Photo of
Photo By Paul Moffett
The Decline Effect

The Decline Effect is Out to Have Some Fun

By Kevin Gibson

Imagine if you loved hair metal and a band formed that featured Bon Jovi, Tommy Lee, Slash and Gene Simmons. You'd flip, right?

Or if you were way into pop-punk and Glen Danzig, Brett Reed, Stephen Egerton and Mike Dirnt got together to record an album?

Louisville has something akin to that going on right now in the form of the Decline Effect's new nine-song album. The band features members of the Glasspack, Kinghorse, Men in Black and Malignant Growth. Local blog Never Nervous dubbed this quartet a Louisville "supergroup."

The new album, with a video already out for "Serpent to Slay," is as raucous and rocking as you'd expect it to be, especially with the Glasspack's "Dirty" Dave Johnson on lead vocals. Rounding out the group are Mark and Chris Abromavage, as well as drummer Jonathan "Jae" Brown.

The Decline Effect

Photo By Paul Moffett

The Decline Effect The Decline Effect

Dave Johnson

Photo By Paul Moffett

Dave Johnson Dave Johnson

The Decline Effect

Photo By Paul Moffett

The Decline Effect The Decline Effect

The Decline Effect

Photo By Paul Moffett

The Decline Effect The Decline Effect

The Decline Effect

Photo By Paul Moffett

The Decline Effect The Decline Effect

The Decline Effect

Photo By Paul Moffett

The Decline Effect The Decline Effect

But they aren't out to take over the world. In reality, they're just looking to rock out and have some fun. You know, like real rock stars do.

It came together, from Johnson's point of view, when he heard the Abromavage brothers were forming a band and needed a vocalist.

But bass player Chris (Malignant Growth, Core of Resistance, Violents of the Sun and other bands) says, "The Decline Effect came about because I kept pestering Mark to play some music. I was jones-ing to get back into the limelight and Mark had been idle for a couple of years after ARCH dissolved."

Plus, they hadn't played music together in many years. But the band's formation wasn't instant; Chris said it took Mark a couple of years to finally agree, and the duo started jamming at Mark's place in Shelby County. Mark, who played in Kinghorse and the aforementioned ARCH, corroborates the story and notes that it became a four-piece simply because it was time.

"[Chris] knew Jae from another band, so we gave it a shot," he says. "Then we wanted a singer and Dave was ready to sing for a change."

"We played until we felt like we were spinning our wheels with just the two of us," Chris adds, "so we started looking around for a drummer and a singer. The guitar player from Violents Of The Sun and I were chatting and he told me that Jae was currently between gigs and gave me his phone number. Having worked with Jae before, I jumped at the chance to get him on board. I think he's a phenomenal drummer and we work well together. Mark recruited Dave and after a year or so with everybody on board, [and] we were ready to go public."

Johnson was indeed ready for something different. In fact, he wanted something specific to focus on singing and writing lyrics, versus trying to play guitar and sing as he was doing in the Glasspack.

"I was also tired of the Glasspack," Johnson says. "The splitting-me-in-half feeling was falling upon me, so I decided I wanted to just sing in a band and write lyrics. I knew I could focus and do that better if I didn't have to keep up with guitar also. I wanted to say something as well, like something critical of this world. ... I felt the need to explore. I always get that feeling."

In addition to an album and a video, get ready for some live shows, starting with an August 3 CD release party (with Stone Cutters and Bandoleer Prison) at New Vintage. After that? More shows, more videos and likely more albums.

LET'S MAKE AN ALBUM

Pretty much any musician or band will tell you that making an album always takes longer than expected. Even when you know it's going to take longer than expected, it takes longer than expected.

Johnson said recording for the Decline Effect's debut began in October at Wax and Tape, with Kent O'Bryan engineering.

"It took five or six months due to schedule conflicts," Chris says. "We all have other responsibilities besides the music."

"I think it took forever and a day to complete," Mark estimates.

"We roll on Decline Time," Johnson quips.

But the songs they recorded were a good old fashioned collaboration. Well, mostly.

"Mark wrote most, if not all, of the major licks and Dave is responsible for all the lyrics, but we all had a hand in arrangement and the final sound," Chris explains. "Recording was an adventure. We laid down the rhythm tracks and then, due to scheduling conflicts, I was unable to get back to the studio until mixdown. When I was next able to hear the music there were some surprises."

Surprises?

"As I understand it, Dave spent a lot of time tweaking the vocals without adult supervision," he says. "Mark also did some guitar work that I was unaware of."

Mark said he initially would come up with riffs and/or the main body of the song, and then everyone else would add their parts until the songs would get worked into shape.

"I'm not sure any of us are responsible for the entirety of one aspect of anything," Johnson said, speaking in general terms moreso than in terms of specific song collaboration. "In some shape, form, or fashion, we receive help. And I am not just speaking of The Decline Effect; I am speaking of all that I have perceived in my time among humanity. The whole American idea of 'pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps' is ridiculous."

What he's getting at is that it was a collaboration to the point that it wasn't really intended to be measured or divided up into specific parts. It just was.

"As a band," Johnson continues, "some us may have contributed to one aspect more than another, but we all contributed to everything just by presence alone. But there's more. Mark seems to write a lot of the riffs, and I a lot of the lyrics, and Chris a lot of the bass lines, and Jae a lot of the drums. That's the truth I see in it."

'A MOUNTAIN OF SOUND'

So what does a band that combines Kinghorse with the Glass Pack and Malignant Growth sound like? Well, Johnson joked in that Never Nervous interview that each member is really into Black Sabbath, and left it a bit open-ended.

Drummer Brown (Men in Black and other bands) describes it as "a mountain of sound."

"For a three-piece, we move a lot of air," Brown said, "and not just by sheer volume, either; it's a frequency thing. Chris's bass tone, for example, isn't just 'bass,' but a good blend of highs, mids and lows it has a lot of dimension. Same with Mark's guitar tone, and I like to think that my drum sound is a little outside of the norm.

"Add Dave's vocals on top of that and it's like this mountain of sound."

"If Black Flag and Black Sabbath had an illegitimate offspring, it would probably sound something like this," Chris says. "Truthfully, though, there's a lot more to the sound. In my bass work alone you can hear a lot of my influences, including unashamedly ripping off Chris Squire and Motown in the same song, among others."

Mark, meanwhile, simply describes the sound as straight ahead rock 'n' roll/metal, "or at least my version of it."

"We sound like Mark, Chris, Dave and Jae," Johnson says. "There might be some Sabbath in there somewhere."

You get the idea. It lives on its own but should appeal to a lot of hard rock fans. And the songs have meaning, so it's not just a head-bang album. Not at all. Johnson points to the album closer "Bodies" as his current favorite on the album.

He describes it as "sort of a culminating synthesis of all the styles contained on the record. Lyrically, it pulls together the ideas of social-economic philosophy and psychology explored throughout the record. The whole album subject-wise is both at once a grand form and excellent particulars revolved around the struggles of today."

He also enjoys the punk overtones of "Swine."

"A masterpiece of a song," he says. "I'm proud of us."

Chris names "Serpent to Slay," "Because of the message it conveys, the structure of the song itself, and just the overall feel. I think it is a finely crafted piece of work."

He also likes "Bullet Proof" because he feels it is one of his best bass lines on the album. "I steal either licks or technique from at least three different and disparate sources," he says. "I'm rather proud of myself and it's a lot of fun for me to play."

Mark names "I.N.S." as his current favorite, "Just because it stands on its own without vocals. Not that there's anything wrong with vocals; it's just a sense of accomplishment as a musician."

For his part, Brown declines to name a favorite. "I actually like them all," he says, "and they are a ton of fun to play. Some are a lot more demanding to perform than others, so it keeps me on my toes."

A FUN BAND

"Fun" seems to be a recurring theme with the Decline Effect. Hey, rock 'n' roll is supposed to be fun, right? That's not lost on Brown or his bandmates. At the same time, they create music with meaning and passion. It just happens to rock really, really hard.

Says Chris: "There actually is an underlying theme to the record: -isms. Consumerism, capitalism, and a few more -isms. Dave will have a much better answer to this one since he's our militant activist type."

"To me," Johnson says, "this record is more of a concept record of good old-fashioned rock songs. One could rock out to it and/or be moved by the lyrical content. Both rely on each other in some relationship, but they also can exist separately.

"Either way, this record will move someone; if it doesn't do anything else at all, it will at least move someone. The theme … is roughly something along the lines of modern social, economic and political struggle, sort of like George Orwell's Animal Farm, or Pink Floyd Animals or the Dead Kennedys' Plastic Surgery Disasters.' I definitely feel there are some things to think and talk about in the 'sweet land of liberty.'"

Still, the fun remains. Don't expect a massive tour in support of this debut, but do expect a few shows and videos. More than anything, perhaps, the Decline Effect is a great excuse for these local rock legends to simply play music.

"The prime motivation for me was to get back to performing," Chris says. "I missed the spotlight and the chance to strut my stuff. Also I wanted to see if Mark and I could recapture some of the magic we had ...

"As for touring, we'll see what shakes out. We have no plans to tour and made that one of the selling points when we were putting this together. We all have real-world responsibilities and it would be a logistical nightmare trying to get all four of us into one cohesive schedule. Having said that, never say never."

"The motive for forming the band was just to be able to play music," Mark says, "to play a few shows, and keep it fun without the pressures of big expectations. The recording was kind of an effort to document the music itself."

"And it's a fun band," Johnson adds. "A fun band with a version of the truth to convey is one that should work on its own time, not the time demanded by an industry, institution, and/or expectation. It's the greatest form of a band, its purest in terms of creativity and beauty, regardless of how ugly it is. We roll Dionysian mostly."