So, what was the great unifier in this case for musicians Steven Bradley [guitar], Courtney LaPlante [vocals], Mike Stringer [guitar], Mikey Montgomery [drums], and Mike “Rickshaw” Martin [bass]?
“We wanted to write some straight-up heavy, crazy, gnarly music this time,” declares Steven. “We basically decided to just shit on everything people might be expecting and do something ‘weird’ for us AKA take things in a darker direction and write some music that explores even more heavy/technical genres than in the past.”
“On this album, we all had a clear goal to push ourselves both creatively and technically,” LaPlante agrees. “My lyrics and performance had to mirror the music. I had to push passed my self-created boundaries, and as Steven so eloquently put it, ‘Get gnarly.’ The only pressure I felt was from myself. Since I joined the band, I’ve grown as a vocalist and lyricist, and now is my time to prove it.”
With that mindset, the quintet retreated to Steven’s studio in suburban Los Angeles to cut the 14 tracks comprising Hail Mary. 2013’s Late for Nothing introduced Courtney behind the mic, boasted a guest spot from guitar god Steve Vai on “Carnage Asada,” and scored acclaim from the likes of Ultimate Guitar, MetalSucks, Kerrang!, and Revolver. However, this new collective goal encouraged the members to truly gel on album number four.
“The last time we were writing, I had just joined the band, and I was a bit isolated at home for the beginning of the process,” recalls Courtney. “I didn’t hit my stride creatively until I got down to Los Angeles with the guys. This time, I was there for every single moment. I was engrossed in it. Together, we watched little ideas bloom into what Hail Mary is now.”
Album opener “Gift of Death” begins with a dissonant hum before slipping into a bludgeoning polyrhythmic guitar-and-drum death march punctuated by Courtney’s distinct growls. “The goal was to piece together a bunch of crazy tech metal ideas, but to not lose sight of keeping it memorable and somewhat organized,” says Steven. “Also it’s pretty damn evil, and it really sets the tone for the album.”
Courtney goes deeper, explaining, “’Gift of Death’ is told by a person who has been so sure their entire life that they are going to go to heaven—only to end up in hell. They realize that they have been cast aside. The gift is supposed to be a blessing, but this person realizes that they’ve been cheated.”
Then, there’s the eradicating and entrancing “Erase It All,” which boasts a scorching cameo from Suicide Silence singer Eddie Hermida and also appropriately received its debut on Easter Sunday 2015. “It’s emblematic of what we’re doing on this record and having both Courtney and Eddie together at the end of the song is just inarguably br00talz.”
“It’s time to reject the notion that if you play by the rules, then you will be rewarded,” sighs Courtney. “Erase that false mindset and move on to better things. It’s about standing up for yourself and not drinking a drop of the poison disguised as medicine people shove in your face.”
Elsewhere on the grossly epic “Doomed to Fail Pt.1” and “Doomed to Fail Pt. 2,” the group employs traditional guitar solos, another evolution in the spirit of assembling their “most metal album,” as Courtney calls it. Steven explains, “This album has the craziest guitar work of any of our albums so far, and it’s due in part to Young Michel (Stringer) joining the band and being an absolute beast on guitar. ‘Doomed to Fail Pt. 1’ has legitimate guitar solos, which is totally different for us. Normally, we’d eschew that, but we’re embracing it and even adding another dimension to the music. Then Pt. 2 kicks in and, as the only song on the album that doesn’t feature predominately screaming, gives the album a breath of fresh air while dancing around the same melodies as the extremely heavy/technical Pt. 1.”
Iwrestledabearonce’s multi-dimensional sound has transfixed listeners since the release of their 2009 debut It’s All Happening. Over the course of 2011’s Ruining It For Everybody and Late For Nothing, the band amassed nearly 100 million cumulative YouTube views, while obliterating stages in 40+ countries and with bands from every genre imaginable. Everything laid the groundwork for Hail Mary as their most corrosive, catchy, and chaotic statement to date though.
Their duality ultimately shines through the title. “It’s twofold,” concludes Steven. “Courtney’s lyrics contain a lot of religious themes this time around. We feel that blindly following religion or anyone else’s doctrines and embracing close-mindedness is the culprit behind many of the world’s worst tragedies, and we want to encourage people to question anything/everything that’s force-fed to them. We purposefully took a step away from the bright neon themes of our past to do something darker with this album. There’s also the football reference and us just saying, ‘Fuck it! We’ve been quiet for a little while now, but let’s just throw this straight out there and see what happens.’ We aim to destroy everything this time around, and I hope everyone’s on board with that.”