‘Anxiety and energy. Dread and catharsis. Tension and release.‘
I asked Jim Valosik of Forest of Tygers what he hoped listeners would feel when listening to the extreme duo’s latest album, I Will Die of Violence, and that, ladies and gentlemen, was his response. Anyone who has heard the record even once will know that this is in fact a very apt, nutshell description of the kind of music offered up in this blistering two-person project. Forest of Tygers is a wild, inventive, and utterly noisy delve into the darker recesses of human emotion, and Everything Is Noise were privileged enough to have a deeper insight into their creative processes.
The band was formed by Jim and Rachel Valosik, who had both played in numerous other acts and on other instruments. In spite of their hard work in these bands, various uncontrollable restraints meant that achieving the goals set out in those projects proved difficult. The solution was to form a band comprised solely of them as a couple. Schedules, songwriting, and all the rest were therefore 100% in their control – Forest of Tygers was born.
As it stands, Jim plays guitar and Rachel plays drums. Assisting them in their sonic onslaught are some hefty effect pedals and a hell of a lot of imagination. The result is exemplified no better than in their amazing full-length record from last year: I Will Die of Violence. It’s not just punk, or black metal, or hardcore, but a broth of all of those things and something else again. Being a proud fan of all things horror, Jim was straightforward in explaining some of the themes of the album.
‘Tonally and lyrically, we were trying to create the swirling chaos of a psychological horror film just as much as a heavy record. It’s about that headspace to me. Lyrically, the album is about personifying fear in its many forms. It’s a loose, nihilistic story arc told in impressions with characterizations of fear as an ultimate controller and master of destiny, and how it shapes people’s lives and forces outcomes. It’s about standing up to fear, being beaten by it, and about listening to others’ experiences with it.‘
In conveying these ideas, the album does its job and then some. It has also made a serious impact with critics. The genius of I Will Die of Violence seems to be in its ability to fuse the harsher genres of metal, and like all things inventive, the swill of influence comes from more than just the music. Although Rachel comes from a background of noise and Jim from extreme hardcore, the unifying factor is the emotional content as they cover topics such as loss, grief, and fear: ‘We decided in the beginning that themes would dictate the riffs or the feel,’ explains Jim. ‘We don’t set out to write anything from parts or songs in a particular genre style. As long as we find it heavy and we like it, it gets tossed into the mix.‘
Lessons of the creative process have been learned along the way for Forest of Tygers, and as their resume was previously comprised of an intensive live stint, an EP, and two singles (both of which are accompanied by some highly visceral short films), there is no doubting that I Will Die of Violence is the current masterpiece of their career. In creating it, Jim learned to deconstruct and replicate their live sound with more accuracy inside the studio, as well as to render his vocals more dynamic. As far as the former is concerned, the process was no simple feat.
‘We actually struggle to capture the depth of the live sound in the studio. To record, we have to deconstruct our songs completely in terms of guitar. In the studio, I will play a scratch track when Rachel records her drums, then I will build up the guitar tracks. Live, I play though two 100-watt half stacks, one with a line out to a full bass rig with an octave pedal in between. I have it set up where I can split the signal between left and right, loop through one and play through the other, etc. Live, it sounds like a full 4-person band.‘
The resulting depth of volume means that Rachel is faced with her own set of challenges.
‘I’ve always been concerned about live volume, especially following some big dudes. I’m also competing with a huge frequency range coming from Jim’s guitar/loops/samples/etc. My kit is super loud, but the best tip I’ve ever gotten was to try an Evans Kevlar snare head. That thing is ridiculous, it’ll punch through anything.‘
In terms of creating the music and the Forest of Tygers brand, Rachel and Jim have their methods finely tuned. By large, Jim writes the lyrics and the guitar parts, but his writing is often sparked by some input from Rachel, who in her own capacity excels at the arrangement and editing. Likewise, Jim might offer Rachel an imagined drum part of his own. As long as the flow is correct, everything that works stays, as Rachel explains in more detail:
‘Typically Jim has a riff or even a general feel he is going for. Sometimes he already has layers of loops worked out. I typically write parts to the riffs, trying different things, and we think about technical constraints of how to execute in a live setting. I chart out how the song goes and recommend arrangements, kind of thinking about the song as a story with a plot.
I may be responsible for 50% of the songwriting, but Jim does 99% of the band work. He handles all communication, designs and logos, packaging, books tours, ships and merch. I’m very grateful!‘
Forest of Tygers have already made some notable achievements, particularity in the indie horror scene after their award-winning work on the videos for “Pay of Pigs” and “Mongers”. Follow this link to see the movies, though viewer’s discretion is advised. More recently however, I Will Die of Violence has done nothing less than propel their momentum into the next year. In 2020, Rachel and Jim will be touring in further support of the record as well as collecting the riffs and parts to begin writing their next studio album. A higher level of popularity is destined to ensue, as this intelligent and blistering duo is not a band to remain quiet. Forest of Tygers is darkness embodied, and more people will be aware of that fact sooner rather than later.