Although a fair number of young metal bands are now incorporating pop-style vocals along with the gruff, discordant bellowing popularized in the ’90s nu-metal era, In This Moment’s Maria Brink has distinguished her band with her intense singing, her ability to shift immediately from monstrous yowls to sweetness and purity, and her decidedly new wave approach to melody. Guitarists Howorth and Blake Bunzel support the hybrid with an infusion of classic metal, alt-metal, industrial, rock, and pop solos, riffs, and rhythms. And the band—which formed in Los Angeles in 2005—became a MySpace success story after asking Ozzy Osbourne bassist and Mercenary Management honcho Blasko to be a MySpace friend. Blasko visited the group’s page, liked what he heard, and, soon after, In This Moment had a manager, a record deal with Century Media, a debut album (Beautiful Tragedy), and a spot on the 2007 Ozzfest tour.
What are the elements of your pop-metal hybrid?
Howorth: Maria is more into pop and rock, and I’m the metal dude. I love Metallica, Slayer, and Pantera, as well as some ’80s stuff like Ratt and Dokken. Then, Blake and I complement each other, as well. He has a knack for playing really pretty leads and harmonies over barebones rhythm tracks, and he’s learning more about precision metal rhythms with all the triplets.
Bunzel: I’m into the Cure, Sting, the Doors, and Sarah McLachlan, but my favorite artist is David Gilmour, because he projects what he feels—it’s not just riff after riff. He can get more out of one note than most people can in a whole song. Also, listening to Iron Maiden helped me envision how my songs would work with guitar harmonies of minor thirds and fifths.
What gear do you use in the band?
Howorth: I use a Schecter C-7 Hellraiser with active EMG-707 pickups. I’ve been using a Peavey XXL through a Marshall 4x12 cab loaded with 300-watt Celestions, but I’ll be taking a Peavey 5150 out on the road. I also have a Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie Wah, and I really like Everly Star picks. They have a little star cutout in the middle, where your thumb and forefinger meet, and when I use them I never drop a pick.
Bunzel: I like to switch between 6- and 7-string guitars. I’ve got the Schecter C-7 Blackjack with Seymour Duncan JB and’59 pickups. I love the comfortable feel of Schecters. They’re great in the studio and tough on the road. My 6-string is a Schecter C-1 Plus. I switched the pickups out with a PRS Mark Tremonti in the neck, and a PRS Dragon 2 in the bridge. I’m liking passive pickups more and more, because they sound warmer to me—especially for clean tones. For effects, I use Boss DD-2 and DD-6 delays, a Maxon OD808 for boost, and a Morley Mark Tremonti Power Wah. I play a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier loaded with EL34 tubes through Mesa 4x12 cabs. The amp really comes alive with those tubes. I use Dunlop Tortex .88 picks, because they have a chalky feel that helps you hang on to them.
How do you keep developing your sound?
Bunzel: I’ve learned that to expand your musical horizons, you have to listen to not only jazz or pop or classical, but also styles that you dislike. You can’t just dismiss a certain kind of music because of the scene or the fashion.
Howorth: I’m always watching other players, and asking them how they do things, but YouTube is a gold mine of instruction. It’s so easy to pull up someone like Yngwie or Paul Gilbert to see if I can borrow one little trick that I can use on stage that night.