Manic Expressive
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Manic Expressive

Observing the Creature.

There’s been an evolution taking place.

It’s typical of this process to take place gradually and once completed, it can be hard to pinpoint when exactly the change happened. In this case I’ve been watching since the inception, keeping enough distance to go unnoticed while creeping close enough to take a look at the progress. Most people got their first glimpse when a video made its rounds on the internet and television featuring a man, some blow, and what I’ll call “the screech heard ‘round the world”. I sat at home watching what I knew to be an obvious next step in his evolution, and I was no longer alone: we were all observing the creature.

I first met Ethan at the Waiting Room (RIP) in Buffalo. Waiting Room was a venue that specialized in small to medium sized shows, amplifying the sound of a local band or trying it’s best to contain the high energy of a national act. It was the kind of place where the artist walked in the same door you did, and where everyone would rather have a five minute conversation with a musician rather than an autograph. It’s where I rubbed elbows with Stan Lee of the Dickies, Steve Soto of Agent Orange & Adolescents, and New York City’s own hardcore frontman John Joseph. On this particular night, Ethan and I were separately attending a Live Band Karaoke, but were quickly introduced by a common acquaintance. By the time I showed up, the wait for a spot to perform was a few hours long so I hunkered down with another beer and Ethan left early.

A couple of months later I was attending another show at Waiting Room, and while I usually get to shows before doors open, that night I arrived about a half hour past ticket time. When my girlfriend and I walked in, we were greeted by live music, stage lighting, and security. We got our smiley face stamp that says we can drink and we walked into the venue. You could already see that the crowd was gathered up around the stage, and I was honestly impressed by the amount of movement that the opener was getting out of them. A pit formed and it was high energy to say the least. It took me a second to notice that there was nobody on the stage, but there was movement around the circle and the music was definitely live. That’s when I realized that the man with the microphone was in the pit, orchestrating it’s every move. His vibe was contagious and he demanded the crowds’ participation both through the beat and directly with his words. In the age of SoundCloud, Spotify, and digital music streaming, anyone worth .0006 cents per listen can distribute their craft to the masses. Before his set ended, I had a “VoKillz” album queued up for the next day.

Check out my article about music’s journey from analog to digital and back again HERE → https://medium.com/manic-expressive/the-switch-to-vinyl-947b8822f024

The fusion of hip hop and heavy metal isn’t a new idea and among most “metalheads” its a sore subject. Personally, I’m not a fan of gatekeeping: if I like it, I’ll listen to it. The night I first saw VoKillz perform, he opened for bands that also fuse aspects of the two genres. The Browning from Kansas City Missouri features EDM backing tracks along with the vocals and slams that are to expected from a deathcore band. Mushroomhead, hailing from Cleveland Ohio, have been mashing seven string guitar riffs and a rhythmic rap style together since the late 90’s. What Ethan brings to the genre is a new perspective and a whole hell of a lot of energy. Horror themes fill each album and every track is eerie with a sense of heft, creating a sound that exceeds what we’ve come to know as Nu-Metal. He does a solid job of being Ethan and VoKillz simultaneously. Every song is presented by two voices, and while there are points when the voices mirror one another, as time elapses, one of them reveals itself to be the creature: VoKillz is a modern Jekyll and Hyde.

It’s easy to assume that with two forces battling each other, Ethan would find it difficult to choose a direction to go and to promote himself, but that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. VoKillz’ social media pages tease at upcoming releases, promotion of himself and other artists, and collaborations. But if you really want to see what VoKillz is up to, Instagram is the place to look. Every post is uploaded three times, giving him three chances to make his way on to your cluttered feed. VoKillz is chaotic and in your face at his shows, but off stage, a soft spoken Ethan uses these three identical posts to keep his Instagram clean and organized. Even his Instagram bio is short and sweet, featuring words that he consistently uses during promotions, branding himself the creature.

Whether it’s on Tosh.0, Kill Tony Podcast, America’s Got Talent, or American Idol, VoKillz is leaving his mark everywhere he goes. While these — and even local outlets — use condescending tones and backhanded compliments when discussing VoKillz, Ethan seems to take any attention in stride. If he scares you, it means that he’s succeeding. He’s an artist with his sights set on entertaining and interacting with as many people as possible. He intrigues me as an individual and inspires me as a creator. And though it can be easy to cringe or laugh at things that we don’t fully understand, I’m willing to bet that time will show us that the creature is no joke.

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