We are on a Path that is unfolding as we go…
With album number two, Unorthodox Equilibrium (arriving on 31 July 2015), Shroud of the Heretic have pushed their already-punishing sound further into atmospheric territory. Four tracks in forty three minutes, they are a heaving mass of mesmerising morbidity. Here, guitarist JT talks with MR’s Jason Guest about the new album, the development of the band and their song-writing this past year, experimentation as part of the writing process, live shows, the future, and the occult, natch…
Thank you very much for taking time out for this interview and congratulations Unorthodox Equilibrium, a tremendous follow up to last year’s Revelations in Alchemy.
Hi Jason, thank you for the kind words, and for taking the time to facilitate this interview.
What was it that you wanted to achieve with the album?
I don’t think there was a discrete goal in mind, apart from making the album itself.
Did you have an idea of how you wanted the album to sound or did it take shape as it was being developed?
As far as the production aspect, we weren’t headed toward a singular point. We knew it needed to sound big, but the aural piece kind of came together on its own as we made the necessary changes in-studio. It was very much experimental, and unfolded throughout the process.
When did the band begin writing for the new album?
Writing for the new album began before the release of our first record. Revelations in Alchemy took a long time to make it from recorded, to physical product. By the time the record had come out, maybe half of Unorthodox Equilibrium was already written. There were a lot of finishing touches and changes made, but the core concepts were already developed at that time. Regarding a calendar date, probably early 2014 is when we began working in earnest on the new album.
Is there a concept, a theme, a philosophy behind the album? Can you tell us a little about it?
This is more Thom’s realm, as he is responsible for all of the lyrics and art direction on this record, but yes there are some constant themes/concepts/ideas that permeate the record. I won’t speak to specifics, and for now the lyrics remain unpublished, but if one has a familiarity with the western occult traditions, the symbolism will be familiar.
In our March 2014 interview (here), you said that at that point, the band was still in its early stages of development. How does Unorthodox Equilibrium mark a progression for the band?
Unorthodox Equilibrium is scaled up in every way. The biggest difference is that we gave the songs a much longer gestation period before committing them to tape. The first album underwent very little in the way of pre-production editing, and the new record is the result of allowing the songs to breathe and grow to completion on their own before entering the studio. This explains why the compositions are much longer and the arrangements are more complex. We took cues from the first record, deciding what worked well, and what worked not so well. This led us to the understanding that it was crucial to allow more space for dynamic builds and melody. We wanted certain movements to benefit from repetition, to evoke a kind of trance-state, and to make conscious decisions to either build a riff/section to a crescendo before either releasing the tension, or clashing into another section that ramps up the anxiety-hypnosis further. In a word: dynamics.
Also in the interview, you pointed out that the band write in a rehearsal setting that allows for experimentation and the material evolves there. How did you approach composition for this album? Did you take the same approach?
We did take the same approach for this album. Nothing was written outside of the rehearsal environment. Everything was composed as a functioning group. I don’t take the songs home to write new sections/riffs, or play with arrangements. The only exception to this rule is the guitar leads that function as a “solo” rather than a melodic lead. I am the only guitarist in the band, so it’s incredibly inefficient to write solos during rehearsal. The difference is that on our first album, they were written on the fly, in-studio, whereas this time, I recorded everything on the record barring the drum tracks, so I was able to work on guitar solos in a comfortable environment and at a realistic pace, using the already-recorded rhythm sections as accompaniment.
Can you tell us about the cover artwork, what it represents and how it relates to the music?
I won’t reveal too much, but you can see presented the symbols of Omega, Infinity, and Equilibrium.
Who’s the artist? Why choose to work with him/her? And how much direction was given in its design?
The artist was Chris Kiesling of Misanthropic-Art (Facebook; website). I have worked with him in other projects in the past and he is a fantastic artist and a great dude. We knew that he would understand our core concepts, and were confident that he would exceed our expectations. As usual, he did. We could not be happier with the entirety of the artwork provided.
How did you come to work with Iron Bonehead? And why did you choose to work with them for the release of the album?
Iron Bonehead was very enthusiastic about the release and made us an offer we could not refuse. We have a great respect for the label and the roster. IBP has a flawless back catalogue and we couldn’t turn them down.
Any plans for shows, tours, festival appearances?
Yes. This October we will be doing a small run of west coast dates with Loss and Worship.
Given the intensity and atmospheric nature of your music, what would be the ideal setting for a Shroud of the Heretic performance?
The ideal setting is definitely in a small, dark club. This is the environment we have always performed in, and we have no expectation that this will change anytime soon.
What does the future hold for Shroud of the Heretic? Early days I know as the album is being released at the end of June but is there more material in the works?
As always, the future will reveal itself to us. We are on a Path that is unfolding as we go, and we do not necessarily set concrete goals that we work for. For as long as we are following our Will, the milestones will continue to become apparent, and we will continue down our Path. To where that leads, I can’t say.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
And thanks to you, Jason! To your readers I offer our humble gratitude and wish them well.