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Black Suit Karma

With the highly anticipated release of their musically and lyrically explosive debut Negative White, the Conway, Arkansas based hard rock/metal band Black Suit Karma is out to dispel two very powerful cultural myths. First, they prove that rockers from the South can have powerful opinions that go against the typical Red State grain; and next, they challenge the notion that indie bands have to pound the pavement and do hundreds of local gigs before gaining traction as a viable national touring ensemble.

Driven by an instantaneous musical chemistry between lead vocalist Norman Wil ...read more

With the highly anticipated release of their musically and lyrically explosive debut Negative White, the Conway, Arkansas based hard rock/metal band Black Suit Karma is out to dispel two very powerful cultural myths. First, they prove that rockers from the South can have powerful opinions that go against the typical Red State grain; and next, they challenge the notion that indie bands have to pound the pavement and do hundreds of local gigs before gaining traction as a viable national touring ensemble.

Driven by an instantaneous musical chemistry between lead vocalist Norman Wilkerson, guitarist Tommy Johnson, bassist Rus and drummer Jeremy Parker and wild ambition to match, BSK’s lineup was only complete this past April. Yet by July, the band was in the studio recording their album and doing their first sold-out gig at Conway’s sole hard rock club Soundstage. They immediately won over the diverse crowd of young thrashers and scream/emo fans. BSK has been invited back several times since and, thinking big from the get go, are expanding in September to nearby Little Rock (Vino’s, Downtown Music, Juanita’s) and already have October gigs set for Oklahoma City (Rock Lounge) and actively negotiating gigs in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and other regions. They also just recently shot a video for their first single, the moodswinging (brooding to blistering) “Lovers or Leeches,” a track that they feel best encapsulates their entire sound. It will soon be available on YouTube and the band’s website (www.blacksuitkarma.com).

Black Suit Karma is a unique convergence of musicians whose time had come. When they met, Wilkerson and Johnson had been in separate bands that were in their formative stages, but they immediately saw the potential of blending Wilkerson’s dark lyrics and Johnson’s haunting melodies and rhythms. The two joined forces and began seeking others to complete their lineup. First came the youngest member of BSK, 24 year old Parker, and then, after they outvoted the temporary bass player (who wanted to kick Parker out and start a cover band), the duo began searching for a bassist to seal the deal. After years of gigging and touring with numerous groups, Rus was a few years into his sabbatical from music when he was approached by the other members and realized the power and potential of the band. He immediately accepted and BSK quickly entered the fray as a DIY outfit to be reckoned with.

“After so many disappointing experiences with other bands,” says Rus, “I asked them point blank hard questions about how serious they were about taking this all the way. I could tell they meant business and by the time I joined, they had already had several formative songs and a timeline for when they wanted to record. When we started jamming together, one of the stipulations was that each of us had free reign to give input to any other member. For example, when Jeremy was doing this slow high hat rhythm on ‘Sick Junkie’ and the rest of us felt it would benefit from a more military rhythm on snare, he tried it and it just made the song click. We quickly realized we shared a common mindset and everything fell into place. Now we’re on this ridiculously fast track, but it’s incredible and there’s no looking back. I’ve played 14,000+ seat arenas with other bands, yet this is by far the best group of guys I’ve ever worked with..

The name of the band and the album have fascinating origins which reflect BSK’s unique, off the beaten path mindset as songwriters and performers. Wilkerson came up with the idea of “Black Suit Karma” after attending the funeral of a family member. Everyone was wearing black suits, and he mused that the more funerals one attended, the more their karma built up and the closer each person in the room was to their own mortality. The title Negative White has roots in Asian culture, which Wilkerson is obsessed with and which is Parker’s background (Korean). It reflects the idea that the color white can be viewed as a negative symbol in foreign cultures, extending also to the black in a photo negative appearing as white. Rus says, “We like the idea of viewing things from a different than mainstream perspective. Most of our songs are about change, growth and non traditional ways of looking at the world..

No track from Negative White captures this vibe better than the searing “Omega Horse,” a deeply skeptical political-minded track that attacks the way our government and military does business—and how what they do behind our backs affects us. Wilkerson’s guttural voice states: “You may be just a boy, but we’ll make you a man as you learn to kill gods and devils”—the idea being that other culture’s gods are our devils and vice versa. While the disc’s other tracks are more focused on personal relationships, each one touches on change, growth and pivotal points in our lives. “Lovers Or Leeches” touches on the point where two lovers ask themselves, “Is there something deeper to pursue here, or is this all there is?” The simmering and grungy, Black Sabbath-oriented “Sick Junkie” touches on the dark edges of abusive or “alternative lifestyle” relationships.

Driven by the throbbing assault of Jeremy’s drumming, the thundering war cry of Rus’ basslines, the hellish and haunting screaming moans of Tommy’s guitar, and the unending wrath of Norman’s lyrics, Black Suit Karma is coming…ready to obliterate anyone who stands against them! « hide


Negative White
2008

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