Syracuse, NY metal band Freya have had quite an interesting career for themselves thus far, one that has taken them across musical genres and found them experimenting with a wide range of sonic possibilities. Though the band has had a few lineup changes over the years, but none are stronger than this current incarnation, and I’m tellin’ ya… Shit’s about to get heavy!
Releasing their 4th full-length album, Paragon of The Crucible, on Holy Mountain Music in the US and Deadlight Entertainment worldwide TODAY, expect a drastic departure from anything you may recall from these guys. After listening to a few of the tracks prior to the release, it’s an absolute punisher, and I mean WAY heavier than anything they’ve done in the past. If you like your metal on the brutal side of things (and who doesn’t,) make sure to pick this puppy up.
After serving me innumerable $2 High Life’s at Westcott Street’s latest addition and new favorite hang spot, Beer Belly Deli, I caught up with guitarist and primary songwriter Brendon Flynn at another Westcott Nation staple, Recess Coffee, to talk about what the group has in store for the remainder of 2013, the new album, and when/where they’ll be playing these monster jams in the near future.
G- Hey Brendon. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today.
B- Thank you.
G- What’s up?
B- Not too much. Actually, that’s a lie. A lot! (laughs)
G- Well, it’s a Wednesday in Syracuse… How much could be going on?
B- Well, you know, I don’t know. That’s a good question.
G- So, we’re here to talk about Freya. There have been a few lineup changes, and I’m familiar with the older, earlier releases, so when you told me this was a metal outfit now, I was like ‘Ok, that’s cool.’ And then, you played it for me… Whoa!
If you could, introduce everybody in the band now. Who is everybody, what do they play, and where’s everybody from?
B- Right now, obviously Karl (Buechner,) and he’s been there since the beginning. I joined almost 5 years ago, and I wrote the last and current album with our drummer, Joe Murphy. Joe joined with me about 5 years ago, as well. And the new members for this album are Bill Bodily and Tom Turner. Tom is from Oswego, NY, and Bill is from Syracuse.
G- Dig it. When did they join up, because the band has been around since 2002ish, am I correct?
B- In 2001, they were Nemesis, and 2002 was their first official release as Freya through Victory Records.
They (Bill and Tom) joined up probably last summer. We lost our bass player and we were looking for one when Bill joined, and then we needed a guitar player, as well.
We were actually a 4-piece for a little bit. Finding a guitar player, or any musician, that is a good fit for the band, but also can be a good friend you can tour with… That’s important. That’s the hardest part. So, we tried him out, and he showed a lot of promise and is a great dude. Since then, he’s become one of my closest friends.
G- It always helps having people you can hang with on the road. The half-hour performance is nothing compared to the 23 and a half hours of downtime. If you’re not with somebody you can tolerate, things can get to be pretty ugly.
So, I just had the privilege of listening to a couple of tracks off the record, Paragon Of The Crucible… Tell us about it. When did this project get started, who did the writing, where was it recorded… Give me the full rundown and details.
B- OK. Well, the last record, All Hail The End, came out on Victory Records, and that album was about End-of-World Myths from different cultures around the world through different time periods. Karl and myself are very into mythology, theology, and history, and it kinda just went along with it.
Then, this album we wanted to be a continuation, but it’s going to be kind of like a Road Warrior-style thing where it’s the end of our civilization, written from a future civilization, using that idea of travel and a simpler way of looking at things for understanding and to explain their surroundings. Their creation myth… So, Karl did a fantastic job… One of my favorite attributes of Karl is his writing is very poetic. And even though he definitely has a direction when he writes, it still leaves the listener some room to fill in the gaps, which I think is awesome and essential.
G- Right on. He’s sounding really, really heavy and dark on this record. Of course, people will compare it to Firestorm and his other stuff, but this seems like a new area of singing for him, and his voice is definitely taking a different turn. So, I don’t think people should be expecting the kind of grumble throat direction that they get with the hardcore scene.
B- We’ve been really working on him, and himself too, as an artist. You want more tools in the toolbox to expand your range, and that goes for any artist/musician/dancer or whatever you may be.
You know, I think with the new direction, it lent itself for him to explore new territory and his range within screaming, but also tonality. Some singing, not clean, but Gojira-esque type throaty singing. And when you do that, it adds more dynamics to the music and allows the melodies to become much thicker and richer, and adds more mood. It tells the story more completely.
G- Sure. Now, it seems like a concept record and it’s all written and recorded. Why don’t you tell us a bit about what the writing process was like for the album, and who in the band typically came up with the songs. Was there a primary songwriter, or were you jamming out during rehearsals?
B- The primary songwriter is myself, but I don’t want to… I want to give Joe Murphy (drums) all the credit, too. A drummer can change the complete direction of a song depending on what beat you play, the transitions. At that point when we were writing the album, it was just Murphy and I, really. Karl would have a song idea and we would talk over ideas… The cool thing with this was if I had an idea, Karl would write around it, or if Karl had an idea, it would get my gears turning and I’d write a song around it.
And usually, I’d just do Garage Band and write a song to a click, get a basic arrangement, and bring it into Murphy and we’d jam on it. Inspiration works in funny ways… He may play a beat, or play a fill, and I’d be ‘Aww cool,’ and incorporate that rhythmic pattern into this riff or whatever, and it would sort of change in that way, you know? So, that’s why I feel Murphy was extremely important in the writing and composing.
G- We approve of drummer shout outs here at Live High Five, so that’s good… We’re not just the guys that hump gear at the end of the day.
G- So, tell us about the recording process… Where did you record, who was behind the boards, and how long did it take to get everything ready?
B- We did everything at More Sound Studio, right here in Syracuse, NY. One of my best friends, Jason “Jocko” Randall, helped produce, engineer, mix, and master the record, and I’ve done everything in my whole career as a musician with him. We have a great rapport, and…
G- It helps that he’s really, really good, too.
B- Ohh he’s incredible! What’s cool is we have very similar tastes in metal bands, and music in general. He’s more about getting a more natural sounding recording, and we’re trying to do that to make it a little more timeless than a lot of what’s going on right now… Too many triggers, stuff is all quantized, too many guitar tones, and I can’t tell bands apart sometimes. I’m not trying to get down on the scene, but we wanted to… I feel like… You want to watch your child grow and be different and be his own thing, so we went in saying we want something awesome, and we had some ideas in mind.
We still wanted to compete with the newer stuff, but we want to stand out and not tie ourselves up, and I think we achieved that.
G- No 808 bass drops or anything like that?
B- No no.
G- Good I appreciate that. When those bass drops started entering into metal and hardcore, I don’t know what anyone was thinking. It’s heavy and all, but really?
B- The inspiration for me and a few other guys in my band, in the 80’s and 90’s, you had bands like Testament that didn’t sound like Morbid Angel, and you had Morbid Angel didn’t sound like Obituary. Every band had their own sound and that’s what we wanted to carve out for ourselves. And we really inspired by the more melodic death stuff, as far as Katatonia and Enslaved… A lot of that thick chord stacking that they do. It just makes it sound like a whole symphony behind you, and it’s only 2 parts!
G- Right?! Now, let’s disregard the back catalogue because, from my experience and exposure to the band, this is not only the heaviest but also the most technical and sonically full release that I’ve heard to date.
Do you have any singles or a favorite song off the record? Or, if you could only give one song to somebody who’d never heard Freya before off this new record, what would you give them?
B- Oh man, that’s hard. The radio single that we’re going to push is a song called “Through The Flames,” and that one is probably the most accessible to a large amount of people. It’s got some clean singing in it, and screaming. It’s a good dynamic of the cleaner vocals and it makes the screaming pop out even more. The riff is a very odd riff in 7, and it almost sounds Alice In Chains/Soundgarden type of throwback. There’s a lot of melody in it and it’s got a really cool Meshuggah-esque bridge in it. It’s kinda mathy.
And I don’t say to to quote the new “Djent” genre that’s starting to emerge.
B- Yeah, it’s not like that. If I were to compare it, that’s what I’d compare it to. But that’s not my personal favorite song on the record. It’s an awesome song and I’m very proud of it, but my favorite song is probably one called “Boil In The Eye Of The Sphere.” It’s more death metal, and very technical as far as right hand for the rhythm players. A lot of down picking!
G- Right on.
B- And the opening track, “In The Span Of Seconds.” I love that track! It’s fast, like 2:30 or somewhere around there.
G- In and out? Punch them in the face and run?
G- Dig it.
B- Also, another standout track is “Serpentine.” We released that on Facebook, and that’s got Paul Wagner from B.T.B.A.M. on the chorus.
B- It’s awesome!
G- Another great band!
B- Yeah. We reached out to him and he was awesome! He came up with a really killer solo, and it worked perfectly with what we were doing.
G- Ok. So, you’re hyping it up and I’ve heard it and it’s awesome and all, but when are you going to be dropping it? When will we see it and are there any special plans for the packaging or anything?
B- We’re going to do some special packaging for it because, as of this point in time with how the industry is doing, I feel like you have to create something worth buying. So that comes down to artwork and the look, feel, and psychology of it. You don’t want to go in and just buy a really thin cardboard sleeve.
G- Dig it. So, now let’s speculate a little bit. Freya, with the states of industry and Karl’s other projects, hasn’t been the most active band in recent years. You’ve done some touring and you’ll be performing to support the album, but let’s have fun with it… If you could curate your own feasible 3-band dream lineup to have Freya be a part of, who would you want to share a bill or tour with?
B- Oh man…
G- 3 bands in addition to yourselves.
B- I would say… Actually, that’s not that hard. I’d say, right now off the top of my head, Testament, Soilwork, and Katatonia.
G- Not exactly a mellow show. I’d go to that I think. Why did you pick those bands and how did you think of them so fast?
B- Testament has been one of my favorite bands… Top 3 of favorite bands. The Gathering, for me, is one of the most influential records for my writing, and one of 2 bands that got me into playing guitar.
And Soilwork is the other band that got me into playing heavy music, so… yeah. And Katatonia is kind of a newer find for me over the past 2 years, and I love their dynamics. Their writing is incredible, and the recordings are just beautiful. Just beautiful songwriting. Just a great, great band, so I think that’d be really cool.
G- So to date with the band, tell us about your craziest or most memorable performance that you’ve been a part of. Where was it and what was it like?
B- Oh man. Well, we toured Europe 4 years back and were on the road with Sworn Enemy. That was when I just joined, so we were playing a lot of the older stuff while debuting the newer songs. We were on a bus for 2 months, and it was like being on a pirate ship really…
B- We played so many shows. We played in Belgium at, like, a hippy commune in this open, weird barn with a steel chain elevator for our gear. It was weird. It was a grain elevator or something, I don’t know. That was a fun show!
There was a metal hardcore fest we played in Belgium as well, and that was great! We got to play with Sepultura, Behemoth, and The Cro Mags…
B- And that was a really cool fest because they had the hardcore stage at one end of the room and the metal stage at the other end of the room and wen one band set up, the other band played. So, it was constant music of different styles and just a really cool vibe.
G- That sounds pretty good! Playing a hippy commune must’ve been fun, too. I can see the headline “Freya plays a hippy commune and Drum Circle breaks out”
B- (laughs) Right?!
G- That’d be awesome.
So to finish up today, you’re working hard and building in the industry about to drop another record. There are a lot of kids out there who want to play and go on the road on tour. From your experiences, what advice can you give some of the up and coming players and bands out here that want to do what you do?
B- I mean this in the most basic way: Just do it because you love it and nothing more. You can’t be promised anything financially or artistically, you just have to do it because you love what you’re playing. Write what you want to write, write what you want to hear.
Promote yourself and create an image for yourself and make sure everything is quality, put it out there, and run with it. But other than that, you really can’t force people to like what you do, and gimmicks only last for so long. So as long as you love it, that’s all that matters.
G- I dig it, man. Well look, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! Paragon Of The Crucible is going to be dropping on Holy Mountain Music coming up, so keep an eye out for that. And hopefully we’ll be getting some shows soon, too!
Brendon, we’re looking forward to the album release, so play hard and tour safe!
B- Thank you.