DVC’s “Father of Deathcore” Returns to the Spotlight

Dr. Nicholas Vasallo.

Dr. Nicholas Vasallo.

Forming a band with a group of friends seems to happen often enough, but how many of those groups actually create new genres of music? Dr. Nicholas Vasallo has done just that, pioneering the sound of “deathcore” with the Bay Area band Antagony, which he co-founded nearly a quarter of a century ago with three other musicians who, like him, graduated from Diablo Valley College.

A Bay Area native and certified martial artist, Vasallo began his formal music training at DVC, studied composition at Cal State East Bay, and finished his doctorate in music composition at UC Santa Cruz. Currently DVC’s director of music industry studies, Vasallo will release a new solo album on Mar. 18 entitled Apophany, which fuses metal and classical music.

Independent music label Neuma Records describes Apophany as a collection of varied orchestral and chamber works “seared to the bone with a metal edge…[which] strikes with precision [befitting of a martial artist].”

Apophany – which spans 80 minutes, the maximum duration possible on a CD – represents the culmination of 10 years of music composed, produced, recorded, edited, mixed, and mastered by Vasallo. In an email to The Inquirer, Vasallo said Apophany would be nominated for a Grammy later this year.

The album follows Vasallo’s 2012 release of the album Monuments Emerge. According to a press release by Neuma Records, the inspiration for the title is “apophenia,” defined as the “connection of seemingly unrelated things.” Apophany is the latest effort by Vasallo to hybridize extreme metal with modern classical music.

Dr. Nicholas Vasallo’s latest album blends musical genres to create “a journey.”

He described the Apophany listening experience as “a journey from one end of the genre spectrum to the other; one that starts in the orchestral realm and ends in a post-thrash metal concerto.”

Image courtesy of Earsplit Compound.

“To fully experience the journey, one must isolate themselves in a place without distractions. When you arrive,” Vasallo said, “it feels like you’re back but you’re in another dimension.”

According to Vasallo, the project began with a painting created by his friend, Claudatte Snyder, which inspired him and sparked the creative process that would evolve into Apophany. Vasallo said Snyder’s ability to find structure amidst chaos reminded him of his work; her painting now serves as the cover art for Apophany.

For Vasallo, the underlying message of his music is that connections can exist between any manner of things.

“I make musical connections to non-musical things all the time,” he said. “It’s very subjective, and that is the point of Apophany.”