Seriously, how did I just discover these guys 10 years after they called it quits? I dug into the Heavy Blog archives and found a single mention of Lye By Mistake: an honorable mention on a Top 10 Instrumentals of the Last 10 Years post that was published nearly a decade ago. I only discovered them when I bought a couple of Good Tiger CDs and stumbled upon LBM’s album Fea Jur (2009) while sifting through Metal Blade’s clearance section to fill out my shopping cart. Once again, great cover art led me to another successful blind purchase.
It’s not like Lye By Mistake flew totally under the radar during their heyday, either. They were signed to Guy Kozowyk’s label and toured with BTBAM post-Colors. Maybe they were lost in the shuffle of late-2000s instrumental prog bands, which was pretty stacked now that I think about it: Animals As Leaders, Chimp Spanner, Cloudkicker, Scale the Summit, etc. Regardless, I’m here to tell you that the band deserves a great deal more praise than it appears the metal community has awarded them, particularly Fea Jur. Long before the Polyphia clones of the world made prog fusion what it is today (for better or worse), Lye By Mistake crafted an exceptional, technical blend of prog, mathcore, and jazz that manifested in a monstrous swansong.
Arrangements for Fulminating Voices
The decision to become an instrumental band was actually an accident, more or less. After a self-released EP, Lye By Mistake debuted with some scorching, jazzy mathcore on Arrangements for Fulminating Vective (2006). While the easy comparison for this style is Dillinger, the album actually gives me major Psyopus vibes. The album is a bit more rooted in conventional, metallic matchore qualities tha the total unhinged approach of the broader noisecore and sasscore scenes. But overall, Lye By Mistake’s debut exhibits plenty of experimental flourishes and odd genre splashes in a way that more “traditional” mathcore bands avoided.
A couple years later, the band’s vocalist left the band — and they didn’t replace him. I emphasize this point because of how unusual it is, given the obvious compositional differences between music with and without vocals. That feels like an obvious statement (and it is), but think about how some of your favorite bands would have to adjust if they were forced to either drop their vocalist or recruit someone to fit into their sound. Earth is one of my favorite instrumental bands, and the way they tried to implement vocals on Primitive and Deadly (2014) totally changed the tone of their music and didn’t work for me at all. On the flipside, there’s a reason instrumental hip-hop is it’s own dedicated subgenre within wrap; there’s an art to the beats J Dilla and Nujabees produced that you don’t experience from simply listening to normal rap songs without any rhymes.
With all that in mind, Lye By Mistake decided to record Fea Jur as an instrumental group, and it resulted in the defining moment of their brief career.
Invincible Bad Asses
Fea Jur is a prog fusion masterclass, and not in the contemporary understanding of the style. Nowadays that genre tag has taken on a life of its own, but Lye By Mistake execute it as literally as possible on their sophomore album. This is an incredibly seamless marriage between the sonic scope of prog metal and technical prowess of jazz fusion, with math and avant-garde elements thrown into the mix as well. And as I alluded to above, the lack of a vocalist clearly helped the band open up their sound and flex their songwriting muscles. There are certainly bands in this scene that have incorporated vocals successfully; Intronaut comes to mind. But there’s something about stripping away the intense, fast-paced vocal style from their mathcore roots that helped unveil the insane musicianship underneath.
Instead of easing into their newfound instrumental approach, the band erupts right out of the gates on “Big Red Button.” The track has the ingenuity and technical prowess of a jazz fusion group amplified with the intensity of math and prog metal. They pack an insane number of ideas in a 4-minute opener, and it sets an enthralling tone for what’s to come. “The Condition” is a calmer, more melodic take on this formula; in some stretches it feels like a precursor to what T.R.A.M. did a few years later on Lingua Franca (reminder that album slaps). There’s even some vocoder-driven Cynic-isms throughout the track for good measure. Then we arrive at the album’s centerpiece, “Invincible Bad Ass.” The track is much more inline with the aforementioned instrumental metal acts that drew attention in the late 2000s, with a driving, djenty groove providing the backbone for some proggy shredding.
The rest of the album continues along this trajectory, but I want to jump ahead and close with “”Money Eating Mary (Karaoke Remix).” This is the exact kind of closing track you expect from a great prog metal album: an epic, 10+ minute finale that summarizes all the best ideas in the previous songs. Off-kilter math riffs collide with staccato grooves, and of course, guitar solos fly back and forth overhead. There’s even a quasi-flamenco section that breaks out in the midsection. It’s exactly what I hoped to hear as Fea Jur started winding down, and while I highly recommend listening to the album in full, this is the one essential track I highly recommend spinning.
But again, every prog fan should eagerly add this album to their rotation. I’m disappointed Lye By Mistake evaded my attention for the last several years, and it’s the least I can do now to help others avoid the same fate any longer. Fea Jur is one of those records that has something for everyone. The appeal for prog and/or metal fans is obvious, and jazz fans dubious of metal will likely enjoy themselves as well. Even metalcore fans might appreciate the mathy elements that the band carried over from their debut. Whatever your musical persuasions might be, do yourself a favor and give Ly By Mistake a shot.