The guitarist talks Glenn Barrie's death, the position that may leave reviewers in, 'Digital Ritual', where the band's at and where they're going.
As Paradise Falls latest album, 'Digital Ritual', has been a long time coming for the Brisbane metallers. With guitarist Glenn Barrie suddenly passing away last year during the album's recording in Thailand and with lineup changes occurring from that tragedy - resulting in new vocalist Shaun Coar coming onboard - this album has indeed been marked with loss and difficulty. But the band has come out the other side in order to honour their guitarist and continue onwards. Outside of that, however, the Brisbane outfit has also ditched much of their older deathcore-ish sound in favour of more of a core, melodic and (at times) technical sound that also skirts through varying sub-genres of metal. Since our first interview together last year when the album's titular track first dropped, guitarist Danny Kenneally and I caught up to talk about the impact of Barrie's death, the position that may leave reviewers and media in, 'Digital Ritual', recording in Thailand, where the band's at now and we're going from here.
Danny, one topic I don't want to stray too long is, of course, Glenn passing away last year but I do have a few questions since hearing the full album. As the last time we spoke, only the album's title track had been released.
Yeah, sure thing mate!
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Okay. So what exact parts from Glenn's writing and playing have been leftover since his death or are they all littered throughout the album?
Yeah, just throughout the whole album. He was a major part of the album. I am more of the writer and I write a lot of the song structures, and he'd come in with new ideas for the whole structure or for certain sections. Generally speaking, he was a better guitar player than me and he recorded a lot for the album. Like, throughout every song, we have left parts in of his in there other than 'Digitial Ritual' which was recorded by just me.
As you just said, you thought he was the better guitar player, have you since his death found you need to up your game and improve? Kind of a shitty question I know...
No, no it's fine man! When he first joined the band he was on a whole other level to me. He was older and was very into Meshuggah and Fear Factory, and with that right-hand work, that's some intense stuff. It was really good to work with him as he was just pushing me so much and I had to practice heaps to keep up. But I'd also push him in terms of where we'd be going with the structure and concept of the album and its genre. To answer your question, definitely. I had to up my game. He was a shred lord and anyone who knew him would agree.
It's such a tricky thing, as you have someone who was great for the band musically but then they leave or in this case, sadly pass away and you're left unsure of what to do. Not just of yourself but about the band as a whole and as a business as well.
Yeah, it is. At one point, we all sat down as a group and first discussed can we continue and do we want to continue. Then over time, some people realised it wasn't for them and others felt that they had to do it. It's a very weird situation to be in but you live and learn from it.
Exactly! Now, when looking at the PR and reviews for this album, obviously people have been and are going to discuss Glenn's passing when mentioning the band and this album. But when it comes to writers reviewing the album and talking about what they like and don't like, do you think that it puts them in a tough spot? Because you don't want reviewers to then be afraid of criticising the album and copping backlash and being looked at as "that" guy all because a band member passed away and they simply didn't enjoy it, you know? That's a selfish question for me in my own position, I'm aware.
To be honest, I've never even thought about that, but from your perspective, that's a great question. We're open to every single review. On this album so far, we've had a lot of great reviews apart from one. And on that one, the guy just really wasn't a fan of the different genres of music we put together and it was too disjointed for him. It was a cool read and we can learn from that, definitely. But yes, we don't ever want to put people in the position of "You have to be nice to us because of what happened to us last year". I was adamant about this to our press team is that we need to not let Glenn be forgotten as he was a huge part of this record.
Well said, Danny! And look, straight up, while I do enjoy 'Digitial Ritual' myself, I don't love the album. But don't worry, you won't be getting the Ocean Sleeper or In Hearts Wake treatment from me in my eventual review!
[Laughs] Nah, that's perfect man. It's nothing personal for us. If you like the music or not, that's fine. And hey, if people do, that's great. I'll be the one reading all of the reviews, even the negative ones, and I'll take from that whatever I can. If we agree with such criticisms, we'll take it onboard with the new album as sometimes all you need is an outsider perspective. As for you Alex, keep going brutal and honest when you can, it's awesome! [Laughs].
Oh, cheers man - I always will be honest!
Another thing I also wanted to discuss was the concept of the album and its critique of technology and the digital age. Where or who exactly in the band did that come from?
Oh, our vocalist Shaun was all about the lyrics so that's all his and when he brought it to us, we were fully comfortable with it. It's all about the negative aspects that come from using technology and being around technology. Especially with the antisocial behaviours that can create.
Cool. So when the album comes out, I take it that you hope people check the album whichever way they can? And not just physically?
We were actually talking about this once as a band and I was fully convinced that no one would want any CD's. Then we announced the album and the artwork and such, and we had people asking for physical copies. So I was wrong! They weren't crazy numbers but there was still a demand for it and even with my own favourite bands, I'd want a physical copy of their albums.
Same here man! On my end, I remember getting sent plenty of physical copies for album reviews a couple years back. Now, it's just Dropbox links, private Soundcloud streams, Haulix links and so on. Is easier all-round, though.
Yeah, it's all mainly just links now, isn't it? I will say that our album is specially mastered for iTunes and it's only something that certain producers and engineers get. But dude, it makes a difference. Getting the album from the CD or iTunes are the best places to get it on - it's so much more powerful, so much louder. You can tell the difference and I wasn't aware of it until Shane [Edwards, producer/engineer] told me about him getting certified for it, and it's to do with the compression when you send it to through to Apple. So they don't just push their own compression and EQ on that can squash the album down.
Oh, cool. Hopefully, Apple and other sites can start improving from that to get real lossless streaming and downloads happening for music. Cause otherwise, I'll just stick to the WAV's and CD's where possible. [You can read an interesting piece about Apple mastering by NPR right here]. Also, Danny, due to the album's name the topics it deals with, did you guys use any analogue gear when recording, mixing or mastering the album?
Yes, we used the SSL desk we had in the studio. The desk was originally from London - probably from Abbey Roads - and it's a famous desk that's been redone and revamped. Amp wise for the guitars we used Axe-FX's that we re-amped through an Avalon power amp, which sounded great, and that was all run straight into the desk. We've been working on the tone for our music for so long and Shane loved it, so it was kinda perfect. There's also a lot of MIDI involved too. When I first starting writing, I use Guitar Pro so that's all MIDI from the get go and we demo from there. In the studio, we use the original MIDI sessions as our tempo and time signature guides so it's a very digital process still. Shane also recorded the last Hellions album and that's the complete opposite from us; that was as bare as you can get it, and it sounds amazing!
Yeah! The stuff that comes out of the Karma Sound Studios is always solid and it's an extensive list of bands who have worked there.
I hadn't heard about it until we recorded our first EP with Shane and he told me about it, that he was going there to work. I looked it up and geez... the whole compound and the studio is crazy. And it's still young too but it has a great history already.
That it does. I love how on the website it has a quote that says "The James Bond Of Recording Studios". I always thought that was so funny.
[Laughs] perfect. It's tucked away in a fishing village in Thailand and it's in the middle of nowhere, nearly two hours out of Bangkok. It's great!
One thing I thought was rather cool about the record is the different genres that it plays with. At times, especially with Shaun's vocal styles, it skirts out of the djent/prog sound and moves into alt-metal or hard rock and such.
Yeah, and that's just because Shaun's old! [Laughs]. But no, he's got a mature sound to him and he's amazing at what he does. He just does it - no messing about and no autotune or anything like that. He recorded a lot of his parts dry with the effects added later - a bit of compression and reverb to juice it up. As soon as we started getting the "twinkle" on the mix, it all came together really well. Even with the album's concept, musically, we tried to hit every sub genre of metal we could without it feeling too disjointed. As we love deathcore, to prog, to djent, to metalcore - everything under metal. So we wanted to put in everything that we liked from metal music.
I gathered as much! And with the original version of the title track... I much prefer the album version, just so you know.
Cool! We actually wanted to put more vocals on the song but it was pushing it a bit. So with the vocals at the end, we gave the song a remix and a remaster.
Man, that song came out a while ago too.
Oh, dude, it was last year. It's funny, Shaun had a Facebook memory come up from a post he made where he shared the video, saying that it looked cool while pretending he wasn't in the band at all. Even though most people knew already. [Laughs].
[Laughs] smooth. So at what point had Shaun joined the band last year?
It would have been February or March that he came into the band. It was really quick with him as we already knew and we'd played with his bands before and we figured it'd work. And it did in my opinion.
I think so too. When you compare the new APF and the old APF, it's very different now.
Yeah, back in the day with our old vocalist we also had two guitarists who did some singing as well. We've actually been through a lot of members at this point. But now we've got Shaun and he can do both and pull it off live. There's nothing worse than seeing a vocalist live and he doesn't sing or scream like he does on the album. I get it but man, it does my tits in, really.
I agree and Danny, "does my tits in" is such a British term. [The joke here is that Danny is British].
Oh, it so is. Gotta trademark that now. [Laughs].
I know it's such an incredibly generic interview question, but as the band has been building to this record for so long now, what happens to you and the band once it's released? What's next for you all?
Good question. The world's an oyster really. It all depends on what comes and when. When you release an album, people can offer you things and different ways to do things. For instance, as we've recorded and played in Thailand before, the door is open that way. We recently signed with Eclipse Records so the American audience is getting really involved. We're seeing it all on our analytics on Spotify and it's going well over there in America. So we could tour there. It'd be an expensive trip but it'd be an adventure either way, right?
Exactly right. I think that's a good book end right there so we'll it there my friend. Thank you so much for letting my chat with you again Danny - been good!
No worries at all mate, it's been awesome!
'Digital Ritual' is out Friday, July 21st. Stream their newest song from the album, 'The Ultimate Consumer', here. Tickets for their 2017 headline shows can be grabbed here.