In a time when the thrash revivalist movement seems to have come and gone, Vektor is one star that seems to shine even brighter than before. The now Pennsylvania-based group has had acclaim in the past thanks to albums like Black Future and Outer Isolation playing with the limits of thrash and prog metal, but 2016’s Terminal Redux seems to have broken even more barriers and cemented a modern classic status. In anticipation of their upcoming show at the 5th Quarter Lounge on November 4th, Indy Metal Shows spoke to guitarist/vocalist David DiSanto about the new record, the band’s progress, and the scene at large.
Indy Metal Shows: Thanks for agreeing to talk to us a bit. We’re huge fans of the new record. What’s the reception been like? You were in Europe recently for some fests, right? What has the reception been like over there?
David DiSanto: Thanks! Yeah, the reception has been pretty unbelievable. Terminal Redux is getting a ton of great reviews. We played a lot of festivals in Europe this past summer and the crowds were amazing. It was cool to see a bunch of people at the fests singing along to the new songs even though the album hadn’t been out that long.
IMS: So there have pretty much always been progressive elements in Vektor’s sound, but not quite to the extent that they’re present on the new record. I’m curious as to how the songwriting process may (or may not) have been different this time around. Was there ever a worry that you were trying to put too many riffs or too many sections in any of the songs? Is there such a thing as too many riffs?
DS: Haha, I am a fan of riffs! There’s probably a point where a song has too many riffs and we definitely rode along the edge of that cliff for most of the album. I don’t think we went overboard though. Every part of each song and each riff has a purpose and meaning in regards to the concept and story of the album. The hardest part about writing our last record was that I had so many ideas and the storyline was immense. That’s why the album ended up being over 70 minutes long. There was a lot of ground to cover as far as the story was concerned. Let’s face it, I wasn’t setting out to write an easily digestible pop album. I set out to write an album with depth and meaning. People can say what they want to say about it being “too much”. To me, that just means it’s not for them or they’re not in it for the whole experience including the lyrics and storyline. That’s ok. For those who want to dive into the album, it’s definitely a journey.
IMS: One track I find interesting in particular is actually the interlude “Mountains Above The Sun.” It seems to start like a typical melodic interlude before going into an almost power metal rhythm. How did you put that one together and how does it play into the album’s overall concept?
DS: Well, the title came about before I wrote any music. It’s kind of a nod to 70’s art rock bands. The title itself is supposed to be something unattainable, but also something real that you want to conquer and exploit, like a mountain. It describes the exploded star, Alshain in the story, which became a nebula. It lies in the distance beyond the sun in the main solar system that Cygnus controls. The music came together after I was playing around with some of the weird inverted and dissonant chords from “Ultimate Artificer.” I needed an intro for “Ultimate Artificer,” but I felt that it needed to be a standalone track. So I came up with “Mountains above the Sun.” It symbolizes the astronaut’s final look back to Alshain before he moves forward with his plans of taking over the Cygnus Regime.
IMS: I’m also curious about the decision to use clean vocals on this record, and adding female vocalists on a couple of tracks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought he heard a bit of a Pink Floyd influence on those songs. Was there a conscious decision on anyone’s part to incorporate non-metal influences on Terminal Redux, or is that just the direction the songs dictated you take?
DS: I’ve always been a huge Pink Floyd fan, and especially a fan of David Gilmour. We’ve always had elements of prog rock and art rock of the 70s, but we took it to another level on this album. Everything, really, is on another level compared to our earlier albums. All that being said, I didn’t go into Terminal Redux expecting or wanting to incorporate clean vocals. It became very obvious to me though once I started finishing the album and the end of the story was developing in my head that clean vocals were necessary for the concept. I needed to bring humanity and emotion back at the end and place it in the forefront. The whole premise of the album deals with cosmic balance and how it’s affected by the roles we choose to play in our Universe. The clean vocals were placed at the end of Terminal Redux as a symbol of mental clarity after the madness and to provide a path toward balance and closure.
IMS: The term classic has been thrown around to describe Vektor’s work, particularly Black Future and your newest effort Terminal Redux. What do you think are the traits of a classic and is there a way to tell what will become one?
DS: Man, I don’t know haha. I’m just humbled by the fact that people say that kind of stuff. I just put a lot of thought and time into the music I write. That’s as far as I think about things. I can’t speak for our own albums, but a classic album to me has to stand out from the rest of the albums of the time. In a sense, an album can become timeless by not following the fads going on. I think only time can tell if an album can be considered a classic.
IMS: How do you think the current statuses of thrash and prog metal compare to other metal subgenres?
DS: I honestly don’t know. I think a lot of people talk about thrash, but it’s the furthest thing from being mainstream. I don’t know of a single new-wave thrash band that can exclusively live off of their music. Prog on the other hand, has way more fans and a broader appeal. It’s crazy. Sometimes I look at our video plays on youtube and I’m like “whoa! 100,000 views! That’s fucking nuts!”. Then we recently got a couple tour offers from some prog/power metal bands I’ve never heard of and they’ve got several million views on youtube. It really blows my mind how many metal fans are out there and how obscure we still are after all these years compared to bands like that. It makes sense though. We’re too proggy for a lot of thrashers, and too thrashy for a lot of prog heads. We’re a pretty niche band, but we enjoy doing what we do and we’re extremely proud to have such a diehard following. Thrash and Prog will most likely always be second or third tier to more accessible forms of metal. Accessible metal bands are essentially pop bands with a lot of distortion, but they’re also gateway bands that provide an entrance into the more obscure world of metal. Disregarding radio metal bands, I think Power metal and Viking metal are pretty much ruling the scene nowadays because of the catchy choruses. There are also a ton of kitschy bands right now that are making waves. They’re thriving off elaborate stage shows and visual spectacles and people are eating it up. Production budget or not, I’ve only ever liked bands and songs with substance. That speaks to me more than costumes.
IMS: Aside from the obvious Rush and Voivod, what are some influences on Vektor’s sound that one might not suspect?
DS: Alright. Well, the obvious ones are Emperor, Immortal, Destruction, and Kreator. The not so obvious ones might be D.B.C., English Dogs, Subhumans, Aspid (Russia), Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. I listen to a lot of punk, metal, and 70s stuff. It all makes its way into our music on some level. One day I might listen to NOFX and the Exploited. Another day, Vio-Lence and Nuclear Assault. The next day could be the Allman Brothers and Motown. My mind is always thinking music and sometimes the best ideas come from genres way outside the Vektor sound. A good science or nature documentary is always a source of inspiration as well. Carl Sagan has helped get the ideas flowing on more than one occasion.