Shadows Fall – Enlightened By the Bold
By: David E. Gehlke
Blistering.com: “Divide and Conquer” is one of the songs that seems to make the most impact. It has a little bit of a Killswitch flavor to it, but with your own twist.
Fair: That one fell out of the sky. Matt had been working on the main verse and the intro parts, but he didn’t know where it was going. He had it set up on his laptop in the studio lobby, and we needed a chorus, and Jon walks into the room, plugs in, and plays this amazing riff and goes, “There’s your fucking chorus!” and walks out of the room. We were like “Alright!” You can hear the energy on that one…Jason [Bittner, drums] didn’t have a lot of time to overt-think his parts.
Blistering.com: The album plays really well to your strengths – it has everything you do well, like the thrash riffs, melodic vocals, and crunchy riffs. At this stage in your career, is it essential to just stick with what you do right?
Fair: Totally. With this record, we wanted to take the bedrock of our sound, which will always be there. We don’t want to be a band that takes a 180-turn and confuses people, but we also didn’t want it to be just a re-tread of what we’ve already done. We wanted to take the best elements of our sound and push them even further. I think a song like “Nothing Remains” shows us pushing our rock sound further, which is as far as we’ve ever gone. A song like the title track goes back to our death metal roots. There’s no reason to give it a rock vibe – if it’s going to be a death metal song, it needs to be as brutal as possible. It was cool to take those influences and ideas and focus them, while coming up with a cohesive manner in which each song stands on its own.
Blistering.com: This might stem from the cover art, but Fire From the Sky appears to be your darkest album. You’ve never really been a “dark” band, but I think this takes it in that department.
Fair: Possibly [laughs]. Retribution had some moments like that as well. It’s always a reflection of the current state of the world. These are dark times, with the looming Mayan prophecies hanging over your heard, but with the music, the first tune we wrote was “The Unknown” and that has a dark, sinister vibe. That set the table, so it would have been weird to throw something over a riff like that, lyrics that were positive, like “Things are okay!” That wouldn’t have made sense [laughs]. While we do focus on darker things, there’s usually a light at the end of the tunnel. You always want to ask why things are this way as opposed to accepting things the way they are. We’re never going to conquer demons with our lyrics, but [this album] definitely is on the darker side of the spectrum.
Blistering.com: Switching gears, with the exception of Jason joining in 2001, you’ve been able to keep the same lineup. Considering the massive amounts of touring you’ve done and everything the band has been through, how have you been able to keep it together?
Fair: He’s the still the new guy [laughs]. The way we’ve always worked has been democratic, which is huge. We’re also split financially and everyone signs off on everything. But also the little stuff, like travelling…we don’t let things fester and build. We blow it up right there. Those are always the problems with certain bands – they let things build and start talking shit behind each other’s back and it usually boils over and causes problems. We’ll just talk shit right to each other’s face [laughs]. If someone is not happy, you don’t not know it for long. We also have common goals. This is our career and we’ve been fortunate enough to do it for over a decade and we want to continue that. I think that common goal makes you put aside things and sacrifice for the greater good.
Blistering.com: When did you have the moment where you knew this lineup would stick?
Fair: It was never one particular moment, but it always felt that way. Everyone seemed to come together and everyone’s role was well-defined and if it was taken away, it would change the dynamic, and that became pretty obvious once Jason joined. Things happened really quickly after that. Before The Art of Balance we were doing well for being on a small indie label in a growing scene, then it was like, “Wow, we might do this for a living.” We never thought we’d still be going on, not without all of the success we’ve had, and not in 2012 [laughs].
Blistering.com: September is going to mark the 10-year anniversary of The Art of Balance. Can you reflect at all on that particular point in time?
Fair: We felt like it was the time to decide if we were going to go all-in and get in the van and go for it, or not. It was the tipping point – we had the opportunity that a lot of bands don’t get, so we needed to know if we were “All for one, one for all.” Then with Ozzfest (in 2003), we saw that if this music gets in front of a large audience, people will respond. That summer, it was us, Killswitch, Chimaira, and Sworn Enemy, along with a bunch of major label bands and we were drawing great crowds and were getting a great response…that’s when I knew it was for real.