Alcoholic Polyneuropathic Freaks In Hell! A conversation with Jake Benedict of Misanthropic Aggression

FREAK SCENE: Misanthropic Aggression is Tyler Peacock (left), Chris Hammer, and Jake Benedict.
Photo by Alison Benedict.


“Alcoholic Polyneuropathic Freaks in Hell” — it’s a phrase that captures a colorful, albeit accurate, snapshot of most Georgians’ mental state as we grapple with the realities of returning to life after sheltering in place over the last month. It’s also the title cut from Misanthropic Aggression’s latest 7-inch on Boris Records.

On the heels of releasing 2018’s Inability to Cope EP, bass player and lead vocalist Jake Benedict, drummer Tyler Peacock, and singer and guitarist Chris Hammer are back with three-songs that plunge the group’s blend of hardcore, thrash, black metal, death metal, and crust punk into much greater depths. Benedict’s low rumble and Hammer’s demonic shriek create an urgent tension over Peacock’s staccato rhythms. After live-streaming a 7-inch release party on April 20, Benedict took a few minutes to talk about the new songs and finding Misanthropic Aggression’s sound.

The Alcoholic Polyneuropathic Freaks In Hell 7-inch is Misanthropic Aggression’s first new release since 2018, correct?

Yes! The first thing we did after releasing Inability To Cope was to write the song “Blacklisted.” I had already written the guitar riff, so we started arranging it. We worked for about a year and wrote “Black Listed,” then “Retirement From Life (Last Day of Work),” then “Alcoholic Polyneuropathic Freaks In Hell.” Chris came up with the title for that one.

That song feels timely, as many Georgians are struggling with Governor Kemp easing up on the shelter-in-place order. 

Yeah, because you’ve been at home for like a month, drinking too much, and you feel like you’re in hell!

We played with Sanguisugabogg at 529 on March 11, 48 hours before the shit hit the fan. The morning after, I got an email saying my son’s school is canceled effective Monday. He hasn’t been back since.

When we played on March 11, COVID-19 was already here. People were wigging out, about half the normal crowd was there, and people were already wearing masks. They were high-elbowing instead of high-fiving. It was a trippy night.

You know there’s a problem when even the crust punks are washing their hands!

Big time! There was a line out the bathroom door all night, just to use the sink!

“Retired From Life (Last Day Of Work)” is the second entry in a catalog of anti-active shooter songs. “Active Shooter Syndrome (A.S.S.)” from Inability To Cope was about the Mandalay Bay shooting in Las Vegas. I heard the news about it and wrote that song. “Retired From Life …” is about the poor guy who worked in the security shack at the FedEx facility in Kennesaw, maybe six-seven years ago. Basically, he was shot in the gut with a shotgun and lived, but he’s had 80-90 surgeries since then.

I thought about how lyricists like Chris Barnes from Cannibal Corpse write. As a kid, it was terrifying to read first-person perspective songs about being murdered. To twist it in with the urban style that we’ve always had I did a first-person narrative about being killed on the job. I was almost afraid to do it because it’s pretty controversial. But the lyrics are so clearly anti-shooter that it won’t come across like we were glorifying it. But it is supposed to be horrific.


Have you published the lyrics?

The lyrics aren’t posted anywhere yet. I’m such an amateur when it comes to actual music industry stuff. After the records are produced, your PR campaign starts. So as soon as you send off the masters the records get pressed. Then Perfect World Productions, who’s doing our PR, sends out press kits. Once the records come in they get sent out for distribution. Boris Records has distribution through MVD. That takes an additional four weeks. I didn’t know all that, and when we picked the April 20 release date I was working off of my DIY experiences: ‘The records will be here and we’ll get in the van and go!’ The 4/20 release date isn’t official. The distributor’s release date, and the reason it’s not on Spotify or anywhere else yet, is June 8. That’s when I think we’ll post the lyrics.

As soon as we finished this one we turned around and finished a new song for the next record. I want to write about COVID-19, but I need to approach it carefully. It’s a slippery slope talking about this virus; you could easily upset people’s political sensibilities, and I don’t want to be seen as a political band. So I’m figuring out how to approach it lyrically.

That’s tough. The anti-active shooter songs — talking about real-world incidents of gun violence — can easily be construed as being about gun control. It doesn’t get more political than that!

Yeah, it could be taken that way. Personally, I see a pattern of antisocial narcissism at work in these shooters — lonely, loser-types, incels who are incels because they have no personality. I noticed that a lot of them have these traits in common. That’s kind of what made me want to chronicle these incidents, and have more than one song about the subject. The title, “Active Shooter Syndrome,” is a play on “active shooter situation.” In my opinion, there seems to be a syndrome here.

What has changed for the group between these two releases?

It’s a cliché, but we’re figuring out our sound. We had this idea to mix five musical genres: punk, thrash, death metal, black metal, and crust. The first release leaned heavily toward punk and hardcore — we had the cover of SSD’s “Boiling Point.” There were hints of death metal, especially in the long musical section in “Herd Rejector/Unbound Descent,” which Chris composed. There are some sludgy parts, some death metal parts. With the new release we went for more of a first wave black metal sound. If you listen to the long section right after the first chorus in “Alcoholic … ,” it has a second wave, almost Gorgoroth or golden era Dark Thrown back-and-forth going on. Real grim black metal. There’s a lot going on in that song, and I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting my own horn, but I’m really proud of it.

MISANTHROPIC AGGRESSION: Chris Hammer (clockwise from left), Jake Benedict, and Tyler Peacock.
Photo by Chad Radford


Tell me about the sample at the beginning of “Alcoholic …”

Chris did that. It’s the voice of James Dickey, who was a poet laureate in ‘66. He wrote Deliverance.

The lyrics for that song are two-pronged. I have developed alcoholic polyneuropathy, I guess from drinking liquor for 13 years. I’ve started getting real bad tingling in my hands and feet, my skin and scalp crawl, I break out in hives. So the lyrics are about my personal experiences with it, but it’s also a warning to learn better coping mechanisms than substances. It’s definitely in keeping with my amateur psychology that I like to incorporate.

At the end of “Alcoholic …” we take a hard left turn into a weird death metal theme, which is a riff that I wrote. Sometimes I’ll write parts for Chris, but in this song, the whole end, I said, “You do whatever the hell you want, man. These are the parts I wrote. This is the subject matter. Run with it.

Impetigo is a gore-grind band from Illinois, from the late ’80/early ‘90s. They rule, and their vocals have a real strong influence with all the echo and trippy, kind of rubber banding in and out that you hear.

ALCOHOLIC POLYNEUROPATHIC FREAKS IN HELL: Artwork by Warhead Art.


Who did the artwork? 

The artwork was done by a Ukranian artist who goes by Warhead Art. He’s done three pieces for us — he did the centerpiece. Chris did the layout. The art is in the middle, and there’s a frame with little stars in the corners. Chris did those, and hand-drew the “Alcoholic Neuropathic Freaks In Hell” logo around it. The stars represent the synapses misfiring in your body due to alcoholic polyneuropathy. It’s what causes the pain, which I thought was a cool idea. The photo on the back with the bricks was taken at the ruins of an old civil war-era mill — Nickajack Creek — up near Smyrna. 

The idea was to keep it real simple. No lyrics sheet, no insert, no thank you list. It’s just three songs. The whole thing is influenced by the old Amoebix, Anti Cimex 7-inches; real simple, old-school hardcore shit.

A GoFundMe to support The Masquerade staff

Heaven at The Masquerade. Photo by Elena de Soto.

On March 16, The Masquerade announced that it was suspending operations to aid in the effort to slow the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. Since then, the Downtown Atlanta music venue has canceled and postponed more than 100 shows in all three of its live music rooms — Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Many shows are being rescheduled for the fall and winter months, but the doors remain closed indefinitely.

The Masquerade is the city’s largest independently-owned music venue. Each night, the club brings more music to Atlanta than anywhere else, ranging from hip-hop, trap music, punk, hardcore, heavy metal, and jazz to DJ nights such as Torch DNB and the LA-based Emo Nite.

This means an awful lot of bartenders, sound engineers, loaders, caterers, box office staff, security, and administrative personnel are without work for the time being.

To help its employees pay the bills, a GoFundMe page is set up with all proceeds being distributed to the club’s employees, and there are donation perks.

Contributions of $50 or more will receive a pair of tickets to an upcoming concert.
Contributions of $100 or more will receive an invitation for you and a guest to attend a welcome back party with complimentary drinks, along with a pair of tickets to an upcoming concert.

The list of available shows will be posted on The Masquerade’s website as soon as it looks like the world will start moving again.

Picture One plumbs the depths of the imagination to find resolve

STRANGE MAGIC: Thomas Barnwell of Picture One. Photo by Todd Briner.


Thomas Barnwell is, perhaps, best known as the co-composer of the score to director Adam Pinney’s 2016 film, The Arbalest, and as the guitar player with the now-defunct indie rock groups Thy Mighty Contract and the Orphins. Alongside his film-composing partner Ian Deaton, Barnwell also runs Deanwell Global Music, compiling and re-releasing LPs of ‘80s material by acts ranging from French new wave outfit Asylum Party to Atlanta synth-punks the Modern Mannequins. The label has also released cassettes such as Deaton’s score to the imaginary film Atlanta Crime Wave, along with titles from hardcore and blackened metal tormentors Rapturous Grief, Waste Layer, and the Haunting, the latter being an early project that featured Cloak’s singer and guitar player Scott Taysom.

When left to his own devices, however, Barnwell writes and records songs using the name Picture One. With his self-titled 2015 debut, and again with 2019’s Bright Spot and the Midnight Sun, Barnwell relied on abstract imagery and purely instrumental arrangements to build spectral atmospheres. However, the arrival of Picture One’s third album, Across the Depths of Seven Lakes, marks a profound change in his songwriting. Here, Barnwell fleshes out a stylish blend of European and American indie, gothic rock, and post-punk influences, culminating in spellbinding soundscapes, and reaching new heights in his songwriting. 

Barnwell’s  low-register, atonal singing brings a more personal and transcendent touch to the album.

“I started singing on this record because I wanted to process a lot of what I have been going through over the last couple of years,” Barnwell says. “I am trying to be more creative lyrically than I have been — I haven’t done lyrics in maybe 10 years, and I wanted that connection again. When you play stuff live, people really connect with vocals.”

What he was going through while writing the album is the timeless fodder of reflecting on a relationship that has come to an end, and the whirlwind of social, psychological, and emotional turbulence that comes along with such upheaval. To make sense of, and ultimately resolve, his cycle of dark feelings, Across the Depths of Seven Lakes summons the strength of unearthly forces. The album’s title is taken from the lyrics of “Love Spell,” a song in which Barnwell sings, “Because distant power is what it takes, and tubes of light lead to this place, spread the flowers and snowflakes, across the depths of seven lakes.” Here, a spell is cast to break through a sense of powerlessness over his circumstances.

“When I wrote the lyrics, I was sitting there, thinking about how I wished I could just do something,” Barnwell says. “I had this idea of magic as a proactive thing that people do because they’re in situations where they can’t do anything. The lyrics came out about someone who wants to conjure love,” he adds. “But in the end it becomes something that helps them to move on.”

The songs and lyrics take on a more honest approach to songwriting than anything Barnwell has offered in the past. Even when fronting the Orphins, songs such as “Sea Song” and “Lost In the Wild” from the 2009 CD Wish You Well (Adair Park) relied on symbolism over real-time, confessional songwriting. Still, the songs on Across the Depths of Seven Lakes sidestep traditional songwriting as Barnwell adopts a wholly different internal persona.

“Singing in a way that I don’t normally sing, and thinking from the perspective of someone else — playing the part of an imagined person, maybe someone who was in a band in the ’80s — helped me be more honest,” Barnwell says.

A palette of constrictive, bass-driven rhythms, heavy chorus, and barreling melodies drive the noisy and claustrophobic opening number “Resolute: The Absolute,” the melancholy pop of “Lily Pad,” and the monolithic EBM dirge of “Chaser of the World.” Each number hands in a balance of graceful and monolithic darkness, fostering a fully-formed concept album that’s fueled by a greater sense of urgency and variety than anything Barnwell has created with Picture One’s previous releases.

“I wanted the first album to be a dark and emotionally melodic record with roots in ’80s cold wave and goth and post-punk,” Barnwell says. “I also wanted to see if I could write something both memorable and catchy without vocals. I wanted to explore a certain sound that I’ve always loved but had never had a chance to with my previous bands.”

Three albums in, Across the Depths of Seven Lakes moves one step deeper and higher into the framework he’s built. — Chad Radford

PREMIERE: ‘A Lighter Shade of Delorean Gray’

Delorean Gray. Photo by Brittany Wages.


Delorean Gray is back from exploring the farthest reaches of the cosmos with a new three-song EP to score the lingering feelings of early Spring ennui. This time around, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Chisenhall dials back on the posturing and conceptual elements of his whimsical space captain alter ego to present A Lighter Shade of Delorean Gray, his most guitar-driven round of songs yet.

Chisenhall, performing alongside keyboard player Jason Bronson and Freeman Leverett, who makes the switch from bass to guitar here, adopts a back-to-the-basics approach for a release that’s all about taking a pause to celebrate the moment. The Beach Boys’ soaring melodies circa Pet Sounds and the pop song reductionism on display throughout Of Montreal’s Lousy with Sylvianbriar are clear touchstones here. The breezy fantasy qualities of “Boys For the Summer” are enhanced by the most vibrantly layered upper-register singing that Chisnehall has summoned yet. Likewise, Andy Barton of sentimental pop outfit Reverie Rush takes lead on “Black Lipstick.” But it’s the instrumental demo, “Back To The Beach-Front,” that underscores the ambient depth and breadth of these songs.

It’s a staycation for the mind, so to speak, music to ease the mental burdens of the daily grind, whether coping with the mundane or the macabre — adopting a less-is-more approach after laying the foundation for a highly animated conceptual vehicle with previous releases such as 2018’s Star Tropics and 2019’s Otaku Punk. When taken in altogether, A Lighter Shade of Delorean Gray is as tropical, carefree, or as cosmic as the listener wants it to be. Press play.

In the interest of full disclosure, Jacob Chisenhall is RadATL’s go-to podcast engineer.

SONG PREMIERE: Hear 'Fine' by Thousandaire

THOUSANDAIRE: Andrew Wiggins (left), Adam Weisberg, and Chad LeBlanc.


Thousandaire’s debut single, “Fine,” offers a first look at the prime, no-frills indie rock and fuzz pedal symphonies the Atlanta trio has in store with its self-titled debut album, out June 12 via Colonel Records.

On the surface, “Fine” is a deceptively simple number. Singer and guitar player Andrew Wiggins (Caesium Mine, ex-HAWKS, Wymyns Prysyn, Uniform, Blame Game), drummer Adam Weisberg (Rose Hotel, True Blossom), and bass player Chad LeBlanc (ex-Iron Jayne and Vegan Coke) stir up a sentimental journey into early ‘90s indie rock. Heavy distortion sets the scene for a swelling guitar melody, rolling bass and drums, and a voice that drifts from a roar to a self-effacing admission, “While that might not do the trick it’s the best I could come up with. But since you’re leaving, fine.”

The song is a primer for a new take on Wiggins’ songwriting that’s been brewing since 2008, and finally coming to fruition with an album that’s built around the premise that good songs are uncomplicated and draw upon the eloquence of everyday life — work-a-day life that can be poetic, melancholy, and irreverent, all in the same distorted riff.

On stage, the group has been playing for about a year, letting each song follow its own lead. All the while, Wiggins has honed a presence that restores the archetype of the self-conscious guitar hero, leading a group that soars with simplicity and pure volume. It is, in fact, this reliance on visceral directness that elevates Thousandaire to a deeper, higher level of universal hooks, melodies, dirges, and storytelling. Press play.

PODCAST: Papa Jack Couch on a lifetime in songs and asking the questions that cannot be answered

BEARING WITNESS: Papa Jack Couch. Photo by Chad Radford.

Papa Jack Couch arrived on Atlanta’s music scene like a ghost — a man from another era, out of time and out of place, with a body of songs that demanded to be heard.

In 2018, he released his debut album, Meriwether via his own MIle One Records. A year later, he released his second album, Witness Tree, backed by a cast of Atlanta’s finest musicians.

At 70 years old, Papa Jack had suddenly reached a disarming high point as a songwriter, channeling a lifetime of spirituality, wisdom, joy, and tragedy into songs with titles such as “Twilight Memories,” “HighLine Woman,” and the title track from his second album.

With a gentle voice drifting softly over steel strings, Papa Jack summons a deeply felt blend of Southern folk, soul, and cosmic Americana into every note and every nuance of the songs he sings. And every number tells a story — stories of discovering music, crossing paths with his musical heroes such as Gram Parsons and Johnny Cash, leaving music, and ultimately returning after the death of his wife.

Press play to hear a podcast about Papa Jack Couch and the stories behind his songs, featuring interviews with Damon Moon of Standard Electric Recording Co. and Brian Revels.