If you've even half-followed this site at any point in the last 20-some years, you're probably to some degree aware of my undying fanboy enthusiasm for underrated New Jersey hardcore outfit Elements DEC, three core members of which have been creating new music for the past two years as Man Destroyed Man. Out today, MDM's latest five-song EP, The Decline and Decay, not only offers some of their finest work to date, but continues to explore a totally unique take on metallic hardcore—only even remotely comparable to a select family tree of largely unsung greats dating back to the early-/mid-'90s New Jersey scene. Openly melodic with no lack of pummeling grooves, and fronted by a form of socio-political lyrical themes that have become somewhat uncommon at present, their atypical approach is cerebral with an aggressive edge.
But, like most music-first units with no patience for popularity contests, who step outside the most common parameters of the genre, they continue to struggle to reach as many ears as possible. Hence, I will forever scream until I pass out about just how damn deserving are these efforts of wider recognition. Stream The Decline and Decay below (or on Spotify/YouTube), followed by a more thorough than anticipated discussion with vocalist Larry Cooney about the process and inspiration behind the new material, and what may—or may not—be next in store...
These new songs have been in the works for a while, and there were some delays in getting everything finalized for release. What have been some of the challenges with the process along the way this time out?
Life, first and foremost. Just people finding the time. [Our guitarist] Scott had these songs ready to go in August of last year. Our current process [is that] he sends over the entire song guitar-wise, initially tracked to programmed drums. If the rest of us are feeling it—which we always are—we then start recording our individual parts to his idea, with the drums always being first for the foundation. We did not really get the ball rolling until October/November with the recording of our individual parts, which was then basically the holidays, which meant things got delayed once again. So, it ultimately took about half-a-year for everyone to lay their parts down from beginning to end, which I just thought would be faster based on our previous releases. I actually blame myself there, as I handle all of the social media stuff for the band, so I was just a little premature announcing that the release may be coming sooner than it actually was—not keeping in mind life can and will indeed get in the way.
While I was no doubt a little antsy, in retrospect I very much preferred the extra time. It gave me a lot more time to sit with the lyrics, practice them multiple times, and as a result really refine the hell out of them. So much so that I have several full lyrics written for two of the songs that I decided not to use, as I could do better.
Then, once we were done with recording our parts, it turned out there were some small hiccups with the mixing process, as there were some technical issues with the tracks we provided holding some things back. Since we all record our parts on our own at home and technology is involved, unexpected things can happen. This made Chris [at Casa de Ross]' job of mixing the stuff a little more difficult than it usually is. Some members were not loving how things were coming out as a result, but ultimately we persevered. We of course want things to sound as good as possible, but we also had to concede to the fact that we are not recording in an actual studio, so things may not always be ideal. Ultimately, I do hope everyone in the band is proud of what we were able to produce this time around, even if it is not exactly how we envisioned it. I think at least from my end, since our recording process is what I would describe as somewhat unique, I always view our stuff as really refined demos.
The Decline and Decay seems like more of a "concept" release than your previous efforts. I know there's not like a "story" that continues from track to track or anything, but with the way the song titles were handled and the overall tone of the lyrical content, it does feel like there's a theme throughout.
It no doubt is a concept album from my point of view. Up until very recently, this was going to be entitled the [Hate Thy] Self-Titled EP, to carry on the nomenclature set up with the first EP. I always had the idea for a trilogy of EPs: the [Know Thy] Self, [Hate Thy] Self, and [Love Thy] Self EPs. I ultimately made the decision that was all a little too esoteric. Also, the truth is, since I am never sure what may be next for the band, I also thought it was a bit silly to count on doing a trilogy when it is not a given we will do so.
Nonetheless, this was technically the [Hate Thy] Self EP of the bunch initially, so all of the songs are my take on why people should indeed have some reasons to hate themselves. Those reasons are primarily in and one is out of their control.
"The Disdain" is my observations about how we absolutely did not come through for each other these past two years. We failed the test miserably over what I ultimately view as just selfish behavior. It is also my nod to Breakdown's "Sick People," one of my favorite hardcore songs ever. It should be pretty damn clear where my hate lies on that song [laughs]. "The Full Rot" is a warning about the downfall of civilization and for sure the most conceptual of the bunch, but it ultimately is me saying that if we continue down the current path we are on, the outcome is fucking bleak. "The Shame" is about systemic racism in our justice system, which from my perspective is absolutely the result of white supremacy, and I am not sure how anyone could see otherwise. "The Monster" is about addiction, one of those reasons one hates themself that can no doubt be out of their control, but people still hate themselves regardless. Last but not least, "The Distortion" is a metaphor for the algorithms that drive social media platforms, and how people—myself included—just get sucked into these vortexes that seem impossible to escape once they are trapped by them.
So, yeah, this is definitely the [Hate] EP. The Decline and Decay itself comes from a lyric in the chorus of "The Full Rot," and felt like a much better way to express the concept ultimately. Real positive stuff. But, the band is named Man Destroyed Man, after all, so I would hope people who check it out are not expecting sunshine and rainbows.
Also, full credit goes to [our drummer] Anthony about the idea to name all of the song titles starting with "The." I had two already—"The Distortion" and "The Full Rot"—and it was 100% his idea that we should name the rest starting with "The" as well.
I would also like to take this time to thank the other guys in the band for giving me complete freedom in writing my lyrics. I think it is very safe to say I do not represent their personal opinions on things. While I know I definitely align with some members, it for sure is not everyone. I am the pessimistic curmudgeon with some very distinct views that tend to lean one way on the political spectrum. Quite hard sometimes. It is actually something I do think about a lot and I wish I did not have to, but I am very conscious of it. I fear some people are tuning out on us immediately just because my views on things may differ from their political leanings, and it sucks that may be the case. I would love it if those people took the time to listen and at the very least ponder why we have those differences. We very well may never solve them, but acknowledge they exist and let's see if there is any way we can agree to disagree, at the very least, and not just disagree immediately. Or, maybe no one is paying attention at all to the lyrics and just listening to the music, which I also acknowledge is very much a possibility [laughs].
As an Elements DEC superfan, it's hard not to view some of this material—"The Full Rot," especially—as a continuation of that style. While your vocal approach might be angrier and more direct these days, the character of your delivery combined with Scott's riffing aesthetic and John's bass runs just captures that heavy/melodic balance and energy in a way that only you all can. I know you feel like this is some of your best work to date as well.
First and foremost, thank you for your continued support of EDEC. I recently had someone from Japan reach out with all of these questions about us, and it has and always will blow my mind that all of these years later people are not only just discovering us, but also appreciating us.
So, I think initially, for sure some members were very set on making Man Destroyed Man something very distinct from Elements DEC. Depending on who you talk to, they have a different connection with EDEC personally that may not be the most positive for whatever reasons. There is also of course the fact that Anthony was not in Elements DEC at all, just the rest of us. But, I think as time has gone on we just have realized there really is no escaping the fact that we were in fact in EDEC, and we do in fact have a particular style and sound just as individuals that made Elements DEC what it was. So, even if it is 25 years later, that approach is going to come through on occasion as we are doing the same style of music.
Scott recently sent a text to myself and John saying that no matter what happens with MDM in the future, we should all be really proud of the fact that we recorded what we all feel is pretty damn good music in a relatively short period of time, and that he felt we had "redeemed" the EDEC name. I asked him what he meant, and he shared that literally Man Destroyed Man has already recorded more music in a little over a year than what Elements DEC released over a five-year period. That right there is some redemption, as EDEC actually had so many songs no one ever heard. There is also no doubt we all felt Elements DEC never fully got the recognition and respect that we should have, and I do think MDM shows maybe we should have, as at the very least I believe it proves we do know what we are doing when it comes to this kind of music. So, yeah, I think that text said it all.
Even if Man Destroyed Man was not a conscious effort to continue the Elements DEC name, the fact that three of us are founding members of EDEC whose style was pivotal to the overall sound, means that—like it or not—MDM is at the very least a spiritual successor to EDEC.
So, that very well may be why I feel "The Full Rot" is some of if not the best music I have ever been affiliated with. Not for nothing, when I hear it, it is exactly how I imagine EDEC would sound if we never stopped. Like, if someone was listening to "Hesitation is the Enemy" and then "The Full Rot" came on next, I do feel they would think it is the same band. That is pretty great—to me, at least.
As a group of older guys just kinda keeping the creative spark alive when time allows, I always worry that each Man Destroyed Man release might be its last. Do you think you'll be able to keep it up and muster a few tracks a year just to have some fun and remain musically active, or are the battles to be heard amidst an endless sea of "content" starting to wear on you at all?
Well, this is a bit of a loaded question [laughs].
I would say only time will tell. I personally hope we do, as I think we have found our ideal sound and approach on this second time around. Selfishly, I also feel I have gotten to a place where my vocals are the best that they ever have been. With that said, I can say the lack of getting ears to listen is very discouraging, especially when we feel we are making some of the best music we have ever made, and for whatever reason(s) not a lot of people seem to give two shits.
Is it because we self-release and people seem to need a label co-sign these days, especially thanks to social media (which I also address in "The Distortion"), to even pay attention? Is it because we still have not played any shows yet? Is it because we have no videos, and people generally react way more to videos these days? It probably is all of those things, but I do know for damn sure it is really hard to stand out among all of the other options out there.
Honestly, though, it leaves me a bit bewildered and for sure a bit bitter. I hate the latter, but it is just me being honest. In my day job, I am an Art Supervisor at an advertising agency. It means that even with my own work, I have to objectively critique it for the sake of the project and client. So, I am capable of looking at any art I produce and being critical of it. Hell, this is a skill any artist hopefully develops very early on at art school. It is imperative if you create art for what you hope to be mass consumption that you can take a step back and look at your art objectively. And while I would not say Man Destroyed Man is perfect by any means, I would say we are pretty damn good for the style of music we play. Is it my previously mentioned lyrical content? Is it that we are older guys in what it seems some listeners believe for whatever reason should only be a young person's game? Is it a fairly negative name? I truly have no idea. Then again, I try to remind myself we have only released music for a little over a year now, which is not long at all for a new band, so to speak.
Finally, the biggest reason I am not sure about the future of MDM is it looks like our drummer status may be in limbo. I prefer to just leave it at that for now, as you never know what the future holds. I personally am pretty confident we will find a way to keep things moving, and selfishly I hope that we do, as I know for sure I still have some lyrics in me, but I am just one of four. While I can and in fact am playing with other people (647 is going to release an LP this year), I prefer to play with Scott and John for my "primary project." Not only do they both have a style and sound that perfectly aligns with my overall taste, I entirely trust them. I have known both of them for over 30 years now, and they are no doubt family to me. Being in a band, as everyone knows, is not always easy, so whenever you can be in one with those you consider family, that is no doubt the ideal situation to be in.