“The subject matter is always the same,” Graphic Nature vocalist Harvey Freeman says of the inspiration behind his band’s debut album, A Mind Waiting To Die. “I write about mental health. Not enough people talk about it in a genuine way. It’s a subject I make sure to discuss at every single show. I don’t have a big presence online, I don’t care for that, but when I’m on stage and people have taken the time to watch our band, I feel I can really express myself that we need to talk about mental health.”
A Mind Waiting To Die finds the Kent metallers exploring the subject in unflinching detail, pairing raw sentiments with a confrontational sound that harks back to the golden age of nu-metal. And while the subgenre that birthed the likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit is often maligned and always misunderstood, for Harvey and his bandmates it provided inspiration not just musically but thematically. “It was about not fitting in, which really spoke to me,” says Harvey. “But it also stands to reason that music that dealt with being an outsider would be treated as such.”
Harvey always felt like something of an outsider, though it wasn’t him who was first aware he had issues with his mental health. As a kid, he’d spend hours in his room, alone, playing video games and Warhammer. While he found this to be a normal way to spend his time, his mother recognised her son’s desire for isolation as symptomatic of depression. It was a challenging diagnosis for Harvey, not least because of having to get used to people erroneously claiming they understood how he felt. Harvey wrote about it on chokehold, the opening track from Graphic Nature’s EP, New Skin, released earlier this year. “I’d be told, ‘I know how you’re feeling’ but I’d think, ‘OK, but do you really?’ It was a frustration I had to write about.”
The band’s name Graphic Nature was, of course, inspired by a track on Deftones’ seventh album, Koi No Yokan, though it was another member of the metal fraternity that provided Harvey with his formative musical aspirations. “I wanted to be in a band just like Slipknot,” reveals Harvey, who, aged 10, was gifted the band’s first two albums by a school friend who recognised his burgeoning appetite for heavy music. “And for years I was in bands who didn’t sound like them, which was fine, as I wanted to be in a band and I just wanted to tour.”
Harvey’s eventual bandmates, guitarists Pete Woolven and Matas Michailovskis, bassist Charlie Smith and drummer Jack Bowdery, had been in similar situations, making music in bands that didn’t provide them with the creative satisfaction they craved. And while it would be great to be able to say their collective efforts gelled immediately after they formed in 2019, that wasn’t the case. In fact, some 30-or-so different styles were explored and abandoned in search of the one that made sense to everyone. Eventually, a demo emerged that Harvey describes as “nu-metal as fuck” and everything fell into place. “Writing after that became so much easier because we knew who we wanted to be,” explains Harvey.
A flurry of exceptional singles followed, before the release of New Skin in February of this year. Produced by George Lever, who’s overseen records from fellow Brit leading lights Loathe and Sleep Token, New Skin saw the band embracing new textures and atmospherics, while Harvey introduced a more melodic dimension to his vocals.
New Skin’s full-length follow up, A Mind Waiting To Die, was made at Lower Lane Studios in Stoke-on-Trent with rising star producer Sam Bloor. Sam’s soaring, sumptuous work with Graphic Nature’s good friends Black Coast had impressed them, but nothing could prepare the five men for the creative synergy that would come from the union. “Sam had so much input in vocal ideas and guitar melodies,” recalls Harvey. “It was such a breath of fresh air to know we weren’t just going in to record the sounds we had in our heads, skipping through from one song to the next, but were going to be constantly pushed to make things bigger, deeper, better.”
The producer’s expectations were matched by the band’s expectations of themselves. Moments before Harvey was due to record his vocals for Into The Dark, for instance, he entered “a weird headspace” and became dissatisfied with the lyrics he had ready. Unprepared to commit anything to posterity that he didn’t entirely believe in, the vocalist asked for a 30-minute break in which he probed deep into his own psyche, to memories of a broken home and fractured relationships, resulting in powerful words appearing on the page in front of him, as if by some divine intervention. “I wrote a word, then within a minute a paragraph appeared, then it was a song,” recalls Harvey. “It came out of nowhere. It’s one of the benefits of having a weird brain.”
The topic of neurodivergence – how some peoples’ brains work differently to others – is explored by the track White Noise. It was inspired by an incident when Harvey met up with some friends but soon found himself totally overloaded and had to remove himself to avoid having a panic attack. “I wrote it on the train home,” explains Harvey, currently waiting for a medical referral for the treatment of his ADHD. “The words came to me as quickly as that sense of being overwhelmed.” The notion of being in a similar situation, with your senses swamped and overloaded, is powerfully conveyed by grating, industrial guitars and mind-bending grooves.
The feral Bad Blood, meanwhile, chronicles the band’s journey so far. Having spent years toiling with little reward, Harvey had begun to wonder when, if ever, his time might come. Its chorus features the lyric ‘<>’, a sentiment the vocalist would often tell himself, on the verge of turning his back on his calling in favour of a ‘normal’ life. The next words, however, are ‘<>’, explaining the narcotic-like draw of the musician’s life. “It’s not that I hate being in a band,” explains Harvey. “It’s that I get frustrated being in one.”
Killing Floor is exceptional not just for the frenzy of its delivery but because it’s the only song on the album that’s not about mental health, or Harvey’s emotional life. The material is no less intense, though, thanks to the dark sense of humour on display. Inspired by the eerie instrumental music he likes to listen to, Harvey began to picture a man sitting in a red room, writing about the suffering he wants to inflict on others. But while this figure might see himself as some misunderstood genius – part Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, part Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker – Harvey was amused by the idea that this aspiring killer is incompetent, much like people can be in their chosen field. “He’s watched too many movies and wants to emulate what he sees in them,” explains Harvey. And unusual lyrical inspirations call for similarly off-kilter instrumentation. “How many metal bands have a fucking didgeridoo sample?” laughs Harvey.
Harvey describes Twisted Fear as “a dark one”, which is cause for concern given how troubling the other subject matter is. “It’s about suicide,” says Harvey. “When you’re at your real lowest points and you feel that’s the only option that you have to get away. It was a tough one to write, as it’s about not wanting to be here anymore. But I still am, so that’s good. I think when people hear it, they’ll be able to speak to me about their feelings, which I implore them to do.”
And that’s what A Mind Waiting To Die is here to do, to bring its authors and their fans closer together, and start a dialogue about the issues that matter. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the debut album that’s going to do that is a raging beast that’s impossible to ignore and even harder to forget. This spells the true emergence of Graphic Nature – a force for good and evil, here to save lives and lay waste to mosh pits.
Graphic Nature Shop
Milton Keynes, UK
Castle Donington, UK