Priapism
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Priapism

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Music

The best kept secret in music

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"Run to the Hills"

Run to the Hills
A handful of bands bring the evil to Toad´s Place

by Dan Barry - May 12, 2005

Local Motion
I once read an article about a man who took too much yohimbe extract, thinking it would make a good aphrodisiac. Instead, he went priapic. Here's your vocab lesson for the day: priapism is when the penis stays perpetually erect. Unfortunately for our hero, he needed to have surgery, and his sex life came to an unceremonious end.
The overwhelming feeling of dread I get when I think about Mr. More-Or-Less-Castrated up there is something like what I felt when I saw Priapism at Toad's Place last Wednesday. After years of listening to metal, you become more or less immune to the alienation that most people feel when being screamed at by men in chains and black leather. Which is why I have infinite respect for any metal band that can manage to scare me. Priapism scared me. Among metalheads, this is a big compliment.

What it came down to was their amazing drummer and guitarist. Alani Schapperow has a hell of an ear for detail on the drum kit. He uses his cymbals for rhythm work as well as just for punctuation, and it creates a driving sense of urgency. He frequently leads the band on excursions into military territory; Priapism would be in good company among "war metal" bands like Bolt Thrower. Guitarist Mike Schick seems equally ready to step onto the battlefield. He favors a song well played over flashy showmanship. He didn't stalk around the stage trying to exhibit his psychoses. He didn't throw his guitar around his back or swing it like an ax. He just stood back from the stage, nailing divebomb after divebomb, ripping out riffs without much fuss. And when the heavy parts came, he thrashed. And I don't mean nu-metal, bending-in-half-at-the-waist faux thrashing. I mean the brother whipped his hair around like he was putting out a fire, like Metallica never sold out, like his neck was made of rubber and his shoulders of granite.

Kudos to the person at Toad's who put Guerra on the same bill, because they were perfect alongside Priapism. Guerra balanced Priapism's thick beats and swirling textures with straightforward speed-metal riffs. Priapism may have played a Sepultura cover, but stylistically, it was Guerra who was closer to Sepultura's punk-infused thrash. Dreadlocked guitarists Mike Corredor and Jeff Golden cut a hell of a profile on stage and sonically. Drummer Yanni Sofianos mixes things up by using everything from tribal grooves to blastbeats to drive the songs.

Headlining the evening's bill was the Father Panic Riot Orchestra, whose set was as anticlimactic as their name. Self-billed as "death metal," these boys didn't bring anywhere near as much pain as the acts that opened for them. If you tell me you're death metal, I want to see women and children running from you clutching their ears in pain. I want to see you invoke unholy forces that would make Morbid Angel and Slayer proud. But I didn't even hear a single blast on the drums, which is pretty criminal. And their guitar riffs were totally cookie-cutter -- certainly not up to par with the many groups that can use their two guitarists to pull off contrasting effects in stereo. Father Panic wasn't quite watered down enough to be called nu-metal, but neither were they compelling enough to merit their headlining position (let alone their puffed up self-description).
- Hartford advocate


"Priapism/Rock Hard local metal"

Googling the West Haven-based band Priapism probably isn't the best idea, considering that their name is a medical condition which, as defined by Webster's, involves "an abnormal, more or less persistent, and often painful erection."

Of all the things someone might want their band named after, why the hell would anyone pick that?

Guitarist Michael Schick and bassist Brian Dawley both laugh, with maybe just a hint of embarrassment. "Our old guitarist found the name in a medical dictionary," Schick says, "And I personally couldn't think of anything better, so that's what we wound up with."

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An attention-grabber to be sure, but not always the easiest band name to sling around - "It sounds cool, but it's not so cool to have to explain it to people," says Dawley, "they're always like, 'oh, your band name's cool...what does it mean?"

"Family gatherings are the best," adds Schick, "'Hey, how's the band doing? What's your name again?'"

Not that the massive metal sound that this foursome shreds across its six-minute-plus tracks is the kind of stuff you'd bring home to mom, anyway. Priapism plays blistering, progressive, heavy-as-hell songs with the machine-gun drumming (from founder Alani Schapperow), throat-ripping vocals (courtesy of lead singer Paul Marak), and layered guitar and bass interplay - as well as the technical complexity and expansive arrangements - required of real-deal heavy metal acts, with a proficiency that belies their relatively young age (no one in the band has hit even their mid-twenties yet).

Priapism formed in 2000 out of the ashes of a local metal band called IV, enduring several lineup shifts since - the most recent of which was acquiring Dawley on bass last fall. Initially a five-piece with two guitarists, they've recently slimmed down to a quartet with Schick as the single axeman, and are currently laying down tracks for their first full-length.

The new configuration has "really tightened the sound up," says Schick, and the new material features more prominent basslines and intricate single-guitar work than the songs from their earlier 5-song demo (you can hear a bit of the older material at www.myspace.com/priapism).

Schick is pretty stoked about one of his favorites from the current sessions. "It starts off with a nice clean tone and melody, and then it goes into some weird craziness - with little two-handed tapping interludes," he says. "The end of it sounds evil, we used a whammy pedal to make everything six octaves lower, so it's just a deep rumbling with huge harmonics going over the top - that's gonna be sick when it's finally done."

Playing this kind of music - or playing it well, anyway - requires a great deal of technical skill and instrumental interaction, and though to the uninitiated it's simply loud, harsh, and unrelenting, a close listen reveals layers of great complexity and cohesion between the bandmembers. "Precision is everything" and "practice makes perfect" are, respectively, Schick and Dawley's philosophies on doing it right, and though their music is in the same tradition as heavy music pioneers like Iron Maiden, Death, and early Metallica - bands they definitively credit as influences - they're also committed to forging a unique sound within the genre. "We do our best to avoid formulas, we don't always try to shoot for the same thing every time," says Schick. "We try to fight against that."

That desire to stand apart from the crowd applies lyrically, as well - while many metal acts are unfairly pigeonholed as spewing nothing but over-the-top violent lyrical content and pseudo-scary occult claptrap, Priapism (whose lyrics are penned largely by vocalist Marak) is more interested in keeping it real. "We try to keep [the lyrics] away from that classic gore, death metal-type crap," says Schick. "That's garbage ... too many bands built their careers on it and it's already been done."

That makes for music that's much more relatable to its listeners - their song The Art of War, for example, deals with the pain of having loved ones fighting overseas - and translates better to the live setting, where the band fights hard in a never-ending battle to balance stage presence with the technically-demanding musicianship their work demands.

"We're pretty intense," says Dawley, "I always went by the idea that a band can be as nasty as they want on record, but if I come to see them live, I expect them to bring the music to life. If they just came to play the music and you just came to listen to music, why not just sit at home and listen to a cd? We put on a show for people, cause that's what people take their time out to see, that's what they deserve, and that's what we try to give them to the best of our abilities."

"I usually wind up leaving the shows with pretty close to whiplash," adds Schick.

The band, of course is looking to bring that to as many new fans as possible, and Dawley says that they're hoping that the small but talented local metal scene - which exists on the periphery of Connecticut's well-supported legacy of hardcore bands - can join together and grow to its full potential.

Like the rest of the guys, Schick is ready to bring it - "I just want to go on tour, get some recognition and get people back into learning how to actually play an instrument instead of just..."

"...Being happy with being able to play three chords with one finger each and calling it a day," Dawley interjects. "You can't be complacent with yourself or your music, ever - expect more from yourself, and more from the people entertaining you." That's a pretty audacious statement for such a young band to make, but luckily Priapism's got the chops to back it up.

If you are going to check them out, though, don't get the band confused with any others bearing their name - surprisingly, there's more than one Priapism out there. "There's one in Florida that's a nu-metal band, and one in Idaho that's, like, quasi wannabe thrash," Dawley says.

But should they make it big, Schick's got a plan - "Yeah, the name might pose problems, but the easiest way to change it would be to re-spell it phonetically - or change the 'i' to a 'y'..."

Which, of course, would be a very, very metal thing to do.


Where to see them ...

Thursday, April 21
Hamden Elks Lodge w/ Byzantine, Way of All Flesh, Guerra, All Will End, Dehumanized
175 School St., Hamden

Saturday, April 23
University of New Haven German Club w/ Shatter the Silence, Shattersphere, Dexter
300 Boston Post Road, West Haven

Wednesday, May 4
Toad's Place w/ Full Throttle, Guerra, Father Panic Riot Orchestra, Substance of a Shadow
300 York St., New Haven

For future dates, visit www.priapism.net or www.myspace.com/priapism - Play Magazine


Discography

we have a five song disc coming out in july.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

what sets us apart from all other bands is that there is no one out there now thats sounds like us.