Cast your minds back to a time when metal music was not cool. Nay, indeed, a time when metal was anathema to all that was considered to be “chic” and “in.” A time when your favorite bands were actually encouraged by the music industry to play slower, cut their hair, and write sensitive lyrics about their childhoods. Yes, this unfortunately really happened. Our semi-irregular feature “90s Metal Weirdness” focuses on albums released between 1992 and 2001 and which we all probably would rather forget. But in the service of publicly shaming the musicians involved, we have pushed forward. — AMG
pist.on – Number One (1997)
The Back Story: Today’s 90sMW is a little special, kids. Typically, we make fun of bands who existed prior to 1992, and their laughable attempts to adapt to the new decade. But there were also bands that were formed in the early and mid ’90s that made equally questionable choices. One of these groups is Brooklyn quartet pist.on, whose debut, Number One, is one of the better offerings from an era saturated with terrible music.
pist.on‘s background is somewhat mired in pre-Internet mystery. Vocalist/guitarist Henry Font and bassist Val Ium were apparently friendly with Type O Negative keyboardist Josh Silver, who helped them out with a couple of demos in the early 1990’s. In 1996, the band signed with the Mayhem/Fierce label, found a drummer and guitarist, and enlisted Silver to produce their debut full length.
What Does It Sound Like: As I recall, the sales pitch for this group amounted to “hey, this guy’s got a cool voice, and there’s also a girl in the band.” I guess back in the ’90s, that was all it took to get a record deal. Vocalist Henry Font did have a cool style, sounding like a higher-pitched James Hetfield while also being capable of a softer midrange. Bassist Val Ium was indeed a girl, and also contributed a higher vocal counterpoint to Font – again, in 1997 the male/female dual singer thing was a novel approach. Some of you may recognize Ms. Ium’s voice from the Type O classic “In Praise Of Bacchus.”
Vocals aside, pist.on had much more in common musically with alternative rock than with nu-metal. Most of the band’s material was built on simple drop-tuned riffs, like Soundgarden with very limited guitar skills. Silver’s production work gave the album a harsh, gothic atmosphere, similar to his work on Life Of Agony‘s landmark River Runs Red.
The album’s best tracks are probably the two singles: the heavy-handed opener “Parole” and pseudo power ballad “Grey Flap.” Other highlights include the more uptempo “Mix Me With Blood” and the October Rust-channeling “Exit Wound.” Listening back to this album today, I still think it’s mostly well-written and super catchy, even if they’re very much a product of their time.
Stupid Political Lyrics? It’s possible that “Parole” is a commentary on the U.S. prison system, and the difficulty of re-integrating into society after serving time. Or not.
Is There Any Rapping On The Album? No, but there is a Smiths cover. That should sum up which side of the ’90s Metal fence these guys were on.
Were Haircuts Involved? Pist.On at least somewhat embraced the brightly-dyed hair, work shirts, and shitty vinyl pants that the era demanded. I can’t help but wonder if the mismatched visual presentation hurt the band’s career. It’s a shame, too — these guys did have some talent, and they never did anything nearly as offensive to music or fashion as, say, Coal Chamber.
The Aftermath: Number One was followed by tours with Type O, Marilyn Manson and the crappy Danzig-free version of the Misfits. Soon, the band was picked up by Atlantic Records, and immediately went through the usual lineup changes and record industry meddling. They even changed the spelling of their name, to the more family-friendly pist.on. Apparently that didn’t help, because Atlantic dropped them before they even released an album.
Back on Mayhem/Fierce, and with original band name intact, pist.on released $ell.Out in 1999. Josh Silver was not involved in this album, and (in another Life Of Agony parallel), pist.on sounded whiny and pedestrian in his absence. Disheartened by poor reviews and the changing tide of heavy music, pist.on called it a day in 2001. To the best of my knowledge, neither Font or Ium are currently active in music.