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Sunday Old School: Spineshank

In the late nineties and early 2000s, metal was being represented by the nu metal genre, which for those of you too young to remember, consisted mostly of guys with short hair, piercings and tattoos, a lack of guitar solos and perhaps most offensive to “true” metal fans of all, hit singles. While some of the big names in the field such as Limp Bizkit and Coal Chamber were being slated by metalheads, there were a few which were considered hidden gems in the hated genre, one of which was the more industrial influenced, Spineshank.

The seeds of Spineshank were sewn when vocalist Jonny Santos, guitar player Mike Sarkisyan and drummer Tom Decker were all part of a band named Basic Enigma. Shortly after forming, the group heard the album, "Demanufacture" from industrial metal favourites, Fear Factory and decided to take their music further into such a direction, changing their moniker to the now familiar name of Spineshank and bringing in bassist Robert Garcia. As luck would have it, the band befriended the members of Fear Factory, particularly guitarist Dino Cazares, who was impressed with their demo and offered them a slot opening for his band at the Whiskey A-Go-Go.

Their supporting performance impressed many and soon led them to open for such big names as Sepultura and Danzig, as well as up and coming bands like Coal Chamber and Soulfly. These blistering shows sparked something of a bidding war between record companies, with Roadrunner eventually winning. After signing with the label, Spineshank released their debut album, "Strictly Diesel" in September 1998, which sold around 75,000 copies in the United States and reached the number 129 position on the UK album charts, a respectable tally for a young band who didn’t have a music video to promote the album in a time when MTV was still being watched. The record also boasted a guest appearance from Fear Factory singer Burton C. Bell on the closing song, "Stain," as well as Orgy guitarist, Amir Derakh on their cover of the Beatles’ classic, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

Two years after their debut, Spineshank released their sophomore full length, "The Height of Callousness," which took its title from the classic book/movie, "A Clockwork Orange." It sold twice as much as its predecessor and reached number 104 in the UK charts, as well as seeing the band hit the Billboard album charts for the first time, reaching 183. It featured a much stronger industrial sound, with more use of sampling and cybernetic themes, as well as featuring their first minor hit single, "New Disease," which again charted in both the U.S.A. and Great Britain and was featured in the Kurt Russell movie, "3000 Miles to Graceland," while another song from the album, "Cyanide 2600" appeared on the "Resident Evil" soundtrack.

With the success of the album, Spineshank soon found themselves touring a lot more heavily, appearing on the 2001 edition of Ozzfest along with the reunited Black Sabbath, Marilyn Manson and Slipknot amongst other popular names, as well as hitting the road with other young favourites like Disturbed, Mudvayne and Hed PE. They were still able to enter the studio however, and the result was perhaps their most mainstream effort to date, "Self-Destructive Pattern." Though not all fans were receptive of the record, it nevertheless features some excellent tracks such as the opening, "Violent Mood Swings" and "Fallback," in addition to the Grammy nominated single, "Smothered" and "Beginning of the End," which can be heard in the post intro sequence of the anticipated horror movie, "Freddy vs. Jason."

Following the release of the album, the band took part in a European tour with Ill Nino and Chimaira, with one show on the trek being filmed in the Netherlands for a DVD release, although this never saw the light of day. Despite the success of the band, Jonny Santos decided to leave the group in early 2004 due to musical differences, while Tommy Decker confirmed that the band intended to continue and they soon launched an extensive search for a new vocalist, eventually deciding on Brandon Espinoza. While the band never released anything with Espinoza, Santos was finding success with his new band, Silent Civilian, who released their first album, "Rebirth of the Temple" in 2006.

By 2008, it seemed that the band had officially been put to rest, as claimed by Espinoza, though the other members announced that they were welcoming auditions for a new singer for an unnamed band. Though many sent in their demos, a surprise soon came when the group announced that they had reunited with Jonny Santos and that Spineshank was alive and well, with plans for a new album, even posting a new song, "Born Conform Repent" on their Myspace page. It would be quite a wait for the new album however, with "Ghost Stories," the second Silent Civilian album arguably disrupting and delaying the process, however, in 2012, Spineshank finally released their fourth studio album, "Anger Denial Acceptance" through Century Media Records.

Unfortunately, many fans were left disappointed by the record, with many complaining that it lacked the electronics and hooks that had previously been such key components of the band, as well as their shift towards a more metalcore direction and arguably poor production. They had promoted their new material by appearing on Disturbed’s, "Music as a Weapon" tour as well as launching a headlining trek of their own, but since 2012, Spineshank has been more or less silent. Whether this is a sign that the band has finished remains to be confirmed, but fans will no doubt be hoping that the group eventually do resurface with new material that fits in with their stellar discography.

Spineshank - "Shinebox"

Spineshank - "Stovebolt"

Spineshank - "Synthetic"

Spineshank - "New Disease"

Spineshank - "Smothered"

Spineshank - "Beginning of the End"

Spineshank - "Nothing Left For Me"

Spineshank - "Murder Suicide"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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