Review Summary: Born alone, die alone.
In 1993, the rock and metal music scene across the world is thriving. The United States saw landmark releases such as Cynic’s Focus, Morbid Angel’s Covenant, and Death’s Individual Thought Patterns, as well as the success of multi-platinum grunge bands Nirvana and Pearl Jam. In the midst of a rock and metal movement where originality is at an all-time high, it may seem strange that one of the year’s most ambitious and extreme records debuted from a young band local to the Nashville underground. Indeed, Nashville, Tennessee, a city best known for Elvis Presley and country music, gave rise to one of the most innovative bands in the world of extreme music. Saturated with anger, Today Is the Day paved a pathway for a new chapter of metal with a landmark debut of their own.
Today Is the Day was formed in the early 1990’s by vocalist and guitarist Steve Austin and drummer Brad Elrod. The release of their 1992 debut EP, How to Win Friends and Influence People, caught the attention of Amphetamine Reptile Records, whom the band signed with and released their first full-length album the following year. Enter Supernova, a culmination of noise and string-driven dissonance that tears through the speakers at a desperate, off-kilter pace throughout the entirety of the record, managing to stay haphazardly glued together for its 53 minute running length. Austin’s contorted vocals convey disturbing imagery of substance abuse, psychosis, lust, and emotional disconnection in the face of pain and cruelty, normally alternating between frantic shouts and a sort of lucid groan. The variations in his vocal style are best demonstrated on the first half of the album, notably in “6 Dementia Satyr”. On the drum kit, Elrod sets pace for Austin and bassist Trevor Thomas, using deliberate and forceful percussion. Austin seethes into the mic and delivers sludgy, serrated riffs which display a considerable array of stylistic influences: Avant-garde, alternative rock, metal, grind, and noise are splattered together and broadcasted through muddy, broken production. The haziness of the mix adorns the throbbing, superheated atmosphere that permeates the album. Every member of the band sounds strong, confidently (though not necessarily expertly) displaying their ability to play within multiple genres while churning out a sound that is unique to Today Is the Day; their ethos is unlike anything seen from the expired 80’s heavy metal scene. The experimental nature of Today Is the Day’s debut set it apart from many progressive metal outfits of the era, suggesting at the time that metal has the capacity to be far more diverse a genre than was previously thought.
Frankly, Supernova is creepy as f*ck. The lyrics are a jumbled mess of paranoid, schizophrenic outbursts, whose true meaning can only be known to Steve Austin. The tone of the album in general is distraught and broken, with the music being repeatedly interrupted by skips, static, and white noise. Eerie samples and spoken word are strung throughout, ensuring that the album stays creepy as f*ck and otherwise maintains a neurotic ambiance over the course of its duration. Of the 12 tracks present, five are instrumentals; "Timeless" sounds like the precursor to what would become a sample on Neurosis’s legendary Through Silver In Blood released three years later. The closing track, "Self Portrait", is an epic instrumental approaching 10 minutes in length. It starts off simplistically and becomes more elaborate as the song evolves, with Austin playing a series of chord progressions broken up episodically by feedback. Much of what is enjoyable about Supernova can be found here, as it is one of the album’s strongest tracks and showcases the talent of Steve Austin’s first lineup in what would become an ever-evolving project. This can be a difficult album to digest- an unsurprising conclusion for anyone familiar with Today Is the Day. However, the dark, spastic aura that the band is known for is at the very least intriguing, and is no less accessible than its other extreme metal contenders.
Here we see Today Is the Day rapidly developing from infancy. Their debut is not perfect, and the instrumental tracks leave much to be desired. The middle and end of the album are crowded with filler that fails to lend to the atmosphere. It would not be until the following year, in 1994, that the band hits their major creative breakthrough with Willpower. Despite this, Supernova stands as an excellent debut that is a solid beginning not only for the creative mind of Steve Austin, but for curious listeners who would like to begin making their way through the Today Is the Day discography.
-6 Dementia Satyr
-The Kick Inside