"We have already begun writing another album as we speak and we will be more active than we have ever been previously."
You might not be forgiven if you happen to forget that beneath the leviathans of Slipknot, 5FDP, Trivium, Metallica and the other greats of the American metal scene, are underground hotbeds producing the newest and exciting bands to lead the country and bear the flag. One such band is Pathways, whose journey from the Sunshine State aka Florida to the Pacific coast of Washington State has culminated in not only new recruits, but newfound vigour.
"Great Old Ones" is the quartet's newest single and is just one glimpse of what the lads have up their sleeves as they barrow towards their debut album seeing daylight. The lads managed to survive our interview interrogation and whilst they spilled their guts out about the challenges of playing live shows, why their sound is a cauldron of different sounds that make them extraordinarily hard to pigeonhole, how Washington state coped with the COVID-19 pandemic and what their plans are for the year ahead.
For those who have not heard of Pathways, could you please tell us how the band came about and what the band name means?
"Our last major release was in 2016, with a 5 song EP titled “Dies Irae”, released through Tragic Hero Records. Since then, our world has utterly changed in a progressive and exciting way. At the time, both Wil & I (Jon) lived in south Florida. Eventually circumstances led us out here to the Pacific North-West (PNW), where we really decided to seek out our musical identity (as a band). We knew the exact sound that needed to be achieved, and in order to do this properly, we needed help from other / newer members.
We spoke with the CEO of Tragic and we were able to release our contract from the label, parted ways with previous members, and as luck would have it - our search concluded with Caner and Kyle. With the new line-up solidified, we immediately wrote our first ever full-length album, and a separate single (Great Old Ones). The single serves as a catalyst to kick off the fresh sound and active condition of the band. The band has a specific sound in mind, and achieving it would take many different dynamics to come together - Pathways is a way of achieving an action, within multiple avenues (us as a collective)."
You play progressive metalcore and utilise 8 strings and classical influences, please discuss the decisions behind the two influences?
"We have always had a strong classical influence. Our identity has been shaped from having neo-classical metalcore / deathcore elements, to just being strictly metal now. The older tunes were designed with an aggressive and chaotic foundation, while the current work is focused on groove and purposeful melodies, while of course, maintaining that classical ominous vibe. We couldn’t be happier with how the sound has been defined. It took a long time to reach this exact point of musical maturity, but the wait will be worth every moment passed (especially for the fans)."
Each musician has their own influences, where does your influences come from and how do they fit in with Pathways sound?
"An extremely diverse musical pallet is on the table with the new Pathways line-up. Jon went to Musicians Institute in L.A. for 2 years and is classically trained. Wil has strong r&b and pop / hip-hop ties, which he incorporates into the pocket grooves of the music. Caner is all over the place with influences, but in a brilliant & diverse way. He has influences that stem from his Turkish heritage, all the way to rap and deathcore. His main strong suit is his vocal range. It is truly unique and unlike anyone we have ever heard.
He is our secret weapon for sure - raw talent. That leaves us with Kyle. Pathways has never had a real bassist - our previous 3 bassists were fill-ins for the instrument, since we either could not find a right fit, or because we just liked the member on a personal level and wanted to try it out on bass. It is truly insane to see what Kyle brings to the table. He is a funk bassist who listens to metal. What more could you ask for? He has all the talent / technique / chops to both play and write to the music, very well."
You have just released your new single 'Great Old Ones' (26/3), how long did it take to curate and will this be featured on your debut album?
"This process has always been easy for us, and with the addition of fresh talent, it was even more seamless. You definitely know when you gel with other musicians, and that is the case with us as a quartet. The musicianship & personality blend makes the relationship seem like fate, in a way.
The process actually started in 2017, with the symphony. It was a 42-piece overture written with a prime motive in mind - that every single melody from this orchestral piece would be referenced in each song on the album. Almost like a musical concept album that has melodic Easter eggs spread throughout. Not soon after the symphonic piece was released, the early writing stages of the album were underway.
The intro riff to 'Great Old Ones' is actually a variation melody that was rooted in the symphony. This is the main melodic line of the song and set the basis for the rest of the single. The main line was given to all members, and we just worked off of that motif until it was melded into GOO (pun intended)."
What can listeners expect from your debut album and will it be released independently or via a record label; as you're no longer with Tragic Hero Records?
"As this release is meant to showcase the newer music identity, brand, and pave the way for album promotion, we aim to go about this in a very bold and calculated way. We have learned so much about the industry (still learning) over the years, and have seen how much the pandemic & social climate is still affecting the future of it. We think it is definitely smart to be strategic with self-releasing music and distribution. Our catalogue now includes 4 music videos, a full-length album, a single, and tons of photo shoots - all to be self-released for now, in order to make way for future branding. We have already begun writing another album as we speak and we will be more active than we have ever been previously."
How tough is it for American metal bands to organise tours across the country? Do smaller bands tend to do state tours rather than national tours?
"It's more common for smaller acts to tour state to state or regionally rather than a nationwide tour. Many Seattle artists will cover the west coast from Vancouver BC all the way down to LA. It can be difficult for smaller acts to book multiple venues in one city let alone an entire state. It can be difficult finding venues on the way to larger cities that will cater to your sound. Not every city has a venue that would welcome a metal act."
Florida has a rich history of metal bands from Morbid Angel to Trivium to Deadstar Assembly, what is it in your opinion that makes the Floridian metal scene so successful at delivering a constant stream of talent?
"South Florida, being isolated from most of the rest of the US has a very tight knit scene. I'd say that's because not as many tour packages make it that far south if they have an option to book in north or even central Florida. Because of this, the local scene is constantly growing and engaging with itself to make up for the smaller tour packages that might not be willing to drive the extra 5 hours south just to have to drive back up the panhandle to tour in the rest of the country after one or two shows. So in essence Florida's scene is built to fill a void of live entertainment from the rest of the country. Add the fact that Florida is a cultural melting pot from native Floridians, snow birds of the east coast turned full time residents and people looking for a tropical change, you get all walks of life and plenty of scenery to inspire a creative song writing mental state."
How did Washington react to the COVID-19 outbreak? What restrictions and measures were put in place? What is the situation like now?
"Washington state began shutting down in March 2020 once west coast states started seeing cases. Our favourite bars and venues have been shut down since, some shut down for good because of limits on gatherings. Some establishments have been able to keep afloat with reduced capacity, mostly restaurants. Washington just went into Phase 3 of reopening, parks are opening again and people are getting out more. It's refreshing to see people outside again after being pent up inside their homes for a year!"
For metalheads visiting Seattle under normal circumstances, what sights / attractions could you recommend? What about bars, venues and pubs?
"A must for any metal inclined visitor would have to be down town at The Showbox Theater. The place has a great record of national/international touring metal bands stopping through. Some other great venues would be El Corazon and Chop Suey. Both have a great mix of local and national metal acts. While you're in the neighbourhood after a show you can waltz down Capitol Hill and hit up the many bars lining the streets. Then finish off your night at The 5 Point Cafe no matter how late/early in the day."
All things considered, what plans does Pathways have for the year ahead and do you have any greetings / thanks you wish to send out?
"Pathways is going to be releasing a ton of content this year in forms of video, photo,and interactive material to keep our audience engaged until live shows become commonplace again. We've got more singles with music videos lined up for release to introduce our full length album. We've adapted to the shift from live in person to at home interactive and are excited to merge both together for an experience for our audience like never before. Huge thanks to our pal Karl at Hot Karl Productions for helping us out with not only the music video, but for getting us back on track. Also huge thank you to Kirill Konyaev at Zerodbproductions for mixing and mastering the new single."
Pathways' new single "Great Old Ones" is out now via all streaming platforms
"[to tour] you need to get a tour permission, which is issued by a commission (none of its members have any relation to music). And they can refuse to issue it because of “low artistic level”, even if your music is literally a masterpiece"
Whilst most of Europe's metal listeners are so transfixed on what's happening in the metal scenes within Western, Northern and Southern Europe, on the other side of Europe a handful of countries often get forgotten. OK so The Ukraine has Jinjer and Moldova has Infected Rain leading their respective scenes charge, but how long did it take for those metal scenes to receive widespread acknowledgement from the metal masses? Exactly. Well now it's the turn of the Belarusian metal scene to stake it's claim on European soil, the band leading the charge and flying the flag for Belarus is Belle Morte. The symphonic metal quartet are set to unleash their mastery through their debut album "Crime Of Passion", which will be released through Italian label Wormholedeath sometime in 2021.
GMA spoke to 4 of the 6 members about the debut album, how Belarus has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, what it was like growing up as metalheads and why people should check them out... discussing their unique take on the symphonic gothic metal sound.
The two guitarists who did not answer questions are
What does it feel like signing with Wormholedeath? You must be excited seeing your debut album being released internationally?
"It feels like we are starting a new chapter: very thrilling and we can hardly wait till the album is out :). Signing with Wormholedeath is a huge step forward and it gives us more confidence in what we are doing."
SB: "This is definitely really cool and we have high hopes for this collaboration!"
Your debut album "Crime Of Passion" is based on the John Fowles novel "The Collector", how did you get into his writings and what aspects of the novel inspired the album?
"It happened literally by chance. My mum’s best friend lent her this book, I was hooked by the cover and annotations, and read the whole book in one night. If I say this book became my fav, that would definitely be an exaggeration, but it was really exciting to read the same story told by both sides, to know how they both felt towards the same events. Besides, to me it was interesting to try to get into the main character’s shoes and think the way he did. To feel this boundless desire, this need in possessing someone, which goes beyond any logic, ethics, or human law. That’s how the song 'To Get Her' appeared, consequently other tracks followed. By the way, I was surprised and happy to find out Sergey read this book too, because it made our work easier - I didn’t have to explain the feeling each song should trigger."
"That’s true :) besides, it made things easier for me as well: I had no troubles telling Belle what I wanted her to sound like when we recorded vocals. Something like “this verse should sound like you are an arrogant moron, whose one and only skill is butterfly collecting”. Speaking about the novel, I read it in 2005 and it left quite an impression on me. This struggle between sophisticated and straight-forward personalities, sharp minds and blindness, inner freedom and narrowness. My main criterion of whether the book is good or not, is whether I have thought “it would be nice to compose a rock-opera or at least a song based on this” during reading. I had this thought :) so I was really enthusiastic towards the idea of having the whole album inspired by "The Collector"."
Would you say your album is more of a story than simply just a collection of songs? Which aspects of the album are your favourite?
"It’s definitely a coherent story, chapter by chapter. From the very beginning we had this theme, and all we did was setting about filling the gaps and finding the correct means to tell this story. One of my favourite aspects is definitely leitmotif usage. For example, the instrumental part in 'Lace' has a battle of the 'To Get Her' theme (which is obviously the main theme of the murderer) and the 'My Legacy' theme (which is the girls’ response) - and we have lots of such Easter eggs here and there."
"I really like the fact this album is close to a mono rock-opera. We used the leitmotif component, which Belle already mentioned, starting from 'Overture' and till the very end; the plot can easily be grasped without any synopsis; we have a fully-fledged duet between the abductor and his victim, besides, it’s not just some abstract exchange of characters’ emotions turn by turn (how it often happens). It’s a dialogue, turning into an argument in the end. Besides, we gave a lot of thought in how to craft the choral parts and backing vocals (for instance, in 'Beauty and the Beast') and orchestral parts, where they fitted.
Given the glut of Symphonic Gothic metal bands worldwide, how does your music distinguish itself from the rest? Where do your music inspirations come from?
"I think our most distinctive feature is balancing between genres, augmenting symphonic metal with different elements, such as progressive, industrial, black, rock opera, Celtic music, Argentinian tango - whatever we feel is appropriate for a particular track. We are not really bonded by any genre strict rules, we focus on “music first” and see where inspiration takes us. Besides, we combine catchy and easy to remember melodies and complex multi-layered orchestral arrangements."
Tell us what it is like growing up as metalheads in Belarus? What challenges do you face within the Belarusian Metal Scene?
"I have nothing to compare with, but from my personal perspective Belarusian metalheads are the nicest people, they are super friendly and helpful. I wouldn’t say I faced any significant challenges with the local scene. Unless we count the fact that it’s almost impossible to make a living doing music here, most musicians have to combine their “hobby” with a job where they get paid. It does lead to certain limitations."
"It’s complicated :) there are a lot of metalheads here, but in general society perceives them as somewhat marginals. Government doesn't embrace the fact that metal music has the same rights to exist as music of the other genres. Soviet legacy is still very prominent here. On the other hand, it’s getting better and during past years we have had a lot of great bands come here. But organizing a gig is still a very stressful and complex thing to do. For example, you need to get a tour permission, which is issued by a commission (none of its members have any relation to music). And they can refuse to issue it because of “low artistic level”, even if your music is literally a masterpiece :).
Local gigs are like swings. We used to have pretty wild underground gigs; then everything died out for a while. Then there was a period when we had great concert organizers, who put in a lot of effort and their own resources in holding top-level concerts. And then the pandemic happened. The bands also suffered from missing quality booking agencies, labels etc. The majority have to work somewhere else to make a living, and take care of organizing concerts, printing merch, releasing albums etc. on their own. We have many talented musicians, but not all of them are ready to deal with all of that, and it’s sad."
How has Belarus coped with the COVID pandemic; what restrictions / lockdown protocols were put into place?
"There is a huge difference in answer depending on whether we talk about the Government or people living here. The Government shamefully failed to take any measures at all. We didn’t have any restrictions, all the borders were open, the severity of the pandemic was denied and laughed at in official media. Medical workers were not provided by appropriate protection means. And real numbers of those who got infected and those who died, were concealed. Medical workers, who had courage to tell publicly how bad the situation was, got fired and repressed.
On the other hand, Belarusian people have shown the level of solidarity we didn't see here before. They created special funds to help medical workers and provide them with protection means, food and other supplies. They distributed printed instructions telling older people how to protect themselves, and again - helped with delivering foods and medicines. Although officially there were no protocols whatsoever, people started following WHO recommendations by their own initiative."
For metalheads visiting Minsk, what sights or attractions would you recommend (in a normal world)? What bars, venues, festivals are there?
"TNT club (which might appear very ordinary if you don’t live here) :). The biggest festivals are Kupalskaje Kola, Our Grunwald, UMF (United Metal Festival)."
"In good old times when we went to bars and clubs, if I wanted to hang out in a friendly atmosphere, I went to TNT club. You could always meet someone from your mates there!"
"In addition to what Rostislav already mentioned, Brugge club. But it looks like it didn’t survive the pandemic…"
Aside from the album launch, what plans do you have for the year ahead and do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out?
"We try to stay positive regarding the COVID situation and prepare ourselves for a productive year. For sure we’d like to have the album presentation (hopefully not just online, and hopefully more than one gig). Besides, we are doing a lyric video for 'Broken Things'. In the parallel we still have a lot of work in the studio, as we want to record our second EP this year. We have a very clear concept for it, and expect it to have a lot of unusual collaborations and musical instruments we haven’t used before. Last but not least: we are thinking about shooting our third music video."
"I am very grateful to Kirill and Arthur, who helped us with guitars’ recordings at the times when we didn’t have a permanent line-up, long before Ilya joined us. And we are thankful to our families and friends for their support during the whole time!"