Review Summary: Born alone, die alone.
1993. The significance of this year to fans of metal music cannot be overstated. The year that saw landmark releases such as Death’s “Individual Thought Patterns”, Cynic’s genre-bending debut “Focus”, and Morbid Angel’s “Covenant” (which as I’m sure many of you are aware, would go on to be the #1 selling death metal record of all time). Metal classics like the above will live on to carry their influences to the farthest reaches of the globe for years to come. The meteoric impact of these titan releases, as well as the mainstream success of multiplatinum grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, birthed a massive wall of dust and debris that swallowed up less accessible groups, engulfing up-and-coming artists beneath their veil. Nashville, Tennessee, a city best known for Elvis Presley and country music, gave rise to a band that stuck its neck above the cloud and produced a terrifying shriek of sonic violence that rocked the ears of the local underground, paving a pathway for a new chapter of metal with a landmark release of its 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 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 drugs, psychosis, lust, and emotional disconnection in the face of pain and cruelty, alternating between frantic shouting and lucid groaning, and singing the occasional melodic passage with an evil sweetness. On the drum kit, Elrod sets pace for Austin and bassist Trevor Thomas, using deliberate and forceful percussion as Austin seethes into the mic and lays down riffs which borrow from a considerable array of genres and musical origins. Avant-garde, alternative rock, metal, grind, and noise are splattered together and broadcasted through muddy, broken production which often drowns out Thomas’s bass guitar. However, with decent headphones, a listener will find that the bass is a vital component of the throbbing, superheated atmosphere that permeates the album. Every member of the band pulls their own weight, confidently (though not necessarily expertly) displaying their ability to play progressively across 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, and demonstrates the potential for metal to be a truly complex and progressive force of music. An impressive feat for a debut, no doubt.
"Supernova" is creepy as f*ck. The lyrics are a jumbled mess of paranoid, psychotic 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 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 progresses, with Austin playing a series of progressive riffs broken up by episodic guitar 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 intriguing, in an artistic, macabre sort of way. 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. 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 the curious listener who would like to begin making their way through the Today Is the Day discography.
-The Kick Inside