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Unchain the Underground is proud to present an interview with

Shadows Fall

In Flames wannabes! New Wave of Swedish DM ripoffs! Total Crap! These are just some of the countless descriptions often uttered with utmost contempt at the mere mention of a band like Massachussetts' Shadows Fall. Yes, they're the band you love to hate and more. Granted, not as demonically diabolic as Deicide nor brutally battering as Bolt Thrower, Shadows Fall is still worth a good listen whether anyone likes it or not. If anything this five piece totally redefines the term "heavy." And just one listen to the intricate guitar melodies of Matt Bachand and Jonathan Donais, and the soulfully passionate voice of Brian Fair (ex-Overcast) is enough to overwhelm the senses. Dynamically structured and meticulously played (think a more Rock n' Roll induced Meshuggah), Shadows Fall is like a breath of fresh air. It's invigorating as it is tranquil. Unlike the tens of thousands of Cannibal Corpse clones in existence as we speak, Shadows Fall are perhaps the only U.S. Death Metal band expanding the parameters of sound and texture. Okay, maybe they're not exactly Death Metal as say, Morbid Angel but then again, who cares? Their debut for Century Media entitled "Of One Blood" showcases a band with enough potential to plow straight through an armored fortress, and then some! Luckily, I was fortunate to receive a phone call from guitarist Matt Bachand who was as it turns out, a good sport to some of my annoying questions. But nevertheless, an interesting exchange occurred on this cold, quiet evening. Here's the outcome.

Interviewed by Envenomed. Images courtesy of www.shadowsfall.com


Shadows FallQ: Now I understand with this album, Century Media is already making Shadows Fall one of its major priorities since they expect it to do very well once its released. However, considering that it might still be a little too early to tell, have these expectations been a bit overwhelming? What are the responses so far?

A: Oh, it's been great definitely but it is a little overwhelming. A lot of press work and stuff and I'm sure it's just gonna get worse but that's fine. We don't mind doing that but as far as everything else, they've been doing a really good job of advancing the record and such. So I rhink it'll do well, or at least I hope it well.

Q: That's good to hear. Now I could be mistaken but weren't you previously a member of the band Overcast?

A: Our singer was, yes.

Q: Oh okay. I wasn't sure but weren't you all members of previous bands before coming together to form Shadows Fall?

A: Yeah, yeah. John our guitar player was in Aftershock and a few others. I was in a band from around here called Exhumed (not the Relapse band!), among a few others. And Paul our bassist was in a few Hardcore bands back in the day like Pushbutton Warfare with some of the guys in Hatebreed and stuff so we've been around.

Q: Well, what made all of you separate from your previous endeavours to pursue the direction you're all going in now? Was it a unique sort of chemistry?

A: Well, back then it was just me and John writing material years back before we even decided to look for a drummer or anything to fill it out and he was doing Aftershock kind of as something to play with at the time. We went to High School with those kids so it was just something to do at that time but he wanted to do a Metal band and at that time I had just left Exhumed and wasn't doing anything as far as Metal bands are concerned. So we just got together and started writing and it evolved from that point I guess.

Q: So then considering the deal you landed with Century Media, I take it Shadows Fall will be a huge responsibility for you at this point? I mean, were your previous endeavours just dabblings to pass the time away?

A: Well, in the past things have been priorities. I mean, obviously now this is a priority and it has been before the deal was even inked so that's how it that came to be as it is. So we're definitely giving a 110% at this point and we'll see where it goes.

Shadows Fall
“Man, take that doodie off your head! Some times you go too far with the comedy, man!”

Q: Again, that's good to hear. Now you mentioned that you played in a band called Exhumed which judging by the name, I assume was more of a gore oriented Death Metal type thing. However, upon listening to the new album you can hear a more wider range of influences in your sound. Shadows Fall is way more melodic which has an uncanniness to In Flames. In fact, had I not received the bio along with the CD, I would have actually mistaken you guys to be a Swedish band.

A: Right, right. We get that a lot actually but I'm not sure if you're thinking the Exhumed on Relapse, that's not the one I was a part of. It was one that was in the same vein. We did do a very similar style and that's just a matter of all our different influences and I still listen to a lot of that but as well, I've also been listening to a lot of classical music, a lot of everything and that's pretty much where it's coming and it seems that the Swedish sound rubbed off on us quite a bit. But our influence comes from a lot of different places, a lot of old 80's and 70's Rock n' Roll, old Aerosmith records, things like that. I'm a little into that stuff too.

Q: Yeah, I also want to mention that you don't hear too many American bands incorporating a lot of acoustic melodies as well the way you guys do. I feel it that it expands the dynamics and it's also a great way to experiment and kind of see where your heads are at for the moment.

A: Oh absolutely! We definitely wanted to see what we can sneak in there without making it a little too ridiculous so we pretty much write it as it comes and whether it's an acoustic part or whatever it is, if it works it works. So we don't really think about it all that much as far as if it's gonna work in a certain type of song or whatever. We just let it go and see what happens.

Q: Right but being an American band, you know just as much as I do that there will be plenty of critics hearing this for the first time and thinking, "Oh, they're just trying to ride on the same coattails as In Flames and Dark Tranquillity." Secondly, considering that this is your debut many people may ultimately dismiss your band at this point. Now has that ever crossed your mind at some point or another? I take it that it would be somewhat of a frustrating obstacle to have to overcome, no?

A: Oh well it definitely is and I don't see that as a bad thing. I mean, I'm a big fan of both of those bands so I would definitely see that as a good thing. But I think with what we're doing it has a little bit more to offer as far as diversity with different types of things like, we're using a lot of clean vocals on this record. So we try to mix it up as much as we can and we definitely have no problem being compared to bands like that. That's definitely not a bad thing.

Q: Yeah, well then again every band nowadays is going to sound like everyone else. I mean, how long has Heavy Metal been in existence for? What, like 25 years? So now at least 10 or more of some of the newer bands coming out are gonna have elements of Sabbath or Priest. Thus you can't have a scene without its originators.

Shadows FallA: Oh sure, that's gonna be there. I mean, it's just influence over time. It's just whatever you're into, that's where it starts from obviously. If you plant an appleseed you're not going to get a sunflower, know what I mean? So you're going to start with your roots and where you began and it's going to evolve into something that is similar but branch out into its own thing. So that's pretty much what were doing. We're just feeding off of what it is that we grew up on or what we're still listening to.

Q: That's true but again considering that it's now the year 2000 and every major influence, be it Black Metal, Death Metal, Heavy Metal or whatever, has been pushed to the limit and re-used time and time again, do you still feel there's room enough for a band like Shadows Fall?

A: I would think so. I would think it's actually coming back around a little bit more lately. There's sort of been a resurgence in bands like Manowar even and things like that where people are starting to get into them again as they were into them in the early 80's. So I think it's actually getting a lot better now.

Q: True but then there are bands like Hammerfall who are basically nothing more than their own worst parody. So I think naturally that would kind have deter whatever credibility Metal has fought hard all these years to gain. I mean, I don't know if you'd agree..

A: Oh no, no!! I'm not really a big Hammerfall fan myself but I think it's just a matter of what you want to do. I don't think it has anything to do with the fact that what's cool, what's not cool, what kids are listening to, what kids aren't listening to.. (pauses) The way we look at it is we are writing music that we would want to hear, stuff that we would want to run out to the stores and buy. And if other people are really into it then that's great ‘cause we're doing it for everyone else to hear and such but we're also doing it for ourselves and we're just writing what we want to hear and what we think we like to do. So if people are into it then that's great, if they're not then that's gonna happen obviously. Not everyone is going to like it and that's cool.

Q: Well naturally you can't pay attention to negative reviews because then it just hinders progress.

A: Oh absolutely. In fact we feed off of those negative reviews and see what we can do to try and make it better for some of those people that are on that other side, that aren't really into it and find out what would they want to hear us do.

Q: So then is it safe to say that Shadows Fall is indeed a compromising band? I mean, usually whenever I do interviews and ask musicians how they percieve others' reactions, they're usually indifferent to that sort of thing.

A: Right, well I wouldn't say compromising. The way we really do things is we don't stick to a certain style, and previous bands I've been in had been that way. For example, being in a pretty much straightforward Death Metal band. If there was a riff that had more of a Rock n' Roll type feel or an acoustic part whether it was cool or not, we didn't use it just because it didn't fit the formula that was going on. And what we do now is just use anything and it doesn't matter what style it is or what riff is going to be pigeonholed or whatever. If it's cool, if we like it and it works then we'll use it. So there's no barriers or at least we try not to put any up.

Q: Speaking of transcending barriers, you even went as far as to incorporate three vocalists who all share the lead responsibilities. Now I understand that part of the reason was to perhaps acquire different textures but who's idea was that originally? What purpose does this serve?

A: Well, it was just something you didn't see a lot of, and even now it's not everywhere. But it was something that we wanted to do a little bit differently. Each vocalist is going to have their own sound, their own style and the fact of the matter is we were able to mix all three of those and just create something really chaotic. And a lot of bands can do that if they have just one vocalist. They can do that in the studio but they wouldn't be able to pull it off live, ya know bring different vocal styles on top of each other and such. So that's one thing that's good about it, is that we can actually do that live and have the triple vocal thing happening.

Shadows Fall
“If I had a Hamer, I’d Hamer in the evening, I’d Hamer in the morning...” No, I did no misspell hammer. Hamer is the brand of guitar. Get it?

Q: Well when I was listening to the album, especially for the first time, my first impression was that maybe perhaps there was a sort of dialogue going on between characters of a story. I mean it just seemed kind of appropriate since musically there's a lot of lengthy epic style structures.

A: Oh yeah, that's definitely part of it too. That definitely is part of it.

Q: So then correct me if I'm wrong but are the lyrics drawn heavily from a lot of folktale-like influences?

A: Umm.. well I think lyrically it's hard to say. That would be a question for Brian as far as content is concerned. He's the main lyric writer but I know he focuses a lot on spiritual aspects and each song is individual. Not every song is based on one subject. They're all very, very different and we definitely utulize that if there are parts where it calls for something where it does need that sort of response feel to it with different vocals and that's where we kind of throw them in. Or sometimes it'll feel like something needs more texture, ya know like having a Death Metal vocal underneath a clean, singing part. We just kind of work with it and spend time on it. We never know anything down right away. If we finish a song, it's never completely done. We always go back in a couple of weeks and change a part here, add a bridge here, change the way the vocals are. It's never set in stone for quite some time anyway.

Q: You also mentioned something regarding spirituality which I happen to find most interesting because if I recall correctly, Brian once proclaimed himself to be a devout white Rastafarian. So I imagine that has a lot do with it as well.

A: Yes, yes, definitely. Definitely. He's into a lot of that stuff and it definitely comes across in the lyrics.

Q: So then would Shadows Fall be considered to be a band spreading a message of positivity? The reason I ask is because it would then perhaps explain all the more soulful, uplifting melodies in your sound. I mean, I couldn't see a Death Metal band with lyrics about cadavers and gastric juice sounding this happy (laughs). You know what I mean?

A: Oh absolutely. I mean, the way we see it is that Rock n' Roll is all about having a good time. That's exactly what we try to do and definitely lyrically, it's more of a positive note, a lot of things of unity and such. I mean, just the title of the record alone, "Of One Blood" has a very strong unity theme. That's pretty much all it is. Rock n' Roll is all about having a good time and that's what we try to do.

Q: What was the most difficult part of making this record?

A: Well, the guy we brought in to produce, the producer/engineer, he really worked us hard and that was something we had asked him to do. We knew it was going to be difficult because he's a perfectionist and we try to get him to help us with that and so every note had to be perfect. Everything had to be flawless and as you can tell from listening to the record there's a lot of technical aspects, there's a lot of stuff going on. So that was really quite a project to get down and quite distressing at some times. So that was probably the hardest thing but it definitely worked out for the best and we thank him for doing that, for really pushing us to do what we could do.

Q: Well, I'll certainly agree that the music is quite technical indeed. Just from listening to the first song alone you tend to get lost in all the different time changes, thus which leads me to my next question. How did you manage to get so technical in your playing? Did you have to really work at it or were you sort of at that level from the beginning?

A: Back when we started this band it was actually more technical than it is now.

Q: Really? Care to elaborate?

A: Yeah well, it started off quite a bit more chaotic and we've actually stripped it down to more of a Rock n' Roll feel than it was more of a technical Death Metal kind of feel early on in the band 3 or 4 years ago. But we still do incorporate that quite a bit so it was insanely chaotic before. There's not too much of a difference but it definitely has eased up a little bit into simpler things. It's a little more catchy than chaotic so we've been doing that since day one.

Q: Well, when you say "chaotic" do you mean like newer Gorguts material or is that just a tad beyond comprehension?

A: Well, it didn't get that out of hand only because it would just take forever (laughing). We're kind of lazy in that aspect. We really didn't want to get that crazy because a band like Gorguts has got talent oozing out of every pore. I mean, we do what we can but it's hard for me to explain exactly what it was like. It was very similar to.. (ponders for a moment) I guess I can compare to a track like "Crushing Belial" where there's a lot of parts as opposed to a song like "Of One Blood" where there's maybe 5 or so riffs involved in the whole thing. There would be many, many more parts in the material and definitely it's gonna keep going that way. In fact we're writing some new material for the second record already. Actually, we already started doing that and some of it is pretty chaotic.

Shadows FallQ: Yeah, you also mentioned the song "Of One Blood" which interestingly enough happens to be my favorite song on the whole disc. And surely enough, you chose such a highly energetic song to kind of start things off when a lot of bands save their best material for the middle just to kind of build up some momentum. Yet you chose to go for the throat at the very beginning.

A: Right. And that's pretty much the direction that even the newer material is going in. That's the most recent song we had written for the record. We're happy with it and the direction it's heading in as opposed to some of the earlier material like "Fleshold" for example, which was on our original demo years and years back. So you could kind of see the evolution there between the two.

Q: Well, that's true but nowadays it seems that no matter how hard you work at it getting a decent record deal is near to impossible when you take into consideration that it's such a competitive industry. However, Shadows Fall has managed to land a lucrative deal with Century Media very early in its career. How did that come about?

A: It really wasn't that quick. We had talked to them at metalfests previous when we played Milwaukee back in ‘98 and they were just kind of helping us along. Some of those people off the label were really cool about just telling us what labels want to see, how they want each to be presented as far as bands shopping demos. Then we took that advice and actually it just came full circle and went back to them when we ended up picking up Brian. We sent them some new demo material after the first record that we had put out ourselves and they were really, really into that and then it started from there.

Q: But what about the live setting? I mean when we were talking just talking about the album you mentioned that the producer was mainly responsible for giving you the much needed push in doing a good job. Yet in a live setting, there's really not much backing you up except maybe a competent soundman way out in the back or in the DJ booth. So how do you manage to pull this off live?

A: I feel that's actually where our sound is captured most perfectly. That's what we tried to do with the record, that is to try and capture that live feel but make sure everything was perfect notewise. I mean obviously it's going to be a little sloppy in some parts depending upon what happens because when kids pay $10.00 to see a band play a show they want to see a show. If they want to listen to the record they will go home and save themselves 10 dollars and put the record on the CD player. But if they go to a show and spend the money then that's what we try to give them, ya know with the lights. We run around as much as we can and try to get the crowd into it.

Q: Right but again taking into consideration your extremely technical sound I understand that in a studio there's at least an abundance of methods often used to make musicians seem more on point than they really are. However in a live situation where it's just you and the audience it's do or die more or less.

A: Exactly, exactly and I think we're better with that aspect because our live shows are more about energy than anything else. Like I said, we run around as much as we can and really try to pull the crowd into what we're doing as opposed to just standing there and playing the CD exactly how it is. And if they wanted to hear that then they would save their money and listen to it at home. They want to see a show and that's what we try to give them.

Q: Taking into consideration the new material you've already written, or at least in the process of writing for the next album, what elements have you been focusing on that'll perhaps expand your already diverse sound even further?

A: Well, that's pretty hard to say at this point ‘cause it is early on and there's not too too much already written but there is some stuff and it's going to be similar to this record in that there's going to be a lot of diversity. There's gonna be songs that'll be more stripped down Rock n' Roll tunes. There's gonna be stuff that's really chaotic like in the style of the Haunted or At the Gates. So we're really just going to keep it mixed up again and diverse as we can and who knows what'll happen over the course of however long it takes us to finish that next record. Who knows? We just want to have some stuff written before we end up touring a lot for this record so we don't we fall into that hole of having a month to write the second record when you get off a tour. It's near impossible to write songs on tour so we're trying to have some stuff prepared before we actually go.

Q: Now did I also I mention that also tend to hear a lot of classical influences as well? I especially hear that in some of the acoustic parts where there's a lot of symphonic elements.

A: Absolutely! Some of my favorite musicians are in that new age classical feel like Yanni and things like that. I'm really into that and that comes across a lot in our music as well.

Q: What are your feelings on a lot of the Black Metal bands that are just now rediscovering the likes of such classical composers like Wagner and Schoenburg? I don't know if you'd agree but I'm starting to see a trend happening with bands like Emperor. It seems that today these bands are all more about proving themselves to be elite musicians than writing a decent riff or two.

Shadows Fall
The Backstreet Boys really ARE back!

A: Well, I don't know.. I never really thought about it like that but even if that is the case which I have no idea if it is or not, if that's what they want to do and they're having a good time doing it and they're writing cool tunes then that's great. I like those bands myself and if that's their thing then let them do it. As long as they keep writing good music then I'll keep listening.

Q: I understand but of course there's also the extremely dark nature that these bands always seem to revel which might I add has become somewhat of a clique. Yet for being such an extremely heavy band, Shadows Fall doesn't come across as being angry, violent, or depressing whatsoever. Why is that do you suppose?

A: Well.. again if that's what their thing is then I think that's great. We just personally don't want to take that road. But you always need that because I as well listen to a lot of those bands. You always listen to something different when you're in a certain mood and you need that at some point. And if bands want to take that road then I think that's great. As long as they're there doing it and putting the effort in then that's all that really matters.

Q: Right I understand but correct me if I'm wrong when I say that a lot of these so called Black Metal oriented bands are more prone to pigeonhole themselves when they begin to follow a certain format or image. After awhile it tends to become something that people will generally expect of them. To use an appropriate metaphor, it's sort of like the character actor that always seems to get type-casted to playing a specific role because that's all he can do.

A: I definitely see what you're saying but then again it's almost like getting up and going to work. And if you work at a store where they have uniform, you put on that uniform and that's what you were, and that's what you do. It's accepted and that's part of the whole game. So I kind of look at it that way. So if that's the style they're doing or that's where they're headed then play the part.

Q: True, but again why is that Shadows Fall doesn't adhere to "playing the part" so to speak? I mean the lyrics aren't exactly pessimistic. So was it a concious effort to stray away from all of that or perhaps is it because there's a specific message of importance that allows you to use this as a forum to get across?

A: Yeah, well probably the main reason for that is we have no reason to write hateful lyrics because we don't hate anybody (laughs). So I suppose you could say it was conscious because we don't want to do that anyway but we have no reason to. We just go out to have a good time and play Metal for the fans so why not let them have it.

Q: Seems fair enough. So then baring this in mind, what is it that you'd hope for the fans to walk away after hearing this album, besides just enjoying the music?

Shadows FallA: Well, umm.. really if people, I mean know there are those few people that feel metal should stay buried, that only a few people should have access to it and only they could listen to Metal and whatever. But then if you really think about it, if they wanted this to get really far as the mainstream then I think a lot of these kids that are into a lot of the radio bands now would really be into some of this stuff if they actually knew it was there. I mean obviously a lot of radio doesn't happen for bands like ourselves or anyone in the Metal style so that's another thing. What we're trying to do is to get that whole unity thing together. The Metal scene needs to come together and say, "Look, let's do what we can to bring it to the next level. It's really about time."

Q: So then suppose if Metal music had managed to go more commercial without compromising any of its artistic principles and that MTV started supporting Metal, would the fans still be dedicated as they are now?

A: I would hope so. Metal is about music, not about what's cool and what's not cool and what's commercial and what's not commercial. And as long as these kids realize that then I don't think that has anything to do with it. But a lot of people say that if you get played on MTV then you're a sellout. You're not selling out unless you're doing something you don't want to do. If you're happy with the songs you're writing, if you're happy with what you're playing, if things are still cool and where it should be then that has nothing to do with it. I think that's great and that it should get bigger.


Related Links:

www.shadowsfall.com

Century Media Records
 

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