Samothrace - Awkward Hearts Emerge
By: David E. Gehlke
As much as people try to claim it is, the underground metal scene is not entirely based on momentum. Since we operate in an environment that isn't predicated on having hit singles or flashy videos, the sort of "here today, gone tomorrow" pathos that exists in mainstream music just isn't there. It lends to the adage that indeed, absence does make the heart grow fonder, and it allows a band who has spent considerable time away like Seattle-by-way-of Kansas transplants Samothrace to have a much greater impact upon their return to heavy metal fray.
The last we heard from the band was 2008's ugly duckling-turned-swan Life's Trade, an album that had only four songs, but man, what a colossal quartet they were. Driven by the band's self-tagged "guitarmonies," Life's Trade's thrust Samothrace into the center of rapturous critical acclaim thanks in large part to the hefty doses of melody inserted into dirt-riddled, slow-mo sludge. However, member changes, personal issues, and the proverbial empty bank account that comes with being a play-for-peanuts metal act sidelined the band. It wasn't until relocating to Seattle in 2011 where upon Book of Black Earth drummer Joe Axler joined and guitarist Renata Castagna re-joined the Samothrace fold, culminating in the spectacle that is this year's Reverence to Stone.
At the forefront of it all is guitarist/vocalist/founding member Bryan Spinks, whom Blistering was able to procure for an interview regarding their time away, the mammoth two-song new album, and much more. Here's the hot print...
Blistering.com: Underground bands generally don’t take four years between albums. What took so long to release to the follow-up to Life’s Trade?
Bryan Spinks: Man, we had a few factors that made it so. The move to Seattle and getting set-up there was part of it. We went through a couple of member changes that also played a role. Mostly, though, was that we all had some peaks and valleys that made the focus less than direct. I am glad to say that we are all doing great these days and have finally got a second album under our belts.
Blistering.com: Along those lines, how much did member changes play a part in this?
Spinks: It definitely made it harder to work on new material for us. We had to teach the old stuff to a new member twice and with playing a lot of shows in there, we just weren’t getting to writing and working on the next release. Again, there were other factors in our personal lives that played a major role as well.
Blistering.com: How big of a boost was getting Renata back in the band?
Spinks: Yeah, man. She kinda came in and started kicking our butts into gear. She has a very strong drive for Samothrace. Always has. It’s definitely awesome having her back. The riff chemistry was definitely missed. She is a truly great guitar player!
Blistering.com: How did you snag Joe Axler from Book of Black Earth? And was it hard to get him used to slower tempos ha-ha?
Spinks: Joe had been a good friend for some years and when it came time he was our first choice. He hadn’t ever really played slower tempo material, so we also knew it was gonna either work or not. No middle ground. He picked it up so quickly. He’s a great drummer, man. We just kept working together and it all fell into place. I am stoked to be working with him while he finds his style in playing doom and stoner metal. But, I think that dude still blasts with the best. Grindo. Ha!
Blistering.com: You were relatively new and unknown when Life’s Trade came out, so in contrast, there’s some anticipation for the new album. Is it hard to get your head around on this?
Spinks: Nah. After we were so well-received with Life’s Trade I knew that there would be that pressure to make the next album a worthy adversary. We’ve all played in bands over the years that went through the same process. We’re seasoned at this point as far as that is concerned. However, we have been getting asked all the while when the next album would come out, so the pressure to make it good was definitely there. We went in and did what we hoped to, so we’ll see how well or not it is received.
Blistering.com: What did you take away from the live shows you did after the release of Life’s Trade? Did they help shape the direction you wanted to go for the new album?
Spinks: Not necessarily. We would have put these two tracks out regardless, but as we started getting more and more folks out at the shows, we started to see that this band does matter to some folks besides just us, ya know? We were able to talk to fans and friends and get an idea of the strengths and weaknesses we had come to. I think that played a part for me. I wanted to make an album that we loved, and our fans and friends liked... the rest is just bonus.
Blistering.com: Reverence to Stone has a more lively feel than its predecessor. How much of this do you credit to Brandon Fitzsimmons?
Spinks: While Brandon did offer opinion and aide us in deciding some of the right and wrong ways to pen down a part, we went in with these two songs after having played them as our live set the past two years in the Northwest area. We were more than ready to jump in and get it done. I think Brandon did a phenomenal job working with us, solid dude and solid friend.
Blistering.com: You split the tracklisting in half this time, going from four songs to two, and you resurrected “When We Emerged” from your original demo. Was it a matter of this song being too good to not be released?
Spinks: Yeah, man. We had always planned on re-recording and releasing it again. It just happened to come at this time instead of further down the road. Also, we wanted to release a single LP this time round to keep the cost down for the process. It’d been so long since Life’s Trade…we weren’t sure if and how it might be received.
Blistering.com: What were you tackling lyrically this time? Does it tie into the album cover at all?
Spinks: This time round tackles a couple of issues. “When We Emerged” tackles the idea that with all the strife and idiotic ideals still plaguing the world in this era that we must have missed something along the way. We didn’t learn that some shit is none of your business and not worth the time to argue and protest and that each person at least deserves a chance at a life worth living. “A Horse of Our Own” deals with the hypocrisy in addiction and the fact that we are all numbing ourselves in one way or another. Not to judge when you can be judged as well. Peaks and valleys.
Blistering.com: Because you used an old song for the new album, is it safe to say there are some additional songs in the works?
Spinks: Absolutely. We’ve got material we’ve been working on and will start getting it focused later in the year. For now we are going to focus on Reverence…”
Blistering.com: I would say Reverence is the right complement to Life’s Trade…it’s bigger sounding and more dynamic. With that in mind, where do you plan on going with the next album?
Spinks: Yeah, bud, I think we’ll continue to kinda evolve and to hone our sound. I know that as we grow older and face life that our music will be, too… I am very happy to start writing again, man. Very.
Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on deck for the rest of 2012?
Spinks: Tour. We gotta tour whenever we can, man. I miss the road so fucking much. No other way to put it. We’re just going to focus on Reverence to Stone and all the things that come along because of it.
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