Body Leash has quickly made a mark in St Louis. If you’ve been able to catch one of the explosive sets Tyler Evans has been playing around the city you probably remember it or the flashes. The Body Leash experience is quite visceral, tapping into different senses with the combination of loud music, louder drumming, strategic lights and the perceivable paths of drumsticks flailing all around. It’s an entertaining show with a format a lot of us know: acts like Black Pus and Reptoid come to mind when seeing a solo drummer become a one man band. All these factors made me eager to hear actual recordings from the act and determine for myself if the music holds up to the experience while managing to separate itself from the usual comparisons.
“Flesh & Trash” is the debut EP from Body Leash. Its release was celebrated alongside Glued’s “Cool Evil”, but it had been out before that on January 30th. A single had been released as well and it came packing with its own Blank Thomas directed music video for “Wall of Privilege”. It works as a mission statement, giving us a glimpse of the Body Leash live show imagery while simultaneously letting us hear a much clearer picture of his music. Andy Peterson recorded this thing and it sounds raw and violent while still maintaining a certain clarity that sets it apart from the live show, especially in the vocals. There are certain sections where the voice and guitars clash, but they are sparse and not terribly bothering.
The release opens with “Wall of Privilege”, and it opens alright. The tense introduction walks us along into the sound of the album as Tyler’s fills grow more and more intense before arriving at the pounding bass line on which the song resides. The instrumental is slick and stylish and shows me a side of the project I hadn’t heard before. Where these solo drum projects usually land in the noise rock spectrum, I hear new wave and post punk in this Body Leash single– this realization filled me with relief upon first listen. The vocals feel like they quickly sway between desperate and stoic as they converse with the off putting guitar noises that accompany. The riff switches towards the end to build intensity before a climactic instrument drop followed by even more heaviness. I’m not going to lie, I sometimes wish this whole project sounded like this. Tyler sounds cool and in control and every part of the tune feels necessary and in its right place.
However, gears do shift as soon as we close the track with the exhilarating riffs and grooves of “Given Up”. Almost the whole first half of this short tune is taken up by a rampant thrash metal riff in a busy and relentless 6/8 while Tyler bangs on those drums quickly and erratically. It’s an exciting way to enter the song before switching gears once again for a slower, heavier and more rudimentary verse colored by high pitched guitars that wail after each lyric is said. This structure is repeated twice and the song ends on a strange lukewarm position. I do think there was room for development, especially considering how well orchestrated the opener is, but it also works well as a vignette. Each section is exciting and interesting in its own right, but I can’t help wondering if there could have been more to connect them together.
I will say this right now so I don’t throughout the whole report: I do find myself comparing a lot of the passages on this EP to “Wall of Privilege” looking for a similar sound. It pops up at times, but it doesn’t really overstate itself and thankfully Tyler is able to bring more interesting sounds outside of what we would expect, rounding out the textural panorama. The second half of “Less Than Nothing” breaks into only guitars and bass towards the middle, comes back to explosive drums and then drops down again to only bass in less than 30 or 40 seconds. The hook then pounds away bringing the composition to a pop climax. I love this sort of arranging and I find it a lot more interesting than the vocal section followed by a heavy riff followed by a vocal section structure we would expect from solo drummer noise rock projects.
Songs like “Shiny, Pretty & Cold” are especially off putting. It presents a slow, waning groove adorned with a simple bass lines and ethereal drones that creep in and out. Tyler’s vocal lines speak to the 2nd person and feel like a surreal omniscient narration– it’s not relaxing at all but it does get me in my head. I don’t necessarily agree with the shift towards a heavier riff towards the middle, though. It takes me out of my reflective state to show me textures I’ve already heard before in the EP. Body Leash’s sound implies a certain amount of heaviness, but surprisingly enough I find the act sounding the slickest in its quiet sections, and I didn’t love this particular low volume section getting interrupted. It’s only certain heavy passages that don’t work for me, but conversely every time the volume’s dropped and the texture’s thinned I feel compelled to listen.
With this in mind I find myself coming back to “Shell of a Shell” quite often. This tune closes the album splendidly and in reflection. The texture’s understated and the snare lead grooves are tense and chilling. Tyler appears to be narrating a guided anti-meditation as the track builds slowly and classily. When the instrumental finally blows up it’s not satisfying or cathartic, we’re only presented with even more tension. The track whittles away as jagged and strange as it presented itself, only now drum explosions and feedback lead the way. “Shell of a Shell” uses loudness in creative ways to break with the verse-riff format and I think this left a lasting impression in me. Every arrangement on here that conceives tension and release outside of loud versus soft or vice-versa ends up working for me, and I find myself thinking about that a lot when considering the possibilities in the future of Body Leash.
“Flesh & Trash” is a very exciting release that like an adventure book presents a myriad of directions where this project could go. I am happy to get to hear these directions stated so clearly and although I do have my preference as to songs and even sections of songs, I appreciate the opportunity to hear every possible outcome. Right off the bat I have to say that I think it’s time to stop thinking of this as the St Louis Black Pus; Tyler Evans is pushing grooves and song structures that have absolutely nothing to do with Brian Chippendale’s abrasive noise project despite the similar setups. I do think it’s also time for Body Leash to separate itself completely from this category– the songs are really good and the sound is fun and has an infectious pop sensibility that clashes with the solo drummer identity in a refreshing fashion.
When seeing the project live I never expected for the release to end up so catchy and groovy, and I’m quite happy this was the case. I love a lot of things on this project, and I could also do without some of the elements on it, but ultimately I think it showcases the possibility of an interesting and unique sound for Body Leash past the theatrics and flashing lights and with a focus on good songwriting. It’s easy to look at this project and expect loud, abrasive noise and hyper fast rudiments and drum fills; I’m glad I get to say that this is not what we get on “Flesh & Trash” and that Tyler Evans definitely has something much more refined in mind.
Listen to “Flesh & Trash” via Bandcamp down below: