Act of Defiance – 1000% Metal

Sunday, 17th September 2017

A talented collective with plenty of pooled experience (Megadeth, Shadows Fall, and more), Act of Defiance made a big splash with their 2015 debut Birth and the Burial. A hard band to really pin-point stylistically, it was an exciting and fresh spin on a few different subgenres. Upon the album’s release, the band hit the road hard, with multiple US runs as well as some international ventures. But the only way to keep building momentum is to occasionally get back off the road and write some new material.

This leads us up to Act of Defiance’s upcoming sophomore effort, Old Scars, New Wounds [pre-order available HERE]. Initially impressing due to the even more expansive take on metal and encompassing an even wider variety of sounds, it’s also an album that increases its worth with each listen. Drummer Shawn Drover filled us in on the band’s diverse influences and their impact on the album, upcoming plans, as well as what being 1000% metal means.

Dead Rhetoric: It sounds like you really pushed the diversity up on this album, and it sounds great!

Shawn Drover: Thank you. It wasn’t anything intentional. When we did the first record and this record, the only intention that we had was to make sure that every song was complete heavy metal. But that, to us, is a broad spectrum. I don’t believe in all the 1000 subgenres that everyone wants to put bands into. I like thrash metal, I like Swedish death metal, I like old school metal…there’s all kinds of stuff that I like, so why should we limit ourselves to one style of music just to appease a certain demographic? I think it’s a bunch of bullshit. Why limit yourself? Not to say that there’s anything wrong with bands that are just speed metal, or only old school, or progressive. More power to you, and I love it. But for us, I love all kinds of stuff.

I just don’t see any reason why we should only touch on one type of heavy metal when we can hit all kinds of it. It seems to be doing well for us; people seem to really appreciate the fact that we are a diverse metal band, and there’s really not a lot of parameters, musically. Again, the mission statement is that it has to be metal. We can’t touch into country and bluegrass, and stuff like that. It’s going to be metal no matter what, but it’s a broad term!

Dead Rhetoric: I agree – people appreciate it because while there’s nothing wrong with the straight-ahead bands in death/power/black/etc, there’s that appreciation when bands put a bunch of things together and still get it right.

Drover: I think so too, yeah. I think at the end of the day now, we are starting to sound, to my ears, unique. Again, because of the fact that we are doing different things, not just following one demographic of styles…it makes us sound unique. I think so many bands now, these days, are following similar patterns, and thus, getting similar results. Again, I have nothing [bad to say about it] – there’s tons of newer bands that I love. For me, personally, I wouldn’t want to do just one type of music. Because of that, we are starting to form a bit of our own identity, stylistically. It’s a great thing – it sets you apart from the pack a bit.

Dead Rhetoric: There was a lot to do in the beginnings of the band, from putting it together to getting a label to writing music. In that sense, was it a bit easier to sit down and write this second release and not worry about the rest of it?

Drover: Certainly, yeah. Everything you said was right on point. When Chris [Broderick] and I started this band, we had nothing. We had no band. We said, “Look, let’s just write a record. We’ll do five songs each, which we did. And at the same time, let’s find band members, let’s find a label, let’s find management. Let’s find a booking agent and an artist.” All the pieces that fell into place, Chris and I did on that first record…in terms of finding everything that I mentioned. So yes, of course…doing this record, and we played over 110 shows in support of The Birth and the Burial. So you get to know each other more.

Going into this record, we had the affordability of time. We had a little more time, and we knew each other better – so we knew what we liked and didn’t like. For us, we like almost everything in terms of metal. This time, Henry [Derek Bonner] wrote a song and Matt [Bachand] wrote three songs. So that in itself makes the dynamic a little different. Instead of having 5 of Shawn’s songs and 5 of Chris’ songs, it made the record more diverse, just because of that. And I think because of all those factors – knowing each other, being comfortable with each other, settling into being a band…it made, overall, for a bit of an easy record. Not too much easier, but just different.

Dead Rhetoric: Having recognizable names certainly helps build up a new band, but do you still feel that as a newer band, you need to prove yourselves a bit more?

Drover: Of course. Here in lies the problem with the quote unquote supergroup, which we have unfortunately been coined that more than once. I don’t like it at all. Or a supergroup project. First of all, it’s not a project. This is a band. There are tons of projects out there, and that’s great. You’ve got different people from different parts of the world. Through the Internet, you can make a band with a bass player from Finland, and a guitar player from Cleveland…it’s fantastic. Us, the get-go from Chris and I was that this is no project. This is our livelihood. This is the band that we want to retire with. I don’t want to start another band in two years. I want Act of Defiance to be the band that went I call it a day, I want this to be the band that I’m still in. We set that precedent right away.

But even with that, a lot of people view you with as the supergroup or the project. So you have to go out on the road and hammer it out and do everything you need to do, in terms of playing live and getting in people’s faces to make them realize, “Hey, this is no little project where a band is going to play a local show somewhere.” We toured North America four times in a span of a year. Then we went out and played Manila in the Philippines – a big festival for 30,000 people. Projects don’t do that. Real bands do it, and we are certainly a real band, and we’ll continue to tour once this record is released. We’ll go right back out and do it all over again. This time we’ll hit more territories and play more!

Dead Rhetoric: So how much did going out on the road for a while for the first album influence Old Scars, New Wounds?

Drover: I don’t think it influenced it at all. We played every song on that record [Birth and the Burial] – we only had 10 songs! We would do 10 songs, and then a couple of cover tunes…whatever it was at the time, just to fill the set. It was fun, but again, it’s just four people getting together and expressing themselves musically. There’s no expectations except for making sure that it’s metal and it’s heavy. Having Matt write three songs – I would say his songs are a little sludgier, and they are really brutal heavy. There’s some slow, heavy parts. Whereas Henry’s song, “Overexposure,” I don’t even know how to categorize it. I wouldn’t say modern sounding but it’s just a little different than Matt’s or my songs. My songs are different from Chris’ songs. You get this mishmash of musical styles all put into this blender, and out comes Act of Defiance. For me, personally, I find it very exciting.

Dead Rhetoric: Is there any meaning behind the name Old Scars, New Wounds?

Drover: Not at all. I’d like to lie to you and say that there’s all kind of stuff. Every interview so far, that question has been asked, and the honest answer is that it’s just a lyric from one of the songs on the record. When it came time to name the record – you have to name the record, because when you come up with the name, you give that title to the artist [Travis Smith]: “Here’s the lyrics, here’s the songs. Here’s a few ideas we have for potential artwork…go to town!”

In that sequence, we really had to come up with the name before we could really start coming to refining the artwork. You have 15 different names, and everyone submits names…ultimately, all four of us have to agree. Henry said, “Hey, what do you think about Old Scars, New Wounds?” I just thought that was unique and different. Everyone else thought so too. So we gave the title to Travis, and the lyrics as well. He came up with this weird-ass imagery that you see on the new record. I find that [the cover] very unique and different as well. I’m very excited about how the package came together. But yeah, there’s no hidden or deeper meaning. We aren’t trying to rely some message to anybody. It’s just a heavy metal title.

Dead Rhetoric: I know we’ve kind of mentioned this already, but just to see it in perspective. One of the things I liked going through the Facebook page was saying that the album was 1000% metal. What does it mean to be 1000% metal?

Drover: Well, it’s 10 times heavier than 100% isn’t it? That’s how metal it is! It’s 1000% because that’s as high as you can go for percentage. If it could have been 1001%, I would have called it that. Look – with the Internet, you are trying to come up with anything, or any catchphrase, to capture people’s attention and give them a very clear indication as to what a product is. For me, you notice that it doesn’t say 1000% thrash metal, or 1000% Swedish death metal, or 1000% old school metal. It’s heavy metal. The reason for that, again, it because it’s so diverse…I think it’s very hard for anybody to come up with a tag for it. What would you call that album? If you had to put that into the nice little subgenres that everyone wants to put it in, what would you call it?

Dead Rhetoric: It’s really tough, after listening to the album a few times at this point it’s a tough call to slot it into just one thing.

Drover: And that’s beautiful to me. So in a nutshell, why not just call it what it is? It’s heavy metal. Another part of the reason – if you put it into a subgenre, and say, “This is 1000% speed metal.” People look at it that don’t like speed metal, and right away they don’t give your band a chance. They’ll be like, “These guys suck!” and didn’t even hear a note. Or vice versa – its 1000% old school metal. Then the guys that like more current music are like, “Man, these guys suck! They are stuck in the ‘80s or whatever.” By not having that exact description, that everybody else wants to have, or want to put a label on bands…why not just make it a more worldly term? Look, this is heavy metal. Just give it a listen…if you don’t like it that’s fine. But don’t say that you hate something just because someone else puts a tag on it into some subgenre box that’s so convenient. You know what I mean?

Dead Rhetoric: Absolutely – you’ve got all of these different categories, and it’s like you said, people shut bands out just because a label…

Drover: I don’t even know half of them anymore! Dude, I heard one, somebody said it was a band with a chick in it, and it was called ‘sex metal!’ What the fuck is that? I don’t even know what that is! I might have to listen to it, just because I want to know what that is. It’s like, come on dude. I grew up in a time where you could listen to a Frank Zappa tune and then put on a friggin’ Black Sabbath song, and then go listen to Fleetwood Mac and not even blink an eye. To me, good music is good music. Whatever you like, it’s fantastic. I’ve never had those musical parameters on the music that I like. To me, you are limiting yourself…if someone is so friggin’ tunnel-visioned into liking one kind of music and hating everything else, or thinking they do, it’s like, “Dude, why limit yourself to one kind of music? If you like something else that is different, shit, that’s awesome.” That’s how I view it – not everyone views it like that, which is fine but I’m not going to put any musical parameters on my band…no way.

Dead Rhetoric: That’s pretty perfectly stated. It’s just metal. Another band I talked to a few weeks ago, it was the same thing. Once you do that [categorizing yourself], you are limiting your audience.

Drover: And the minute that you change…say you put a song on your next record that’s not quite as fitting of that specific tag that was originally put on your band, they think you are a pussy or you are too heavy, or too progressive…too this or too that. By calling us metal at the beginning of it, we are certainly going to be heavy metal on the next record. It’s not like we are going to put a country tune on there. We could come up with heavier songs than ever, but it’s still going to be metal. We can put up songs that are more progressive, more old school…whatever the thing is. At the end of the day, it’s still going to sound like us. We are already being viewed by certain people that you can’t put a tag on us. It’s just heavy metal. I think it’s an amazing thing.

Dead Rhetoric: When I first heard the new stuff, I noticed that some of it was significantly heavier, but it still sounded like Act of Defiance. It doesn’t feel like one of those things where you hear a band and it feels like they are trying to do something completely different.

Drover: There’s no drastic departures. It’s just another batch of metal songs. There was no intention to do more of something or less of another thing. These are the songs, and with more of us writing, it changes it a little bit. The mission statement was and still is, that it has to be metal. You can’t start going into territory that’s not metal. That’s when you start creating problems for your fans and ultimately for yourself. Save it for your solo project. If you want to cut a country record on your own, more power to you. But it’s not going to happen in this band. I think people who like us, in time, they’ll appreciate the fact that they’ll know that our next record will be a complete metal assault. Just like what we have put out already. Could be heavier, and some of it may not be as heavy. But it’s still going to be metal at the end of the day.

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