While the average listener may not be familiar with Brook Pridemore’s extensive career, they may know the New York antifolk scene that he immersed himself in since the onset of his time as a working musician. “Through hearing about antifolk — this was when the Moldy Peaches were still together, so the phrase was on the tip of everyone’s tongue — I found my way to the Sidewalk Bar and Restaurant,” Pridemore says. “That was ground zero for antifolk.”
Beginning his long life as an underground mainstay in 2003 with Metal and Wood, Pridemore has remained a stalwart friend to the antifolk scene and all of its unorthodox techniques.
Pridemore’s most recent work, Metal is My Only Friend, is a disparate compilation of influences that the singer has held dear for most of his career. But, his 2018 LP synthesizes them, spotlighting Pridemore’s abilities as a sonic chemist.
“I chose to play most of the instruments on Metal is My Only Friend myself because I’d been having a hard time communicating with my band mates exactly what I wanted from them,” the songwriter says. “I wanted to make a ‘solo’ record, but have it be more than just my voice and guitar.”
Pridemore lists a wonderful group of artists as inspirations for the album’s sound. From Swans to Smog, Wilco to Wu-Tang, he’s got a musical melting pot cooking on Metal is My Only Friend.
Like a slow headbang on a hitchhike across the Midwest, “Who’s Gonna Build My Deathray?” thumps its way into the next phase of Brook Pridemore. The singer’s guitar tone is so heavily distorted that the only thing relating back to the tonal theme is the smack of acoustic guitar strumming in the background. Pridemore transitions from smooth vocal projections to a cracking scream on a dime.
“Cupcake Empire” gives Pridemore’s absurd lyrics a playground that’s caked in thudding basslines. “The Cupcake Empire’s crumbling/ the culture is a lie/ and I have nowhere left to hide,” he sings with conviction.
“As I was writing these songs, I started to want to introduce little bits of the metal I’ve been diving into the last few years,” Pridemore says. “Metal was new to my life in about 2012, and I noticed over time that the heavy music I was drawn to bore a lot of similarity to the austerity of a lot of the more ‘folk’ music I like.”
While you won’t hear anything that compares to the latest Sunn O))) album in heaviness, there is a defiant crunch to the guitar and slow-burst drums on some tracks that feel like a lost Black Sabbath demo.
Take the darkly comic “I Will Drink Your Blood,” as an example of Pridemore’s lyrical skills. He effortlessly flows rhyme after rhyme with a skip in his voice. “Even if we never find our way to the well/ I was raised by wolves/ I can still raise hell/ Even if we only get the light from above/ I am filled with love/ I will drink your blood,” in one of the album’s most poetic dashes.
“No Tiger, Ever” acts as a startlingly affecting ballad with minimal lyrics. “No tiger ever changed its stripes/ But I would gladly bleed to death/ To lay down in your paws again,” he slowly sings. The sounds of reversed notes slowly leak out the song’s wounded heart as it fades.
“Spiritually, the record was inspired by the death of my mother, and my own journey toward finding god,” Pridemore says.
Album closer “Carrie Fisher” has Pridemore exploring and ruminating on the life events he was subjected to. In a morose triumph, he comes to a conclusion about misfortune. “If I lose my place at breakfast/ buddy, I could make myself a sandwich/ Breaking bread with other heathens/ Seems to me the point of eating,” he says while the guitar clips one last time.
As his prolific discography hints, the singer has new music that he’s working on. “After a long period of not really writing — I got more into painting, the last couple years — the last few months have found a number of songs coming out of me,” he says.
Pridemore says the next album will be about his life growing up and adds that the album after that will be ‘Nick Drake, but with harsh noise.'”