I’ve seen a lot of different modifiers placed in front of “tech-death” over the years, but ‘blackened’ generally isn’t one of them. In fact, the entire concept of technical black metal seems completely antithetical. Then again, our loyal Vault Hunters already know the sort of black metal I prefer – the kvlt shit, and the more lo-fi and tortured sounding the better, You’re telling me that someone wants to go and tech that up? I dunno, man…
With Savior, however, Hew Hampshire’s Unflesh very quickly converted me. They play a shreddy, melodic brand of blackened tech-death as ferocious as it is impossibly catchy. I’m not the biggest tech dude, but I’ll definitely keep revisiting this one over the course of the next few months.
Indy Metal Vault: So for starters, thanks for agreeing to an interview. I’ll be honest here – I don’t listen to a lot of technical death metal. I’m much more of a black metal kind of guy, so the mention of bands like Dissection, Emperor, and Naglfar in the ‘FFO’ in the PR blurb for Savior definitely caught my attention. I was also kind of skeptical, though – blackened tech-death? I wasn’t skeptical for long, though, after I hit play. This is one hell of a record. Listening back to Transcendence to Eternal Obscurity, your first EP, it seems like Unflesh’s sound was fully formed right from the start, even before you were a full band. From your own perspective, though, I’m curious as to how you think your music has evolved (if at all) as a result of fleshing out you lineup?
Ryan Beevers: For me I’d describe the progression from the EP to the new album as a lot darker and more sinister. I think there has been a little bit of a decrease in technicality in the music, and whether that is a positive or negative thing I think its irrelevant because the priority for the band is to delve deeper into darker material and to enhance the lyrical messages.
IMV: Unflesh was essentially a solo project at first, correct? Was it always the plan to expand the lineup at some point? I also have to ask, how did you get Hannes Grossmann (Alkaloid, Blotted Science, ex- Obscura, ex-Necrophagist) to drum on that first EP?
RB: After the first EP I did have the intention to turn Unflesh into an active band with a full line up. However, I knew no one that could play drums and everything like Hannes or any of the other great extreme metal drummers, so I just decided to just wait with it and continue to write more music. Fortunately with time I managed to find the right people to take Unflesh to active band status, which I couldn’t be more thankful for.
In regards to getting in contact with Hannes Grossmann, I was taking some guitar lessons with Christian Muenzner at the time, and I was telling him that I was trying to put an EP out. I was initially just going to use programmed drums because I had just given up trying to find people. Christian suggested that I get in contact with Hannes. I had no idea that was an option at the time, so I immediately did just that and the rest is history.
IMV: I want to ask about your experiences at Berklee College of Music. Maybe its because I don’t listen to very many shredders anymore, but I don’t hear as much about Berklee as I did when Dream Theater was breaking big. It could just be me, but it seemed like for a while that most guitarists coming out of the school were in that Petrucci mold (who I’m a fan of, by the way). I don’t hear much of that in your playing, though. In fact, the first time I heard the lead break in “Bestowal of Decay,” I thought ‘damn, this feels a bit like the sort of thing Andy LaRocque would have done with King Diamond back in the day.’ How much of your technique is a result of your time at Berklee, as opposed to the way you played beforehand?
RB: Me personally I’m not attending Berklee for anything having to do with metal or guitar really at all. At Berklee I am studying film scoring and composition. I consider Berklee and Unflesh to be two different worlds, and the same for my other band that I play in Solium Fatalis. I try to keep the bands and school separated only because I do each for vastly different reasons than the other. I appreciate that comparison, I’m a huge Andy LaRocque fan and all of us in the band are massive Mercyful Fate and King Diamond fans.
IMV: Okay, let’s talk about Savior. It’s an absolutely stunning record – technically impressive without seeming ostentatious, and the songwriting is incredibly tight. How long was it after Transcendence was released that you started work on Savior? Assuming Metal Archive is correct (which is always kind of a crapshoot), it wasn’t very long after the EP was released that Unflesh expanded into a full band. How collaborative was the songwriting process for the album? Did you still write most of the riffs? Or did you spend at least some time jamming things out together in the rehearsal room?
RB: Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the record. After the EP I started to write new material immediately. I ended up writing all the music and lyrics for Savior. Next time I’m sure there will be some collaboration going on in the writing, but this time it was just myself.
IMV Unflesh’s lyrical content strikes me as being a bit darker than the average tech-death band. Whereas a lot of them seem to focus on sci-fi themes, your lyrics deal primarily with the earthly realm, with a particular focus on death. All of the lyrics on Transcendence to Eternal Obscurity appear to revolve around that theme, and the lyrics I’ve seen thus far from Savior look like they follow suit. The lyrics to “The Eradication Commenced” in particular are rich with death-related imagery. Is there any specific reason that your lyrical themes went in that direction? Who wrote the lyrics on Savior? Is there any sort of concept running through them?
RB: I wrote all the lyrics on Savior, and the lyrics of the band are something that I take seriously and I work quite hard on them. In the lyrics I take the opportunity to have them serve as an exploration into these subjects such as Death. It’s a spiritual thing for me, and it is something I love to constantly work on and express myself with. I wouldn’t say that Savioris a concept album, but all the songs do revolve around similar subjects while each track still maintains its own identity.
IMV: One of the things that keeps me from getting into a lot of tech-death is the production – a lot of it seems overly-sterile, with the drums triggered into oblivion. I don’t get that sense listening to Savior, though. I see that you worked with Anthony Lusk-Simone on the recording for the record. Can you talk a bit about the recording process? And I always like to ask about studio rigs, because the subject fascinates me – what did everyone’s setups look like? I especially like the warmth of the bass tone, but the guitars sound amazing as well.
RB: The recording process was a bit interesting this time around. All guitars and bass were recorded at our homes and we’d re-amp the tracks. For guitars I used my ESP guitar through an Engl Invader and a Peavey 5150. Vocals and drums were recorded at Zenbeast Audio together with Anthony. All the tracking went smoothly for the most part, and we mixed and mastered the album at Zenbeast as well.
IMV: I generally like to ask about cover art as well. The cover toSavior is totally badass. How closely did you work with Junki Sakuraba on the concept for the art? According to Metal Archives anyway, Savior is the first (metal) album he’s done the art for?
RB: I had talked with Junki extensively about the lyrical content of the album and some of the imagery that I had in mind that I thought would best fit the messages within the lyrics. He did a fantastic job with the art. He’s an extraordinarily talented artist and he has worked with some other bands before such as All Hell, and I know he does some various other works as well that are non-music related.
IMV: What’s next for Unflesh after the album drops? Any touring plans in your immediate future?
RB: We do have some touring plans for the summer in support of the new album that we will be announcing very soon, and more touring plans after that as well. Then after that we will start working on another record.
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the last word to the artists – anything else you want to add?
RB: I’d like to thank everyone who has supported us so far, and I’d like to encourage every one check out the new album when it comes out and to stay tuned for future touring plans. Thank you very much for the interview.