show review

​Jungle Rot @ Now That's Class 7/13/2015

Lisa Sanchez
​Being in an extreme metal band is a difficult job. It's not like being an air traffic controller or an EMT, but it comes with its own special set of challenges. Grinding out enough shows to make a tour (and ultimately all of your blood, sweat, and B.O.) is worth the effort; playing in unsafe neighborhoods, and playing to crowds that are so drunk they're just one degree above legally dead. But, Jungle Rot have been performing and shredding across the United States and Europe for the last twenty years and their love for the underground hasn't dwindled in the least. Lead singer Dave Matrise spoke with me before the band's exhibition show at Now That's Class about the band's current stint on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival, their recent album release, and the allure of the underground music scene.
Jungle Rot released their eighth studio album, Order Shall Prevail, on Victory records June 30 and the band is excited to release a new wave of material for the festival season. Matrise attributed the band's ability to keep pushing themselves with each new album to the fact that Jungle Rot is so deeply ingrained in them that striving for success can't be turned off, "[Jungle Rot] is such a big part of my life, it's my identity, it's all I've got." The singer goes on to attribute some of the band's progress to signing to Victory records in 2011 and evolving his writing style to be more inclusive: "Ever since we signed with Victory and we've put out the last three [albums] with them I think we've found our stride. Recently, I lock myself away for a couple months at a time, I write the songs on guitar, I get together with Geoff Bub (lead guitar), then we bring in Jimmy on bass. Everyone has a job and I think we finally found what works for us. Our albums have gotten better and better since we've put them out."
Order Shall Prevail maintains Jungle Rot's signature brutality with pummeling drums and shredding guitar as well as their insights into the failings of mankind. The band often deals with subjects of human violence and power struggles. "You see it every day on the news and that's what feeds us, man," said Matrise. "I think the people in this country are in dying need for a change for the better. The album is about the people uniting and revolting and taking a stand for one another. The new album [Order Shall Prevail] is very current, considering it deals with police brutality. Everyone can see it." Whereas any style of music could tackle the intricacies of disproportionate power structures, the metal genre, thrash in particular, appears to take the brunt of the responsibility. Matrise continued: "Metal seems to hit the issues more on target because it's a little bit more violent and violence comes with the subject. We're the only ones here to fly the flag."
For most of the summer Jungle Rot has been playing Rockstar Mayhem Fest performing alongside Slayer, King Diamond, The Devil Wears Prada, and Thy Art Is Murder. This is the band's first summer on Mayhem Fest and Matrise was thrilled at the opportunity.
"Getting on Mayhem was a blessing for us this year, we've been pounding the underground for twenty years now and the scene is so big it's hard to showcase yourself to a different variety of kids and fans, to 'capture more souls' as I like to say. This is our first chance to get out of the underground and it's really working." Aside from the crowd response and the fact that the band gets fed three times a day on the fest (a rare treat for hard-touring bands), Matrise said the tour has a great atmosphere and playing alongside Slayer has its own benefits; "It's a dream come true," the singer said.
Recently, a co-founder of Mayhem Fest, Kevin Lyman, made some disparaging comments concerning metal's ability to produce headlining acts. Lyman attributed the decrease in popularity to metal aging, particularly scaring away female fans because the bands became "old, fat, and bald." In light of Lyman's comments, Matrise said, "It's a mixture of people [at Mayhem Fest] there's young generation, middle generation, and old generation that's what makes it so special and makes it great. They're coming with their kids. Mayhem has always been kind of a family thing, as well. You see people bringing their kids and that's the next generation [of fans]." Matrise continued, "I think there's always going to be underground music because kids are going to want a release. You're always going to find it and I couldn't imagine what I'd do without it."
Despite the perception that metal bands have an expiration date for popularity, Matrise believes the underground is as strong as ever and will continue to stay that way through a thriving, devout fan base. Considering Jungle Rot's twenty-year career, Matrise and the band have unique perspectives on the scene's landscape and how it's affected bands. "The scene hasn't really changed that much. The only thing that's changed is that the music is maxed to the extreme. It can't get anymore extreme. The scene itself has always been 200 or 300 to 500 kids. It's always like that. That's why it's called the underground. You can't take live music away so there's always going to be something there for that kind of crowd."
After the band finishes their summer-long Mayhem Fest dates, they'll get back to their home state of Wisconsin, rest for a few weeks, then head right back out to Mexico and South America beginning in September. Matrise admitted he loves the road and would rather play a show than ever have a day off. After visiting the Southern Hemisphere, Jungle Rot will be abroad once more by touring Europe beginning in April. "I'm really excited to see what comes after Mayhem [Fest], as well. As the wheel keeps turning, what opportunities can come up next? You learn a lot when you're on the road. How to write songs, respond to the reaction you get live, you can see what goes over good and what doesn't," said Matrise.
Jungle Rot executes a musical assault on the crowds on hand at Now That's Class in Lakewood, OH, 7/13/2015 (Sanchez)
​Matrise comes off as a humble dude, attributing the band's success to tenacity and a love for the music. But, when asked about Jungle Rot's live show, he's visibly excited about playing live: "When you expect to see Jungle Rot, we're the real deal. We're real old school band and that's hard to find these days. You have to be from the old school to bring the real stuff. You'll know what I mean when you see it. There is an authenticity when you see us."
Admittedly, I wasn't entirely sure what Matrise meant when he spoke about old school authenticity, but when Jungle Rot took the stage at Now That's Class there is a certain way the band carries themselves, an aura they project, that isn't present with bands that don't have the deep lines of experience and grit that Jungle Rot possesses. When the band began to perform it reminded me of the scene from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective when he walks through the club where Cannibal Corpse is playing "Hammer Smash Face." It was like somebody flipped a switch and suddenly the audience was hit full in the face with the full force of some 90's-era thrash metal. Long story short, it was epic.
The singer warned me that "Doomsday" from Order Shall Prevail often got the strongest reaction from the crowd and it's obvious why. The song opens with machine gun fire assault of drums and guitar. The band went from just standing on stage to unleashing a full force attack on the crowd, which the attendees gladly accepted. Jungle Rot's musicianship has always been a drawing point to their music, but to see the band shred live is a new level of enjoyment. I've never seen such a large percentage of the crowd air guitar along with a band before I saw Jungle Rot. Someone needs to issue a Geoff Bub Guitar Hero game pronto. I also had to realize after a few songs that I wasn't hallucinating and that drummer Joey Muha actually only had one bass drum, but somehow managed to sound like he had an entire marching band at his back. I've come to the conclusion that Jungle Rot are actually musical thrash wizards capable of summoning invisible musicians, otherwise their ability to deliver live is unprecedented.
Jungle Rot played a smattering of new material including "Paralyzed Prey" but also included some older songs from their extensive discography such as "Strong Shall Survive" and "Face Down." Most bands can whip up a circle pit, but Jungle Rot is one that succeeded at culling the crowd without even asking for it. It's simply impossible to not get into the band's churning brand of thrash metal. Considering the room limits of Now That's Class, I can only imagine what the band's crowds get into when they're in an open air environment. If you ever get a chance to see Jungle Rot live, festival or club show, get yourself down there immediately and prepare for some serious face melting.