POWER AND THE GLORY
There's that really bad joke: what is the difference between guessing the age of a woman and guessing the age of a band? In the former case, an overestimation gives you an enemy while in the latter it gives you a friend. When I stumbled across the music of Crowning Glory, the quality of music that I was hearing seemed to suggest a band with decades of experience, not a mere 2 years.
So no-one could be blamed for being unfamiliar with this Metal band from England that seems to have a healthy attachment to 1980s Metal. However I have an inkling that things are set to change. Having recently met the band ('the band' meaning vocalist Robert Alexander, guitarist Tom Draper, bassist Nick Smith and Grant Eskriett on drums) my suspicions were only confirmed as I discovered a friendly but determined quartet.
THE OTHER HALF
- An Italian proverb says: 'Un buon inizio è la metà dell'opera' which roughly translates into: 'A good start is half the job done.' Should we apply this Italian wisdom to Crowning Glory then the band has only the second half of their career left to focus on for world domination. Mathematics apart, a self-released demo entitled "Path To Glory" as well as a string of gigs have been earning the band some extremely encouraging feedback.
Tom: Yes, we've been together a few years now and have been gigging all over England. We've managed to get to Ireland but not to [mainland] Europe yet - although we'd like to. Everything that has happened so far has been really good. We can only hope things continue as they are doing now. We need more good British Metal!
- Chris: In my opinion the reaction you've been getting is partly indebted to a well-produced demo.....
Grant: Thanks very much, it's great to hear you say that. In fact we've had some really good reviews for it. This demo contains 3 studio-tracks and 2 live tracks. We're using it wherever we can at the moment because it's what we have to send out.
- Chris: How has the feedback been from beyond the Uk in particular?
Rob: Well, we've had a few hits on our MySpace page from as far as Canada. Germany also seems to have liked our music very much. Like Tom said, we haven't yet been to play any shows in Europe but we're looking to go over there at some point or another - definitely.
- Chris: There are festivals in Germany that focus entirely on your style of music.....
The band: Yeah, like Keep It True festival.....
Nick: We'd also love to play Wacken - I mean it's a priority for us. There's even Iron Maiden headlining this year.
Grant: Like Nick and Tom were saying, we've already played England and Ireland and desperately want to play abroad, particularly in Germany. We've got a good distribution with Hellion Records. "Path To Glory" seems to be doing very well over there. So the next logical step for us would be to get over there and play.
- Chris: Aren't you anxious on how your impact will be on an arena-sized crowd?
The band: We cannot wait to see what our impact shall be!
Nick: I think a bit of adrenaline is healthy.
- Chris: Besides, today playing live is becoming even more lucrative than releasing records. What are your views on this?
Tom: I think it's great. I think it's come to a full circle. Apparently there really is a dip in general sales of CDs but this means people have to come out to gigs. Earlier Nick was referring to the energy of a live band and you can't beat seeing your favourite band live.
Nick: It's hard, though, to capture that live feeling onto CD. You don't see us headbanging when you listen to our CDs. [laughs]
There's always more than meets the ear when presented with the final product, which is the song. Tom, Rob, Grant and Nick share their perspectives on how they go about crafting their art.
[b]- Chris: Tom, CG's songs are characterized by your great riffs. Are you also the main author of the songs?
Tom: I'd love to say it's me that writes the songs but in reality it's a group effort.
- Chris: And who or what inspires you?
Tom: The things that inspire me are basically the things I enjoy listening to. Some of the songs we have are not based on what just one person likes. Anyone can come up with a riff. If we enjoy playing it, we'll put it in a song.
- Chris: How much do you emphasise the technical aspect of playing?
Nick: I don't think we're a massively technical band. We like to really put a lot of feel into it and that's very important to us. You know, a lot of power - stuff that really gets people going - rather than, say, overtly sophisticated scales and chords. We're quite keen to make sure that the songs are concise and that we're not messing around [with them] too much. That they've got good structures, they're not too long or anything like that. It's important to us that the songs are concise and, you know, catchy.
- Chris: Many bands that influenced CG, such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, have their music characterised by twin guitar melodies. How does the band manage to emulate this sound live considering the militancy of only 1 guitarist in the band?
Tom: I can't write harmony guitars for 1 guitar and it's not really something we consider vital. What we want is that our recordings sound like the band you're gonna hear live. Much as I would love to have harmony guitars like Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden, it's not gonna happen with CG.
- Chris: But would you be prepared to, say, utilise keyboards?
Nick: We don't use keyboards but, well, if we had to then I suppose it wouldn't be a problem for us.....why not! If it sounds good, then that's our benchmark, whether it has keyboards or not.
- Chris: Are you planning a full-length album at this point?
[The band members look at each other, all of them smiling, then in unison declare: "Yes."]
Grant: We want the album to mirror our live shows as much as it possibly can, and it might run in a similar order to our shows.
We have enough songs to record a whole album but we're not going to record it until the time is right. We don't want to short-change our fans by releasing studio-versions of the songs we have available as live recordings. [Check out some of these live recordings on the band's MySpace page.] We want to save as much studio-tracks as we can for the album.
Birmingham, a major British city located towards the centre of England has a life of its own. It is the birthplace of some illustrious personalities ('Brummies' in common parlance) such as Robert Plant and Ozzy Osbourne. Two other Brummies that can call this their birthplace are CG's Robert and Nick . While it might be preposterous to describe them as 'illustrious', the immediate social environment has always proved to have a lasting effect on any artiste.
- Chris: What is the Metal scene like in Birmingham and how has it changed?
Nick: It's changed a helluva lot since the 1970s and 1980s to be honest. There isn't what we'd call a Metal scene there any more. It's sort of grungy [now]. It's very disappointing, you know, because I feel that that's where real Heavy Metal started - in Birmingham. Now the Metal scene of London is so much better.
- Chris: Rob, is CG the first band you've been playing with?
Rob: No, I've sung in quite a few bands over the time but this [CG] is definitely the most fun band that I've ever been in because we're all doing the music we've really wanted to do over the years. We have a really great chemistry within CG.
- Chris: Tell me more about your singing influences and personal tastes…
Rob: I started out listening to Steve Tyler [Aerosmith], Rob Halford and Judas Priest, Skid Row and Sebastian Bach, Axl Rose.......I suppose I set myself quite a set of challenges and goals. When I was a kid I even used to sing in the shower or bath, always trying to find that high note.
- Chris: So it seems you were always predisposed to be a singer…
Rob: Oh without a doubt. I mean probably I was singing ever since the age of 3.
- Chris: In the first reviews CG has been getting, the band has been compared to its idols, such as Iron Maiden, Primal Fear and Judas Priest. At such this point in your career, isn't this counter-productive as it raises the general expectations from you?
Grant: We are influenced by those bands you've mentioned, plus others such as Dio and even 3 Inches Of Blood. But I think that with 4 individuals who are writing music together, hopefully it [the music] should actually sound like CG.
- Chris: In these 2 or 3 years that you've been together, how has the band matured?
Grant: Like you say, we've been together for a few years, and naturally the songwriting progresses and we sound more cohesive. The more we play live, the more comfortable we feel playing together. You learn a lot through experience. Hopefully we're taking it in our stride.
ALL IN THE FAMILY[b]
Unlike artists pertaining to many other music genres, Metal bands always seem to be part of a scene, meaning they tend to interact closely with other bands, musicians and fans. This got me wondering what CG see when looking at Metal from a wide angle.
[b]- Chris: In today's complex overlapping of genres, 'Power Metal' is a very loose definition of music. Do you get any flak on how CG's music should fit into the preconceived aesthetics of Metal?
Nick: We have been put in brackets that we don't necessarily feel that we are in. But that's not a criticism. We've been told we're a Power Metal band but we don't think we're Power Metal. We've been labeled with various names, but really we just play Heavy Metal. That's what we do.
Tom: We've been told we're the missing link between Judas Priest and Kyuss. That's cool but I don't really think it's true. Everyone has his own opinion and we think we're a Heavy Metal band, whichever kind of Heavy Metal that may be.
- Chris: There currently seems to be a burgeoning crop of British Heavy Metal bands, such as Dragonforce, Conquest Of Steel and Shadowkeep that are building a very successful reputation for themselves. Does CG feel part of this 'phenomenon' or is there a veiled sense of competition amongst the bands?
Rob: No, I don't think there's any competition between us and any other band on the planet. There's a lot of great bands out there but to say we're in competition with anybody is beyond the truth.
- Chris: Besides the discreet success of these and other young British bands, including yourselves, I've noticed several veteran bands linked to the NWOBHM are retuning to face media's glare. Some, such as Chariot, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Blitzkrieg and Witchfynde, even have gigs scheduled for the very near future. What are your views on this? Are we on the doorstep of a 2nd Wave Of British Heavy Metal? Shall 2008 be the return to glory of British Metal?
Nick: Most definitely - it all seems that way at the moment. We're gonna keep our momentum going because [if that's the case] we want to be at the forefront of it. There are many bands and people who want proper music and that's what we're gonna deliver hopefully.
- Chris: With hindsight, though, it seems England has a nasty habit of neglecting the music it itself spawns. Which is ironic when you consider, for example, the global reverence for the NWOBHM?
Nick: Yes it's strange. What I find encouraging is that I'm seeing a lot of young people going to Metal gigs, which is good. I think it's going to be a good year for this type of Metal.
Rob: Yeah, there's a lot of young acts out there and a lot of enthusiasm about real Heavy Metal.
- Chris: Guys, here's one last question for you - where do you picture yourselves in 10 years' time?
[All laugh. It's Grant who speaks up, however.]
Grant: I don't know.....either six feet under in rehab or headlining Donnington, I suppose.
[Grant's forecast is met with enthusiastic cheers from his mates. Amidst these positive vibes, Rob rounds up with a due acknowledgement.....]
Rob: Hey, thanks to everyone who's been behind us so far. I hope you'll all still keep listening to Crowning Glory!
© Chris Galea (luciferlament[at]yahoo[dot]com)