Water Into BloodBecome the Disease album art

Words by Adam Hudson

Some people say that rock music is dead, but it’s still being kept alive in underground circles in the Bay Area. One of those bands is heavy metal band Water Into Blood.

Hailing from Sonoma County, Water Into Blood has a groovy, post-metal and hardcore sound reminiscent of bands like Crowbar or Converge. If you’re looking for heavy metal in the Bay Area, Water Into Blood is worth checking out.

The band was formed by lead guitarist Brandon McCubbin and his brother Michael “some time between 2010-2011,” according to Brandon, so they’ve been around for 8 to 9 years. Brandon said the band went “through two name changes. We were originally called Hello Darkness. And then in 2012, changed our name to A Sun That Never Sets.” Their first full length album, Solaromancy, was released under the latter name. Then in 2014, “we settled with our current name Water Into Blood,” says Brandon. The current lineup is Litten Alley on vocals, Brandon McCubbin on guitar, Jon Bush on drums, and Jared Marill on bass guitar.

McCubbin says the band’s influences range from “jazz to classical to death metal to hardcore.” You can hear the classical influence on songs like “Animal Style” from their second, self-titled album, which features Lewis Patzner on cello. As for himself, his biggest influences are “Converge, Deftones, the Ocean, and ‘90s death metal/90s hardcore.”

Solaromancy, released in 2013 under their previous name, was “a very fun album to make,” says McCubbin. He and his brother Michael “pretty much wrote the entire thing in our mom’s garage. But it was written at two separate times over the course of two years.” Because of that, the album is split between the metalcore and groove metal that he first got into and the hardcore/post-metal sound that the band has been developing. “Half of the album was really inspired by metalcore and groove metal, which is how I sort of came up with riffs when I first started writing music. The other half was written later and that was geared more towards a raw hardcore/post metal sound, which I feel I have continued to develop ever since,” he says. This is the only album his brother, Michael, played drums on and before Jon Bush became their current drummer. It was also their first time in a professional studio. McCubbin said he was nervous going into a professional studio for the first time but it was also “a huge learning experience,” he says, and “a lot of fun.”

Their second album is darker than Solaromancy — delving deeper into post-metal and shedding the metalcore sound. This is also when Jon Bush joined the band as their drummer. Bush helping the band write songs “made a huge difference,” says McCubbin, even influencing “the way I wrote the songs on this album.” Brandon and Michael McCubbin did vocals for every song on the album, along with Litten Alley.

“Waves,” the fourth song on Water Into Blood, is a good example of the band delving into post-metal. The first third of the song has laid-back drums, calm bass and guitar, and a cello that puts you into a trance. Then Brandon’s guitar raises the intensity with a distorted, chugging riff. Through the rest of the song, there’s a back-and-forth between the chugging guitar and the cello. The song has a nice balance between heavy guitar, metal screaming vocals, and a cello. There’s tension in the song, but that’s what makes it interesting.

However, their latest album, 2018's Become The Disease, is their “heaviest, angriest, most polished album to date,” according to McCubbin. He said, “This album I feel captures everything I've been trying to convey in my music since day one. In addition to guitars/bass, I did vocals on every song on this album.” The album has “a lot of raw emotion,” says Brandon, containing some of the most personal songs he’s ever written. His brother, Michael, was gone during the album’s recording process since he moved to Oregon and took a hiatus from the band.

Brandon’s right: Become The Disease is a high-octane rush from start to end. The opener, “Bitter End,” punches you right in the face with head-bobbing crunchy guitar and bass, pounding, piston-like drums, and screaming vocals, setting the tone for the rest of the album. Even on a song like “Kalopsia. Malison. Threnody” that has violin and cello, the adrenaline is still high. The violin and cello serve as a musical counterpoint, providing classical melody that complements the bone-crushing guitar and bass.

On Solaromancy, the band was just figuring out its sound, and began dipping their toes deeper into the post-metal pool in their self-titled album but it still had mellower moments. Become The Disease, however, is consistently aggressive with a hardcore, post-metal sound wrapped in a more focused and cohesive package. The band’s taste for classical melody is still there but it enhances, rather than detracts from, the heavy sound. It’s the album where Water Into Blood’s post-metal and hardcore sound truly comes into fruition. According to McCubbin, “The latest album sort of marks a new chapter. I feel it is our heaviest and darkest album to date. I think it is the best representation of what we are capable of.”

Adam Hudson is a freelance journalist and writer who typically covers Guantanamo, U.S. militarism, policing, and housing/gentrification. His work has appeared in numerous outlets, such as Truthout, The Nation, AlterNet, and teleSUR English. He's also a musician who plays drums in a rock band called Sunata, jams at open mics, and loves going to live music shows.