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|Ask Still Remains, the young Grand Rapids, MI band about their sophomore full length The Serpent, what the last two years have been like, and they'll begin by telling you how much they've grown as people and musicians. "I've grown up a lot," explains vocalist T.J. Miller. "I feel like I've come into my own as a song writer. I haven't been afraid to write about things that I might have only alluded to on the last record. My lyrics have always been personal, but the new stuff is deeper, subjects I needed to and wanted to get out."
A lot has happened with Still Remains since the band released their 2005 debut Of Love and Lunacy. Besides growing up both metaphorically and physically, they've toured America and Europe with acts like Trivium, Shadows Fall, Hawthorne Heights and Bullet for My Valentine. They've experienced things that most young bands might not even dream of, like performing before a sold out crowd at London's Brixton Academy. "I can't explain what it's like to wake up in another country at 2PM and step off the bus to a line of people who have been waiting all day for you so they can get your autograph," guitarist Jordan Whelan reflects. "Realizing that people appreciate what we've worked so hard at has just been an amazing experience."
Produced by Steve Evetts (The Cure, Hatebreed) and mixed by Logan Mader (ex-Machine Head, ex-Soulfly guitars), The Serpent palatably demonstrates the culmination of the last two years of Still Remains' efforts and experiences. Together with T.J. and Jordan, guitarist / backup vocalist Mike Church, drummer Adrian "Bone" Green, keyboardist Ben Schauland and bassist Stephen Hetland, Still Remains has written their best music to date. "The creative process for this record was very different from the last one," explains T.J. "Jordan, Mike, Bone and I really worked together on this album. Everyone had input into all aspects of the recording process. Who we are, what we like and what we listen to shine through. This album is a true collaboration."
Examples of the success of that collaboration couldn't be more apparent than on songs like "Stay Captive," the album's first video track, "Anemia in Your Sheets" and "Sleepless Nights Alone." All are aggressive yet melodic and refined glimpses into the band's psyche and rich history of influences. "I feel like I've come into my own as a vocalist," T.J. remarks. "Since I was a kid I have always been singing. On this record I explored that more than on Of Love and Lunacy. The singing is stronger and the screaming is more brutal. My vocal range has grown."
Other tracks like "Dancing with the Enemy" and "The Wax Walls of an Empty Room," capture the band's progress and diversity of talent and influences. The band's personality shines through both in the music and the lyrics. "Both of those songs, 'Dancing with the Enemy' and 'The Wax Walls of an Empty Room' are truly personal songs to me," illuminates the vocalist. "A broken relationship between best friends was the inspiration behind 'Dancing with the Enemy.' 'The Wax Walls of an Empty Room' is about a lesson I learned in regard to finding strength and happiness in the midst of suffering."
From touring the world to performing on the Roadrunner United album and in the once-in-a-lifetime showcase in New York City last year, an event Jordan, the youngest musician asked to participate, describes as "surreal," (a reference to sharing the stage with his heroes from Slipknot, Machine Head, HIM vocalist Ville Valo and others) Still Remains has achieved more than they could have imagined. It wasn't long after the release of Of Love and Lunacy that the band played the annual New England Metal and Hardcore Festival in Massachusetts and then made their way to Europe where they performed in front of thousands at the U.K.'s famed Download Festival in Donington Park. "Up to that point, Download was the biggest crowd we'd ever played in front of," explains T.J. During the Of Love and Lunacy support cycle, the band made it back to Europe on three occasions, playing in over twelve countries and headlining sold out shows across the U.K. "Europe has always been an amazing place for us, particularly the U.K.," continues T.J. "The metal fans there just seem to get what we are doing."
Back in the States, Still Remains has toured relentlessly, performing on select Sounds of the Underground dates as well as on the popular Strhess Tour, where they shared the stage with such diverse acts as Shadows Fall, Poison the Well and Suffocation. These performances and experiences left an impression that coalesced into what would become the material for The Serpent.
While not completely deviating or alienating, The Serpent showcases the band's growth and potential without losing the foundation they have worked so hard to create. "One of the things we loved about working with Steve Evetts is that he really forced us to bring out the best in ourselves," Jordan says. "If something wasn't right we did it until it was done right. No studio tricks, just hard work until we got it perfect. I can't imagine working with another producer. He has a way of bringing out raw emotion in us. I'm still growing and learning who I am personally and musically," he goes on to confess. "I couldn't be happier with the results of this new record. It's been a lot of hard work, but was worth every minute."
With the recording of The Serpent barely behind them, the band is gearing up for a month long stint on the Van's Warped Tour, a jaunt that will take them across the U.S. and put them in front of faces who may just be getting their first taste of aggressive and melodic metal.