photo & text by nacrowe
i always felt that INCUBUS was playing a different game than their supposed peers in the METAL community. S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (review linked HERE) was definitely rooted in the SPASTIC RHYTHMIC and TEXTURAL juxtapositions made famous by MR. BUNGLE and the SPATIAL otherworldly explorations of ANDY SUMMERS and more than a little FELA KUTI, but their follow-up MAKE YOURSELF (EPIC, 1999) really put that altogether in a POTENT hybrid mix that continues to defy easy explanation. just goes to show that the first two times i've seen INCUBUS live were in 2000 at OZZFEST (with tour-mates PANTERA, SOULFLY and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE) and in 2001 at MOBY's short-lived but eclectic AREA:ONE festival (which also featured OUTKAST and JURASSIC 5). and they fit in seamlessly at both, which is pretty INCREDIBLE.
as i wrote about when discussing S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (EPIC, 1997), the POETIC BUDDHIST-leaning, COMPASSIONATE lyricism of BRANDON BOYD is perfectly coupled by the TEXTUAL dexterity of guitarist MIKE EINZIGER and his deep love of all things PHASER, DELAY and PITCHSHIFTING-related pedal-wise. INCUBUS has a very VERSATILE and highly MELODIC yet INFECTIOUS sound that really found an audience with the tracks of MAKE YOURSELF, including the singles "DRIVE," "STELLAR" and "PARDON ME." for me the standout tracks include the likes of "THE WARMTH," "PRIVILEGE," "CONSEQUENCE," "WHEN IT COMES" and "NOWHERE FAST" which all harness a PLAYFUL use of PITCHSHIFTING effects and INCLUSIVE lyrics that deal with coming to terms with your own deficiencies. the result are songs that feel quite INTIMATE and AUTHENTIC, which is probably why this band was such a staple during my late teens and early twenties.
fast forward 20 years and my cousin and a friend are working security at a recent seaside music festival in ASBURY PARK that INCUBUS is headlining. my cousin was tasked with checking passes near the stage and didnt recognize the DJ since he'd gotten a haircut (like more than a decade before). the dude didnt break a sweat and was totally COOL about it, even laughing with my cousin at his own changed appearance and seemed to go out of his way to not make my cousin feel bad. its part of the CHARM of the band that they are DECENT, HONORABLE people who care more about their fans and pet issues like the ENVIRONMENT and SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT (most of which is run through their longstanding MAKE YOURSELF FOUNDATION) than being "rock stars." i was happy to hear they didnt big-time my cousin minutes before a major gig. not being caught up in their own fame seems pretty PUNK ROCK and in keeping with a general DIY ETHOS in a way. it also coincides with their public image from afar, which is that they seem like UNAFFECTED, GROUNDED, CHILL dudes.
PITCHSHIFTING is required listening in my estimation, irrespective of whether you are a fan of turn-of-the-millennium ALTERNATIVE ROCK or not. INCUBUS at this point in their career were on an INSPIRED songwriting hot streak and sounded like no other band before or since. well worth checking out.
photo & text by nacrowe
i remember being back in NEW JERSEY for winter break after my first semester in boarding school up in WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS and first hearing the propulsive and infectious "NEW SKIN" single off of INCUBUS' wildly inventive S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (EPIC, 1997) album on the local NYC ALTERNATIVE ROCK station 92.3FM KROCK. being in boarding school was kind of like being on a religious retreat, i was intently focused on my studies and pretty much unaware of anything outside the confines of the campus. it was an intense period.
INCUBUS was signed to the IMMORTAL imprint at EPIC RECORDS that seemingly specialized in the burgeoning ALTERNATIVE ROCK / NU-METAL scene of the period. other signees included KORN, SNOT, THE URGE and later THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS. its funny now to think that such a multi-faceted group as INCUBUS was lumped together with label-mates KORN, but back in the late 1990s such was the case.
to my ears INCUBUS was sonically adventurous from the get-go. guitarist MIKE EINZIGER seemingly never met a PHASER or PITCH-SHIFTING pedal that he never liked as the band seemed to revel in conked-out interstellar soundscapes and bouncing, melodic textures, which coupled with the FUNK METAL of the incredibly tight rhythm section of ALEX KATUNICH and JOSE PASILLAS made for quite the formidable sonic experience. and then there is BRANDON BOYD, the lead singer. lyrically and conceptually the dude was obsessed with everything from BUDDHISM and EASTERN PHILOSOPHY to SCIENCE FICTION and the philosophical ramifications of living in an infinite universe with a finite set of sensory tools to facilitate any meaning from them. in a sense, id argue that BOYD's outer-body lyricism and potent stage presence actually grounded the band.
more so on S.C.I.E.N.C.E. then all later releases, this album found the band coming to terms with their own intense musical and interpersonal connection as a unit and found them really pushing their boundaries, especially on tracks such as "A CERTAIN SHADE OF GREEN," "VITAMIN," "CALGONE," "REDEFINE" and especially "SUMMER ROMANCE (ANTI-GRAVITY LOVE SONG)." later on their focus was much more attuned to song-craft and cohesive structures that more effectively support a central concept, both sonically and lyrically. but on this record its all out there which is why it is one of my favorite records from this period, right up there with DEFTONES' WHITE PONY (MAVERICK, 2000) and MR. BUNGLE's CALIFORNIA (WARNER BROS, 1999).
S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is a great starting point for anyone interested in investigating the more adventurist and idiosyncratic of 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK.