HEALTH, Chino Moreno and Tyler Bates join forces on “ANTI-LIFE”
The DC Comics Dark Nights: Death Metal soundtrack boasts a star-studded lineup of musicians, and the latest offering from HEALTH and Deftones singer Chino Moreno is no exception. The highly anticipated soundtrack, executive-produced by Tyler Bates (Guardians Of The Galaxy, Watchmen, John Wick), is arriving soon. The latest track, “ANTI-LIFE,” will have fans ready to immerse themselves in this multimedia experience.
The soundtrack acts as a companion to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s seven-issue comic series, with the musicians involved—including Mastodon, Chelsea Wolfe, Rise Against and more—taking inspiration from the story’s dark themes. “ANTI-LIFE” sees HEALTH, Moreno and Bates tackling the grim, mysterious world of Batman, which HEALTH member Jake Duzsik says fits his lyrical approach like a glove.
“He doesn't have any superpowers,” Duzsik says. “There's nothing supernatural. He's the world's greatest detective, but he's super sad, and he's an orphan. He's fucking goth. He's super isolated in his caves, and instead of him making an industrial record, he becomes a vigilante because he has more resources. The Batman world is very existential, and that's distinctive of other comic book universes. That pairs well with my proclivities as a lyricist.”
Bates encouraged artists to write their musical contribution based on how the comic resonated with them. Although the producer says the soundtrack presented a challenge in adding another dimension to Snyder and Capullo’s story, it was exciting to see how each musician gave their take on the topic at hand.
“This album was conceptualized before the majority of the music was created,” Bates says. “I had the opportunity to discuss this material with the artists and prompted them to write songs inspired directly from the text or whatever emotion or viewpoint the visual dimension of this series evoked once they had read the material. I find it fascinating to hear how this material inspired each of the artists on the soundtrack through their musical expressions.”
The experimental electronic group’s harsh yet melancholic sound was an ideal match for the aesthetic of Batman’s story, making their approach to “ANTI-LIFE” seamless. Having a love for comic books dating back to their childhoods, the members of HEALTH were easily able to intertwine their styles and personalities with the concept.
“I was into the Image Comics explosion in the ’90s,” HEALTH’s John Famiglietti explains. “That's probably when I was most into comics, but overall, everybody loves Batman. We wanted to be able to reference Batman without having to say Batman or anything like that because you don't want to come across as corny.”
“Everything musically with us needs a minor key and is dark and has this oral space that is very conducive to being paired with the Batman aesthetic world,” Duzsik says. “I realized [when I started] to write lyrics that a lot of [them] could fit into the Batman universe anyway. I think that's part of why that DC world and specifically Batman really appealed to me when I was a kid.”
When Bates was planning which musicians he wanted to work with on the soundtrack, he immediately knew he wanted HEALTH involved. Having worked together previously for the Atomic Blonde soundtrack, he knew they would be a perfect match to his vision and could craft something unique.
“Jake and John are into comics, so I thought it would be a great impetus for us to write a song inspired by this source material,” Bates says. “This was also a great distraction as COVID-19 was in its more nascent stage. John and I masked up and worked together at my studio, while Jake joined us remotely.”
While Bates is mostly acting as a producer for the artists on the soundtrack, HEALTH wanted to make this song more of a collaborative process. After working on last year’s massive collaborative effort DISCO 4 :: PART 1, they’ve developed a passion for writing alongside other musicians in a more involved way and are carrying this mentality forward with a second collaborative album arriving later this year.
“[Bates] has been a great cheerleader of our band and a mentor in a lot of ways,” Duzsik says. “We expressly said to him we had already been going down this road with these collaborative tracks and we didn't want him to just wear a producer's hat. We're co-writing it together. As the song was coming together, the conversation turned to how it'd be really interesting to have another vocalist on this track to have them bring what they would bring to it emotionally.”
HEALTH, as well as their fanbase, according to Famiglietti, are massive fans of Deftones, making it a match made in heaven. When Bates proposed Moreno as the guest vocalist for “ANTI-LIFE,” they were beyond excited. Within days of contacting the singer, they were able to sit back and listen to his take on the track.
“I already knew that Chino is one of HEALTH’s favorite vocalists, so having worked with him before, I sent the track to Chino, and he said he was down to sing on ‘ANTI-LIFE,’ Bates says. “He recorded himself from home and sent me his track within a couple of days. It was exciting for the band and I to hear Chino’s voice in the context of HEALTH’s sound. This was one of the many bright moments during the production of this album.”
Beyond the scope of the soundtrack, Bates is also working on other parts of the Dark Nights: Death Metal multimedia experience. Several of the artists appearing on the soundtrack were tapped for the animated counterpart to the comic: Sonic Metalverse. These connections eventually led to some of the musicians continuing their involvement in the project.
“Knowing that he is a massive Batman fan, I contacted Andy Biersack to voice him in the motion comic,” Bates says. “Andy’s performance and interest in going the distance on all seven episodes is what led to this becoming a series. I then asked Chelsea Wolfe to voice Wonder Woman because she loves DC Comics, hence the song ‘Diana.’”
He decided to try to involve as many of the artists on the soundtrack in the series as possible. Because the project was developed during lockdowns, Bates feels it created a positive creative outlet for the musicians to craft something invigorating at a time when their typical routines were restricted.
“The energy each of the artists put into their music and their voice performances inspired camaraderie and created a concentric point for all of our artists to interact,” Bates says. “Considering the state of isolation that most of us experienced in 2020, this project provided an awesome opportunity to connect and create art with new people, which was healthy and uplifting for everyone involved.”
The passion for DC Comics lore is felt across every moment of the soundtrack and throughout the many revolving parts of the comic series event. As a whole, Dark Nights: Death Metal presents a one-of-a-kind experience for both the artists involved as well as comic and music fans.
“The culture of DC Comics is about storytelling and creative possibilities, and with their support, we as fans created a potent body of work that we are excited to share with true fans of music and comics,” Bates elaborates.