‘Art speaks when words fail’: Cleveland metal band Pillärs to release political album ‘Failed State’

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland metal band Pillärs digs into world events on its latest album “Failed State.” On the opening track “War and Plague,” singer-guitarist Zach Germaniuk growls out the very first lines:

“You want us to forget all that we have seen, all that we have witnessed. We see your hollow eyes in this nightmare world that you have created.”

That’s just the first 60 seconds. The eight-track album shows the same relentlessness, featuring songs inspired by political and social events of the past two years.

“We’re not going to pretend that this isn’t a part of our memory or our history that we have to confront and deal with,” Germaniuk said in a phone interview with and The Plain Dealer. “I’ve always come up in the hardcore-punk attitude of really taking inspiration from current events. And, oh boy, between 2020 and 2021, there were certainly some pretty dire things that happened.”

“Failed State” arrives on Friday, June 10, and is available for preorder on Bandcamp.

Tracks explore everything from the pandemic to the police killing of George Floyd, to the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection. The cover of the album, inspired by a dream Germaniuk had, features a version of the Capitol building, except instead of a dome and stone pillars, dozens of skulls topple down over a red-and-black background.

“Failed State” by Pillars.

The band’s lineup has undergone some changes in the past few years. Now, the group consists of Germaniuk, drummer Chadd Beverlin and bassist Louis Knight.

Germaniuk said that the band’s new iteration originated back in 2018. At the time, Pillärs was wrapping up its 2018 tour and had one final show to play at Buzzbin in Canton.

But then, Germaniuk said he got a frantic call from his mother, who told him that his father had serious complications during surgery.

“I got a really frantic phone call from my mom saying, ‘Look, I know you’re on tour, but it doesn’t look like your dad’s going to make it,’” Germaniuk said. “As soon as I got that call, I just hopped in the van and drove right up to Cleveland. I was actually in the hospital room for my dad’s last couple of hours on earth.”

Germaniuk’s experience of losing his father is reflected in the Pillärs song “Empty Space,” offering an introspective, personal look at grief:

“There’s an empty space in my soul, and it grows, it grows,” Germaniuk screams over doomy guitar riffs.

After losing his dad, Germaniuk said he found himself in a dark place.

“That moment really was a turning point in my life. I really went down a dark spiral. I could see myself kind of losing it,” Germaniuk said. “I’m really thankful I had some good friends that really helped pick me up, out of that. Those guys are in the band now.”

The three recorded “Failed State” during the pandemic, and are now on a coast-to-coast tour of the United States supporting the release. Pillärs is set to arrive at the Grog Shop on Friday, June 10, supporting Primitive Man, Mortiferum, Body Void and Elizabeth Colour Wheel. Pillärs will be the first performer of the night.

“These are some pretty intense times that we’re all going through. The best way to get through them is to try and find ways to come together. Music and the music community is a really great way, a great starting point for that,” Germaniuk said. “We just encourage folks to go to shows, even if it’s your first time or if you don’t know the bands playing, just go.”

The musician said that he hopes the concertgoing experience, and the album itself, can provide a form of release for listeners.

“There’s this phrase that we have: ‘Art speaks when words fail,’” Germaniuk said. “[’Failed State’] is really touching on everything that all of us have been living through over the last two years. In some ways, it’s really that kind of catharsis that’s helped me to heal and to grow, and to just find the will to keep going.”

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