For Black Stone Cherry things cannot be any sweeter, for a band who has stuck together like a band of brothers for the past 18 years and yet not had one single line-up change, it's evident they are closer than you think. The great thing is they've stuck to their roots, hailing from Kentucky famed for it's chicken (obviously), this Alt / Southern Metal / Hard Rock band have been churning out albums left, right and centre. A total of six albums have been released and their latest effort 'Family Tree' is an absolute blast, has to be said. Now the Edmonton-natives make their second pilgrimage to the world of blues as they gear up to unleash their second blues-tribute EP 'Black To Blues Volume 2', rhythm / lead guitarist and backing vocalist Ben Wells was more than happy to talk about their year, including an unforgettable headliner at Ramblin' Man Festival in Maidstone, Kent, in addition to their love for the Appalachians and of course their affinition for blues music.
"We love Appalachian music... it's a big part of Kentucky’s culture and heritage."
Guys you played at the Ramblin' Man Fair festival in Kent this year, what was the reception like and what did you like most about the festival?
"We love Ramblin' Man Festival! It’s one of our favourite festivals! The atmosphere is electric, but still very relaxed. The mix up of bands from old to new and different genres is also really cool. We love that!"
Whenever you perform, what are your emotions like when the crowd reacts in the way they do to your songs and performance? (Question sent in from Black Stone Cherry fan Emily Williams)
"It’s overwhelming, really. When you write songs you never “expect” a ton of people to sing along or wave their hands in the air, or cry, etc. so when those emotions start happening... it’s the most rewarding thing for us."
Now you're set on bringing out your second tribute EP, ‘Black To Blues Volume 2,’ it's evident blues plays a huge part in your sound, but on a wider scope how important is blues to heavy rock / metal music?
"I would love to hear some Bluesy Heavy Metal! Haha. Honestly though, without the blues we wouldn’t have Rock 'n' Roll. And without Rock 'n' Roll we probably wouldn’t have Heavy Metal or Hard Rock. So I still think it’s very important."
Outside of the band, what hobbies or interests do you have? How did you get into playing music?
"I like playing golf when I get the chance! I love to run and have recently picked up swimming as well! But music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been drawn towards [playing the] guitar and entertaining people."
How tricky or easy was it to pick what songs you wanted to cover for your second tribute EP?
"It can be difficult at times because we are fans of so many different blues artists. We knew we wanted to do “Big Legged Woman” and “Death Letter Blues”. The others we kinda decided on the spot whilst in the studio. It’s never easy!"
Do you feel connected to the Appalachian section of Kentucky and does the cultural heritage play a part in your music? For those visiting Edmonton, what sights / attractions could you recommend in visiting?
"We love Appalachian music! It’s so great and yes, it's a big part of Kentucky’s culture and heritage. As far as Edmonton goes, there’s some cool little shops and stores and a great little place called Genes Freeze!"
What plans do you have for the rest of the year and leading into 2020?
"Touring the rest of 2019! For 2020 we plan to record and have a new album out, then back on the road!"
Do you have any greetings, or thank you's that you wish to send out to friends, fans, etc?
"We always want to thank anyone who has supported us, listened to our music, been to a show, bought a shirt, etc. "We literally can’t make this happen without them! So, thank you!!"
The world of crossover music has always been there and for those eager enough to explore it, there are some rather spectacular and imaginative musicians out there. One such musician is Chinese-American cellist and erhuist Tina Guo, who has been a part of a countless number of musical scores most notably as a solo cellist, these include (but not limited to): 'Iron Man 2', 'Olympus Has Fallen', 'Vikings' (TV series), 'X-Men: First Class', 'Family Guy' and more. Moreover she has collaborated with world-famous musicians and composers such as John Legend, Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams respectively.
To top that she has appeared in the 'Mazda 6' and 'United Airlines' adverts respectively... in fact alongside this she has helped score for numerous video games including 'Diablo III' and 'Call of Duty: Black Ops' as well as releasing as of 2017, 8 albums of her own material with guests along the way; some of the albums are covers of game tunes e.g. her latest album 'Game On!' which has a metal feel to it and as Tina goes on to explain in the interview she had with GMA, there is something special about the relationship between metal and classical music.
Furthermore she has recently appeared on 'The Lion King' soundtrack to which she expressed absolute delight at.
"There is something about both Classical Music and Metal Music that has a lot of deep emotion and power."
At what point during your life did you want to become a musician? Did you have a strong music-orientated upbringing? Are other family members musicians?
"To be honest, I was forced into the family trade as a musician! Both of my parents are classical musicians and music teachers and I started on the piano at the of age 3, violin at 6, and cello at 7. Playing music and performing was a mandatory activity but it wasn't until I was 18 and moved to Los Angeles for University (studying Classical Cello Performance) at the University of South Carolina (USC) when I started really pursuing ways to make my own music, and just work as a cellist in order to pay the bills. I did a lot of work as a session musician and hired gun, and it helped me learn and familiarize myself with all genres of music, but my main love and obsession has always been Industrial Metal. I'm lucky that my "day job" of being a session musician has a lot of crossover with my own music!"
What was it like for you as a child moving from China to the USA? What were (if any) the challenges you had to face?
"I had to take my first grade twice because I had trouble learning English – haha! - but after that I was able to integrate pretty quickly. I always was a very shy person and hid in the library during most lunch periods throughout school because I felt too awkward to be outside and didn't feel like I belonged to any particular group of friends. However, I don't think that has to do with coming from China - that's just childhood in general! I was always drawn to people, art, and music that was gothic and dark however, and my world was completely changed when a goth kid in my middle school lent me his copy of "Antichrist Superstar" (Marilyn Manson) and I heard industrial music for the first time!"
Arguably your career has been rocketing skywards ever since you started making music, surely doing your own rendition of 'The Circle Of Life' is a dream come true?
"Being able to record cello solos on the soundtrack for the new 'Lion King' was amazing! I love Hans so much and am so appreciative and grateful for his friendship and mentorship. Since he saw my "Queen Bee" music video on YouTube 9 years ago, I have worked on many of his soundtracks and also tour with him in his live band. When he asked me to be a part of 'The Lion King', of course I was elated! Recording my own version of "The Circle Of Life" I felt was an appropriate way to celebrate the occasion!"
Out of all the characters from 'The Lion King', who is your favourite and why? What are your thoughts on Disney bringing their animated films to life these days?
"Pumbaa! He is hilarious and adorable. I really liked the live action 'Beauty And The Beast' - I think that it's a great way to integrate new technology with graphics and retell classic Disney stories in a new way."
You've done numerous albums, some involving metal music and so, could you tell us how you became interested in metal music? Do you feel classical music and metal music have strong correlations with each other?
"Yes! Industrial Metal is my main love and after hearing Marilyn Manson when I was 13 secretly, since I was not allowed to listen to anything but classical music in my household, the next big revelation came when I turned 18 and moved to Los Angeles to attend the University at the University of Southern California where I studied Classical Cello Performance. I felt my world open up when I was able to go online, watch YouTube videos, and discover so many amazing bands and artists - including my favourite band, Rammstein. I feel all music is just music, there is good and bad music in any genre - but to me personally, there is something about both Classical Music and Metal Music that has a lot of deep emotion and power.
From your experience, do you feel that classical music of any kind should receive more respect and recognition than it does currently?
"To be honest, I don't really play traditional classical music any more, but I think that there are so many amazing musicians online who are using technology and social media to connect with a new and young audience. I feel like if you want more people to recognize something, it also has to be made accessible and energetically open, not closed off because for members of the general public who have never had experience with Classical Music, it may seem intimidating. I think that Soundtracks are an amazing way for people to hear orchestral music, and it has really reinvigorated people in being curious about instrumental music based on the tradition of European Art Music."
For those looking to get into playing the cello or erhu, what tips and tricks could you offer? What make and model of cello are you currently using?
"Lots of practise! I practised 8 hours a day from when I started the cello at age 7 - in the past 10 years as I've gotten busier, I haven't been able to do as many hours but that foundation of technical ability is very important to establish when starting an instrument if it's something you'd like to pursue professionally. I would recommend find a good private teacher, and taking regular lessons - but most important is the follow through and practice.
My Acoustic Cello is an 1880 Gand & Bernardel that I purchased 7 years ago, I love him very much and his name is Cello Guo! I have a few bows but my favourite is by Lothar Seifert, with a Wholly Mammoth Ivory tip.
Do you have any greetings or thanks that you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"I love and appreciate everyone who has supported my music and art, because without people to watch and listen, what is the point of music? Music and art is to communicate our own emotions and interpretations of the human experience, and I love being able to share that energetically with others.
Deathcore, the very word and music genre causes seismic splits that are wider than the Grand Canyon, yet miraculously it still resides within the realms of the metal world to the dismay of the elitists. Whether you loathe or love the genre, it's one that has spawned off a endless stream of bands who've achieved great heights; yet some are so generic in their style it makes you cry. One band who aims to defy the generic formula of chugging, breakdowns and basically being musically boring, is Oceans Over Earth. Vocalist Andrew Lidgard spoke to GMA about the band's history, their direction and the whole debate surrounding Deathcore's legitimacy as a metal genre.
"I think the reason why it (Deathcore) gets such a bad reputation is because most of the bands don't have any sustenance... chug and chew on the microphone and claim its skilled work; (they) have a copy and paste formula for their writing."
For those who have not heard of Oceans Over Earth could you give us a brief history of the band?
"Oceans Over Earth (OOE) formed back in December 2010 in Grand Rapids, MI. It was just myself (Andrew Lidgard) and our old vocalist (Jordan Lawrence). Later we recruited a second guitarist Mike Bergsma who is still in the band to this day (now playing bass). Mike has been a friend of mine since childhood. We then found our drummer Corey Crawford through Craigslist believe it or not! We started playing shows heavily for a couple of years and released our first single in June 2011. To keep it short, we hit major rough patches with our old vocalist due to drugs and that made us lose any momentum we had for almost 2 years.
After finding a replacement vocalist we recorded our first EP 'Transgressions' in December 2014. In March 2015 we released 'Seer' to ramp up a new EP we were going to record with Joshua Wickman of Dreadcore Productions. Our newest vocalist at the time, David, decided to jump ship the week before recording the bands second EP. This halted all momentum once again for another 2 years whilst we searched for a vocalist. So, in those two years I put down my guitar and started heavily practising vocals. The practice paid off and now I am the current vocalist of the band and no longer the guitarist! Jordan French is now our main guitarist, Mike Bergsma is our bassist and Corey Crawford is our drummer! This line-up seems to be what we have needed all along! We released an EP 'Absolute Zero' in April 2018, a new single 'Worthless Existence' in September and a brand new single 'Crimson Era' a few days ago! Our goal is to release new music every 2-3 months to keep things fresh for our fans!!"
How did you yourselves get into playing music and what do your families think of your music?
" I was drawn to the guitar when I was about 14 or so and my friend Paulie taught me how to play 'Welcome Home' by Coheed and Cambria and it was from then on that I started learning as much as I could from other bands. It branched mainly in metal music from August Burns Red to Slipknot, All That Remains, Parkway Drive etc. My Dad was always for it! He was in a band himself when he was younger and I credit most of my starting passion to him. As far as metal goes, my Dad never understood why all the screaming and not singing, but after all this time I think its grown on him haha.
Corey (drums) was a musician for years before I met him. He was a drummer in his high-school band and has always been proficient at drumming. Corey took major influence from Joey Jordison and Matt Greiner, two amazing drummers. Practices are held at Corey's mothers house, so as you can imagine she obviously supports his musical endeavours or she wouldn't let us do that or attend shows!!
Mike (bass) and I would jam to our favourite bands music for hours together. We could play Killswitch Engage albums front to back and just have a blast the whole time. If I remember correctly, I taught Mike how to play guitar and then in his spare time he pushed himself to get better and better. Mike ended up dropping down to bass when we picked up Jordan for our main guitar spot. Mike's parents are very supportive as well.
Jordan (guitar) was in a band with Corey, our drummer, back before OOE formed. I don't personally know how Jordan started playing, all I know is he is damn good. He is much better than myself, that's for sure. As far as I know his parents enjoy and support him as much as they can."
Deathcore is a overly-saturated genre, how do you distance yourself from the cliche riff and breakdown overload some bands do?
"I'm sure my response is as cliche as the genre can be sometimes, but we aren't trying to fit any mould, we never have. We try to push ourselves personally and are trying to make music that simply we enjoy as individuals. Our goal isn't to make the most brutal music or catchy music. Our goal is to just write music that we like! If other people like it and call themselves fans of our work, that just makes us happy and pushes us to keep going! With releasing new singles every 2-3 months it allows us to do absolutely anything that we want with each release and not have to worry about having our music fit any concepts or tones/attitudes. We can just write whatever we are feeling that month and its definitely a freeing experience so far."
Would you argue for against that Deathcore is a metal genre? Why do you think it at times takes some bad rap from people?
"I personally believe that anything with drums, bass, harsh vocals and electric distorted guitar is metal. Saying Deathcore isn't metal is pretty elitist. You can not like Deathcore obviously, but it is metal. I think the reason why it gets such a bad reputation is because most of the bands that fit this category don't have any sustenance to their writing. They just chug and chew on the microphone and claim its skilled work. Out of 100 bands, there are probably only 3-5 worth listening to. The other 95+ bands have a copy and paste formula for their writing. Hopefully that'll change in the future and bands will stop trying to be "Deathcore" and will just follow their own spirit and write something captivating."
For metalheads visiting Grand Rapids, what sights or attractions could you recommend?
"Grand Rapids, MI as well as the whole state has some of the best venues! The Intersection is an easy pick, they have three stages! All separate from each other so there isn't any audio bleed. The main stage, The Stache and Elevation. They bring metal shows in all the time. The Pyramid Scheme is a pinball pub that also has a great stage and sound system. Some of the coolest / personal shows I've been to have been there. Recently 20 Monroe Live just opened up. I haven't been there myself, but I've heard wonderful things. There are bars everywhere in GR and they almost all have some sort of stage area for shows that typically support metal. Most shows at the bars are free."
How far has your music been listened to? You released 'Absolute Zero' in April, what was the response like?
"With the internet our music has been heard all over the globe! 'Absolute Zero' has had great response and great reviews by the people who have listened to it, but we have had a hard time getting the word out there that we are still together. As stated above, we hit so many rough patches and years of 'hiatus' that I think people have drifted away and its hard to bring them back. But, with the release of 'Absolute Zero' and our two newest singles 'Worthless Existence' and 'Crimson Era' people are starting to turn their heads again! 2018 has been a year of feeling like we are starting over. Its refreshing but also a little discouraging."
How has 2018 treated you guys and what plans do you have for 2019?
"2018 has been the best year for the band so far! Getting new fans, releasing music on Spotify and other major services has been a first for us and its awesome to watch it grow! It seems so obvious, but when people actually purchase our music it solidifies the fact that we are doing something right. People are willing to spend their hard earned money on something that four guys from MI created to help us continue and grow into something more. It makes it all worth it in the end.
Hopefully in 2019 we continue to grow and start playing some shows! New music, always!"
Finally do you have any hello's, thank you's, etc., that you wish to send out?
"A huge thank you to Lee from Lee Albrecht Studios who is our current producer for our latest two singles! Joshua Wickman from Dreadcore Productions who produced 'Absolute Zero' with us, thank you!! These two producers have really stepped up to help us out and make our music into something amazing. They are solid people and great to work with. Both very talented producers with a passion for making the best product they can!! Thanks to our fans for purchasing / streaming / sharing our music!"
Beneath the upper echelons of the likes of Slayer, Metallica, Slipknot, Lamb of God, etc., (there are far too many big-name American Metal bands to mention) is a vast swathe of talent that stretches across the American Plains and has greater velocity than a F5 tornado. One band who is set to shake the establishment is Begat The Nephilim, whose infectious blend of Black Metal and Melodic Death Metal is enough to keep anyone orgasmic. Having dropped their debut album "Begat the Nephilim I: The Surreptitious Prophecy / Mother of the Blasphemy" last month and set to go on an East Coast tour, it was only right for GMA to interrogate this quintet.
For those who have not heard of Begat The Nephilim, could you please give us a history of the band?
"I (Cameron Dupere - Guitar) began writing music in late 2011 / early 2012 with intentions of getting a band going after several failed attempts. Later in the Summer of 2012 I came into contact with our soon to be drummer, Josh Richardson and we began jamming regularly. Within a month or so Josh introduced me to Tyler Smith who then became our vocalist and we began playing shows in the fall of that same year. After years of playing shows and several self funded tours, line-up changes (primarily rhythm guitar and to a lesser degree, bass) and a few unsatisfactory recording attempts we are ready to release our first album and play anywhere we possibly can."
What do your families think of your music, and when did you get your first taste in metal music?
"Our families have varying interests in our musical pursuits. They are all supportive in the sense that they don't discourage what we are doing and understand that it is what makes us feel happy and alive and that alone makes it worth it. I believe I must have been 11 or 12 when I received a burned CD with a Slipknot song on it and it blew me away, I couldn't have been less ready for the radical tones of metal since no one in my family had any interest in that style it made it much more appealing to my young prepubescent self."
What enticed you to mix Black and Melodic Death Metal together? How would you define your sound?
"The intention was to simply create a band that had elements of everything I enjoy about metal music. I refer to it as simply "Extreme Metal" since it combines elements of the most extreme genres i.e. Death, Black, Melodic Death, Slam, Deathcore etc."
How does it feel to be soon releasing your debut album "Begat the Nephilim I: The Surreptitious Prophecy / Mother of the Blasphemy", will there be a album launch party?
"It feels nothing short of amazing to finally be unleashing 'The Surreptitious Prophecy' upon the world. It took many long years and even more sacrifices to make this album happen but we never deviated from what we wanted to do and never compromised and I couldn't be more proud of that. We are hosting several album release shows through the North Eastern US and touring the east coast in support of the record in July."
Will you be looking to do an international tour in support of the album?
"We would love to tour internationally. I'm not in a position to say what is in store for us just yet but it is our intention to tour anywhere we possibly can after the album is released."
What challenges as an American band do you face when touring across the country?
"The main problem I personally face on tour is getting adequate rest and nourishment. Other challenges include ensuring we get from point A to point B in a timely manner and keeping morale high because nothing makes a tour drag more than shitty ego / attitudes."
What is the metal scene like in New Hampshire (NH)? What venues, bars, etc are there? What sights / attractions could you recommend to metalheads to go and see?
"There are a few bars and clubs in NH worth checking out such as Bungalow, Jewel, etc., NH was very dead for a while but it finally seems metal is returning to granite state and that is very exciting to see. The thing I would recommend most to anyone visiting NH would be to check out a local hiking trail or to visit the sea-coast, the outdoors and wildlife in NH is by far my favourite part."
What plans do you have for the year ahead?
"We had our album release shows in June and are touring the East Coast in July and after that we are working on plans for the fall that are still up in the air. Our intention as previously stated is to hit the road hard as much as we can and use any downtime to begin work on Begat II"
"He’s (Kylo Ren) shown so far that his only way to cope with that (his inner conflict) is to let his rage run rampant"
What are your thoughts on 'The Last Jedi' and will you be watching the new anthology film 'Solo'?
"We were all big fans of The Last Jedi and will absolutely be going to see Solo. I doubt you’ll find any of us not going to see any piece of the Star Wars saga."
Your first opus set the galaxy alight and got the thumbs up from Darth Sidious, what will you be bringing to the new album due out on May 4th?
"Our new album was our opportunity to explore the pieces that we wanted to explore. The first album needed to have all the big ones, but we are now able to delve into some of the deeper cuts from the past films and explore some of the newer material. It’s definitely much heavier and more technical."
It's rare for themed-bands to make an impact internationally, so who came up with the idea of having a Star Wars instrumental metal band?
"Our drummer, Grant McFarland (aka Bobs Sett) was the one who hatched the idea initially. He had made a drum video for The Imperial March a few years prior and eventually had the idea to add other instruments to the arrangement, which is when he got the rest of us involved. His perfect pitch and excellent ears are due the most credit, as he was the one to pick apart every piece of the orchestra and map it all out for us to play. I don’t think we’d have made the same impact without his efforts. "
Do you feel Kylo Ren will redeem himself in Episode 9? Or could Kylo and Rey form the Grey Jedi?
"I don’t think there is any coming back for Kylo. He fulfilled the same prophecy as every other Sith or Dark Side oriented individual before him, which was to eventually outsmart and kill his master. I think his inner conflict will still play a factor, but he’s shown so far that his only way to cope with that is to let his rage run rampant. I suppose, however, we could always be thrown a total curve ball. I guess we’ll have to wait and see."
Surely it must get hot under your outfits, are the suits breathable? Does it take long to put them on?
"The live costumes are not nearly as bad as they look. They are designed to be as movable and breathable as possible. The original costumes used in our music videos are the real burden. Incredibly hot, heavy and always falling apart. Unfortunately for us, those are what we also spend the longest continuous periods of time in, since videos take up to eight hours to shoot. The live show is just an hour, then we’re back out of them. "
Ultimately would Dark Vader love to play a lightsabre-shaped guitar?
"I currently play a guitar with a red fretboard, courtesy of Kiesel Guitars, that we have aptly named “The Lightsaber”. I’m not sure I’d ever want the full shape just because of how skinny that would be. I’m a bigger guy, so tiny guitars look a bit silly on me."
Initially was it difficult converting the orchestral pieces into metal music? How did you go about it?
"As I said, that was all Grant. The cool thing is these songs already lend themselves very well to the metal adaptations. I think classical compositions in general are very easily adaptable in that way."
What plans do you have for the rest of the year and into the light years ahead?
"Our next tour is set for June. We will be heading back to Europe to play a number of great festivals, with some equally great names. There are some other things in the works for the remainder of 2018, but none I can talk about just yet! "
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!"
Whitechapel. To some it's the area of East London famed for Jack The Ripper, but in metal context it's an American Deathcore band with a splattering of various influences pocketed here and there from Black Metal to Groove Metal. However this quintet (drummer Ben Harclerode left this year) are more than your generic breakdown-laden, riff chugging clone that seems to dominate the ever-exasperated Deathcore genre. They are the leviathan of the genre, avoiding the cliches and common aesthetics found entrenched in most Deathcore bands and thus pose themselves as truly unique.
They were welcomed back to Bloodstock this year with open arms and certainly gave the punters their monies worth.
GMA took time out to talk to Gabe Crisp, the Whitechapel bassist about the band's history,
"I'd love Whitechapel to be part of a video game, that would be cool. I'd be down for something action-packed for sure."
Whitechapel has been going for 11 years now, what has been the most challenging part of the band's career so far? Did the band name originate from the East London area?
"The fact that you're constantly leaving home and things like that, we're all home buddies... things like driving 5 minutes to work is a lot easier than flying across the world you know? But nah we love it, it comes as part of the territory.
Our band name came from the Whitechapel area in London, I was proposed to be the man to go on to call our band name and Phil said 'Whitechapel', I was like 'what the f*ck?' Why would you call it Whitechapel?' It's weird because that's where Jack The Ripper killed a bunch of sluts back in the day. I was like 'oh shit that's pretty hard, that's metal as f*ck' and so here we are.
I mean another thing, I'll give you this one, Whitechapel is kind of like in a similar way; not saying we're in any way like the band, but the name Black Sabbath... I thought about this a couple of years ago, Whitechapel, see it's like black and white, Sabbath and chapel and it's like it works, I think Whitechapel works, I don't hate our band name. Some bands they're like 10 years in and man I f*cking hate our name, it sucks."
Whitechapel is often regarded as a Deathcore band, but on 'Mark Of The Blade' you leaned more towards Groove Metal right?
"Yeaahh so, I mean we've been a band for 11 years so we try not to write the same record twice, we don't want to do that, we never have, what we were into and writing you know ten years ago... I don't know it's kinda hard for us to not evolve, that's pretty much what it all is - growing up and changing, we just want to be a metal band and not really sub-genre it and all that sh*t, keep it fun for us and try to play shit that people had gotten in to.
Whatever you refer to us I don't care, to me that term [Deathcore] reflects our early years kind of vibe. It's just 10 years ago for us, we already done that kind of sound you know what I mean? Not that there's anything wrong with it, but we just can't write the same record over and over like we're going to be on our 7th record. If you're talking 10 songs a-record, that's 70 songs sounding exactly the same and if you're putting yourself into that genre, defining yourself as such - there's sh*t all you can do there right?"
Aside from metal music, do you have any influences from outside of metal? What does your family think of your music?
"Yeah I was telling a guy earlier about this stuff, when I was 14 I started playing bass guitar and that lead me to become a part of this band. The first band I fell in love, went to see and why I got into guitars was Green Day actually and not a metal band. I was a big fan of Green Day back in the day, just thought that the bass, being loud and proud in that band was super sick, it was cool man.
My parents are awesome, they know I do big sh*t, they're stoked. It's not the greatest job in the world I guess for some people, but it is to me and that's how it works. My family usually come to the out-of-town shows once every a couple of years or so they'll come to a show, my dad loves to have a few beers and watch me play and my mum has no idea what's going on - she has a good time."
Would it be fair to say that Phil Bozeman is one of the fastest Death Metal-style vocalists out there?
"I hope so, sure why not? I think he's the best for sure, I don't know that's just me. I think he's the best for sure. I like watching some frontmen from other bands, but as far as vocals go yeah he's a bad ass - he's very good at what he does. I think he can stand beside anybody in anyway."
Regarding your song 'The Saw Is The Law', what does the song title actually mean?
"I have no idea man, honestly all it is we use that song live as like our logo, those two words rhyme and makes sense I guess? I don't write the lyrics but I think it was just a kind of play on words that kind of rhyme and everybody seems to like it so it works out. There's a lot of saws, we have a lot of saws in our designs, in our album artworks, something like that."
Are there any major festivals in Knoxville?
"No we don't really have anything like that, we play our home town once a year usually, and it's not really a metal town by any means. We're a local band that travels a lot, we have our fans but as far as metal music goes in general, there's not much going on. If there was a festival it would not be metal, how about that? Yeah we'd play a non-metal festival without a doubt, I mean we played Warped Tour which is considered non-metal, it's more metal than it used to be for sure. But yeah we'd play anything, we like good music but it has to be metal for sure; if they want to listen to us then we wouldn't want to play in front of people who wouldn't want to hear us but at the same time we'd love to play anything."
Credit goes to the Bloodstock Open Air Festival Team
You've just finished your set, how was it?
"It was a great time, it was early but at lot earlier than we're used to but everything went well, because we were having a good time. It was easy, played all the songs well so can't really complain. It would have been cool if it was a little sunnier out but I'll be honest, it's not hot right? It's not raining so I'm not going to complain."
For the New Blood Stage bands, some have only just started out, some have never played a major festival before, what advice could you give them (and future unsigned bands at Bloodstock)?
"I'm assuming that the shows are going to be bigger than they're used to or something like that, for me I never had a problem with the size of the crowd. Don't even worry about the crowd, it's easy just play your show on stage and whatever is happening down front don't even worry about it. Just play your show on stage, that's what I'd say."
Is it relatively hard for American bands to go on tours across the States?
"Nah nah, I mean for us we've always been lucky I guess but at the same time it's fairly easy as long as you have a somewhat of a following and, maybe starting up is kind of hard - I think that would be for anybody, shows in America go well."
When Whitechapel is on tour, what do you guys get up to to occupy yourself whilst travelling?
"PlayStation 4, some of us try to go to the gym every now and then if there's a way to get out and get the pump on, get a shower you know? Let's see, yeah usually just PlayStation, we play a lot of PlayStation. We've been playing a lot of NHL 17, Uncharted 4, but I'm usually watching Zach (Householder) whilst drinking beers - it sounds boring right? But it's what we do."
Speaking of PS4, if a game developer was to ask Whitechapel to provide a song for a new PS4 or Xbox game would you do it?
"As many as would, forever, why not yeah. I used to learn about bands who liked Tony Hawk back in the day, that had awesome soundtracks. I'd love Whitechapel to be part of a video game, that would be cool. I'd be down for something action-packed for sure."
Does Whitechapel have any plans confirmed for 2018 so far?
"So far I don't know if I'm supposed to talk about it, I talked about it earlier though in some form of it, but we're going to be back early Spring of next year and I don't want to say who we're coming back with, but yeah we'll be back early next year. I think it's mainly Europe stuff, maybe some UK stuff but it's very early stages but it looks like we're going to be over here next year, early next year."
Gabe, have you got any hello's, greetings, etc you wish to send out to fans, family, etc.?
"Well yeah I just got married, so I'll say hello Corinna, what's up girl? I'll figure out that she manages to read / listen to this, it's awesome. Anybody that listens to Whitechapel, that would be cool I feel like I'm a pretty lucky person in talking to you guys so, I just want to say thanks to anybody who has checked us out, liked us or not, who cares, I appreciate it - thanks to the bands."
It's always nice to see individuals or groups giving the their input towards a relief effort and Omotai are no exception. Having provided a track for the Hurricane Harvey Benefit Compilation, this Texas unit are committed to bringing charity to those affected by the hurricane in late August / early September.
GMA had to catch up with the guys to talk about this sensational venture, their origins and the extreme weather Texas has to deal with, that being tornadoes as well as hurricanes.
Vocalist / Guitarist Jamie Ross gave the honours.
"Just the sheer number of people that lost everything is hard to wrap one's head around [from Hurricane Harvey]"
Hi guys, firstly could you give us a brief history of how Omotai came about as a band? What does the name mean?
"It all started back in 2010, when Sam Waters (vocals / guitars) enlisted the help of Melissa Lonchambon Ryan (vocals / bassist) and then-drummer Anthony Vallejo to record the debut EP, Peace Through Fear. That line-up remained unchanged through the next two releases, 2012's Terrestrial Grief (the debut full-length) and 2014's Fresh Hell--both released on local label The Treaty Oak Collective. I joined the line-up as a second guitarist in 2013, pretty soon following the recording of Fresh Hell, but prior to its release.
Anthony left soon after, his final show being at a 2014 SXSW appearance. Danny Mee took over drumming duties in time to complete some touring in support of Fresh Hell in 2014 and 2015. We've been hard at work ever since, writing and recording our latest double LP, A Ruined Oak, which is set to debut on October 6th on Tofu Carnage Records. A West Coast excursion is planned to promote the record. The name Omotai is the Japanese word for "heavy," which Sam felt was an apt designation given the artistic direction of the band. Credit for the idea goes to our friend Evan Jones, who taught English in Japan for a spell."
Would you say that the 2017 hurricane season has been one of the worst in recent years?
"Most definitely. Sam's family tragically lost their home in the Bellaire section of Houston, which was hit especially hard. The season would have been horrific enough if Harvey and its aftermath were the extent of it. But Irma came along and devastated much of the Eastern Caribbean and Florida, then Maria recently ravaged Puerto Rico (which is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis). Houston's had its share of weather-related disasters--especially in the last few years. But here we are a month out from the date that Harvey made landfall, and many areas are still impassable. Also, the waste from homes being gutted has built up into a logistical nightmare for removal companies that are still struggling to make inroads."
As you're from Texas, a state within tornado alley, have you ever seen a tornado? Has there been any notable ones hit Texas?
"We're a bit close to the Gulf of Mexico to be in the heart of tornado alley, but there were several in the area while Harvey was stalled over Houston. One hit the neighbourhood next to mine on that first Friday night--I could hear, but not see it. North Texas is the unlucky recipient of most of Texas' tornadoes."
Tell us about you getting involved in the Hurricane Harvey benefit compilation, where are the participating bands located? How can people donate?
"We were approached by Miss Champagne Records about contributing a track to the benefit record, Making Waves, the week following the Harvey disaster. It was the brainchild of the MCR staff and Mercy Harper from Football, etc. All of the bands are local to Houston, so the cause is obviously very meaningful to us all. We think it turned out wonderfully and we're honoured to be in the company of so many stellar Houston bands included on the compilation. All proceeds from the benefit comp go straight to Harvey relief, so it's a perfect way to donate AND listen to some rad music."
Did you sit out the hurricane or did you evacuate further inland? What were your thoughts at the time of Harvey's landfall?
"Danny was safely in Austin for the storm, but everyone else toughed it out here. When the storm finally hit, we knew that we were going to be in for an extended confinement at our homes (fully anticipated by the Houston masses, as evidenced by the the local grocery and liquor stores being completely fleeced), but no one anticipated how crippled the city would become. Just the sheer number of people that lost everything is hard to wrap one's head around. "
Would you agree that extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes are a staple part of Mid-West and Southern American life?
"For sure. And, to make matters worse, the events are becoming more frequent and increasingly destructive."
Given the damage caused by Harvey, I can't imagine there being much band activity this year - please correct me if I'm assuming wrong and inform what you will be getting up to?
"There are several benefit shows sprouting up in the area, so the music community has been surprisingly resilient. As for Omotai, we've been concentrating on getting A Ruined Oak released, and we'll be embarking on a Western U.S. tour starting this Friday, September 29th. All of the dates are posted to our social media for those that would like to come out and hang."
Finally are there any hellos, thank you's you wish to send out?
"Firstly, our thoughts are with the Waters clan and all of our other Houston friends and family that are dealing with the loss of so much property, and coping with the resulting emotional challenges. Special thanks to Sean Mehl and Tofu Carnage Records for helping us put out the LP. And, finally, thanks to all who have supported us over the years--it truly means a lot."
They've been making a name for themselves since their inception a decade ago, not just because of their age at the beginning but also due to their bold move at performing live in Times Square which took the social media world by storm. Having racked up the press attention, fan numbers and even striking a monumental deal with Sony Music, it was about time that GMA gave the trio Unlocking The Truth an interrogation to find out what ticks these three lads from Brooklyn and what it means to 'unlock the truth'... all three lads - Malcolm Brickhouse (MB), Jarad Dawkins (JD) and Alec Atkins (AA) - gave their answers.
Hi guys, so firstly how did you get into metal music? Are you surprised by it's global spread?
MB: "We got into metal music by hearing the genre through the intro music to WWE and the background music of anime. No, I'm not surprised by metal's global spread. There's a crowd for every kind of music and I know from experience that people can really connect to this music."
AA: "I got into metal music through Ana, me, Jared and Malcolm ."
JD: "I got into Metal music, by an entertainment network known as the WWE. In addition, AMV also known as, Anime music videos, were a source of entertainment that introduced me to metal music. Bands such as, Disturbed, Linkin Park, Three Days Grace and more."
What did your high school friends and your family think of your choice of music? What do you aim to achieve?
MB: "My high school friends support me. They may not listen to metal, but they think it's cool that I am doing something unique and making something out of it. I aim to carve our own path in metal. Making it okay for people who are scared to stand out and be themselves, feel like they can show the world how unique they are. I also want our music to touch people's souls."
AA: "My high school friends think highly of my music and most of my high school friends like my music because in order for you to be considered my friend you have to like what I do"
JD: "They believe my choice of music is unique. I aim to achieve a platinum album, and a few Grammys"
You performed in Times Square, that surely must be a highlight of your career? Would you do it again? Perhaps organize a festival?
MB: "Performing in Time Square was a highlight of my career. It pushed us into the mainstream and got us used to performing in front of a large crowd, but I would not do it again. That was only chapter 1 of our journey. We have to keep improving and moving forward."
AA: "Yeah it would be cool to organize a festival but I don't see us going out to Times Square playing for four hours with a bucket."
Since NYC is steeped in music history e.g. hip-hop being a popular choice of music, was it hard to break out of that social convention and do something different? Do you / have you ever been subject to racial discrimination for playing what some still call a 'white man's music'?
MB: "I think the fact that hip-hop is so steeped in New York City, it was good for us because it helped us stand out from a lot of other artists. Also being black helped us stand out, so I can't complain. We did not necessarily face racial discrimination. We would show up at venues and people would automatically assume we were rappers or called us the Jackson 5. But they were surprised when we started playing metal."
AA: "Yeah it was kinda hard to break out and do something different, but the real thing is people want different so it was easy for us to get our name out there and for people to get in on unlocking the truth. Some people think we play white people's music but that's not true because we know that the origin of the Heavy Metal table comes form rock 'n' roll, rock 'n' roll key from the blues and soul and that's black peoples music so we didn't care about what people said as far as race."
JD: It wasn't hard to break out and, do something different because in NY, people don't really care on what you do until they see it, and the improvements you make for yourself. I've also been subjected to racial discrimination, and it wasn't just for music."
How do you feel signing to Sony Music? Surely this blew you back at the time, signing to one of the world's largest labels?
MB: "Signing to Sony was a huge part of why we are where we are today. It was a great opportunity and even though everything didn't workout, I am still grateful for everything that came along with signing the deal."
AA: "Signing to Sony music was a blessing, even to have the opportunity despite the fact we are no longer with them."
JD: "Signing to Sony gave the band a fresh start to the music industry. Also it gave the band, a new start to the music industry and the people to help you succeed. Furthermore, being independent is better."
Do you have any plans in touring Europe? Where have you played so far?
MB: "We have not played in Europe yet but we are finalizing the deal for two shows in Warsaw, Poland this coming May."
AA: "We do not have any touring plans for Europe as of yet. But we have played at Coachella Bonnaroo warped tour etc."
JD: "Yes we do have plans of touring in Europe. Furthermore we have toured the states and parts of Canada."
You've just released your debut album last year, what was the reaction like?
MB: "The reaction to our debut album was great. We received tons of great feedback too. Now for our next album, we'll just have to capitalize on what we did so far."
AA: "People reacted nicely to the album, gave us good feedback and we gained a good fan base from it."
JD: "The reaction was okay, its our first album and, we have much more improving to do."
What advice could you share with aspiring metal bands or indeed the youth in the metal music community?
MB: "I think that aspiring metal bands and the youth should try to find ways to be different. People want new, not recycled artist. When times are the hardest (and they can get hard), just keep pushing through it and never give up. Thank you for this interview."
AA: "My advice stay true to yourself and do what you want to do and don't do what others want you to do."
JD: "Be the best you can be, don't let nobody stop you from what your trying to achieve. Always do better, exceed the average, never want to be the average. Furthermore, surround yourself with people that want to win and, you'll win."
Halloween is once a year, or is it? Not according to American quintet Eternal Halloween whose demonic stature is sure to garner attention from overseas as arguably the States answer to the UK's Evil Scarecrow. Moreover this Los Angeles (or as they might call Los Hellos), California-based horde have only been around a year and are already causing a buzz across the American Metal underground, let's just hope their name is not a reference to the Aiden song otherwise things could get quite confusing. Eternal Halloween were happy to spare some time to answer some questions GMA had in store for them...