How Unlikely Friendship Fuels Tetrarch's Rise to Alt-Metal Stardom | Revolver

How Unlikely Friendship Fuels Tetrarch's Rise to Alt-Metal Stardom

Josh Fore and Diamond Rowe look back on hard road to 'Unstable'
tetrarch press 2021 final black, Napalm Records
courtesy of Napalm Records

Revolver has teamed with Tetrarch for an exclusive white vinyl variant of their new album Unstable, limited to100 worldwide. Order yours before they're gone!

Vocalist-guitarist Josh Fore and lead guitarist Diamond Rowe, the core duo behind L.A.-by-way-of-Atlanta metal group Tetrarch, got off to a rocky start. In fact, their friendship almost came literally crashing down within seconds of meeting each other in an English class at their Christian private school in Mableton, Georgia.

"One day I was leaning back in my chair, just relaxing in class. She was at the desk behind me," Fore recalls. "She thought it'd be funny to pull that desk away ... I almost fell backwards and hit my head. I remember looking back, being like, 'Who are you? Why are you doing this?'"

Despite that initial shake-up, the classmates eventually got to know each other pretty well, though their creative partnership similarly almost went up in flames before it even had a chance. Around that time, Rowe was pivoting from listening to pop hits from Britney Spears and the Spice Girls towards the much heavier, guitar-based rock of bands like Nirvana and System of a Down, and when she learned that Fore was likewise a guitarist getting into punk and metal — having even started up a band with a few classmates — she excitedly asked him to jam. But as Rowe puts it, Fore initially brushed her off with a curt, condescending, "Nah, I don't want a girl in the band."

"At the time, I think I might've been a little upset, but I didn't dwell on it," she recalls light-heartedly. "I was going to try and start a band with some girls in my grade who didn't even play instruments. I can tell you now, that didn't work out. It wasn't long before [Josh] made the right decision."

The rightness of that decision is clearer today than ever. Formed in 2007, Tetrarch are now, when Revolver reaches Rowe and Fore, roughly two months out from releasing Unstable, the highly anticipated follow-up to their 2017 debut full-length, Freak. It's also been close to a year since the group, which also includes bassist Ryan Lerner and drummer Ruben Limas, first teased the LP with "I'm Not Right," a catchy-but-caustic post-nu-metal slam that pushes Fore's versatile roll of death growls and viscous melodies to the forefront. The song has gone on to garner over 1.5 million views on YouTube and even breached the Top 30 on Billboard's mainstream rock chart. Though the album, their first with Napalm Records, faced COVID-related delays, Tetrarch are now on the point of a major breakthrough.

Even if both their friendship and musical collaboration got off on the wrong foot, Rowe and Fore's first practice together quickly cemented the bond that's driven Tetrarch ever since. Considering they started out jamming on Metallica tunes, Tetrarch's 2008 EP, Pravda, naturally delivered Big 4-influenced thrashing, with Fore even rasping out his lines James Hetfield-style. To that point, one of Rowe's first guitars was a Kirk Hammett signature ESP; the budding shredder would also clock countless hours at home watching Metallica's classic Live Shit: Binge & Purge concert film. By the time Tetrarch began tearing through the Atlanta club circuit, Rowe was more focused on studying her own band's concert footage, the same way a quarter-back might rewind post-game tapes to look over a few flubbed downs. If Tetrarch wanted to come near the heights of their heavy-metal heroes, Rowe knew the group would have to fine-tune their playbook. 

"We always wanted to be bigger, you know? And where a lot of local bands were very much like, 'Yeah let's play shows with our friends and drink beers all night' — which is awesome — we were always that weird band where we'd record a show and go right home to watch and see what we did wrong. Then we'd practice. ... I think it turned off a lot of bands, because they thought we thought we were better than every-one. That's not true — we just had a goal in mind."

As Tetrarch improved their stage show, picking up bassist Lerner along the way in 2009, they began turning heads in Atlanta while opening up for established acts like Avenged Sevenfold and the Devil Wears Prada. Following a few national tours behind a series of independently released EPs, Fore, Rowe and Lerner relocated to Los Angeles in 2015. It was there that they recruited Limas, who himself had recently moved to California from his native Venezuela. The change of scenery apparently put Rowe in a different creative headspace, first evident when she crafted an eerily grooving death march called "Spit." While Rowe wasn't sure about the song's change of pace, Fore excitedly gassed up his friend to "see this through." The cut ultimately became the backbone of Freak, where Tetrarch scaled back the BPMs of their thrash era in favor of bouncing breakdowns and a hooks-driven heaviness.

If Freak was the first Tetrarch album to foment this dynamism, Unstable only improves on the blueprint. Rhythmic wrecking balls like "Take a Look Inside" have the band offering punishing blows; a digital whammy pedal helps Rowe scream out octave-warping leads above the furious "Negative Noise." The detuned devastation comes paired, however, with a series of earworm choruses akin to peak-period Linkin Park.

Thematically, "I'm Not Right" sees Fore fighting feelings of self-doubt ("Look in the mirror and I hate myself"), while "Sick of You" takes scope of the difficult process of cutting a toxic presence out of your life. As a collaborator, close friend and roommate at their North Hollywood apartment, Rowe has helped Fore through the tough stuff, and vice versa.

tetrarch_credit_jeremysaffer.jpg, Jeremy Saffer
Tetrarch, (clockwise from top left) Ryan Lerner, Diamond Rowe, Ruben Limas and Josh Fore
photograph by Jeremy Saffer

"If [Diamond] doesn't feel like somebody in my life is treating me the way they should, she will tell me straight up, 'Hey, that person is not good. You don't need to deal with them,'" Fore says. "At the same time, she will stand up if somebody's coming at me. She's right there to pop off at them."

That Unstable's emotional workouts arrive as distortion-blasted sing-alongs may also suggest that metal fans can find communion in their inner turmoil. Through music and friends, they may even overcome it. Contrasting some of Unstable's darkest moments, the record's penultimate "Pushed Down" stands as a rallying cry for all the "psychos" and "untouchables" of the world to come together and proudly defy the norm. One could argue that the track speaks to Tetrarch's own journey, which kicked off more than 15 years ago with two metalheads at a Christian academy somewhat begrudgingly became bandmates, and eventually best friends.

"[Josh is] a Cancer, and I'm an Aries, and if you know anything about [astrology], they're complete opposites. They actually say that we should not even be friends," Rowe says with a laugh. "But he balances me out, and I balance him out. There's literally been nothing in my life I've gone through where he wasn't there."