From a pure sonic standpoint, God Forbid should never have ended up amongst the "New Wave of American Heavy Metal" gang. Heavier than Lamb of God and Shadows Fall, but not as melodic as Killswitch Engage, the New Jersey-based metallers have remained afloat thanks to a daunting tour schedule in promotion of staccato-laden thrash gems like 2004's Gone Forever and 2005's IV: The Constitution of Treason. And while they've never been the sexy or safe pick between their contemporaries, the words "reliable" and "forward-thinking" instantly spring to mind when thinking about God Forbid. They've yet to disappoint...but they've yet to plateau.
After a three-year layoff, the band returns with Equilibrium, their first for new label Victory Records. With the departure of founding member/guitarist Dallas Coyle now very much a thing of the past, GF is able to lock horns with brutal modern metal and liquified thrash, all the while holding steady thanks to the grizzly bark of Byron Davis. This refocused platter benefits greatly from the acquisition of new guitarist Matt Wicklund (ex-Himsa), and Davis's new-found clean vocal approach, of which according to the singer, has been a long time coming.
Presently hitting the boards on the first annual Trespass tour with Five Finger Death Punch, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, and more, we caught up with the laid-back Davis via telephone. Pressing topics like the new album and tour were on the agenda, but as you'll read below, so was the imprisonment of Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe, whom Davis considers a very close friend. Read on...
Blistering.com: Does it feel good to be back out on the road and re-start the album/tour cycle?
Byron Davis: Yeah, it feels really good to be back out here again. This is where we belong, this is where weíre at our best, and what we enjoy the most. The new songs have been clicking really well, but unfortunately being on the Trespass, we have to pick and choose what to play. Weíre playing some new songs and some old ones, but weíre really happy with the response and the excitement of people coming and seeing the band, amped that weíre playing. With the direction this record is going, weíre very happy with that. Itís all coming into play.
Blistering.com: Youíve done so many of these summer package tours, so itís almost like your summer home in a way.
Davis: It is to some degree. This tour is different than those, but itís much like the same thing.
Blistering.com: You took three years to release Equilibrium, so what did you do to keep yourself busy? Did you have to get re-acclimated to normal life away from the band?
Davis: Right now, itís the opposite Ė itís trying to get re-acclimated to being on stage. Weíve been playing shows here and there throughout those three years. I canít say for everyone, but Iíve been working jobs in between tours since we first started. Itís just a matter of trying to forget about working your regular job and playing your music, unlike some of the other guys who have been playing and writingÖitís living life day-to-day and trying to make it happen and enjoying it. Itís definitely been eye-opening after being gone for so long, but it feels right at the same time.
Blistering.com: Did a lot of the songs for Equilibrium happen over that three-year span, or did Doc [Coyle, guitars] come into the studio armed with the songs?
Davis: Doc wrote a couple of things, but for the most part, our new guitar player wrote a lot of the songs. It was good to have an in-surge of fresh blood. Things were a little up-and-down at the time and it ended up breathing life back into the band. That drive, determinationÖhe brought it back. Itís a good feeling. Dudes in the band were at each otherís neck, so itís definitely a good thing. It good people focused on what we were before, which is a band thatís all about the music. Weíve always been about the music, but sometimes life throws you a curveball, so you got to work around it.
Blistering.com: Dallasís [Coyle] departure put a cloud over the release of Earthsblood, so it must have been good to have that out of the way for the new album. Was that the sense you got?
Davis: Yeah, totally. His departure definitely stalled us. We had [done] some good things and he found himself somewhere else that he thought was more important for him at the time. He did what he had to do. You canít really fault the guy for wanting to pursue other avenues. It definitely stalled, but if it didnít happen the way it did, we wouldnít have written the record we wrote. Some people believed the band was over and we couldnít move forward without him, but thatís not the case. We were able to write exactly what we wanted to write with everyone on the same page as to where we wanted to go next. For as bad as him leaving and all that, it worked out. Iím really happy with the product we have now and our choice of bringing Tricky into the fold really paid off.
Blistering.com: On prior God Forbid albums, you were mainly tasked with doing the growls and screamed, but on the new album, youíre doling out some clean vocals. What brought that out in you?
Davis: Actually, the departure of Dallas [laughs]. Weíve been doing this for a long time. When Determination came out, I had some ideas for going in that direction, but some people were reluctant about it. We went and did that album, and did Gone Forever and before we went in the process, he decided he wanted to do some singing. So it evolved from the initial idea to him singing. Then on Earthsblood, he had a song that I did some singing on, so it was a progression that was inevitable. It needed to come, but there was too much arguing and bickering before to make that happen. Once that lightened up, it was impossible for it to happen.
Blistering.com: I was surprised you started to do them, frankly.
Davis: A lot of people were. Everything we did on this record is from the heart. We knew weíd be shaking up the waters by doing something different. Itís never been our policy to not do something we wanted to do. At the end of the day, whether people buy the record or not, you have to put your stamp on it. Itís more important for us to be happy than outsiders who have no idea what it takes to make a record, to create the best album you can make that someone can script out in four or five sentences in some freaking blog or whatever.
Blistering.com: It must have been nice to do an album without any sort of distractions or band member issues, which makes Equilibrium probably your most cohesive since Gone Forever. If we can go back, there seemed to always be something, especially around the time you got off the tour cycle for Determination.
Davis:Determination, the thing about that album was we were doing crazy amounts of touring. By the time we came home, the entire subgenre that is so-called ďmetalcore,Ē blew up. As soon as we came home from tour. Everyone that was doing anything close to what we were doing started to get recognition for what we were doing. It felt like a kick in the face, so thatís why a lot of aggravation occurred within the band. Then we did Gone Forever and luckily, we were able to shoot-up on that record cycle and did the Ozzfest. Things happened, but there wasnít the greatest follow-up for us touring following that album. So basically we did Ozzfest, to ten weeks in Europe with Machine Head, to nothing. There were no other tours for us, so we said ďfuck itĒ and thatís when we did Constitution.