God Emperor with Erik Collier, Darryl Dewitt
HMA: How would you describe your?
Undrask: We call our music melodic death metal, though we’ve been called a number of genres/subgenres. Melodeath suits as well as any, so we’re sticking with that. As far as meaning, it’s an outlet, a drive, a necessity. We all feel compelled to create and try to create what speaks to us, what we think is cool.
HMA: What can you tell us about your new record?
Undrask: God Emperor tells the story of the origin of the Longhammer, which wasn’t a thing until we read a review of our first album by DR. WVRM over at Angry Metal Guy. The track Longhammer was written as a metaphor for binge drinking, paralleled as a battle between warriors. His interpretation was that the track was about a “mystical mind-controlling Warhammer”, and we thought it appropriate and cool, so we wrote an album about how such a weapon might come to exist!
As far as actually creating tracks, our process usually involves Erik and Darryl trading riffs or leads, expanding each other’s ideas, or sometimes completely scrapping entire tracks that just aren’t working; it’s a long process because if it’s not good enough, it gets demolished and rebuilt. Once a track is somewhere near done, Aaron has a listen and lays out some drum ideas until we get close enough to cut a demo for our purposes. Sometimes, that demo results in major changes, sometimes not. On the whole, it’s a demanding but rewarding process.
HMA: How would you describe the lyrics?
Undrask: The origin story of the Longhammer and the result of our protagonist’s involvement with it. Each track plays out a different piece of the story. Overall, this idea was just a vessel to lay a creative foundation and explore different atmospheres – heroic, vengeful, triumphant, etc. So, the tracks vary quite a bit in tone, which made the whole album fun and rewarding to develop.
As far as lyrics go, we spend a lot of time on them despite the whimsical subject matter. Finding the right word or rhyme with just the right meaning makes an impact, no matter what one is writing about. We’ll each give our input on what drives us to create music:
Erik: Early on, influential guitar players and music that made me make funny faces. Now, the drive to use the skillset I’ve developed to create something before I’m dust.
Darryl: Many things inspire me, from the music I like to any other sounds I think are cool. We look for riffs and sounds we think are fun and compose them into a unified song.
Daniel: Piles of money, coke, and divorce papers.
Steve: It’s less about a message we’re trying to convey and more about finding what sounds best. And if we can let out some aggression in the process, all the better.
HMA: Could you describe your artwork and how it fits your music?
Undrask: The cover art depicts our protagonist at the moment of creation of the Longhammer. Chris Rallis is the (amazing!) artist, and we gave him a relatively brief description of the scene – a warrior forging a giant Warhammer surrounded by ghostly figures. Given that he does work for Wizards of the Coast, we knew he would nail the fantasy aesthetic. As you can see, he crushed it. We didn’t specifically go for any colour scheme or idea. Still, the Longhammer really pops out with the colour contrast, and we wanted to keep the focus right there where it was, so everything else remained a ghostly blue/white to match the (super cool) figures in the background. If you’d like to reach out to Chris, you can do exactly what we did – use the contact page on his website here: www.rallisart.com/contact.
HMA: Do you have a philosophical fixation?
Undrask: We’re pretty big on escapism. Our albums have been fantasy/sci-fi themed, and a few of us like to read books in precisely that vein. What’s so great about reality that it can’t be improved with magic? Fortunately, those trappings also allow us to explore human thoughts, emotions, and reactions just as with any other literary genre! We’re exploring ideas for album #3 that might deviate from the form to steal a Scar Symmetry song title.
HMA: How were you initiated in the dark arts of heavy metal?
Erik: Nothing life-changing. I didn’t even know metal existed until late in my teens. I heard some White Zombie from a friend but wasn’t into it, and later on some Static-X, which was okay then. I first hit it off with Metallica and, a little later, Megadeth. Eventually, I found Kalmah (through Dragonforce, I think – thanks, Pandora!), and everything changed – Early In Flames, Scar Symmetry, Arsis, some guitarists like Paul Gilbert, Jason Becker, Jeff Loomis, John Petrucci, Rick Graham, and on and on. Not long after, I dove into guitar, locked myself in the basement for ten years, and the rest is history.
Darryl: I’ve been into metal since I was a teenager but only found a few of the bands I still like to this day until Napster came around and let me traverse music genres that a CD shop didn’t have available. Online music distribution of one form or another was key to finding my favourite bands over the years – I’m proud that we can contribute to that and perhaps inspire some other young metalheads. Forming Undrask took a lot longer – we only met once. I was in my late 20s, and finding other metal fans, especially musicians, was challenging. We got lucky to get together when we did, and over the last ten years, we’ve just kept cranking.
Daniel: When I was a 15-year-old stoner “Mallrat” trying to score some pot, I met this slightly older guy who thought I was cool as fuck for some reason. He told me to come with him back to his place. His girlfriend was smoking hot, so I didn’t think he’d try to bone me. We rode in his 1993 grey Oldsmobile about 30 minutes to the country. We listened to Anti-Flag at first. He asked me what I thought. I told him, “this shit isn’t heavy enough”. He puts in Cannibal Corpse’s The Bleeding. Now we are getting heavy. Please get back to his place, and we start ripping the bong. Then he hands me a stack of 10 or so CDs. First Black Dahlia Murder, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, and some other shit but the one that stood out: Pig Destroyer Prowler in the Yard. Life changing. Best god damn grindcore album ever.
Steve: I grew up on metal. I only found out there was other music when I started watching MTV in the late 80s. I have a few particular albums that lead to a specific evolution in musical taste. I grew up with Van Halen, so 1984 was a staple. In the 90s, Nemesis by Grip Inc. pushed me into heavier music. When I first heard Clayman by In Flames, I fell in love with the music I most identify with today.
HMA: Why is music important to you and the world?
Undrask: On the whole, music exists to fill a void somewhere inside of us all. That void is shaped differently for different people, and what fits in one person’s empty space might not fit into another’s. Especially with metal, the subgenres are so different, and the reasons for listening so varied that the world needs the experimentation and exploration that metal can offer. We hope to do our small part!