Crabcore Will Never Die: The Rise, Fall and Return of Attack Attack!

Via Attack Attack!
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Attack Attack! is back with their latest ‘Dark Waves’ EP. Check out the tracklist below,  and pre-order it here, which includes an instant download of “Killing for Sport.” 

  1. Dark Waves
  2. KMSTL
  3. Paralyzed (Until We Meet Again)
  4. Killing For Sport
  5. Out Of Time

iTunes, Amazon, Vinyl & CD Pre-orders

It’s a miracle that crabcore worked. 

The term crabcore itself was initially meant to disempower Attack Attack!, mocking what the band was doing in their video for “Stick Stickly.” Critics and gatekeepers did not want a band of synchronized headbangers to win. Yet, the Ohio-based metalcore band was able to persist through the hate, and become one of the scene’s most important acts in the late 2000s and early 10s. 

“The way our entire career started was tantamount to an Evil Knievel stunt,” says longtime drummer and band leader Andrew Wetzel. “I actually calculated the odds of our success once. I would have a better shot at becoming a professional NBA player than I would recreating the success that Attack Attack! had from start to now.”

Attack Attack! was the platonic ideal of Myspace-era metalcore. Their biggest single at the time, “Stick Stickly” on a musical level features: black metal intro chords, sugary autotuned choruses, vague lyrics about doing things right by God, four breakdowns and a dance break. The music video provided the memetic language for crabcore, with guitarist Andrew Whiting leaning deep into a squat as the intensity of a breakdown overtakes him. This, combined with the rest of the band rocking identical matching v-neck shirts and swoop haircuts became a defining moment for the scene. 

In hindsight, it’s easy to point out the influence their songwriting would have on later genres. But at the time of “Stick Stickly’s” release, metal sites and YouTube commenters alike wanted to do everything possible to tear the band apart. The internet of the late 2000s was very hostile to young people daring to write heavier music while not traditionally looking like heavy metal artists. Add Whiting’s deep squat to that and thus the “crabcore” diss was born. Almost as quickly as the diss arose, the band made it into their identity. 

“I remember the day that we heard the crabcore thing, it was definitely a dig,” Wetzel says. “A week later we had it on shirts. We thought the term was brilliant. We just ran with it, we merchandised and we broadcasted it. Somebody was being an asshole and they unintentionally handed us our inside joke with our fan base, which is never gonna go away. So whoever you are, thanks. Thanks for being a jerk.”

On some level, it seemed like Andrew Wetzel was born to be a musician. His grandfather, Dr. Richard D. Wetzel ran Ohio University’s music program and was an accomplished composer. On his mom’s side, every member of his family played an instrument, including his classically-trained pianist grandmother, classically trained singer and voice instructor uncle as well as his mother, a multi-instrumentalist in her own right. At age nine, Wetzel’s mother pushed him to choose an instrument, and after a brief stint playing piano found that drums were his calling. 

As Wetzel improved, he noticed many of his peers joining bands and writing music. Wanting to start one himself, it was kismet when he met guitarist Andrew Whiting. Wetzel first met him at a house party, where he watched Whiting perform in a band, where he strung multiple delay pedals together in an impressive showing. Whiting “has a certain intensity about him. It really adds to this sort of mystery factor. But he’s kind of reclusive,” Wetzel says.

Wetzel and Whiting quickly became friends. Driving around in Wetzel’s 1990 Honda Accord, the two of them talked music and favorite bands. They quickly started a band together, which soon became Attack Attack!. Jam sessions between the duo gestated into the band’s earliest material, which brought in their first bandmates and collaborators. That first incarnation included then-keyboardist Caleb Shomo, who was 14 at the time, and singer Austin Carlile. 

Despite their youth, they soon found themselves touring the country, the oldest among them being 19. “It still gives me anxiety that you could just set a bunch of literal teenagers loose on the entire country,” Wetzel says. “I mean, our first tour was like 13 weeks long, because we did part of the Rise Records tour opening for Emarosa.” Thankfully, none of them ever got into partying at this age and stayed very focused on keeping the band going and touring. 

“I couldn’t even find four hours of fucking sleep on any given day,” Wetzel says. “That was everybody, for the most part, just sitting around smoking cigarettes and drinking Java Monster, driving all night. Showering every ten days, it was just absolutely brutal in the beginning. If I had to try to do that now, I would probably just die.” 

Early on, Wetzel also found himself the band’s manager. Chalking it up to wanting to know how things work, he was quickly enmeshed in the band’s business dealing. “Everything about the band is interesting to me. Right away, when it came down to who’s going to tour manage, who’s going to figure all this stuff out, I wanted to do that, and nobody else did. You volunteer to do one thing and then the next thing you know, it’s like a whole can of worms.” 

One of those first big business decisions was removing Austin Carlile from the band. It would be the first of many lineup changes the band would endure, as they quickly enlisted singer Nick Barham to replace Carlile as frontman. This lineup change didn’t seem to stop the band’s momentum, as they very quickly found themselves enjoying the success of their debut record Someday Came Suddenly, as they continued to tour hard. 

After a very successful Warped Tour for the band, Barham wound up leaving the lineup, which lead to then-keyboardist Caleb Shomo taking over as lead singer for the group, as they wrote and released their follow-up self-titled album. Under Shomo, the band hit its apex, and him coming into his own as a charismatic and magnetic frontman for the group. 

The band’s influence began to metastasize in the rest of metalcore as a whole around this time, too. Though Attack Attack! took influence from acts like The Devil Wears Prada who incorporated synthesizers into metalcore, the quirkiness and style of AA! was something unique to them that multiple bands latched onto. Whether it was the early days of Asking Alexandria or one of the many flash-in-the-pan groups taking the playbook Attack Attack! had written, the crab squat and synth breakdowns became the visual and musical language of metalcore at the time.  

In a desire to move outside of this bubble, the band wrote This Means War, a mostly synth-free departure from previous material. In retrospect, the album sounds closer to a dry run for Shomo’s future band Beartooth than an Attack Attack! album. Soon after, the band imploded, and despite enjoying major successes, conflicts between one another mounted up quickly. 

“It was a total just implosion on all fronts,” Wetzel said. “Years of stress cracks became fissures between interpersonal business relationships. We went through a bunch of different managers. We got older and we began to realize that we may or may not have been taken on a bit of a ride here. There’s always the question of was it malicious? Was it negligence?

“We looked at how much fucking money the band made, then that gets framed in the context of what you personally feel like you’ve sacrificed up to that point, how many of your relationships have imploded? How many of your friendships have disappeared? How many birthdays and funerals and weddings have you missed? Then any issue that you have with your band members goes to 100, and it was just a very spectacular explosion.”

At the end of 2012, Shomo left the band. Though Wetzel and co. scrambled to keep things afloat with the addition of new singer Phil Druyor, Attack Attack called it quits in mid-2013. This was just the beginning of Wetzel’s problems, unfortunately. As the main signer for the band’s finances, Wetzel had to deal with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts related to Attack Attack’s expenses, including merchandise production, studio rentals, tour costs and more. 

Debt lead Wetzel to have to sell his house and move back in with his parents. “I lived there for six years to clean this mess up,” Wetzel says. “In the first four months of that entire thing kind of imploding. I didn’t talk to anybody. I mean, literally, for four months, I just sat in my bedroom and did nothing. I had to think about everything that happened, and just try to get the whole thing straight before I could figure out what my next move was. It was a bad feeling. That was easily the worst time of my entire life.

“It took me like five years to clean all that shit up, just me sending certified mail and angry emails and phone calls. I definitely felt not good about it, after all of that I’m the one that has to deal with everything. But then I remembered that I volunteered to be this guy. So it’s largely my fault that that happened.” 

Looking back on all of the financial stressors the band underwent, Wetzel reflects, saying, “Do I think that the band members were compensated fairly given what actually has to go into being a band? No. But now I’m operating my own record label, I have a much greater knowledge of the operations of how this all works. Ultimately, we signed the deal. As an artist, I think it’s shitty. But also at the same time, I signed my name. You also have management, record labels, merch, and companies with employees. They have to get paid too.” 

One of the bright spots of the end was Wetzel starting Oxide Records, and later in the 2010s the band Nine Shrines. It was this new band that introduced Wetzel to singer Chris Parketny, who wound up fronting the newly-formed act. A Cleveland kid, Parketny wound up catching Attack Attack perform at local venue Peabody’s, and found himself a fan. 

“Man, this band, they really had something special,” Parketny says. “They kind of took this whole show by the horns. It was amazing to watch because these kids were my age, and I’m still in high school. Watching these kids that were the same age as me or even younger, that’s what I wanted to do.” 

Parketny got hooked up with Wetzel in 2014, and soon the band began writing material for Nine Shrines. Their music landed somewhere in the venn diagram between metalcore and active rock, and helped gel the crew together in their songwriting. It was a chance for Wetzel to have fun with music again. “We were like five cartoon characters touring together,” Parketny laughs. Though Nine Shrines never reached the heights the members wished it would, it got Wetzel back to the idea of performing full-time. Eventually, Whiting, having been estranged from Wetzel for years, reached out to see if he’d be interested in reforming Attack Attack. The move made sense, and thus Attack Attack reformed at the beginning of 2020. 

“It was a little nerve-wracking at the beginning,” Parketny says, now the frontman for the new incarnation of Attack Attack!. “There’s definitely some shoes to fill here. Growing up listening to a band and then somehow getting involved, even if it is 10 years or so in the future, definitely put me a little on the nervous side. Once it launched, we weeded out all the people who were complaining, or we picked them up as fans, then it’s just been fun ever since. Now there’s nothing to be nervous about anymore. Now, it’s just about me, trying to put my stamp on what I think Attack Attack should sound like.” 

Everything the group has worked on sounds like a natural progression of what the band has been up to this point. Their latest material, the Dark Waves EP builds on the chunky metalcore sound they cut their teeth on with a far improved focus on songwriting. Title track “Dark Waves” is an all-out crusher, Parketny easily bouncing between screams and cleans that rival anyone who ever fronted the group. It does justice to their earlier material while pushing their work forward in a significant way. It’s serious without becoming humorless, calling to mind the heights of their self-titled and debut alike, all in a cleanly written new form. It’s not a stretch to say the band sounds the best they have in a long time, and this new incarnation is making up massively for lost time.

Despite all of the trials and tribulations he’s endured up to this point, Wetzel is hungrier now for the band to succeed than he’s ever been in his career. 

“Now I know how big the pie is,” Wetzel says. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. And I’ve spent a huge amount of time, I have so many great resources. I want to be able to take that knowledge and to use it to make what we do easier to make it more profitable to make it more fun. I want this band to continue to be what it should be, which is the fun outlet for us to find an outlet for other people. The better we can be at that, the more people we can serve, the more we can focus on it. 

“I want to do absurd things. I want to see what all is out there for this stupid band. This band doesn’t have limits. Any limits are self-imposed. So the more we can break those down, the better.”

Be it critics, or nonbelievers: crabcore can never die, and neither can Attack Attack! 

Catch the band on tour here