Empyrean Sky interview (12/2004)
-Could you please introduce your band to our fellow metalstormers?
John: Metalstorm, this is Empyrean Sky. Empyrean Sky, this is metal storm. "Pleased to meet you." "Likewise." Kidding aside… I guess you mean for me to tell a little bit about the band. We are 3 guitarists who love all 31 flavours of metal, from the classic vanilla to the hot fudge triple mocha walnut surprise. We think that there's lots of great metal out there, so why limit your band to playing only one style? We have very diverse backgrounds that make our music fresh and interesting. I guess you could say it's typical symphonic melodic black power death classic thrash folk metal with an interesting lyrical twist.
We get death metal fans who say… "I love you guys, but I don't normally like power metal bands." And we get power metal fans who say, "You guys rock, but I don't normally like bands with all the growling vocals." We're the band with something for everyone.
- How would you describe your debut album "The Snow White Rose of Paradise" to those people that haven't heard it yet?
John: It's very progressive, and by that I mean it doesn't fit a standard verse-chorus song formula. It's much more classically influenced where a song is built around a chord structure and then there are lots of different ways of playing with it. In one song, we may start out with a melodic metal feel, and then switch it up to an 80's thrash style, then over to an acoustic version, and then right into some black metal melodic chords, all in the same song. That's what I think is hard for people to get sometimes… is that instead of blatantly switching up riffs we switch styles. And the vocals are just as varied. One moment we'll have some good wholesome growls and the next you'll hear something like Iced Earth or Queensryche. Although that is becoming more common place, we still do it a little differently than everyone else. Most bands have one growl and one clean vocal style… I mix that up as well. For example… you know how cradle of filth has a ton of different vocal styles… well we do that same type of thing. They don't sound like COF, but there's lots of different extreme and clean styles as well.
-I also read somewhere that you have released a demo in 2000 called "Temptations". Is that an official release?
Doug: It wasn't really an official release, just a demo that we passed around to a few people.
John: We might re-release it at some point… there were some great songs on it… it'd be a shame for people not to hear them.
-I think that the cover of your album, although it is pretty simple, it's very beautiful. Who have done it?
John: It was a team effort between Jim Young and myself. He's the mastermind behind our logo as well. We bounced around a lot of ideas off of each other until we finally decided on this one. It's a merge of a painting by Bouguereau and a photo. Then Rich and I did the layout on the rest of the cd.
- Do you know when you will start working on your new album? Or is it too soon to talk about that?
Rich: There's enough material for about 2 more albums. The real work at this point is getting enough of them together to make a coherent enough theme for another release, and if needed, writing some more material to fill in the gaps. When will it start to go into production to be released? Not sure, maybe after we start to financially recover from the current release?
-Which bands have inspired you most?
Rich: Some of the first bands that made me want to pick up a guitar and learn how to play was a bunch of the old Ozzy stuff, along with old Morbid Angel. Once I got a bit of ability to play, a lot of Exodus, Anthrax and Death. Crowbar was a band that seemed to have a lot of influence in what and how I play. All those bands had a strong rhythm to their music overall. Inspiration is where you find it.
Doug: When I first started playing the guitar, my main influences were Slayer, Metallica and Death. Several years ago my main influences were Testament, In Flames, Ebony Tears and 80's thrash. Nowadays, my main influences are Cynic, Martyr, Annihilator and Rhapsody and Symphony X(for the orchestral stuff).
John: I've been inspired by many different bands over the years. Believer for example had a huge impact on me. Their "Dimensions" album planted the seed for me in terms of crossing the orchestra with metal. Some other heavy hitters were Flotsam and Jetsam, Suffocation, MOD, Exodus, Sabbat, Danzig, Bathory, and Napalm Death.
-You mix many genres/styles together and it's very difficult to categorise you under one specific genre, but if you had to choose just one genre that you feel yourself more close/related too than the others, which genre would it be?
Rich: We beat our heads against the wall for a while when we tried to figure that out before. Speed metal might be one of the closest descriptions I can think of. Even that can change depending on what song you're listening to and what you're used to hearing. I've heard from a person before that this stuff is like a musical Rorschach test, you'll see what you want to see out of it based on what you're used to listening to.
John: Well, we couldn't think of one either… so we made one up, and called it Storm Core. And it's pretty fitting when you think about it, our music is a lot like a storm. There are the quiet bits, the really bombastic destructive moments, and plenty of noise in between. I usually just call it heavy metal if anyone asks me. Just good wholesome metal.
-Do you have any plans to tour countries outside USA?
Doug: We would love to tour Europe and Asia, but we need more time to spread our name.
Rich: Maybe when we're bigger. I definitely think it would be cool to tour Germany, Japan, and Australia. Mainly because those are countries I want to visit and see more of.
-What about the gigs you have done so far, did many fans come to see you?
Rich: Wait, we have fans? When the hell did that happen? From the reactions we have gotten after the show, they pretty much all seemed to like the stuff a lot.
John: So far the turnout has been great. We've had a great response from the fans that came to see us, as well as those hearing us for the first time.
Doug: Hopefully it continues!
-What are your lyrics mostly about?
John: The theme on this album is love. From the twisted things people will do for it as seen in Love Poison, to the loss of it as in Peak of the Fall, to it's healing power in Empyrean Sky, to how it can transcend death in Into the Depths (based on the movie "What Dreams May Come"). Some people think it sounds a bit weak, but if you think about it, love has a dramatic impact on everyone's life, and its negative effects can be just as strong as the positives. On this album I tried to touch on a few of both.
- I'm not very familiar with the metal scene in Chicago, how hard is it to start a metal band there? Do you get enough support?
Rich: There are bigger metal scenes out there, and there are also smaller ones. Chicago has a pretty decent music scene in general, but there are so many types of music being played around here, finding places that concentrate on the type of music we do can get weird.
Doug: Actually, we started our in Sacramento, California, and it wasn't easy there! But I would assume it would be far easier to start one here because the metal scene here is far superior and there are a lot more people here.
John: There are lots of metal heads and lots of underground metal bands here… but there don't seem to be a lot of metalheads that think like we do… so I think we'd have a hard time getting started just about anywhere.
-As I know you listen to bands from many different genres and you have a broad taste in music, it would be interesting to know your favourite band from each genre, but don't choose more than one band for each genre, that would be cheating *laughs*
Heavy Metal: Black Sabbath
Death: Cannibal Corpse
Technical Death: Death
Grindcore: Napalm Death
Black: God Dethroned
Jazz: Count Basie
Blues: John Lee Hooker
Hard Rock: Motorhead
Surf: The Beach Boys
Country: Johnny Cash
R'n'B: Aretha Franklin
Death Metal - Suffocation
Melodic Death - In Flames (Whoracle, Jester Race era)
Black Metal - Emperor
Technical - Cynic, Spiral Architect
Progressive - Symphony X
Thrash - Testament
Symphonic - Rhapsody
Power Metal - Armageddon
Metalcore - Killswitch Engage
Heavy Metal - Judas Priest
Free-jazz - Vandermark 5
Improv-jazz - Paul Wertico Trio
Heavy Metal - Judas Priest
Progressive Metal - Opeth
Death Metal - Suffocation
Grindcore - Napalm Death
Technical Metal - Cynic
Sludge Metal - Corrosion of Conformity
Thrash - MOD
Metal Core - From Autumn to Ashes
Punk Metal - The Accused (seattle)
Hardcore Punk - GBH
Punk - Circle Jerks
Grunge - Alice in Chains
Stoner Rock - Kyuss
Progressive Rock - Coheed and Cambria
Indie Rock - Cooper Temple Clause
Southern Rock - Raging Slab
Alt Rock - PJ Harvey
Psychedelic Rock - Jefferson Airplane
Indie Country - 16 Horsepower
Bluegrass - Split Lip Rayfield
Blues - Magic Slim
R&B - Me'shell N'Degeocello
Pop / 80's - Prince
Rap - Public Enemy
Trip-Hop - Sneaker Pimps
Acid-Jazz - United Future Organization (UFO)
Jazz - Miles Davis
Classical Guitar - Sharon Isbin
World Classical - Tan Dun
Classical - Carl Orff
- What is your opinion about age limitations for extreme metal concerts?
Rich: Never really thought about it, but I do remember when I was under 21, I hated it.
Doug: I think age limitations at concerts are absurd, especially since there is a very large percentage of "under 21" metal heads, but if it's in a bar, there's nothing you can do about it.
-Besides music, what are your hobbies? Any sports or anything particular you are interested in?
Rich: I'm a big online gaming nut. Battlefield 1942:Desert Combat and Battlefield Vietnam. Other than that, I'm a computer geek at heart, so I make webpages, write programs, all that fun stuff. As far as sports, I'm into martial arts, so most stuff like that TV along with boxing. I'm also hooked on the DIY reality shows like Trading Spaces, Monster Garage, Junkyard Wars, etc
John: Three words… GRAND THEFT AUTO! Best game(s) ever. Period. Like Rich, I'm a sucker for some video games too. I do a bit of snowboarding, though that past time has been reduced dramatically since I moved to the flatlands of the Midwest. Nothing like a good powder day though. I'm also really into movies. I get a lot of inspiration from film. My favourites are usually unconventional in one way or another, just like our music. And last but not least, I enjoy classic literature (Milton, Baudelaire, Dante) and some more modern authors (Borges, Hubbard, Rand).
Doug: I played baseball for 11 years and football for 9, then I started playing guitar and gave it up. I still follow football and baseball a little though.
-Last words of wisdom?
John: The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Hell of Heaven, or a Heaven of Hell. What matter where if be I still the same. A little Milton for y'all… some good words to live by. If you don't have our cd yet, visit http://empyreansky.com and get yourself a copy! What are you waiting for! Your grandma isn't going to buy it for you… unless she's really cool… or if she's into metal… or… ahh whatever. Just buy it.
Rich: Wear what you dig, do what you dig. Make sure the worst critic you have is yourself. At the end of the day, the biggest person you have to answer to is the one looking back at you in the mirror.
Doug: Stock up on clean underwear until the next album, you'll need it!
I would like to thank Soren (behemoth666) and the members of Empyrean Sky for making this interview possible
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