Rocking out with the forces of evil

Henry Smyth was a simple man. He’d often spend long days out in his shop, toiling over a steaming forge, creating horseshoes, armour, weapons and other accoutrements requiring the hand of a master blacksmith. One day, the devil, disguised as a goat named Mendes, approached Henry and asked him to make some goat shoes. Clever Henry, sensing that something was amiss with a talking goat, made the shoes, but made them far too small, such that the devil was uncomfortable and grumpy whenever he wore them. This ancient-sounding contemporary myth was concocted by the local bluesrock band Bluessmyth to explain their name.

“Our self-titled song, called ‘Bluessmyth’ is a nine-minute epic that’s kind of our story,” says Chris Yaholkoski, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter for Bluessmyth. “It’s about the character we created, Henry Smyth, and how he outsmarts the devil. Henry’s not a saint, right? He’s kind of on the fence, but he’s not going to go down that road. He’s not going to be tempted by the evils of the flesh.”

The devil’s temptation of the presumably unmarried Henry is indicative of the modus operandi for the group’s latest, self-titled album. Rather than risk inaccessibility with an outlandish concept or ill-defined genre, Blussmyth has decided to tell stories in the album’s songs, spanning themes absolutely everyone can relate to: trying to find your place in the world, good, evil and injustice, to name a few.

“The MO is just to get the story out, and y’know, hopefully people will listen to it,” says Yaholkoski. “Hopefully they’ll be as interested as I am. The music has to help tell the story, so you’ve got to have emotions in the music. I don’t know where you are in your life, right? The place where you are in your life. Or even where the world is or what’s happening–it’s kind of symbolic of what we’re doing.”

On top of their other progressive themes, Bluessmyth has included songs dealing with racism and suicide. Sure, these themes have been dealt with by many other bands, but Yaholkoski insists that the Bluessmyth spin is not to be missed. Like many writers, the new, darker, storytelling is born of Yaholkoski’s love of reading, and the influences he found in books.

“I try to stay positive,” asserts Yaholkoski. “I read a lot of true crime, like all that stuff about serial killers. Really dark stuff like cannibalism and all that. I’m reading about the BTK guy in Wichita right now–bind, torture, kill. [Our music is about] taking those influences and redirecting them, taking them somewhere else.”

Apart from his literary influences, he cites Black Sabbath and Greg Allman as having a profound impact on the sound of Bluessmyth. While most bands would stop there, Yaholkoski also credits his hard-rocking blues style to one other source: the forces of darkness.

“I think that’s me becoming more evil,” ponders Yaholkoski. “It was just an evolution in a way of thinking about things. Being good is so boring.”

A handful of Aesop fables and a pinch of pure, elemental evil–a recipe for Bluesmyth. The tale of Henry Smyth culminates the band’s diverse set of influences, a representation of the challenges the band faced on their way to relative success. The moral? Stay the hell away from talking goats.

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