Los Angeles power-trio Athanasia is a new group featuring former members Five Finger Death Punch, Sebastian Bach, and Joey Jordison’s Murderdolls. Founded in California by veteran guitarist/vocalist Caleb Bingham under the band’s original name Ascension. The bands’ early demos landed Caleb a slot with the first incarnation of Five Finger Death Punch in 2005. Leaving that band in 2007, Bingham continued to write under the name Ascension, recording several more unreleased demos (and one EP) at the behest of then Roadrunner Records A&R, now Nuclear Blast Entertainment impresario and tastemaker Monte Conner (Sepultura, Slipknot, Type O Negative, Machine Head, Fear Factory). Now Athanasia is ready to strike with their debut full-length The Order Of The Silver Compass on March 15 via Seeing Red Records and Rock of Angels Records. New music to follow soon, but check out the album details.
Logan Mader has faced many challenges over his two decade plus career in music. Whether it was coming up the ranks with a much talked then new bands like Machine Head or Soulfly, or his many studio production projects, he has found his way around each situation and helped shape their sound into what is now heard publicly.
He spoke about the creative process behind the album, and how he managed to write and record songs while he still maintains a busy schedule in the studio at the same time.
“It’s happened real fast. We initially had three songs over the course of two months. It was done sporadically. It was in between jobs I was doing. I would get together and write with Lauren. We did actually four songs over a short period of time in May/June 2014, and then I shopped it in the summer time. I got this demo together and put a band together and shopped it to seven record labels. Six of them passed on it and one said yes and they believed in me. They were getting it,” he explained.
He bucked the trend of joining the stereotypical supergroup model for collaborating with younger, hungrier musicians who are driven to find success. Considering the circumstances behind maintaining a new band, he likes the potential he is working with in Once Human.
“It’s a real brand new band in that respect. These guys are doing it for the first time. There’s something special about that because I got to do that for the first time with my first band Machine Head. It was huge and amazing. That inertia, inspiration, dedication, and willingness to get out there and do it for passion…and passion is first.”
“I would get a bunch of guys that were more experienced and older. It’s not as easy to hold it together. At that point they have other bands and other responsibilities. They’re just hungry and ready to get in a RV and tour. It feels good. I want that around me. It’s a new experience for me too.”
While he is no stranger to shopping various musical projects to recording labels over the years, he quickly learned the realities of getting a new band signed and where he needed to be in order to make it happen. Even a guy as connected as Mader found various roadblocks along the way, and things became tougher than expected.
“After a while there was a lot of rejection. I was quite discouraged actually. I did shop it prematurely. Normally a band in 2015 can’t just make a demo and shop it and think you’re going to get a record deal, even if you have history and reputation like I do. It’s not easy to make that happen. Your band has to grind it out for two years and play shows in their local scene and then try to get on some tours and have to have social media numbers and an existing fan base and a story. We had nothing. No announcement of the project and no social media. We had never played a show. We just had the music and my name and this amazing frontwoman on it. So I can’t blame them.”
“Monte [Conner] wanted to sign it actually. He liked it but his bosses at Nuclear Blast in Germany didn’t want to do it. So he was the first person I got it to. I have a lot of history with Monte as well, and Nuclear Blast is a great label. I’d like to be on that label.”
“For the rest of the labels, the main thing I got was that it didn’t really fit into any kind of currently trending subgenre of metal. You can’t put your finger on what it is. I think it is pure metal. It’s heavy as fuck. It is whatever it is. It is what we were feeling at the time or feeling right now, like being the guitar player, our collaborative energy as a creative team – it’s our souls. It’s real and we feel it. It’s a passion project. I don’t think anyone’s gonna get rich off of it but I feel really fulfilled creatively about it and I’m happy playing it.”
He eventually found a home for Once Human in EAR Music, and Mader talked about their new home.
“EAR Music in Germany – it’s Edel Music Group which is a pretty big European label and they have good info structure for distribution and with a team of marketing. The guy who runs it used to work at Roadrunner in Italy when I was signed to Roadrunner in Machine Head many years ago. He took a chance on this thinking and believing something good will come out of this. I think he was right. Once we got the green light for the record deal, then he put the pedal to the metal and started writing the rest of the album. The first five songs on the album were all written after the deal offer came. A few of the songs were…I feel like really were starting to find our groove and our sound, and started to define our own identity more so than on our first couple of songs that we wrote.”
It’s a rare thing these days for a brand new band not featuring ex-members of other bands to appear fully formed and ready to take on the mainstream. Anti-Mortem could well be the exception to the rule. With their debut New Southern fresh out on Nuclear Blast Ghost Cult caught up with guitarist Zain Smith.
“Dude, I’m stoked to finally release it man. It’s been a long time and we’re finally here! The record’s out, the first week sales are in and they’re good, we had a strong first week, and it’s going awesome!”
Zain Smith, guitarist for Anti-Mortem is in a good mood. And who can blame him. There’s not many guys in their (very) early 20’s with a debut on the biggest independent label in the world getting the kind of push and praise that his band is receiving. But this isn’t a tale of “next big thing”. New Southern has been 8 years in the making.
“We all went to high school together; we started bringing our guitars to school and we kinda became friends that way. We’d jam on the guitar for years and years, and gradually got better and better, making progress, we’d play better shows, getting better opportunities, start meeting people…
“When we were nobodies in the first 3, 4 years of the band, there was a bit of ego, a bit of “We’re so cool!” listening to nobody, buying into our own shit and whatever we’d want to do, but we realized we needed to start listening and focusing on this. We met a guy in the city, Provo, he’s in a band called Everybody Panic, but he’s also playing guitar in Skinlab, he was the first dude we met, and he’d toured, done some label stuff, and he was like the idol of the Oklahoma scene, so we listened to him.”
For such a young band, Anti-Mortem display exceptional maturity and humility, which serves them well. “ Provo, I’d give him a lot of credit for that, but I think we have to credit ourselves, too, for being great listeners. In this business you don’t know what you’re talking about if you haven’t done it, but the people that have been out here for years, they’re the ones who can teach you. Listening is a big part of it – you can’t just get out there and be all “I’m the shit, I know everything”.
“He (Provo)’s one of the main reasons this all happened, teaching us the ways of life and how to be in a band. Him being in Skinlab is how it all came down. Skinlab came to Oklahoma to play and we supported them. Steev (Esquivel – vocals/bass in Skinlab)’s seen us play and was all “You guys are phenomenal. Monte Connor’s my good buddy, we’re going to get you signed”. So we started talking to Monte (former Roadrunner mainman, now partnered with Nuclear Blast) and we’ve been in contact with him since.”
So, onto the next chapter in the story. Or the first chapter as far as albums go. Entitled ‘New Southern’ it’s not like the band are hiding their roots. But there’s more to Anti-Mortem than a Southern twang… “We don’t just do the Southern thing, but we try to keep that in there too. It started with getting a guitar and just wanting to play riffs, you know. AC/DC riffs, Metallica riffs and we really love the deep Southern tone that comes with that type of music. We’re huge, huge fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchett, Down, Corrosion of Conformity and Pantera, of course, but we do branch out to other things.”
One thing that sets Anti-Mortem apart is, for their metal imagery and death-related name, they haven’t been swept up in the metal trend of screaming or shouted vocals, harking back to a bygone age of great singers, of proper vocalists. “We’re huge fans of great vocalists like Robert Plant, that’s a big inspiration to Nevada (Romo, Guitarist) and our vocalist (Larado Romo, known as Rado). Stuff from the 60’s and 70’s and then from the early 90’s, like Chris Cornell, bands that were just about big badass rock vocals.
“Rado, he’s got a voice, he’s got a talent. We knew that from day one. He’s always been developing it and getting it to where it needs to be, but that’s what makes us, in my opinion, versus every other band that’s out there trying to do it. When it gets to metal, hey, I’m a metal dude, I listen to a lot of metal, I love it, but the thing is, everybody jumps on the metal train and it gets to points when you’re a screamer where you either sound like Randy Blythe or you might sound like Meshuggah. That’s it. There’s like 4 different types of screaming only, so once you do that, you sound like everybody else. So the originality has to come from the band only, but with Rado… Monte at Nuclear Blast he told us from day one, ‘Your boy’s got a voice. He’s great. His voice is fucking special’.”
Another thing that impresses is that Anti-Mortem keep the guitars turned up to 11 all the way through, there’s no let up or temptation to chuck in a countrified, round the campfire acoustic song. “If any song is close to that on the record, it’d be ‘Black Heartbeat’ which we wrote at a time when we were thinking we might want to be a radio band and we were writing songs for Roadrunner, because that’s originally where Monte was until he left, but we’re just huge fans of metal, rock and rock n’roll, and we’re also big fans of the Rex Brown (Pantera) bass tone, you know it’s the biggest baddest bass tone you can ever get, and the biggest drum sound, the biggest guitars you could ever get. The legends, the bands that really changed music, Metallica, Zeppelin, they were all firing on all cylinders all the time. James Hetfield’s great, Cliff Burton’s amazing, I mean all the bass players they’ve had have been great, but they’re all firing. Take Zeppelin, I mean Robert Plant was the weakest link of their thing, and yet he’s great. Every member of all these bands has to be firing, and that’s what we strive for – being the best.”
So how did the songs come together? Over 8 years of being together, despite most of the band clocking in at 22/23 years of age, must have helped hone a writing style you feel can keep you at the top of your game long into the future? “We write different ways, man. We write in band practice as a group, we write on acoustics, we are all writers. I have pro-tools so I can write all the time. ‘Ride Of Your Life’ is a song I wrote, Rado came over, wrote the vocals and words and, boom, song. ‘Hate Automatic’ is one where Nevada has pro-tools too, he wrote the whole song, Rado put the vocals on and boom, song. Then there’s songs like ‘Truck Stop Special’ where we all as a band were in a jam spot in rehearsal and I had a couple of cool riffs, Nevada threw in a bridge and middle 8 and boom, song. There are songs we’ve written on acoustics and put them together. We have radio hit songs, the heavy hard-hitters that could make it to the radio, then we have songs like ‘I Get Along With The Devil’ that’d never make it to the radio – it says “motherfucker” too much!
“We just write all the time. With bands, their first records tend to be better than the rest because they get busy and they don’t have time to write good material. So when we’re home, or not busy, we’re trying to write songs because you never know when the time comes and a label will say “We need 2 more records now”. You never know, they may say “This record’s doing well, let’s ride this shit for 2 years” or they may say “This one isn’t working, we need you in there now”. The bands that don’t have songs will get screwed, because they don’t have material and then the producer ends up writing it all and then the record turns out not well. Fans can see. Fans can see what’s our music and what’s producers music.”
With an album out, and the band already on the touring cycle in the States at the moment, it is inevitable that live is where the band are looking to make their mark next, with several great opportunities coming their way. “We’ve got shows with Lacuna Coil, which will be great for us in the US, then we’ve got Download festival in the UK, and because it costs so much money to get over to the UK we’re going to try and stay over there and tour there if we can, try and stay over. Then July is probably the biggest thing for us – we landed a Machine Head tour in the US, who were nice enough to say “Let’s go” to us. That’s all for now, but with the record out stuff will keep happening.”
The ball is rolling. The New Southern Trendkill has begun.