This week we’re featuring the Wisconsin death metal group Anomaly in Meet The Band. Their full-length debut album is Planet Storm. Vocalist/guitarist Neil Tidquist, guitarist John Ibarra, bassist Dan Stachowiak, drummer Dave Norman and keyboardist Mary Beers introduce us to their band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Anomaly.
Neil Tidquist: I met Mary at an Enslaved concert or at least I thought I did. It turns out we had a college class together, but I never noticed because I just constantly slept through it. (Passed with a C, by the way). She added me on Facebook, saw I played guitar, and asked if I wanted to jam sometime. I, having recently left a band that I felt didn’t treat me fairly and wanting to fulfill my inner Dave Mustaine need for revenge, said yes.
Throughout the years we went through many lineup changes. We had Dan join on guitar, but it wasn’t really working out so we put up a Craigslist, and then replaced Dan with John. A little while after that our drummer, Sam Morrison (love you Sam) suffered a pretty bad foot injury and stepped down. We knew Dave from the local scene. We then called Dan to see if he wanted to play bass. Now here we are!
Describe the songwriting process for Planet Storm.
Neil: Honestly, we just kind of got together and jammed riffs. Some of these songs are almost as old as the band, but John and I would get together and jam on stuff until we had a foundation. After that we would add the layers of keyboards, vocals, etc.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Dan Stachowiak: The strongest memory of recording this album was the first time I finally heard one of the songs, “The Observable Universe,” mostly complete once vocals and drums bass and keys were added, and heard the chorus with everything together and it just gave me the biggest smile ever. It was the coolest thing.
John Ibarra: My strongest memory would have to be the first time I heard the rough mix for “Subterranean” in the studio, and running solos.
Mary Beers: All the guys did great work, but what stands out the most to me is how well Dan nailed his bass parts because it was his first time in the studio with us.
Dave Norman: Recording phase one of the album in January 2019, I almost finished a 1.75 of Jagermeister with six Monster energy drinks while recording, and could only see shades of red going home after the full day of setup, tracking, and take down. Yes, we did drums in one day. That was followed by driving to Vegas through a polar vortex to get married shortly after on February 2nd while the band continued recording. I was very sick prior to recording phase two in 2021. We were aiming to record just before my birthday in April, but we had to push it back to begin recording drums in May.
Neil: Just hearing everything come together and hearing how much we’ve grown as musicians.
Did the pandemic affect the process?
Dan: A little bit. Luckily, as a band we’re all on the same page pretty much so it was never really an issue getting together or getting stuff done. We weren’t touring or doing shows during this time; cementing the lineup and writing new stuff took up most of the time. So personally, it really didn’t seem to affect much. Now once this album comes out and we’d be wanting to promote and do shows, that’ll most likely be a clusterfrick.
John: I would say yes. I mean no one knew what to expect, so it certainly was a delay in the process.
Mary: I think we were able to focus more on writing/recording because we didn’t have to worry about rehearsing for upcoming shows so much.
Dave: Not for me.
How would you characterize the album’s style/sound?
Dan: Melodic technical death metal. Moving more towards melo-death with tech parts, especially in the latter half of the album, is also very nice. Too much tech-death sounds alike, and while we didn’t try to make a ‘different’ sound, and it’s really not anything groundbreaking, but personally I dig it a lot and think it’ll be a heavy factor in what sets us apart from a lot of tech-death acts out there.
John: I would paint the sound as dark fantasy/esoteric sci-fi engraved with ancient mystery.
Mary: Melodic tech death.
Neil: The best I can describe it is Swedish tech. We’re very much not Swedish, but there is a lot of influence from Old In Flames, Dark Tranquility, and Arch Enemy, as well as Obscura and the Faceless.
What lyrical topics do you cover?
Neil: Science fiction and science fact. Sometimes both in the same song. (laughs) I usually have Wikipedia open with like two or three google tabs of “weird objects in space” while writing lyrics for this album.
What led you to go the independent route for the album release?
Dan: Primarily I would think a big part of it is that it’s our first proper LP and we are lucky to know so many talented people in the music field locally, from Gunderson, who mixes our demos and scratches, to Ryan who runs a proper recording studio and is a wizard with his craft. There were many musicians available for purposes of input. It wouldn’t be possible without that, and that leads us to not have to die by a label to release something and release it wide. Some sharp business decisions on Neil’s part, and a rock solid base made this a possibility.
Neil: Honestly, I didn’t really think of any other way to do it. If you’re a record label and you’re reading this, please hit me up.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
Dan: Goals? To be honest, I just didn’t want to fuck it up. I wanted to make a bangin’ album that will reach as many people as possible and give that headbanging ear to ear grin that all metalheads get when they hear something that just hits for them. Expectations? Not really sure, but we’ll see what happens.
John: Goals that I have are to eventually get back out there and play live sets for everyone.
Mary: Ideally, to get it out as much as possible and hopefully, eventually play songs from the album in a live setting.
Neil: To get it out there. I think we have a good product and I think the target audience will really enjoy it. The problem is getting it in front of the target audience.
What has been your most memorable Anomaly live show?
Dan: The Black Crown Initiate show, though I wasn’t even playing that show. That night in particular was very important for me, and it was just a killer set, awesome bands, good people, fun times, all the support. It was great. Can’t even imagine what’s to come in this iteration’s future.
John: The last show we played with our O.G drummer Sam in, I think, Fort Atkinson. People were flying into pizza table. (laughs) It was a total war zone. Mary knows what I mean.
Mary: We’ve had many memorable shows, but two stand out the most for me. In fall of 2013, we played a festival that Neil organized in a city park. It was really fun playing a show outdoors after spending much of the day grilling and hanging out outside with friends. And in August of 2019, we got to play a show in Cudahy at X-ray Arcade which is a really cool venue and was musically one of our best shows.
Neil: We opened up for Black Crown Initiate and Inferi in 2019. That was the best one in recent memory. I remember thinking how great we must have done; where everyone was just kinda hanging out in back when we started, but they had crowded up in front by the time we were done. There was also an eight band show I put together in one of the parks around here. We got over 100 noise complaints and I had to show the cops my permit at least six times. The parks changed their amplified music rules after that. I want to give a shout out here to Randy of RK Metal Promotion who takes care of us with opening slots for touring acts.
What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
Dan: Right now we’re already midway through demos of another full length album because we’re idiots. Although it’s all written already, and with the way everything is headed at this time of year and with everything going on, we’re going to just go extra hard on that, then write some new stuff and ideally start going hard on the shows come March 2022.
How did you get started in music?
Dan: I was always incredibly musical with a musical family. Was a drummer for most of my childhood until I broke my arm. Once that healed, I got a guitar, and 20 years later here we are. I’ve been writing and recording and publishing hundreds of songs myself over the years under my solo name, but nothing like professional by any means. But I’ve always loved making music, playing it. I listen to it the way people watch TV or movies. And this was just a natural progression for a competent and driven musician. And of course who doesn’t want to be in an amazing metal band with incredible friends and make awesome music that’s heard by so many? It’s the best!
John: My brother and I got a guitar and drum set for Christmas and it just went on from there.
Mary: I had taken piano lessons in grade school, but took a long break until around 2007 when I started going down the rabbit hole of midi and various synths and it just developed from there.
Dave: I played drums in middle school and high school, but didn’t start on a drum set until I was grounded at the end of high school. My first band playing live shows was after taking over playing drums for my older brother when he left to go to college in Minnesota. I was 18 and everyone else in that band was at least five years older.
Neil: I’ve been playing guitar since I was 14. A buddy of mine got one and he told me we were going to be rock stars, but I needed to get one, so I did. The “band” we started never got off the ground. I’ve been in bands around the area for almost 14 years now.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
Dan: Cradle of Filth, Opeth, Dimmu Borgir, Hypocrisy, Children Of Bodom, Pink Floyd, Rammstein, King Diamond (unironically), Dark Tranquility, Therion and Arcturus were my original favorite metal bands that got me into the genre.
John: A lot of inspiration came from friends that were showing me new bands in high school. Hearing different bands early on encouraged me to want to create my own sound.
Mary: For keyboards in terms of writing, the bands Enslaved and Arcturus.
Dave: Gene Hoglan, Nicholas Barker, Raymond Herrera.
Neil: Kreator’s Enemy of God is a big one. That was kinda the first album that I heard that mixed melodic elements with the speed of thrash.
What was the first metal concert you attended?
Dan: The first Gigantour with Megadeth, Lamb Of God, Opeth and Arch Enemy. Among others.
Mary: Growing up in small town Wisconsin and with limited Internet access, it happened much later than (in hindsight) I would’ve liked. In 1999, I saw Sevendust and Machine Head play The Rave in Milwaukee. It was my first experience of a mosh pit and it was so much fun!
Dave: In middle school, the “Tattoo the Earth” tour with Slipknot, Slayer, and Sevendust with my older brother. I came home with a footprint bruised in my back and I still have the ripped up shirt in my basement.
Neil: My dad took me to Metallica. It was awesome.
How’s the metal scene in Milwaukee these days?
Dan: I mean it’s there? Trending towards the positive though it seems. So there’s that. The good ones are really good, though, and mostly amazing people all around.
John: From what I hear it used to be booming, but it has somewhat dwindled.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Dan: The new(er) Gojira, Dreamcatcher by Aenimus, Isa by Enslaved, Mesmur’s self-titled album, and The Malkuth Grimoir by Alkaloid have been rotating in the car for the past few months.
John: Always changing, currently Xoth, Unflesh, Hooded Menace, Plagebourne.
Mary: Currently, I have been listening to a lot of The Great Old Ones various albums and Die Apokalyptischen Reiter – Der Rote Reiter.
Dave: Septic Flesh, Old Man’s Child, Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth, Malevolent Creation, Gojira, Strapping Young Lad.
Neil: Right now I’m listening to Colors II by Between the Buried And Me. I’m super hyped about the new Obscura album.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Dan: I’d love it if you checked out my solo music, where I play guitar for the most part and write, record and produce everything myself. King Xulthaar on SoundCloud would be an awesome start! Thank you!
John: We are working hard on more new music, thanks to all old and new fans!
Neil: We’re actually working on a horror concept album called Somewhere Within the Pines that will hopefully be out near the end of the year. Also check out Gunderslam. He helped us a lot with pre-production on this album.
(interview published September 18, 2021)
Listen To Anomaly – “The Observable Universe”