Divinity Destroyed
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Divinity Destroyed

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Aug
14
Divinity Destroyed @ Court Tavern

New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA

New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA

Jul
31
Divinity Destroyed @ Gille Park

Lacey, New Jersey, USA

Lacey, New Jersey, USA

Jul
12
Divinity Destroyed @ Dingbatz

Clifton, New Jersey, USA

Clifton, New Jersey, USA

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Underground New Jersey quintent Divinity Destroyed signed a distribution deal with Screaming Ferret Records this year that put its album "Eden in Ashes" into widespread distribution. However, since that record is a few years old, the eclectic metal band also independently released The Plague in October to give fans something new to hear. Ironically, three of the EP's six songs appeared on Divinity's 2001 set Nocturnal Dawn, but they have been reshaped into acoustic pieces.

The medieval atmosphere that permeated Eden in Ashes is replaced by a modern ambience on The Plague. The superb "Haven" flies by at breakneck speed; amid the chaos are shouted lyrics, dogged guitars and frantic synths. In the of this whirlwind, Jonny Heerema keeps pace at the piano like a crack typist. Jim Cowen's taut bassline anchors the galloping beat, which Dan Leonard hammers out in an incredible performance. He doesn't so much play his drums as he does punish them, relentlessly pounding out complicated rhythmic patterns. He leads Divinity in the same vein on the other new material, charging ahead with authority.

Extremely progressive track "These Waking Dreams" features Divinity's trademark changeups, frequently alternating time changes and building the song into one climax after another. At a few points an uneven mix overwhelms guitarist/lead vocalist Mark Ward's amiable voice, which is sometimes lodged too deep in his throat. "Dreams" is as complex as it is cool, one minute taking a deep, throbbing stretch; then nimbly pouncing along to a synth that chines like hollow glass the next.

"Prism" echoes the punk influence heard in Divinity's earlier work, bounding out of the gate with a jolt. For a good duration, instead of any of the instruments countering each other, the guitars, bass, vocals, and keyboards and drums playing one unified, stop-start beat. As the song's subject grows more furious and despairing (the theme relates to suicide), "Prism" becomes increasingly frenzied as the band fires off a volley of notes and beats in one of the EP's best performances.

The acoustic cuts were recorded on the basis that the band felt they were the ones that translated best when unplugged, and their instincts were right. If handled wrong, such revamps can sound cheap, but the way Divinity pulls these off is priceless. Thanks to the strength of the songwriting, the three tracks easily convert into a new format.

"Void" is the most surprising choice, because on Nocturnal Dawn it is a rip-roaring, headbanging whollop. Here, minus the drums, distorted guitars and church organ, its stacatto tempo almost sounds like flamenco, with Cowen's bass a bouncy springbed. And instead of Mark muttering the lyrics "Don't even lie/I can see right through you" in a Korn-ish growl or guitarist Tom Ward screaming "Hatred give me strength", Mark sings in a smooth, fluid tone. The transformation gives "Void" a rich new dimension.

The last two tracks are as beautiful as they are impressive. In its first incarnation, "Red Reflection" was a frenetic punk valentine. The acoustic style retains the same delicate piano, but the tempo is slowed and the melody more exposed, with a mandolin and nylon strings giving the music a Spanish feel. The rhythm of the cleanly strummed guitar rushes like a river, and the lead cascades like rain.

The approach also better-suits the song's romantic sentiment. Being a little older, Divinity might be more comfortable making "Red Reflection"s' message prominent with an arrangement where the lyrics are easily heard. Like its other material, the theme refers to deathly heartbreak, but this is the only Divinity song that addresses the genesis of that emotion - the act of falling in love, and at first sight, no less.

"Forsaken" is The Plague's highlight. Its passages alternate between a bed of popping bass and acoustic guitar and sparse strumming that complements the piano. The stripped-down approach gives it room to breathe and emphasizes its sadness, and here is where skilled production and songwriting dovetail to create a powerful emotional pull. Before, "Forsaken" featured a duet between Tom and Mark where the vocals and instruments are furiously blasted in the vein of Metallica's "One". This time Tom uses a husky, sensual whisper for his spoken-word piece, his brother singing in a higher register with more complex phrasing. The setup flatters Mark's emotional inflections; when he sings, "Lost and staring at the ground/I realize; I am nothing/Tears are streaming down my face and/Seeping deep into my wounds", you feel that agony. And after the comforting refrain of "Heaven, take me home", The Plague dies out, much too soon. - Billboard Magazine's Christa Titus


If you want an idea of what makes Divinity Destroyed special, here's an odd sugestion: Look at its fans. In the six years the Toms River, NJ act has been together, its uncommon brand of metal has inspired a following so loyal, it's a little scary.

When the group shared a bill with the Misfits at New Jersey's Starland Ballroom last October, the packed house held dozens of people wearing Divinity Destroyed shirts. As the band tore through their songs, bodies gleefully flew in the mosh pits, blood was nearly shed and men (yes, men) screamed, "We love you!" at the top of their lungs and "One more song!" when the set was done. If you didn't know better, you would have thought Divinity was the headliner.

How their music affects people keeps surprising Divinity members Jonny Heerema, Dan Leonard, Jim Cowen, and brothers Tom and Mark Ward. Some kids have tattooed the band's logo to their skin. A few stalkers - and wanna-be groupies - have popped up. In fact, according to an American soldier, one of their records helped save lives.

As their story goes, some troops who were stationed in the Middle East were listening to Divinity Destroyed's album Eden in Ashes through the radios in their helmets when they got ambushed. With the opening track "Sweet Heresy" sounding in their ears, the soldiers blew through the attack without suffering any casualties.

"I'm not saying you instantly become military trained when you listen to our CD," Mark says, "but I think it just kind of got their adreneline pumped or something. But he [one of the soldiers, named Daniel Cunningham] send us this relatively lengthy e-mail just explaining how it made him feel and none of 'em died. He kind of thanked us for it . . . He says that he was listening to the CD and because of that, due in part at least, I guess that's one of the things that helped him survive."

When you hear Eden in Ashes - and the band's new EP, The Plague, which arrived last fall - you'll understand why. Divinity Destroyed weaves multiple genres into its sound - symphonic, progressive; thrash, gothic, baroque, and tribal are only a few - resulting in one very unique and powerful style of metal. There's lots of different ways to describe it, but the songs all hit you in one spot: your soul. And their music's unexpected shifts (cascading piano alongside thundering keyboards in one place, or a death metal growl juxtaposed with melodic vocals in another) keep throwing you from emotional stern to stern. Their self funded and produced CDs are also professionally designed and packaged, giving them a visual presentation that's a step above other unsigned acts.

The experimentation, innovation and passion that fuels Divinity Destroyed's music enabled them to make good progress in 2005. The band signed a deal with Screaming Ferret Records that put Eden in Ashes into national distribution. It is steadily playing several gigs each month, and the rooms are getting more prestigious. (Recent New Jersey dates include a first-time appearance at the House of Blues in Atlantic City and a return to the Stone Pony in Asbury Park).

Speaking of gigs, the group also played the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel NJ, as the opening act for Gigantour after winning a local battle of the bands competition. Divinity Destroyed reluctantly entered the contest hosted by WRAT (the Rat) after the radio station insisted on it. While shocked and happy that they came in first - when it was announced, "I thought it was a practical joke," Mark recalls - they could have done without the small backlash that followed.

"The reason we didn't want to play [the contest], for me, is it pits the bands against each other," Tom explains. "That pits their fans against us, and then because we won, now a bunch of people hate us."

They're too modest to say so, but because this writer watched the winning round, I'll fill you in: The other bands were indeed good, but Divinity's songwriting and breakneck performance was superior. When the group was supposed to be winning people over for themselves while onstage, they had the class to encourage a round of applause for all the bands that played that day. And once again, a pack of Divinity's faithful - who were too young to legally be in the bar where the contest was held - was crammed into an upper balcony, cheering them on.

Now, in 2006, Divinity's goals are to promote themselves by pushing The Plague to hundreds of record labels, magazines and radio stations, and to find a booking agent, because they desperately want to hit the road.

"We're pretty much confident that if we go on tour, our show is going to speak for itself," Dan says. By the looks of Divinity Destroyed's devoted fan base, the word is definitely spreading. - Metal Edge


Vocals alternate between angelic and demonic as the music bounces back and forth between power and black metal. Comparison is futile as this is a band unto itself. Full of zest and at time almost fascinating, Divinity Destroyed transcends preconceived notinos and offers a truly unique, well-composed set of songs. "Nothing But a Shadow"is surreal in its framework while "Crestfallen" features a chillingly beautiful beginning, giving way to glorious sonic escapades. Regal yet malignant, undying appreciation is what this group truly deserves. Their ability to flow ever so smoothly from intelligent and elated to dark and forbidding, while maintaining a unique and compelling identity is nothing short of remarkable. 9/10 - Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles


Toms River, NJ-based quintent Divinity Destroyed is a metal melting pot, incorporating everything from Japanese folk to progressive rock to videogame scores. According to singer/guitarist Mark Ward and drummer Dan Leonard, such metal standbys as depression and anger fuel the music's dark aura. "We've since moved on a little bit, and now our hears are in a different place," Ward says. "Now we're a little bit more determined. Our depression has turned into ambition." The group's profile received a boost in March when Screaming Ferret Records picked up its self-released "Eden in Ashes" album for distribution. The move helped the act garner a slew of recent press, including reviews in Unrestrained, Pit, and Metal Maniacs. Divinity Destroyed has made it to the final round of a battle-of-the-bands competition that will be held Aug. 21. The winner will perform at a New Jersey date on the Gigantour metal tour. - Billboard Magazine


New Jersey quintet Divinity Destroyed are a band not that easily classifiable. I mean, they play slightly technical death/black with a cool progressive edge to it, but there is so much more to it.

The band's release Eden in Ashes was originally put out independently in 2003, garnered some solid reviews, and then that was pretty much it. Cue lineup changes and a few years of work to get the name out there and in 2005 the band signs to Screaming Ferret Records. The re-release of the album has given them a second change in the spotlight, and they're going to make the best of it.

"Knowing that someone out there thinks we're worth enough of a damn to acknowledge our existence is definitely a comforting concept," says guitarist/vocalist Mark Ward about hooking up with the label. "It makes us feel warm."

There is a lot going on with this record. When you went in to record the album a few years back, was that a concern or did you have to work around it all come together? How did you decide to bring in the rough and clean vocals?

"The songs had long been completed by the time we [guitarist/vocalist Tom Ward, keyboardist Jonny Heerema, bassist Jim Cowen, and drummer Dan Leonard] broke into the studio, vocal melodies included - although, due to procrastination, the lyrics were written minutes before going to tape...usually in the bathroom. As far as the coupling of clean and dirty vocals goes, that's just the direction in which we felt the songs were careening. We had a lot to holler about. Although now, none of us are too keen on screaming live, so we kind of screwed ourselves," he laughs. "But we pull it off like champs. We're winners."

And because theband has seen some lineup changes since that time in the studio, how does that change things for the band currently and for future writing and recording?

Little has changed other than having to memorize more birthdays and blood types," he jokes. "That, and the songwriting process is entirely different. We've actually known both the newbies, Jonny and Jim, from back in Hanoi, so their shenanigans are nothing new to us. They each have their own libraries of material that we're presently trying to steal."

He adds, "Our influences stand out more distinctly in the newer material while the earlier, primitive ditties reflect our need to get our jollies off. After we squeezed out that initial lump of tunes, we were more comfortable exploring our creative nether regions and letting those juices flow. Although our roots are planted firmly in metal, we've always had annoyingly diverse tastes in noise. So whereas a song might be spawned as some bastardized concoction of classical, punk, jazz, funk, blues, and 8-bit Nintendo, it'll all end up as this comprehensive pool of vomit. Each component will retain some of its original traits, but concealed under a thin veil of metal."

No matter how the band brings together their disparate ideas, the end result always seems to come across in stellar fashion. Take the songs "Sweet Heresy" and "Borealis" - those are great and unique songs that could have easily come across as cluttered. They fully capture the band's sound and style.

"Thanks," replies Ward. "What the music brings out depends greatly on situation and circumstance. If a song is in its fetal stages, there is a lot of conscious thought involved in arranging the parts. But when it's complete and we're butchering it live, we completely surrender ourselves and let it manipulate us in the most violent manner possible."

A lot of people I know who have heard and reviewed this record think this band has the potential to blow up big. Are you hearing that?

"Can you ask those people to buy CDs? We need a trailer," he chimes in, laughing. "Blow up big, eh? We've heard that a few times - just as many times as we've been told that we need to immediately disband/choke on feces. There isn't much we read in reviews that we haven't already considered. I don't need need someone else to tell me I can't sing. It's definitely flattering reading positive reviews, but just as negative reviews do little to harm us, a positive review will do just as little to encourage us. Regardless of critical esteem, we're just going to keep doing what we do and pray people pick up what we put down."

Now that you are signed, what has changed?

"Now if we don't feel like doing something, such as going to work or showering, we can just blame it on contractual obligations," he laughs.

"We're doing the same exact thing we've been doing every single day for the past few years, i.e. desperately clawing for shows, peddling merch, fighting to maintain our dignity, et cetera, so not much as changed since coming to Screaming Ferret. And as far as new music goes, we have enough songs for another CD, but absolutely no money to record it, so we'll have to break out the kneepads and toothpaste again." - Unrestrained


Hooray for Divinity Destroyed for taking chances. This astonishing CD grabs the listener's attention by successfully blending such disparate sounding elements as black metal, Celtic flourishes, progressive metal, even Asian and Native American influences into a satisfying, fluid musical adventure. All of these ear (and mind) opening sonic nuances mix well, an obvious result of a lot of thought devoted to each of these carefully crafted tracks. Lead singer Mark Ward is versatile, but favors clean vocals. The band plays flawlessly, and the recording is superb. While a lot of the material has a kick-back quality to it, the catchy closing track, "Disciple", kicks a lot of ass, and is a stand out. This is a serious CD, interesting because the band is somewhat known for its sarcastic sense of humor and bloody stage antics. - Jon "K" Konjoyan - Pit Magazine


Once again New Jersey-based metal act Divinity Destroyed blows my mind with their music, this time on the brand new six-song EP titled The Plague. As some of you may recall I (along with many metal scribes across the globe) were ga-ga for the band's 2005 release Eden in Ashes (on Screaming Ferret), a dazzling array of progressive rock, musical mastery, heavy metal know-how, and melody. It was all over the map, yet somehow stayed aground and remained focused: the end result was brilliant. Here with The Plague the band has recorded three new songs, all fast-paced prog/metallic rock songs with lush harmonies and fancy keyboard work, yet still heavy thanks to the heavy-set rhythm section and the nice guitar riffs up front (such as on "Haven" and "Prism"). The remaining three are acoustic versions of material from their 2001 demo, beautifully played with a lot of passion and soul. It really captures the depth of the band's creative soul (check out "Void") and just how they can connect with us on many levels with the greatest of ease. This is a band that just may be on the verge of breaking big. I'm still excited at what they're doing and know deep down inside that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Amazing! - A. Bromley 9/10 - Unrestrained


Toms River, NJ, is best known as home to the champions of the 1998 Little League World Series. But residents outside of the local music scene likely don't realize that a different team from the Ocean County town is pushing into the global spotlight, and it has a good chance of remaining there longer than a summer season.

We predict that when metal quintent Divinity Destroyed read the above paragraph, its members will laugh their asses off and joke that their collective maturity isn't much higher than a nine-year old slugger's. That's because a conversation The Aquarian had with vocalist/guitarist/arranger Mark Ward and drummer Dan Leonard was so stuffed with wry humor that anyone who takes their banter at face value would mistake them for being too bizarre to be musically ambitious. Not many men will admit to spooning each other - platonically, Ward stressed - during an interview. Or volunteer that when it comes to songwriting, "masturbation is the ultimate form of clarity."

Don't be fooled. Genius and insanity shared a blurry border, and Divinity Destroyed's eccentricity is an offshoot of its creativity, which can be heard in how it fuses together a wide variety of music to create the band's sound. It's possible the band (rounded out by Ward's guitarist brother, Tom; keyboardist Jonny Heerema; and bassist Jim Cowen) has invented a subgenre that could be named "eclectic metal." Another point it would challenge.

"'Eclectic' is a very nice way to say 'indecisive,' Ward says of the many styles that comprise Divinity's sound. "If you've got a riff that goes four bars and you got four guys arguing over four different versions of the same riff, we're just gonna settle on, 'Hey, let's do each one once'...So it's basically a combination of indecision and boredome equals creative and eclectic."

Calling Divinity Destroyed "progressive" isn't completely accurate. Although the band utilizes elements of that style (multiple time changes, rich keyboard backdrops), progressive music tends to meld whatever sounds a song incorporates into a smooth tone. Divinity weave styles into a cohesive pattern, but the genres remain very distinct.

Since forming in 1999, when four of its original members were still in high school, Divinity Destroyed have weathered many things. Lineup changes among its bass and keyboard players. Equipment stolen from a New York show. Leonard visiting a mental health facility. A birthday party gig where the sight of someone's grandmother almost paralyzed Ward with stage fright. Another where cops viciously frisked Heerema for smoking a cigarette outside a club. A live appearance for radio station WSOU New York, where Ward collided with the bassist "in mid-air, and I slammed my head on the ground and was unconscious for a good few seconds and then threw up immediately afterwards."

Amid the drama, Divinity have played along the East Coast (opening for the likes of Nightwish and Symphony X), amassed a fan base at home and online (nurtured by self-recording two albums and an EP) and have been written up in magazines like Metal Maniacs and Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles.

The band's 2003 album Eden in Ashes reflects the vast musical influences the band shares, which are as wide-ranging as techno, videogame music and world beats. Theatrical scoring, Japanese folk, thrash guitar, gothic atmospheres and guttural vocals are just a sampling of what the CD contains. They are wrapped in a dark Renaissance aura that makes for an excellent and fascinating piece of work.

While things are on the upswing for the group, depression and anger - "thinking too much and asking different questions," in Leonard's words - fuels much of the songwriting. It shows in the themes of loss, desolation and struggle in songs like "Sweet Heresy", "Borealis", and "Nothing But a Shadow." Ward says, "Negativity is a great muse."

Divinity Destroyed sells its merchandise at shows and through online spaces like myspace.com and its website, divinitydestroyed.com. Leonard attributes landing gigs to buying "knee pads and lots of tubes of toothpaste...they really go far."

Luckily all they had to do snag a distribution deal with independent label Screaming Ferret was mail about 100 press kits to record companies. "I think Screaming Ferret was the only one who got back to us without a threatening e-mail. They were actually polite," Ward recalls. The deal has widened the availability for Eden in Ashes, listing it with such retailers as amazon.com, CD Universe and Best Buy. It's a promising leap for Divinity Destroyed, who are free to keep their options open in case another opportunity comes along.

"The recognition is starting to get out, so hopefully by the time we get this out [a new EP that the band is recording], people might actually give a crap about us," Ward says. "There's a little more of a chance this time, so now that we have that opportunity we're definitely gonna take it."

Asked where they see themselves in five years, the answers were "celebrating the fifth-year anniversary of [being asked] that question" (Ward) and "I want to be on 'Cribs'" (Leonard). Ward's actual goals are "hopefully being alive and still doing this" and sustaining a living from it; Leonard wants to go on tour, "and maybe this time, we'll have something to eat after shows. Pretty much just the bare minimum anyone could ask for right now."

The money Divinity Destroyed make from gigs and merchandise sales somewhat offsets the costs of recording, traveling and other expenses, a situation Leonard calls "an endless cycle of debt...I can play a show...and make like $9,000 for a half-hour's work and not see a penny of it."

That's not the only hazard of a Divinity show. If anyone in the crowd looks like they've never seen a metal concert before, "sometimes we'll just make sure somebody gets smacked in the face," Ward says. "It's a good memory to take home." Doling out such love also requires a lead foot for fleeing the scene.

Although the band is itching to perform in cities farther away from home, it has already been heard around the world - its music has been reviewed online by people living as far away as Ontario and Belgium. Not bad for five musicians that Ward describes as being somewhat antisocial. He hopes the upcoming EP tides fans over until the next full-length. "Eden in Ashes" is "something they've been forced to listen to for two years now," he says. "Just to keep them from throwing bricks at our windows, we decided to give them some new material." - The Aquarian (East Coast Rocker)


Divinity Destroyed has noticeably evolved since Billboard gave it a "Now Hear This" spotlight in 2005. "Indigo" shows the experimental yet melodic band conjuring an increasingly accessible sound, where emotion propels the song more than driving metal riffs. Leading with AFI-ish keyboards, the verses alternate between singer Mark Ward and the rest of the band—guitarists Tom Ward and Rick Flanegan, bassist Jim Cowan and drummer Dan Leonard—taking the floor in a stop/start dynamic before all join in for a rousing chorus. Despite themes of loss and regret, the atmosphere of the second half until the finale crashes in is like a softly fading sunset, woven with gently sung words and twinkling guitar harmonics. This balanced tension of soothing tones and powerful metal bursts is the gift of Divinity Destroyed's sound. - Billboard Magazine


Discography

Death or Glory EP - 2007
Forever and Never video/single - 2006
The Plague EP - 2005
Eden in Ashes - 2003
Divinity Destroyed EP - 2003
Nocturnal Dawn - 2001

Photos

Bio

Most local bands playing the New Jersey scene would be satisfied if they landed a distribution deal, had their music sold on iTunes, played a slot on Dave Mustaine's Gigantour and had Billboard magazine call them a discover of the year. But metal act Divinity Destroyed - who have achieved all this and more - just calls those milestones a warm-up.

The five-man band is hunting for a record label that will help spread its powerful music across the globe. They are currently promoting their latest EP, "The Plague", with gigs along the East Coast. From Maine to South Carolina, Divinity Destroyed has played festivals like New York's Death in the Forest event and such high-profile venues as the Stone Pony and Starland Ballroom. Having opened for The Misfits, Lamb of God, Nightwish, and other national acts, the group is hungry to expand its rabid following with their own tour.

Developing artists typically don't have male fans shouting "We love you!" at their shows and getting tattoos of the group's logo on their skins. However, typical bands aren't so dedicated to their success that they record two EPs and two full-length albums within six years. Forming in 1999 before half its members finished high school, Divinity Destroyed - led by vocalist/keyboardist Mark Ward along with guitarists Tom Ward and Rick Flanegan, drummer Dan Leonard and bassist Jim Cowen - have been determined since day one to forge its own musical path. They have created a phenominal brand of eclectic, hard-charging metal that incorporates everything from videogame scores to classical music. Songs like "Void" burst with thrash, whereas tunes like "Haven" are driven with heavy guitars and catchy , melodic vocal hooks and "These Waking Dreams" is full of progressive tendencies.

The band is winning fans with its constant schedule of live shows and its two Web sites (divinitydestroyed.com and myspace.com/divinitydestroyed). They are also attracting attention from the music industry. In 2005 they landed a one-off distribution deal with indie label Screaming Ferret for its album "Eden in Ashes" that put the record in such outlets as Virgin Records, iTunes and amazon.com. The group also won a battle-of-the-bands competition that enabled them to play the PNC Bank Arts Center as the opening act for the New Jersey date of Dave Mustaine's Gigantour. Along the way Divinity Destroyed has picked up mainstream press in music industry bible Billboard and magazines like Metal Edge, Metal Maniacs, Pit, and Terrorizer.

Metal publication Unrestrained thinks Divinity Destroyed "has the potential to blow up big", and the band will do whatever it takes to make that prediction a reality. With more fans and live gigs accumulating each month, they are pushing harder than ever to break onto the worldwide stage. Because for Diviniy Destroyed, fame is nothing but a matter of time.