Whenever you think of Canada, the usual stereotypes come into being. Maple syrup, South Park (Blame Canada), the vast forests and of course ice hockey. But among all of that is a metal scene that has been chugging along nicely, just like their railways, their metal scene is vast, widespread and as solid as the rails their trains travel on. One band who over the years has grown and improved themselves to become one of Canada's most exciting exports in the past decade is Unleash The Archers. This Heavy Power / Melodic Death Metal leviathan is roaring and ready to unleash their latest EP 'Explorers'. Vocalist Brittney Slayes filled in the details of the new EP, their journey to where the band is now, their home city of Vancouver and what films she would have loved to written metal soundtracks for.
"Don’t you feel like in these new [Star Wars] films there should have been heavier riffs? Imagine if Kylo’s theme had been metal!"
Ten years have passed since your first album 'Behold The Devastation' saw daylight, the band has come a long way since then, what is it would you say has driven the band to where they are now?
"To be honest, there was never some grand scheme for greatness, never a plan or even a purposeful direction, we just keep writing new music and getting out on the road to tour it. We have always taken it day by day, album by album, just seizing the opportunities when they come and working as hard as we can to create something new and exciting each time we hit the studio. Music is our passion, we will continue to play as long as we can and if a little success comes along with it then that’s great, but it’s not why we do it. We just want to play our songs live in front of an audience that enjoys them as much as we do."
Canada seems to keep producing exciting and fresh bands, is it safe to assume the Canadian Metal scene is buzzing right now?
"Absolutely! The advent of digital music has allowed a lot more bands to get their music out there in front of a lot more people, whereas in the past it would have been up to the labels to pick and choose which bands get recognition and which don’t. I think Canada has always been full of killer musicians, it’s just hard to be noticed when you have huge markets like the USA and Europe constantly getting all the attention. You do have to go the extra mile in order to get your name out there, you have to tour those major markets as much as you can and look for coverage wherever you can get it, and I think a lot more bands are doing that nowadays. You have to be willing to put the time and energy in, no one is going to do it for you, and there are a lot of young bands up here that are finally understanding that."
If you had the choice of writing metal soundtracks for 5 films, what 5 films would you choose?
"When I was watching 'Aquaman' I felt like the soundtrack was so wrong, it should have been way heavier, it should have been metal, so I suppose that would be my first choice. I think Annihilation and the new Predator movie should have had metal soundtracks too. Of course, Star Wars has some of the best song writing of all time, but don’t you feel like in these new films there should have been heavier riffs? Imagine if Kylo’s theme had been metal! So perfect. Lastly, I would love to do the soundtrack for the Alien franchise, I think the last two films were so fantastically dark and would pair well with some progressive or even djent-y riffage. Could you imagine that in theatres? Just awesome."
What have you done differently for 'Explorers' in comparison with 'Apex'?
"The biggest difference is that ‘Explorers’ is just a two-song covers EP, not a full length, so we didn’t do any original writing, just some rearranging. ‘Apex’ is full of imagination, but ‘Explorers’ is full of heart. We are heading into the studio pretty soon here to do another full length, a sequel to ‘Apex’, so we will be returning to the same writing and recording style for that one. This EP was just a little something to keep the fans engaged while we write the next album."
You've covered Stan Rogers's 'Northwest Passage' for the EP and said it (quote) 'brings us right back home', do you feel it's important for bands to turn to musicians who epitomize a cultural identity in context with Stan travelling nationwide through the Rockies, forests, etc?
"We are all really big fans of Stan, and not just because he toured the same highways that we do, but because he has such a strong sense of Canadian identity inherently surrounding him. All of his songs invoke a reverence for our Canadian heritage that make you almost want to explode with pride for the beauty of it. He reminds you of where you’ve come from, and inspires you to use that as fuel for the fire. We knew that there were going to be tons of people that had never heard of Stan before, but we didn’t care, we wanted the metal community to hear the song and love it just as much as we do, all the naysayers be damned ;)"
Speaking of which, for metalheads visiting the city of Vancouver, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any festivals, bars, also?
"Number one on the list should definitely be to stroll the seawall through Stanley Park, from Coal Harbour all the way to English Bay and beyond if you can make it, maybe rent a bike because it pretty much surrounds the whole of down-town Vancouver and keeps on going! Granville Island is cool too, but save that for a weekday because weekends it’s PACKED. The Vancouver Art Gallery is worth it if there is an interesting exhibit going on, and there is tons of shopping around there as well so it’s easy to make a day of it. The Musuem of Anthroplogy out at UBC is worth checking out, as is the grounds of the university in general. Oh and you definitely want to check out the Capilano Suspension bridge! Super rad, unless you’re afraid of heights and a wobbly bridge packed with people ;).
As for festivals, we have Hyperspace each spring which is all power and melodic bands, and then we have the Modified Ghost festival in the summer that is all super heavy death and technical bands. As for bars, you definitely want to hit up the Moose! Cheap, tasty food and heavy metal music all day long!"
Aside from the EP, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
"We have begun the writing process for the next album and will be hitting the studio at the end of the year. We are hoping for a late spring 2020 release, and after that it will be tour, tour, tour! Plus, as many festivals as we can get our hands on."
Do you have any greetings, thank you's, etc you wish to send out?
"Just wanted to say thanks to our fans for their amazing response to the ‘Explorers’ EP so far! We can’t wait to share the second track with everyone on October 11th! Keep an eye on YouTube ‘cause we’ll be releasing another cool video for that track as well J If you haven’t checked it out yet, the video for ‘Northwest Passage’ is up on YouTube right now, and make sure to bring your thinking cap because it’s a wild ride ;)
Thanks for your time everyone!"
Metal music is unmistakably global, we've seen the rise of metal bands from all corners of the globe, from Brazil's Sepultura to New Zealand's Ulcerate and all the countries in-between and... basically everywhere. However it's multinational bands and projects that just show the solidarity this music brings irrespective of religious, cultural, political or societal traits... Metal is the Mecca of open-mindedness. Akheth, a project generally central to Canada features members from American, Dutch, Iranian and Mexican backgrounds and as they drop their debut single it's only right that they get all the attention they deserve because Akheth are not just a band, they are a prime example of 'metalisation' (a portmanteau of metal and globalisation; I just made it up); that is the power of metal music bringing different nationalities together under one roof.
Akheth gave us an insight into their world, their new single, their paths to metal and the challenges of being a project separated by vast lands and open seas.
How did Akheth come about? What does the band name mean and how did that come about?
"The band started from the first demo of 'The Asylum' we did back in 2015. It was a song that I had written in 2011 for my band at the time. When I saw a few YouTube videos of Mahafsoun singing I asked her if she'd be interested in recording vocals for the song. We finished that demo but didn't create Akheth as a band until late 2016. The name of the band is an Egyptian hieroglyph that represents where the sun rises or sets. I chose this name for the band because I was looking for something original and short and Akheth was the name of the first song I ever wrote back in 2006, so it has a special meaning."
Seeing as you all live in four countries, do you send recordings over the net or do you meet up on occasion?
"Mahafsoun and I have met a few times but most of the work we do is through the internet. I send the guys complete demos with guide vocals or just the skeleton of a song when I'm still working on it. From there they learn it and add their own thing to it. There is also a new song that we are working on for the EP on which Mahafsoun wrote the main piano parts, it is the first song we are writing together. Next month (April) Mahafsoun and I will meet and practice the vocal lines for the new songs."
What (apart from the previous question) challenges do you face as an international band?
"Sometimes communicating ideas over the internet is difficult, you can't really explain for example a melody or a complicated section over an e-mail. Besides that recording everything separately, specially with a low budget is hard because you have to take all those different tracks recorded in different places and make them fit together. Of course with the technology we have these days it's a bit easier but some of us are still learning and getting more experience as we work more on recording music. Lastly the cost of getting all of us together in the same place, every time we want to do it one of us has to get a flight somewhere."
Mahafsoun, what was it like growing up as a metal fan in Iran? What does your family think of metal music?
"During the time I lived in Iran, I was only eight years old. Because of this I never got to experience what it's like to be a metal fan growing up in Iran. However my mum and dad nowadays enjoy some metal. In the beginning they didn't really care about it, but after I showed them the different sub-genres of metal, they each found one that they really enjoyed listening to. I believe that for each of them, they enjoy metal more nowadays especially because they know that I have such a strong connection to the music and the culture."
You released your debut single 'The Asylum' this year, what has the reception been like and how did you come up with the single title?
"At the time of writing The Asylum and other songs I had the idea of making them all fit together in a concept album. The story is about the human mind and how insane it can sometimes be. So at the beginning of the story everything is somewhat abstract but getting to this song, The Asylum, you start to figure out what it was all about. At this point we aren't even talking about the full length, since we are working on the EP, so we'll have to see if we keep the same subject.
So far the reception has been great! People from all over the world ordered our CD's and merch, as a new band we didn't really expect that so we are very thankful for the support. Not only that but people also liked our music and we were lucky to have Mark from Epica as a guest on the song!
Will the single be included on your impending EP / debut album in the future?
"Our EP will contain 5 new songs and we will include 'The Asylum' as a bonus. Although for our first full length album we talked about re-recording the song because this single was basically home-made and we had some comments about our production quality. So yes! we will have a much better version of 'The Asylum' but it'll have to wait until we record our full length."
How would you describe your style of metal? Who influences you?
"Right now we only have that one song out so it is still too early for people to really know what our style is. However in a review for Metal Injection they called us Progressive Symphonic Metal and we really liked that term because it doesn't limit us to play the same thing all the time. We have so many influences that go from Progressive Rock all the way to Black or Death Metal and everything in between. I think our music will definitely reflect that. Also each one of us has different tastes and styles of playing our instruments or singing.
The good thing is that we are all open minded and so is most of the metal community, our core will always be metal so I think most people will find something that they enjoy in our music. For our EP we are working on a ballad, also other longer songs with middle eastern vibes and instrumental sections. Some songs have more orchestra and others are more riff oriented so you guys can get an idea. The beauty of Symphonic Metal is that you can do so many different things with it and when you throw in the progressive part you get even more variety.
As far as specific bands that influence us I'd personally say Opeth, Dream Theater, Tool, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Evergrey, David Gilmour, Steven Wilson to mention a few. Mahafsoun likes Deftones, A Perfect Circle, Septicflesh, Moonspell. There would be too many to mention them all!"
What plans do you have for the year ahead and are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Our plans for this year besides the EP are making our first official videos together! We'd like to thank you and everybody for supporting Akheth and we hope you keep an eye out for our EP towards the second half of the year!"
Kobra & The Lotus are arguably making waves across the world with their scintillating brand of Heavy Metal. Much like Australia, Canada is relatively isolated when it comes to having metal bands play outside of their own continent. However with the likes of Kittie, Strapping Young Lad, Voivod, Kataklysm and Cryptopsy all having success worldwide, it's Kobra & The Lotus' turn to stake a claim on planet metal.
GMA sat down with Kobra & The Lotus and probed them about 'Prevail II', how Kobra Paige became involved in music and the stigma surrounding female metal musicians.
"A person never stops loving the metal they fall in love with. It’s one of those loyal genres where once you’re hooked, you’re a fan for life"
First of all, thank you very much for your patience and support. Once we began touring, I fell very far behind but nevertheless am grateful for your time!
'Prevail I' is your fourth album and so what can you tell us about it? What lyric topics did you choose? Any favourite tracks?
"‘Prevail’ is without a doubt the most intensively thought out album. The lyrics and music are more thoughtful within the content, details, and structure. This album is supposed to encourage ambition, strength, and hope within people. I couldn’t pick a favourite but I really really love playing ‘TriggerPulse’ live with the guys! The energy changes on stage and we can really lock in with all of the musical supporters who come to rock out. ‘Prevail’ is also the first metal and hard rock hybrid of it’s kind for us. I believe it shows off the virtuosity of the band."
Presumably there will be a Europe / UK tour to support the album? Are you as a band worried about Brexit?
"Absolutely! We will be coming through Europe and The UK this fall!! Please check www.kobraandthelotus.com for dates, we are very excited!! No, we are not concerned with Brexit, only for the citizens personally doing alright with the economical shift."
Assuming after 'Prevail I' there will be a 'Prevail II'? How does 'Prevail I' differ from previous releases?
"You got it. ‘Prevail I’ and ‘Prevail II’ are some of our strongest and most vulnerable works yet. I believe it shows a musical maturity forming within the band as well as finally an authentic freshness to the sound that we have been searching for. It’s a highly creatively collaborative project and meddles between metal and hard rock."
As a vocalist how did you get into metal music? How did you begin your singing career?
"My father took me to see a Judas Priest concert when I was 15 and it all started from there. I formed a band when I was 17 and first going to University. It started to gain some momentum as we played little underground shows and put out an independent album. My parents told me to go for it while I was young otherwise I would regret it and now here I am nine years into it already!!"
As a female do you receive any stigma towards being a metal musician? What are your thoughts on the term 'female-fronted'?
"Unfortunately, yes but I can very happily say it is becoming a very small minority of people who have those ignorant beliefs. Just take a look at the comment section under our newest video for “You Don’t Know” and you can see the odd “this is stupid, women don’t belong in metal and blah” ha-ha. Regarding the term ‘female-fronted’, I find that for the most part the people that actually use that label mean it in a very respectful way. They truly just plain and simply love metal that is fronted by females!! I have no qualms for the term if that’s what they choose! "
Outside of music, do you have any pastimes or hobbies you enjoy?
"I love the outdoors and I love being active. I enjoy bike riding, hiking, CrossFit, running, kayaking, and travelling to new countries. I also really love spending time with my family and loved ones. Among that is spending time in the Rocky Mountains where I live."
What is the Canadian Metal scene like at the moment? Do you keep in touch with the Calgary scene? Are you surprised by metal's global spread?
"I’m incredibly impressed and proud of Canada’s metal scene and more so it’s music scene in general. There are so many great and creative artists.
I’m not surprised by metal’s global spread because it is a completely beautifully infectious genre. A person never stops loving the metal they fall in love with. It’s one of those loyal genres where once you’re hooked, you’re a fan for life. Those feelings never stop as soon as you hear the music again."
What plans does Kobra & The Lotus have for the year ahead? Will there be an album launch party?
"Tons of touring!! It’s time to work our little butts off at getting the new tunes out there! We also have been filming the music videos for ‘Prevail II’ so that when it’s time to release, everything is good to go. Currently we are in Serbia wrapping up the 3rd video for that album.
There will be no album launch. We have never officially ever had one. Perhaps for ‘Prevail II’ but for now we are just too small of a band to do that still….. small but mighty though!!"
Gone In April started in 2011 through their debut album "We Are But Human", culminating in the band playing across North America and Asia; the latter seeing this group co-headline 'The Great Indian Octoberfest' held in Bangalore. They also headlined the WaveTransform Festival 2014 (North America), as well as other events in the USA.
Following Gone In April's second album "Threads Of Existence" which saw new members joining from the USA and Canada, and another appearance at the WaveTransform Festival, GMA decided it was time to collar this group and excavate the facts behind this multinational facade.
So we bound Julie to a chair in a leather catsuit and placed Yanic in confinement, at least that way they could not escape... mind we did not give Julie the catsuit in the first place... another story for another time. Read below to see how it went.
"It is nice to see the diversity and unity continue to grow within the metal community" (on metal music)
Firstly, how did Gone In April come to prominence and how do you maintain communication? Seeing as it's key to an international band / project, what limitations have you overcome?
"Yes, some aspects of international projects are indeed managed a little differently than bands whose members all reside within the same region, however, many aspects are not any different at all. In terms of communication, my belief and experience over the last decade is “if there is a will, there is a way”. Communication between Gone In April team members is very efficient. Through emails, text messages, video chats, etc, we typically get replies from musicians within 24 hrs, which enables us to move forward with our planning efficiently."
"Writing new material is an aspect which is managed a little differently. Since writing is not done during rehearsal with all musicians in one room, each musician writes his parts in his home-town, and sends recordings of his parts by email. One of us will start to work on new material, and send audio files to the other musicians. Then, another musician will work on the material in his home-town, and send his parts to the others, and the work continues in that fashion over a period of several months. All musicians work separately, listening to the other musicians’ audio files, focusing on, and analysing, the composition, and providing feedback to other team members. Once everybody has reviewed and approved all the parts, the official recording begins and all parts come together. Some musicians record in their studio, and some travel to the studio where the majority of the production is taking place, which in this case, is WaveTransform Recording Studio in Knoxville, TN, USA."
"When it comes to band rehearsals and live performances, we all rehearse in advance by ourselves, and the group meets in the same city for rehearsals a few days before the series of live performances. Working with musicians from different countries also requires travel (flights, lodging, etc), as well as working with immigration organizations to get work visas for the musicians which are not citizens of the country where performances are taking place. Therefore, there is a bit more administrative work to be done by the band, however, once a band has experience with international management, international touring becomes a much easier task and many opportunities open up for the band.
For example, Gone In April had the opportunity to travel to Bangalore, India, to perform as a metal co-headliner, alongside Children Of Bodom, at The Great Indian Octoberfest 2012, a 3-day festival with a typical 60 000 attendance. This opportunity might not have been possible without the international management experience of the band. The band also performed at the WaveTransform Festival, in Knoxville, TN, USA, in 2014 and 2016, as well as for other dates in the USA between 2012 and 2016. These international concerts have helped the band get more international visibility. In addition, getting amazing support from magazines, webzines, etc, from various continents, through album reviews and interviews helps a great deal as well. Global Metal Apocalypse is a great example of that! Thank you!"
Having played in India, would you say that metal music unites the world regardless of social, political or religious differences?
"Yes, from my experience, the metal community is a very diverse community. I believe the diversity promotes a sense of open-mindedness, unity, and adaptation. I have had the chance to perform in North America, in Europe, and in Asia, and fans have always been very supportive, regardless of social, political or religious background. In addition, metal musicians are constantly pushing the limits of music composition and performance, and the diversity of the metal community has contributed to creating the sub-genres of metal. I believe that musicians who have contributed to creating sub-genres of metal have come from several different backgrounds, have been exposed to and have had interest for various cultures, which has led them to be interested in several styles of music, and hence, help create a new blend. It is nice to see the diversity and unity continue to grow within the metal community."
You recently released your second album 'Threads of Existence', could you give us a break down of what each song means? What did you do different on this album in comparison to your debut 'We Are But Human'?
"The concept of the 1st album focused on the psychological evolution of a 13th century warrior. The concept of the 2nd album focuses on survival of an individual, or a group or a society within various environments and situations, through its existence, hence the title “Threads of Existence”."
The Curtain Will Rise:
An individual, whose goal is to climb Mount Everest, begins his climb after having trained for years for this challenge. On the way up, the climber faces mental and physical challenges, and wonders whether or not the top will be reached, or if death will be faced. If the top is reached, the curtain will rise to reveal the achievement.
Our Future Line:
A young boy’s family passes away in a tragedy. The boy is brought to a guardian. The guardian, who owns a sawmill, treats the boy as a slave, does not provide proper food and shelter. As the boy faces these challenges, he becomes stronger and eventually takes ownership of his future time line and makes changes to his life, by confronting the guardian, and freeing himself.
Remember The Days:
A group of sailors leave their home country to travel overseas, to a land which they believe will be filled with better opportunities. The sea is a challenging environment. The group struggles, and, in their fight for survival, many of them die of malnutrition. Sailors remember the old days in their former country and wonder if they took their life for granted. In their search for greener pastures, they might not survive the trip, and if they do, they hope it will be to find a land that contains opportunities which were worth risking their lives.
As Hope Welcomes Death:
Soldiers are injured at war and are taken to the infirmary. Although they are now on safer grounds, another battle begins: a battle for survival. Medical staff do their best to take care of soldiers, and keep their spirits up. Some soldiers hope to make it out alive and fight daily for survival, and others wish for death in order for their suffering to come to an end.
Embracing The Light:
At the end of his life, an older gentleman holds his grandson in his arms. While his own life bleeds away, the baby’s life is just starting. The old man passes down his knowledge to the boy, telling him all he knows about this world where beauty is weaved with horror, where time stretches forever, and then suddenly flies away. He hopes that he will continue to live in the memory of his descendant once he draws his last breath.
A Million Souls Gather:
Cancer begins to grow and invades the body. After much growth, the individual feels symptoms and finds out about the cancer. Treatment is necessary. The patient will fight for survival alongside powerful allies: technologies such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The treatment begins as the allies, the million souls, gather and begin the annihilation of cancer.
There are 16 personality types per the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. One type, the “ENTJ”, is organized, productive, motivated, with high willpower, determination, and leadership skills, has vision and a desire to achieve. The “ENTJ” will not sit back and see what life brings, but will proactively make things happen and relentlessly work to achieve its goals. It takes many types of personalities for a society to survive and be healthy. The lyrics present the world in the eyes on an ENTJ personality type, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the personality type.
The Great Contemplation:
An author’s inspiration is constantly challenged throughout his lifetime, hence his survival is threatened. At the start of the author’s career, all ideas for the first publication are fresh as the author has not yet written and released any works. As the author grows, he gets challenged to find new ideas for the new publications, as to not repeat or release the same content as the first books. The author evolves and develops new tools and ideas to generate inspiration.
The Will To End A Life:
A fighter pilot during war has 2 choices: kill to survive, or be killed. Although the soldier fights to rid the world of evil, the soldier realizes that “overtaking evil begins with the will to end a life”, and that “evil begins with the will to end a life.” Survival sometimes involves surrendering to evil. The soldier begins to questions his actions.
Regarding your new album, have you got any plans to take your album promoting shows to Europe? The UK?
"We are currently working on dates for the North America, Asia, and South America for autumn 2016. We look forward to opportunities in Europe in late 2016 or 2017."
You played the WaveTransform Festival, what can you tell us about the festival? Are there any more festivals near to where you are situated?
"The WaveTransform Festival is a series of prominent music concerts presented at one of East Tennessee’s theatres, the US Cellular Stage at the Bijou Theatre. The line-up consists of artists from WaveTransform Recording Studio. The festival features events which cover several styles of music, and which include both local artists and international musicians. Gone In April was fortunate to perform at the last 2 festivals, and we look forward to the next festival. Another great festival in the area is Progpower USA in Atlanta, GA, featuring national and international acts."
What hobbies does the band have outside of playing music? Do you have any pastimes you indulge in?
"I play with symphony orchestras, sing with opera companies, and teach voice and violin. When I have a little bit of time, I enjoy hiking, crossfit, D&D, as well as spending time with friends.
Marc teaches music in college, and outside normal hours, is hired as a session guitarist for live and studio. At the moment, he is doing a Masters degree in Music, therefore, most of his spare time goes to academic work for his studies, and rehearsing. He enjoys watching movies and playing video games.
Steve spends most of his time on tour and in studios, away from home, but to answer the question, he just texted and said his hobby involves “trying to play bass half as good as Yanic does air-bass”.
Now you know Yanic enjoys to air-bass…! Yanic works over 100 hours per week. He is a Physicist and Engineer, and designs nuclear medicine scanners, and also runs a recording studio (as an engineer and session drummer) and event management company. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” This applies to Yanic’s crazy lifestyle. He loves what he does, so everything is like a hobby. He does enjoy watching movies and TV shows to relax a bit before his little amount of sleep.
Aaron likes to spend time with friends, watch movies. He also plays in another band, produced at Yanic’s studio, so he spends time writing and performing for his band."
What plans does the band have for the rest of the year?
"As mentioned earlier, we are currently planning live performance dates for autumn of 2016. We look forward to growing our fan base, and meeting a lot of fans on the road who support the band."
Finally are there any hello's / thank you's you wish to send out?
We would like to thank all the fans who have supported us throughout the years. We look forward to meeting many of you on road! If you would like to see Gone In April perform in your home-town, contact us and let us now! We will be glad to pursue opportunities within your region! Many thanks to you, Rhys, from Global Metal Apocalypse for all the support!