Rich Howells

VIDEO: Pottsville’s Crobot singer joins Anthrax, Testament, and Suicidal Tendencies members for Rush cover

VIDEO: Pottsville’s Crobot singer joins Anthrax, Testament, and Suicidal Tendencies members for Rush cover
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The coronavirus pandemic has forced musicians to get creative while in quarantine, leading to some fun online collaborations that may not have happened otherwise. Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante has been teaming up with some of his heavy metal friends to record videos for his YouTube channel, with everyone participating safely from home.

Some of those videos include Rush cover songs with Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick and Suicidal Tendencies bassist Roberto “Ra” Diaz. Their latest rendition of “Freewill” needed a great vocalist with a wide range to pull it off, so they turned to Brandon Yeagley, singer of Pottsville groove rock band Crobot.

“Dear friends – once again, the three of us (Alex, Ra, and myself) were completely knocked out by the responses to our latest video. As if your appreciation of the music wasn’t enough, it’s been humbling to hear from so many of you who’ve let us know how much this has been helping during this difficult period of quarantine and isolation. This brings us to the following conclusion: ‘We can’t stop now, can we?'” Benante said in the video description.

“Here is our follow-up – ‘Freewill.’ ‘Freewill’ is about thinking for yourself, accepting difficult truths, and avoiding superstition, magical thinking, and herd mentality (most pertinent during these times). We now have a Rush trilogy. When we ‘made a choice’ (as the song says) to take on this tune, we had a new challenge on our hands; our previous two (“YYZ” and “La Villa Strangiato”) are both instrumental and doing this one would require a vocalist who is up to the task (sadly that excludes the three of us). Fortunately, we know just the guy. On vocals, we proudly present Brandon Yeagley of Crobot.

“In addition to Neil Peart (the great Rush drummer and composer of these lyrics, whom we lost in January), this song is dedicated to John Horton Conway, genius mathematician who recently left us due to COVID-19, whose influence extended beyond mathematical circles, including artists (such as musician/producer Brian Eno), software developers, game makers, etc. and whose achievements include a personal favorite entitled ‘Free Will Theorem.'”

After signing with Mascot Label Group, Crobot released their third full-length studio album, “Motherbrain,” on Aug. 23, 2019, continuing to produce their classic hard rock sound that landed them two albums on Wind-up Records, national tours and festivals, and the respect of well-known musicians like these.

A press release published last year describes the Schuylkill County group’s journey to that point:

Like food of the gods, rock ‘n’ roll nourishes the soul. Offering holy communion, Crobot proudly personify a trinity of “meat, strings, and emotion” within their music and during the raucous and raging gigs they remain known for. Striking a delicate balance between hard-charging riffs, ass-shaking funk, and out-of-this-world reflective stage attire, the Pottsville, Pennsylvania group – Brandon Yeagley (lead vocals, harmonica), Chris Bishop (guitar, vocals), and Dan Ryan (drums) – satisfy starvation for sonic sustenance on their third full-length and 2019 debut for Mascot Records, “Motherbrain.” James Lascu and Eddie Collins share the role of touring bassist for Crobot.

“When we were making the record, it was all about ‘meat, strings, and emotion’,” Bishop affirms. “It explains the thought process. We’d usually start the day with chicken biscuits from Chick-fil-A. Obviously, I would play the strings. The emotion comes from the sheer power of me playing.”

“It had nothing to do with the chicken biscuits,” Yeagley laughs.

Regardless, Crobot continue to fill a void. Since emerging in 2011, the band has quietly cemented themselves among the rising rock vanguard. Following the 2012 debut EP “Legend of the Spaceborne Killer” and 2014’s “Something Supernatural,” the musicians made waves with “Welcome to Fat City” in 2016. Consequence of Sound praised the title track as “a stomping slice of doom,” and Classic Rock bestowed a coveted 4-out-of-5 star rating on the album, going on to claim, “‘Welcome to Fat City’ is a mighty leap forward for Crobot, an ebullient masterclass.” Not to mention, they received acclaim from AXS, New Noise Magazine, and more as total album streams surpassed the one million mark. Along the way, Crobot toured with the likes of Anthrax, Clutch, Black Label Society, Volbeat, Chevelle, Motorhead, The Sword, and more in addition to appearing on ShipRocked and at numerous other festivals.

During late 2017, the boys started to write what would become “Motherbrain.” Signing to Mascot Records, the group went from writing at Bishop’s spot in Austin, Texas to Marietta, Georgia, where they holed up in the studio with Corey Lowery (Seether, Sevendust, Saint Asonia, Stereomud) for a month. The producer’s direction to embrace the dark side took life while Yeagley delivered some of the most emotive recordings Crobot has delivered to date.

“I think it’s a much darker record, musically, lyrically, and thematically,” the frontman says. “It’s some of the heaviest material we’ve ever done, but it’s also some of the funkiest. We’re widening the Crobot spectrum even more. It’s the catchiest too. It’s less about wizards and dragons and more about everyday turmoil and the struggles of life. Corey made it digestible and appealing for not just dudes with beards or chicks with dicks.”

They heralded the record with the rabble-rousing “Keep Me Down.” Meanwhile, the first single “Low Life” shows the scope of this expanded palette. Featuring chunky guitars and a howling hook, it sees the band co-write with Johnny Andrews and deliver a bold banger.

“It’s a song we never would’ve written by ourselves,” Bishop continues. “That makes it cool. It took us out of our comfort zone.” “It’s an anthem about this outside perspective on the definition of a lowlife,” Yeagley explains. “There’s a misconception that being a touring musician without a lot of money makes you a lowlife, but how is that really any different from the rest of the world? And, if that does make you a lowlife, we’re OK with it!”

Co-written by Brian Vodinh of 10 Years, “Burn” nods to “the power of Stone Temple Pilot’s ‘Dead and Bloated’” and siphons it through “a Crobot filter.” Elsewhere, “Drown” tempers a muscular groove with a magnetic melody, while the “funkiest song” of the bunch, “Alpha Dawg,” pays homage to a “funky werewolf mofo” inspired by “Teen Wolf.” Then there’s “Stoning the Devil.” So catchy it might be Satanic, the tune flips tradition upside down.

“I wanted a different spin on the act of stoning the devil,” Yeagley states. “Muslims take a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to throw stones at these pillars. The act is supposed to ward off evil spirits and cleanse one’s soul. It’s a different culture for the devil’s storyline in our genre.”

In the end, “meat, strings, and emotion” might just be what rock ‘n’ roll needs in 2019 and beyond.

“When people hear this, I hope they say, ‘Yeah, that’s Crobot,’” the singer leaves off. “We want to maintain our identity from record to record. We always want to be genuine. It’s going to evolve, but it will always be Crobot.”