To anyone that knows me, it's not secret that Dan Swano is one of my biggest musical heroes of all time along the likes of Devin Townsend, Arjen Lucassen, Daniel Gildenlow and many others. From discovering Edge Of Sanity around the time I discovered Death Metal to discovering Nightingale when I found out how much I love Prog Rock, Swano has hit every note for me perfectly, from his amazing vocal range to his undeniable instrumental talent. Wanting to get back into Progressive Death Metal, Swano started Witherscape playing drums, keyboards and singing/growling alongside Guitarist/Bassist Ragnar Widerberg with lyrics penned by the legendary Paul Kuhr of Novembers Doom. This marks the 2nd album, and 3rd release for the band. How has the band progressed over the last few years? Let's find out!
The album starts with the first single from the album, Wake Of Infinity. Starting with an ominous piano riff, it kicks into a mid tempo Progressive Death Metal attack. Swano showing that he really does an amazing job behind the drums with his double bass assault. The song switches between growls and cleans seamlessly. The verse riffs contain some nice thrashy and Death Metal tinges while the chorus riff is a mix of soaring cleans and deathly growls. The middle section is the best part of the song for the Prog fan in all of us, containing a melancholy clean tone on the guitar, which then switches to a classic Hard Rock style solo followed by a beyond beautiful bridge that leads into the final chorus. A fantastic choice as the first single. Next is In The Eyes Of Idols, which starts with a classic NWOBHM style mid tempo guitar riff. Swano once again shows off the beautiful power between his growls and cleans. The chorus is very keyboard driven and catchy as all get go. The middle solo section is also keyboard driven with one of the most beautiful, yet short, solos on the entire album. A very fun catchy song that would be another good choice as a single. Up next is Rapture Ballet. This is where the albums tarts to take an emotional turn musically. The opening riffs are very proggy, almost Dream Theater-esque. The story (which I won't spoil) starts to really take a darker turn at this point as well. The song is filled with odd time signatures that will satisfy the fans who really wanted the prog aspect of the band to shine. The Examiner is easily one of, if not the best, song on the album. While arguably the most mellow song on the album, this is where I started to tear up...literally. The song starts with a very emotional piano riff mixed with Swano's emotional reverbed vocals. To me, this is the Dead For a Day (from 2013's The Inheritance) of the album for me, the song that when I listen to it repeatedly it brings out tears of sadness and joy for me because of the music playing, the lyrical meaning behind the song, and, without question, Swano's emotional clean vocals. While the song is not as upbeat as Dead For a Day, it still strike a chord with you just as hard, just like it did for me (actually as I'm writing this and listening to the song once again, it's hard not to choke up a bit). Marionette is the next song, and much like the previous song, the emotion continues here as well. starting with clean guitar and Swano's reverbed vocals, the song picks up into an emotional ballad with the growls over top of the majestic chorus that is another sheer highlight of the album. Near the end, the song features arguably my favorite guitar solo on the album. These two songs back to back can make even the strongest Metalhead weep, but that all changes with the next song, Divinity. Bringing back the double bass and much more uptempo than most of the album so far, the song features some extremely majestic guitar leads driven by a classic Thrash/Prog riffs in the chorus with one of the most proggy sections for the chorus. Widerberg absolutely shreds in the guitar solo of the song. The song is the shortest non instrumental on the album. God of Ruin brings back the slower, brooding, prog, and dark majestic feeling of the album. Those that are looking for a song that soars from dark lows to brilliant highs will be extremely pleased with this track. A fantastic mix of 70s-80s Rock and Prog all over this one with the dark growls at just the right spots. Arguably the highlight of the album, and my personal favorite song tied with The Examiner is the title track; The Northern Sanctuary. this 13 minute epic showcases the best of features of the band in one track. Everything you could possibly want is showcased somewhere in this song. In reality, the whole song feels like the best song Opeth never wrote. When the vocals kick in it continues the electronic feeling then leads to the most beautiful passage riff before going full blown classic Death Metal with growls, chugging guitars and thunderous double bass. the instrumental riff between vocal patterns (which also is the chorus) has gotta be a nod to Opeth's Deliverance, it just has to be. Things then begin to calm down again and begins to feel like the beginning of the song once again. Things then begin to get heavier again with a distorted version of the clean riff. leading back into the Deliverance meets Images and Words tribute riff. The middle of the song features majestic riffs that mix between Swano's growls and cleans before getting more into tribal drumming and proggy once again. 3/4ths through the song things get acoustic for a bit before getting into one of the most eerie riffs on the album which makes you feel like you are about to meet your doom. The end of the song features the keyboards bringing back the 70's Prog vibe and an almost funeral type riff that makes it feel like everything is drifting away into the abyss and a gigantic Iron Maiden style ending to close out the song. The final track, Vila I Frid, is an instrumental track that that is showcased by lone piano that leaves you that feeling that the story is over....but is it?
Honestly, this is one of Dan Swano's shining moments as a songwriter. This has everything that I want in an album. It's heavy, brutal, proggy, emotional, heartbreaking and a complete tour de force of metal musicality. Combining the heaviness and Progressive Death Metal of Edge Of Sanity, the beautiful emotion of Nightingale and the love of great storytelling by Paul Kuhr; this album needs to be on everyone's Best of 2016 lists. Do not let this absolute gem of an album slip you by. Granted you still have a month and 5 days from this post to pick up the album, but don't dilly dally. You will be so happy that you picked up this landmark album.
- 10/10 *Would give 11/10 if I could!*
Witherscape- The Northern Sanctuary is available July 22nd via Century Media Records
3 Pill Morning is a hard rocking Hard Rock Band from Minneapolis. Being known in the are for a long time, 3PM has been able to branch out and actively tour reaching all corners of the USA. With the release of their brand new album on the horizon (slateed for late Summer/Fall 2016), I recently had a chance to talk to 3PM frontman Jeff Stebbens to discuss everything that's going on with the band. ENJOY!
That Drummer Guy: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Having moved to Minneapolis last year, It's a great honor to be talking to some hometown heroes.
Jeff Stebbins: Glad to talk to you!
TDG: Your brand new single Electric Chair has really been taking off all over? How do you feel about the reception to the song?
JS: We're really excited to see the way people have reacted to the song. When we wrote it we thought the song had something special and to get the response we have from our fans and new fans has been incredible.
TDG: What really makes the track stand out to me is the atmospheric aspect behind the catchy riffs. Is adding the atmospheric layering an intentional thing or does it just feel right to add it?
JS: We completely go by what we think sets the vibe for the song and sounds good. We took a lot more chances with our new album adding different textures and layers where we felt like it was cool.
TDG: If feels like there is a bit of an evolution to the band, especially in the last couple years. Was this just from growing as a band or was there a push to expand the boundaries of the band's sound?
JS: We always are trying to push the boundaries and create our own space. There's a lot of music and a lot of bands, so somehow we need to continue to evolve and try some things we maybe haven't before.
TDG: You started a PledgeMusic campaign that has been wildly successful as well, hitting 142% of your goal. I imagine that's got to be an incredible feeling.
JS: Definitely! It was something we'd never tried before but we know we have this killer fanbase that supports us to no end, so we thought, why don't we get them involved in the whole process and we can all live the album making experience together. It has been a really cool.
TDG: Since the beginning of the band, and your ever growing popularity, what would you say is the biggest change you've noticed about music and/or the music industry?
JS: I'd say there's no one way to do it now and you just gotta go get it.
TDG: How did you guys come up with the idea of starting a PledgeMusic campaign?
JS: We are a live band and really try to get to know our fans, have acoustic after parties, just try to make it a fun experience. When you go in the studio, a band kind of disappears and we wanted to find a way to share that time and maintain that connection with our fans and let them see what it's really like to grind through the recording process.
TDG: With the album coming out later this year, for those that are new to the band, how would you describe the new album?
JS: I'd say it's an edgy and honest album. Every song had a purpose and an emotion behind it and we feel really proud of what we created.
TDG: Using Electric Chair as a fine example, would you say that the new album is consistent with the song?
JS: I'd say the album is definitely heavy and melodic like Electric Chair, but even some of the slower songs all have that darker vibe, the whole thing just has a mood to it. We want it to be something people can listen to the whole thing and say "Damn, that was a great album!"
TDG: You guys are going to be playing a hometown show in Minneapolis at the Fine Line Music Cafe June 25th. What can people expect that are attending the show?
JS: A lot of great Minneapolis bands showing people that there is a lot of talent and drive in our current rock scene. It's gonna be a high energy night!
TDG: How would you compare the Twin Cities music scene compared to the other territories you have toured?
JS: Right now, there are some great bands in Minneapolis, I think every city goes through its ebbs and flows but right now, Minneapolis has a lot cookin'.
TDG: Do you have any favorite bands from here?
JS: Definitely a fan of Throw the Fight, Cold Kingdom, Emergent, Late Night Fights and the list goes on...
TDG: Any new favorite discoveries in music in recent times from anywhere?
JS: It's not a new discovery, but Thrice sneaking back with a new album is pretty awesome. I'm a big fan and happy they're back.
TDG: What are your plans for the rest of the year after the album drops?
JS: We'll be on the road nonstop promoting the record and rockin' stages, can't wait!
TDG: Anything planned for 2017 yet?
JS: Tour, Tour, Tour :)
TDG: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I'm really looking forward to hearing the new album and everything that you have in store. Before we are done, is there anything else you would like to mention that I haven't brought up yet?
JS: Definitely get out to see us live! We live to play shows and that's what keeps us going. Thanks man!
Check out 3 Pill Morning's brand new song Electric Chair:
Katatonia is a Swedish Metal band that has gone through massive changes since their incarnation in 1991. Going from a Death/Doom/Gothic Metal band in their humble beginnings to 25 years and 10 albums later becoming a more progressive, dark and catchy Rock and Metal band. As one of my favorite bands growing up, I had the absolute honor of doing my 196th interview with the band's newest member, drummer, Daniel Moilanen to discuss the band's latest album, The Fall of Hearts, which is available NOW through Peaceville Records. We also talk about joining the band at this stage of their career, drumming, and so much more!
That Drummer Guy: Thank you so very much for taking the time to do this interview!
Daniel Moilanen: Thank you for having me!
TDG: The Fall Of Hearts just came out last week through Peaceville Records, How does it feel getting to play on your first studio album with Katatonia?
DM: It feels awesome. I’ve been a fan of the band and I really like working with the guys so I’m honored to be a part of the album and a part of the band.
TDG: I noticed that The Fall of Hearts not only goes into more proggy territory this time around, but also brings back more of the heavier elements as well, including consistent double bass in some sections. Was this something that was thought about before the writing process or did this happen more naturally?
DM: I think everything Katatonia does comes naturally. It’s been four years since ‘Dead End Kings’ and a lot has happened on the way. I think that ‘Dethroned..’ opened some doors which ‘Sanctitude’ kept holding up. Also, I told the guys early on that they had carte blanche to write and arrange whatever they wanted and I’d make sure to play it so that also gave some room to work more freely, I think. I don’t think they ever abandoned their heavier elements, just took them in other directions. With this album we’re just at the next crossroads on our way to somewhere else.
TDG: Do you see the current sound that is presented on The Fall Of Hearts to be a sound that will be explored more by the band in the future?
DM: Seeing that the current sound is very exploring in itself I would have to say yes. Katatonia, as I’ve seen the band throughout the years, has always been about exploration and natural progression and in this current sound and setting the band is perhaps more open than ever to its wants and needs. That doesn’t mean that the next album will be more extreme than this in any direction but this is what we sound like today and I’m excited to see and hear what we will be building on for the future.
TDG: How did you discover Katatonia?
DM: I discovered Katatonia shortly after the release of their debut album ‘Dance of December Souls’, around early 1994 I think. I was very into the northern black metal scene and when I heard the Katatonia album it was like nothing I’d ever heard. They had this dark romantic atmosphere that with their doomy eerie riffs sounded like a mixture of My Dying Bride and Dissection. Both bands that I loved. That album became one of my favorites then and is still to this day.
TDG: Being a new member of the band, and from a fan perspective, how do you feel Katatonia has changed the landscape of heavy music?
DM: I feel Katatonia changed the landscape of heavy music from the very beginning. It’s quite easy to pinpoint different sub-genres and styles being birthed from say ‘Brave Murder Day’ and ‘Last Fair Deal Gone Down’ and even later with ‘The Great Cold Distance’. The emotive genres of heavy music, be it goth, doom, black or prog metal has a lot to thank Katatonia for. There has been this unique aura to every album the band has done which obviously is inspiring.
TDG: How is playing with Katatonia different than other projects you have played with? What is the most challenging aspects and easiest aspects of working with the band?
DM: The most challenging aspect is also the easiest aspect. Fitting into a band with such a great legacy, unique people and a unique sound is a quite daunting experience and at the same time I’m welcomed into a band with just that, which gives a feeling of safety and also exacting serenity. They know what they are doing and now I’m here to start knowing that as well. We get along very well both professionally and personally which makes me less of a ‘drummer for Katatonia’ and more of a musician in company of other musicians. All that seeps into our playing as well. I’ve never felt more safe on stage than with this band. And here it’s a good thing. Some bands require an unsafe environment but there’s a time and a place for that as well.
TDG: What are your favorite songs to play from previous Katatonia albums?
DM: My favorites from what I’ve had the pleasure of playing this far would probably be ‘Lethean’, ‘Soil’s Song’ ‘The Racing Heart’ and ‘Cold Ways’, Good songs, good drum arrangements and good energy.
TDG: What is the recording setup you used for The Fall Of Hearts? Is it any different than what you play live?
DM: My recording setup for album was a Tama Starclassic Performer B/B, sized 10”, 12”, 14”, 16”, 22”. After trying a bunch of different snares we went with a Tama SLP Dynamic Bronze snare. Same with heads, tried some (all Evans) sets but ultimately decided on G2:s over G1:s for the toms, EQ3 for the kick and HD for the snare. If I remember correctly. Cymbals were all Meinl Byzance. My setup can be found on Meinl’s webpage and that was basically what I used, with some cymbals switching places. The recording setup differs a bit from my live setup, cymbal wise. Live I only have one china (on my left hand side), only two crashes and only one splash, if one at all. Drum wise it’s the same setup.
TDG: Did you have to change your playing set up at all when joining Katatonia?
DM: Didn’t have to change but did anyways. I saw an opportunity for meddling with some grooves so I switched sides for my china cymbal and altered the tom placement somewhat but that’s pretty much it.
TDG: What drummers inspired you growing up and what drummers are still inspiring you?
DM: The drummers that gave me the most inspiration to get to where I ultimately got would be Sean Reinert (Cynic), Steve Shelton (Confessor), Snowy Shaw (King Diamond/Mercyful Fate) and Pete Sandoval (Morbid Angel). These four drummers gave me the rocks upon which I built my church, so to speak, and my style today would boil down to combining all their different approaches to drumming. I guess that makes me a groovy and technical extreme metal drummer with finesse. Quite true. Today I don’t listen to drummers as much but if I do it’s mostly Ari Hoenig, whose books also are amazing. And obviously a lot of Daniel Liljekvist. And the above mentioned four. Still.
TDG: There is some insane fills and killer odd time signature moments that you pull off on The Fall Of Hearts. Were any of those moments challenging for you?
DM: Yeah, some parts we’re challenging. Not in the ‘this can’t be done’-way but more in the way of ‘how can I make this even quirkier?’. As all the drum parts are programmed when I get the demo tracks there’s quite a bit of learning. It’s always fun deciphering drum parts written by non-drummers. It’s not a mere tech fest but I think the drums on the album are still quite fun, there’s some stuff in the background that makes for a good time. Not all beats need to be in the foreground.
TDG: So what are the current plans for Katatonia for the rest of the year?
DM: For the rest of the year we’re keeping busy. The summer kicks off in three weeks with Hellfest in France and then there’s a fair amount of festivals all through the summer. After the festival season ends we’re off to Latin America for a handful of shows. After that we’re doing a special kind of gig in Bulgaria where we’ll be performing the entire ‘The Great Cold Distance’-album with an orchestra as it is the 10th anniversary of the album, and that’s on top of our ordinary headline set. And directly after that we’re going on the European headlining trek for ‘The Fall of Hearts’. I’ve heard talks about Australia this winter but since nothing is confirmed I can’t comment on the rumors I’ve just started spreading.
TDG: Is there any other projects you are working on, or is Katatonia now your 100% focus?
DM: Right now Katatonia gets all of my attention. We’re too busy at the moment for me to be able to focus fully on other projects. But I am involved in a couple of other bands as well. With the onomatopoeic Heavydeath we’re in the midst of finishing our second album, I put down the drums maybe a month and a half ago. I’m also in the powerviolence duo/trio Mick Hoak with some sort of debut release out hopefully during this summer. And then there’s the occasional session work.
TDG: What are you currently listening to?
DM: Besides all the Katatonia stuff that I’m listening to for the rehearsals there’s really not much time for other music but when I’ve had time I’ve basically been listening to classical and choral music. Also, Paramore.
TDG: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. I absolutely love The Fall Of Hearts, which is available now through Peaceville Records. And I love what you are contributing to the band. It feels like such a natural fit. Before we are done is there anything else you would like to mention that I haven't brought up yet?
DM: I’m very glad to hear that you enjoy the album and my playing! Really cool! Due to the comprehensive nature of this interview I think there’s nothing else to add other than the usual ‘come see us on tour’ and ‘buy our album’ stuff. So for all you readers - come see us on tour and buy our album! Support the scene, go to shows, buy albums, more stagedives.
Katatonia- The Fall Of Hearts is available NOW through Peaceville Records!
That Drummer Guy: Radio DJ, Interviewer, Reviewer, overall...an OK guy.