Perfecting Controlled Chaos
by Tony Ware
Black Tide (left to right)—Austin Diaz, Gabriel Garcia, Steven Spence, and Zakk Sandler.
PART OF Miami, FL-based quartet Black Tide still can’t legally buy a drink, yet the band’s controlled chaos has been inspiring crowds to raise their glasses in frenzied celebration for over seven years. Formed in 2003, when all members were well underage, the group has matured significantly in the public eye, taking to the stage for high-profile gigs with OzzFest, Iron Maiden, Avenged Sevenfold, and Bullet for My Valentine, among others. What’s compelled all the audiences’ sloshed beer and whiskey waved is Black Tide’s command of speed metal’s dueling melodies (think Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden) and an insistent strut reminiscent of the late ’80s Sunset Strip gutters. However, unlike any of the band’s Aqua Net-era idols (Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row, etc.), Black Tide doesn’t let the image precede the music.
“I always want everything to sound better than to look better; I’m the drummer who’s only going to spin my sticks if it doesn’t affect the sound,” says Black Tide’s Steven Spence. “And I know we’ve learned a lot of things over the years that have really helped us tighten up, working with different producers and touring for years straight. There are so many simple lessons, like how important a metronome is, in the studio and live. I want whoever’s listening to us to really get a feel for the song the way it was written and intended; I want our performance to be as close as possible to how it is on the album. We don’t want the songs to be a mess of tempos.”
For the band’s sophomore full-length, Post Mortem (Interscope Records), Black Tide has worked even further on the band’s consistency. “I feel like we are a band; we’re not solo musicians,” reflects Spence.
The group indulges throatier, more thrashing tendencies, but never erring from precision and melody. Whittling down 50 songs with the input of producers including Josh Wilbur (Lamb of God, Atreyu), Black Tide established the kick of Spence’s Pearl Reference kit as the backbone and built up what the band considers both its hardiest and poppiest arrangements to date – playing at a variety of speeds and weights, including acoustic inflections and multi-part vocal harmonies. With Spence maintaining a steadfast groove, lead guitarist/vocalist Gabriel Garcia, rhythm guitarist Austin Diaz, and bassist Zakk Sandler are free to deepen the arsenal of epic fret blazes and lyrical impact.
“Tracking in the studio, we’ve learned the importance of laying back, making sure everything that matters is in place. We’re always trying to outdo ourselves,” explains Spence. “And live, I think people see how much we’ve practiced, always worked on improving. Our material, and seeing people attached to it, means a lot to us.”