droning guitars, so this song satisfies that craving for me. It’s mainly just one guitar part, no layering on this one except for the fadeout.

“Fear of Stars
Not sure where this came from, it just sort of appeared one day when I was playing guitar. I was trying to make it sound like there was a pulse — not really notes — and then everything on top of it is kind of an outline. It’s almost like a sketch. I really like the playing on this one. I feel like I was doing stuff that I don’t usually do, timing- and phrasing-wise, playing on the upbeat and in between beats more than usual, not playing as straightforward, almost playing between the notes. It’s definitely not jazz but I would say it’s influenced by jazz. I was looking for a name for it, and was checking out a list of phobias online, and there is an actual phobia for being afraid of stars, it’s called “siderophobia,” and I thought that was a weird kind of thing, to be afraid of stars, and it seemed to fit the mood of the song.

“Event Radius”
Another super heavy track, in the vein of “Tyche.” The E string is tuned down to A, to give it that low, droning sound. This one sounds pretty ominous, like something very bad is coming and there’s nothing you can do about it. Again, this song is basically an excuse to kick out the super heavy jams, so to speak. The head I used on most of this album is called Kneel, they’re amps made by this guy, Neal Johnson, in Boston. Very cool amps. For the heavy stuff, I used a combination of the distortion on the head and a black Big Muff, just a really overdriven sound, pushing the speakers. The title really fits the song to me, in that it sounds like there’s some really serious shit going down, like maybe an enormous UFO is heading our way very slowly and the shit is gonna hit the fan big time. A lot of the songs on this album seem to have themes that deal with space or a futuristic vibe to them, at least for me. I really like how at the beginning of the song it sounds like a switch was thrown and a big machine is powering up.

I had the title before I had the song, although I knew what I wanted to do musically, but it took a while for this one to come together. I originally was thinking of doing something around 20 minutes long for this, but that just seemed to be a bit much, so I went with the flow and it came out to 15 and a half minutes. The first half is mellow and somewhat eerie, very dark sounding. Glenn did a great job recording this. The guitar almost sounds like a piano at times. It almost lulls you to sleep, and then the heavy guitar just comes in and flattens everything. When we first listened back to this in the studio we were laughing because it sounds like a bomb going off when the distortion kicks in. That’s when I knew I had accomplished what I set out to do. From that point on, the track keeps building and building, like something that’s just too big for its own good. I wanted to keep layering guitars on top of each other. I don’t even know how many layers there are, probably around 25 or 30, total overkill. Some of it is just static, I unplugged the guitar and had a track of me just putting my finger on the end of the guitar cord, total static. Chaos. But you can still make out the melody buried underneath all of the noise. There is an actual melody in there somewhere, you just gotta listen for it. At the end is a little snippet of something I recorded at home, just to have something melodic at the end to wrap it up. Everything else on the album was recorded live in the studio. I feel that this track lives up to its name, something massive and looming. Like Glenn said, “That’s definitely Dronolith.”

Dronolith by Blackwolfgoat will be available May 24 on The Maple Forum. Stay tuned for more info.

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