Bloody but Unbowed by Jon Bodan
Hello Heavy Music Artwork, thanks for having us in the Masterpieces 2018 book, Travis totally nailed it on our album artwork as he always does. Hard to condense our history down to a short form, I started the band back in 2001 for really just fun. We wrote a bunch of songs that ended up being our first record, ‘A Manifesto For Domination’ – we ended up signing with Nightmare Records to put that out in 2008, and from there, things started getting a little more serious. As things got more “real” we went through a number of lineup changes, because it’s hard to be in a band at our level. We all go on the road and do albums but go back to work the next day.
We put out our second album, ‘Building The Towers’, in 2010. Followed that up with the sequel to it called ‘Indoctrination’ in 2011 and started touring pretty heavily after that. In 2014 we released ‘Conquer’ on the heels of a bunch of touring, and it ended up on the Billboard Heatseekers chart which was really cool. We continued to tour behind that album and signed with new management and Agonia Records in early 2018 and then released ‘Bloody But Unbowed’ that summer. We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of opportunities to get out on the road and bring what we do to the fans, and I’m actually doing this interview as we drive to the first show of the USA run with Metal Church that we’re going on.
For me personally, ‘Bloody But Unbowed’ is probably our strongest release. We started out as a prog-metal band, but over time we definitely have evolved into what we really just consider a modern metal band with a progressive streak. So this record takes you a lot of places but overall is very focused songwriting – songs are very to the point with very catchy choruses and heavy riffs. We have been stripping down our sound in that way for quite some time and this record is the culmination of that process so far.
As a band, our influences are literally all over the place. Personally, I’m into a bunch of modern metal stuff but I also listen to a lot of pop, EDM, hair metal, old school thrash, etc. What I try to do when I write is meld together heavy riffs, complicated riffs that someone that isn’t a musician can get their head around, and catchy choruses and melodies. I try to glue together the heavy and the melodic. One rule in our band, though, is that no song will make an album unless it has a super catchy chorus and big hooks. That’s something that we are absolute tyrants about – if the song isn’t an earworm then it doesn’t make the album, period.
This record was a little harder than the normal one to finish writing and to get recorded – we had a lot of internal disagreements on what songs were the best, what to focus on, etc – so getting with Mark Lewis on this one helped us get through that. And like any good art, there has to be a struggle of some sort for it to really come out powerfully, and I think that you can tell on this one. The material has a lot of urgencies. It’s also a bit of a statement – we’ve been able to get out there and do many things that bands usually don’t get to do – but we never feel like we’ve “made it”. There’s always another struggle, another mountain to climb.
In terms of lyrics, I think in a lot of ways they really run the gamut – but in a lot of ways this release was colored by the things going on in the world these days. A lot of political division – a lot of narratives being sold to the people by media shills – and things like that. So it kind of has a double meaning – a lot of it was reacting to the world at large, and a lot of it is allegory for how we feel in our band. There’s always struggle, but we persevere. If anything I think that concept has flowed throughout all of our releases, because nothing has really come easily for us, ever. We’re constantly the underdog.
We pretty much write about things or ideas or concepts that inspire us. We definitely don’t consider ourselves to be a band that is pigeonholed by a particular subject matter. Probably the closest to it is just the idea of empowering yourself through your choices and actions as opposed to waiting on someone else to do it for you. But we definitely aren’t a Fantasy power metal band singing about “Flames of the fire of the sword of the flaming firey forest of trolls”.
If metal is still dangerous? I hate to say it but it’s generally pretty safe these days. Bands that are getting the breaks are generally safe, paint by numbers stuff. For example, Nightwish broke out huge and then there were a thousand clone bands that came out and rode their coattails, very few of whom are any good. It always goes that way, though. But originality is really not a prerequisite for success any longer. Metal is to a large degree the same samples, same guitar tones, same song structures, same groove, whatever. We try to be a bit different – we have these big powerful riffs and very aggressive songs, but we have a hard rock singer and do a ton of anthemic choruses with vocal harmonies and the like – but then we throw in the death vocals and other ideas. We pull from all sorts of genres and as long as it sounds good and elevates the song, anything is fair game. We wonder if that’s part of why we’re not bigger than we are – people, critics included, don’t know what to call us. And as far as being on the road, it’s so far removed from the 80’s Rockstar lifestyle clichés, it’s not even funny. You’re more likely to find a vegan or a juicer on your tour than a coked out Rockstar.
Interview by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2018 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.