Pist-On (pronounced like "pissed on" not "piston" as the DJs in our nation call them) is, at core, the project of Henry Font (songwriter, guitar, lead vocals) and the more than likely irreplaceable partner Val Ium (bass, backing vocals). They debuted at a time when what is now known as "numetal" was beginning to take hold with bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit. Pist-On followed none of the "numetal" conceits such as abandoning guitar solos and offering only guttural growls or raps rather than real singing. Neither do they sacrifice the "wall of sound" for sputtering staccato riffs. Pist-On was a pissed off newcomer who did something unique by working with their own methodology and never following any trends that, frankly, stink up the room now days. Thus far Ium, Font, and a revolving door of guitar and percussion players have released two albums, and with luck, more will be coming.
Number One (a dubious double entendre for a debut and a short bathroom break) is a textured sonic gem in the rough landscape of the late nineties, and in my final year of College, I couldn't get enough of the whispered screams of tracks like "Grey Flap!" Surprisingly, Number One carries on the richness of "Grey Flap" with less filler material than a deflated Teddy Bear! This isn't to say that Number One is by any means a mere extension of that one single, but is instead a varied piece of experimental metal that dives into different tones, moods and lyrical digressions without ever feeling like any other band out there.
Pist-On's music is more layered and textured than anything being recorded today. Somewhere along the way heavy metal guitar solos have been deemed masturbatory and self-indulgent. Like Meshuggah, Pist-On makes them work well with the tapestries they create, and would sound emptier without them. I only wish more bands would allow for such additions.
Another fascinating aspect of Pist-On's guitar work shows when they accent the wall of sound with harmonized, overlaid guitars. When Font and lead guitarist Paul Poulos rip the same leads at the same time, the result is a golden thread through the sonic wall that does for overdubs what color does for paints. 311 and Kiss have both performed in this manner, and it works, but Pist-On uses the technique sparingly and to add richness, not over-decoration. Drummer Danny Jam Kavaldo likewise throws in ringing sound effects where needed to season a guitar solo, never to mask its strength!
It is to Pist-On's credit that they know when not to play. As strange as that sounds, they are never boxed in by being a "wall of sound" band, and seem equally comfortable allowing only for Font (or Ium's) voices over a quiet guitar to add to the creepy mood. Sometimes such a technique actually soothes the listener into a false calm before the heavy guitars take back over. Font likes to keep one on one's toes!
The most striking thing about Pist-On is the vocal harmonies, and the use of the human voice as an instrument. Jonathan Davis of Korn is able to scat like an old Jazz Man, but Pist-On uses an almost operatic harmony to add yet another layer of suede texture over alternately rough and frightening landscapes of music. The instrumental voices of Val Ium and Henry Font blend to form ooos and aaahs as well as escalating cries to heaven that break in mighty crescendos. There is no pop-oriented na-na-na-na-na sort of voice-play, but rather a classically influenced harmony that captures both voices as one. Font's vocals themselves are alternately hissed and screamed, yet are strangely always intelligible. Font isn't afraid to act the part of an angry poet or a tortured soul, and he lets his voice tell you what he is in that moment, however, he also never forgets that his lyrics are the driving force behind his singing, and therefore he makes sure that every word is heard and felt. All the while Ium's cries and wails alternately back Font up and add a feminine strength to the multi-subject lyrics. Never is this better demonstrated than in the opening of "Exit Wounds" during which Ium and Font bellow out the title in an almost animalistic cry. "Grey Flap" also shows what Ium can do to back up the already opulent tones with her second instrument. Make no mistake, both of these people can sing, and can sing with great range not just the same, repeated inflections.
Four and one half stars for Number One! I tip my hat to Pist-On for not catering to the record buying public either with a radio-friendly name or with cookie-cutter lyrics and stale, tired and tried music. In short "Thank you for being so Bold!" The only shame is that all of the music being on their own terms have caused them to be less accessible to the broad audience they deserve to have. This isn't to suggest that Pist-On should ever go commercial, but judging from the nearly universally strong reviews and the admiration they have garnered from listeners willing to take a chance on them, it is clear that Pist-On is a great band, and should have a rabid cult following by now. Number One feels as fresh and progressive in 2003 as it did in my senior year in College, when it was released. Trust me... they're worth it! If you don't try Pist-On, I'll be Pist-Off! (Ew! That was bad, even for me!)
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