Lately, we’ve been wondering what our favorite characters would listen to if they weren’t off saving the world, destroying it, or doing whatever it is they do that makes us love them. So we’re kicking off a new, imaginative series of articles. First, here’s what we think Frodo would have on his Hobbit playlist if he were rockin’ out on his journey.
When I first met Chef and metalhead Brian Tsao it was at his Heavy Metal Happy Hour event on Friday the 13th (fitting, right?) at the Kimoto Rooftop in Brooklyn. I stepped into an elevator at the Aloft Hotel and as the attendant pressed the button that would take us more than 20 stories high, one of her fellow employees at ground level asked, wide-eyed, “How is it up there? Is it crazy? Are They smashing guitars?”
We Came As Romans premiered their new single “Tear It Down” on Billboard yesterday, and it turns out there is a long and turbulent story behind it and the rest of the new album. In the accompanying interview, vocalist Dave Stephens recounts how the band’s producer for this record, David Bendeth (Breaking Benjamin, Paramore, Papa Roach), tore their initial ideas to pieces. The result is a sound that blends metalcore with nu metal and gives extra attention to Stephens’ melodic vocals; a role for which he spent a lot of time preparing. Of his new vocal coach, Stephens says:
She made me do things like get on my knees and sing with my entire back and butt and feet against the wall and show me all kinds of strange things to show me how to sing properly — not to mention practicing two to three hours a day. But it worked; my range improved, my tone improved.
WCAR have also switched up their writing style in terms of lyricism for their upcoming self-titled work. “Tear It Down” represents a new phase in which the band isn’t afraid to shy away from their stubbornly positive words of the past:
We used to think we had to write positively about change; on this record we realized that to point out something negative or that we don’t like or makes you angry doesn’t mean positive change can’t happen.
Check out the rest of the Billboard interview here and go ahead and put “Tear It Down” on repeat. Trust us.
One of the best little things that can happen to a music buff is clicking a suggested video on YouTube and being pleasantly surprised by an unsigned band, as was the case with the UK-based Opheon. After being click-baited all over YouTube one day, I happened to stumble upon Opheon’s music video for “The Distance” and was immediately hooked.
“The Distance” pairs roaring riffs with a solid mixture of well-tuned cleans and pounding uncleans and is accompanied by a simplistic video that truly lets their complex sound round out the visuals. “It was pretty cool,” says vocalist and guitarist Liam O’Sullivan on filming for the video. “We did a photo shoot in this abandoned bomb factory from World War II and knew we had a music video coming up, and this was the best place we’d ever seen, so we ended up going back. It was like a half hour trek from where you can park to the factory, so with all the cameras and guitars and everything it was just horrendous to get there. Then we had to shoot for hours and take all the stuff back at like six in the morning so that was pretty long and tiring.” But the trek was definitely worth it as the video showcased a rising band with a hardcore twist on a classic metal vibe.
The quartet that makes up Opheon has only been together since the summer of 2013, and yet they’re making humongous strides with a sonic sophistication almost unheard of coming from a group of 19 and 20-year olds. Being heavily influenced by bands like Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage and Gojira, just listening to their latest EP, As I Walk With Fire, shows an appreciation for technicality so many up-and-coming bands feel they can overlook nowadays.
So how did these guys from Birmingham come together exactly? Like all great beginnings, it started randomly and unexpectedly. “Myself and Josh [Warhurst,] the other guitarist, were in the same class at school for like a year but we didn’t realize it,” explains O’Sullivan. “When we realized that we were in the same class we started playing guitar a bit and one thing led to another. We had a school concert in like 2008 and didn’t have a singer so I just thought I’d sing for it. And it was really bad. It’s on Youtube actually. [Laughs] So yeah, that’s quite funny, but that was it really.”
Shortly after settling upon their current lineup in 2013, the band was able to release two tracks, “We Are One” and “A New Hope,” which not only gained traction on the internet, but even got label heads turning Opheon’s way. “When we got scouted by the label they said the reason they liked us was they thought we were like a hardcore mash up of bands like Trivium and Killswitch Engage,” says the ever humble O’Sullivan still seemingly shocked by the deserving comparison. “We’d never really thought about that personally, we just sort of wrote the two songs out of nowhere and for them to think that of us was kind of cool. So when we started working on the EP [As I Walk With Fire], it was like we wanted to just build on that foundation about us that we didn’t realize we had going.”
When it came to recording As I Walk With Fire Opheon went above and beyond expectations by tossing conventions to the wind and revamping their sound in a far more melodic and technical direction. “Track six, ‘Lost in Undertow’ is the heaviest one,” notes O’Sullivan of his favorite song on the EP. “It’s kind of a groovy, Pantera, Machine Head, Lamb of God vibe. There’s no singing as well which is cool. It was more of a really angry song, and I thought it was sort of nice to not have a verse/chorus singing song. It’s different to the rest of the EP, so [as the EP’s last song] it’s got the heaviness fading out.”
Opheon always works to keep things as true to themselves as possible, even using artwork from a local artist friend of O’Sullivan’s to represent the cover of As I Walk With Fire. And when it comes to shows, Opheon is always prepared to bring the heat, whether it’s playing to five kids or an entirely booked out club show. “If it’s a pretty still, dormant crowd, we still try and give it a lot of energy,” explains O’Sullivan. “We’ve all got wireless systems now and we just try to throw some shapes and go for it. It’s a lot better when it’s tight and the crowd and everyone’s loving it, and you’re loving it.”
With several shows coming up in the spring, including their EP launch show this April, keep an eye out for Opheon on tour this summer. When asked to describe Opheon in one word, O’Sullivan hit the nail on the head with our new favorite word: “Riffolodic.”
READ MORE: Review: Opheon — As I Walk With Fire