This weekend Metalholic talked with members of Philly’s newest sludgecore titans, Swarm of Arrows. The group mix traditional metal roots with thick slabs of stoner rock and heavy sludge to create a wondrously dense and often brutal sonic signature. The quartet’s debut album, The Great Seekers of Lesser Life will have fans of bands such as High On Fire, Mastodon, Kylesa and Converge, salivating.
The foundation of the band may be laid in familiar territory, but vocalist Keats Rickard, guitarist Greg Frisenda, bassist John Voegele, and drummer Tim Lynam bring enough fresh blood to the table to set themselves apart. Added into the mix are elements of their hardcore and punk roots which helps distinguish their sound.
Rickard and Voegele discussed numerous topics including how the band came together, their influences, the stories behind the group’s name and album title, working with producer Will Yip and much more.
The band name Swarm of Arrows fits the sound of the band perfectly: A ominous cloud of darkness blotting out the sun and plunging your world into the black abyss. Like most band’s these days, finding the name was a battle with four members and four opinions. Voegele offered:
“We spent so much time when we first got together and we were starting to work on music; and we were all anxious to get this going and have a name and to know what to call it. And a lot of times when you’re starting out that’s the funnest part. So we had a list a mile long of different possibilities but Swarm of Arrows was one that Keats came up with after we had really sort of established what direction we were going in and what we were going to sound like. So the name just fit the sound we were going for. And it was really the first name when everybody heard it we were like ‘hell yeah, that’s the name of the band,'”
Rickard offered that he got the idea from watching the ending of the 2002 Jet Li film “Hero”. Later the other band members pointed out a similarity to the film “300” as well.
The band was fortunate enough to interest Will Yip (Cradle of Filth, Blacklisted, Circa Survive, Title Fight) into producing the album which lends high praise to the music the band has created. Rickard talked about how Yip came to be involved:
“We had recorded an EP about two years ago, and I think it had come to Christmas time or something (2011) and we just decided, well let’s just start writing. Let’s see if we can come up with a full length worth of material. Basically we just put our nose to the grinder and did that. All the while we were doing that we were making demos of songs and wondering what are we gonna do? What’s gonna be the next step. Who’s gonna record this. We wanted it to sound good. Will was sort of out of our reach in a way. It was sort of like a pipe dream I guess. But we contacted him and we sent him some demos and he was real into it. he called us back and he was like, “I’m psyched on this. Let’s do this.’ The next thing you know we’re booking time and we’re in the studio with Will Yip, and it was amazing.”
John also chimed in on the business and pleasure of working with Yip:
“He was such a good dude. It was what you’d hope for anytime you’re going into the studio. It’s like you just added another awesome member to your band who totally knows what he’s doing, and he totally gets what we’re trying to do. When we were recording it was all business. We were real careful. He was quick to point out, ‘hey, you were a little slow on this,’ or whatever and everybody was awesome about taking notes . but at the same time, when the record button wasn’t pressed, we were just goofing around the whole time. he’s such a ham. It was like a bunch of kids just having a goofy, stupid time and it was just such a good experience while we were in there.”
Keats revealed that the album title points to our culture’s need to seek out the maladies of humanity. How we as a nation look to the negativity and pain in others. Likewise the album’s lead off track “Alive in Death” speaks to a similar theme:
“Taking it at face value it’s about being alive in death: A lot of people are just moving around like cattle and not thinking about anything. I don’t want to say that everybody does that, but there’s a great majority of people who have decided that it’s okay to not have to make the decisions anymore. To not have to think about the things that they do. They’re so used to being force-fed and it becomes, I guess, a zombie like mentality. That’s basically where the title came from.”
Listen to the full interview below to hear much more about the band, the record, their influences, who they pick as the best metal albums of 2012, and what famous guests they’d invite over for a holiday dinner party.