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Interview with Liam O’Sullivan of Opheon

Opheon

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 ep

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

Review: OPHEON – ‘As I Walk With Fire’

EP Cover

While modern metalcore seems to be gravitating more to the -core side of the spectrum, budding Birmingham ensemble Opheon deliver a refreshing and much-needed take on metalcore proper, where intricate guitar work and heavy symbol usage reign bloody and supreme. Though the vocals sometimes dip into melodic hardcore textures and they even work in their own take on breakdowns in “The Distance” and “A Portrait Of Self Hate,” it is the versatility and prominence of the guitars, the intensely varied and seamless syncopations, and the sheer speed of the work that put the ‘metal’ in ‘metalcore’ on this EP.

With the exception of the one slow song on the record (“The Answer”), As I Walk With Fire is the very definition of brutal. The EP hearkens back to the glory days of acts like Trivium, Bullet For My Valentine and Lamb Of God, reaching insane heights with the last song, “Lost In Undertow.” This song is the crowning achievement of the EP in terms of showcasing the virtuosity of nearly every instrumentalist. Between the catchy yet searing chorus, the almost inhuman double bass, and the masterful oscillation between devastating squealing and shredding and the slower, chugging grooves, there is so much dimension in this one five minute track it is practically impossible to believe most of the members are only around 19 years old.

Though the bass guitar tends to get lost and the vocals need to be tightened before slow songs become their strong suit, As I Walk With Fire demonstrates incredible talent and crushing tenacity. As yet unsigned, Opheon surely won’t remain so for long.

4/5 stars.

Four Star Rating

Music Video of the Week: Opheon “The Distance”

opheon

This week’s pick for MVW is the 5 minute visuals paired with Opheon‘s “The Distance.”  Though theme-wise the video is fairly minimal–the basic images of the band playing live cut to footage of the vocalist singing on his own–it is the song that we are so impressed with.  The British melodic hardcore rockers went from a very djent-oriented sound that has been regurgitated time and time again to something far more progressive, innovative, and new to the -core scene.  With stylized breakdowns, actual melodies, and even a guitar solo (can you believe those still exist?), this track reaches a level of sophistication that warrants a minimal video and lets the music speak for itself.  Don’t believe us? Then check it out and see for yourself, because when they drop their upcoming 2015 EP it’s destined to hit the top of your favorite playlists.