The Sword broke the barrier. The Austin quartet was one of the first heavy-metal bands to be embraced by the indie-rock community, not only receiving airplay on college radio stations nationwide but getting press, often good press, from publications not known for their kindness toward genre musics (except hip-hop). For whatever reason –– personality? geography? connections? –– the band, capable of holding its own against the genre’s heavyweights, has thrived in both worlds, though mostly in the indie-rock universe. Other bands have tried to follow suit, but none has really been as successful. Enter: The Cosmic Trigger.
If there’s one local band capable of pulling off a crossover of Sword-ish proportions, it’s probably this Fort Worth quintet. Featuring two-thirds of defunct local metallists Addnerim, guitarist/vocalist Tyrel Choat and bassist (and younger brother of Tyrel) Dustin Choat, the Trigger is heavy, for sure. The riffs are huge and crunchy, the beats driving, the vocals aggressive, the lyrics occultish and science-fictional, and, well, there are two bassists. (Randy Crooks is the other.) But the band also emphasizes melody, in the vocal lines and in the twin guitar attack of Tyrel and guitarist/keyboardist/backing vocalist Matt Treadway. Their guitarmonies call to mind Murray/Smith, Downing/Tipton, Jabs/Schenker, and other legendary heavy-metal guitar tandems. Good stuff indeed.
But even in metaldom, The Cosmic Trigger remains unique. Sure, there’s the two-bass thing, but Fort Worth stoner-rockers Vorvon also have two bassists. No, the Trigger’s delightfully oddball quality comes from blending straight-ahead metal with stoner rock with prog (think: Tool), everything revolving around the mind-blowing fretwork of Tyrel. Right up there with any Fort Worth six-string master you can name, including Darrin Kobetich, Roby Scott (Secret Ghost Champion), and “The Godfather” Bill Pohl (The Underground Railroad), Tyrel can definitely shred. His sweep-picking is straight out of The Book of Yngwie. But the 30-year-old Granbury native also has a lot of touch, style, and sense of melody. His solos can bubble like Eric Johnson’s and flow like Joe Satriani’s.
Tyrel has been playing for decades, mostly with brother Dustin. Addnerim, the Choat brothers believed, was a sure thing, but when their drummer got a job opportunity too good to pass up a couple of years ago, the band had to go on a permanent hiatus (but is not averse to the occasional “reunion” gig). Tyrel’s expectations for The Cosmic Trigger are no less lofty. “As close as we are to all the local bands, I think we bring more to the table,” he said matter-of-factly. “I think we stand alone. We kind of are just on the verge of being heavy enough that we’re hard-rock but not so heavy that we ostracize ourselves from other bands. There’s not another band doing what we’re doing. I can see it taking off.”
The Cosmic Trigger was a happy accident, Tyrel said, starting out as a “stoner-rock jam band” with all of the same members plus drummer Josh Farmer. After a couple of gigs, though, the diversion progressed to a full-blown band. Like Tyrel and Dustin, most of the other guys in the Trigger were in inactive bands. “It just kind of worked out,” Tyrel said.
He recalled that he told his bandmates, “ ‘I know the start of this was kind of like a joke jam-band, but we’re already this far. I’m proud of the stuff, and I know you guys are too. Let’s do it.’ ”
Tyrel said that laying down some tracks was the next logical step. Produced by the band and Fort Worth musician/producer/soundguy Ben Napier (Automorrow, Vanillaface Jones), The New Order of the Cosmos will come out this Friday. Recording began late last year. The drum tracks were done at Nomad Recording Studio, a Carrollton studio founded and run by drummer/producer Gary Long (Izzy Stradlin, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate). The vocals were recorded by Napier, and the rest at Blue Smoke Studios, founded and run by Fort Worth musician/producer/soundguy Nick Choate. The playing on the album is polished but the sound raw and gritty, situating The Cosmic Trigger somewhere between ’80s-era Maiden and ’70s Sabbath.
Named after Robert Anton Wilson’s series of philosophical tomes, The Cosmic Trigger serves up some equally out-there lyrics. Rebellion, resistance, astronomy, time travel, and other particularly SF-ish concepts figure into passages rich with evocative imagery. One of the coolest (in a lovably dorky way) and catchiest songs on the album is “Brother of the Sun,” a real head-banger built around a stuttering, fluttering lead riff in harmony juxtaposed with a chugging barre-chord jaunt. “Behold thee who shines on me,” Tyrel sings, his voice gravely and loud. “Master of the stars / Lunar doctrine from above / Heel our mother’s scares / Guardian of ancient woe / Secrets I shall keep / Sibling of the solar orb / Father of the deep.”
Tyrel’s self-proclaimed dorkiness transcends music. An avid collector of comic books and baseball cards, he holds the highest recorded Donkey Kong score in Texas (ranking him 26th in the world). “I think [going for the record] was my [way of] coping with Addnerim not playing as much,” said Tyrel, who also is a rabid fan of the Cowboys, Rangers, and Stars. “I bought a machine, and that was it.”
The Cosmic Trigger’s next step is to get out on the road. Oklahoma, Louisiana, and, of course, other parts of Texas are future stops. All of the guys have solid jobs, Tyrel said, but taking off time won’t be a problem. “I’d like to see us out on the road as early as the end of this year or beginning of next year,” he said. “Let the CD make a name for itself and then force it on people.
“It’s all about having balls,” he continued. “Hell, if we screw up and no one’s there, at least we tried.”