Æpoch – The Inception of AwakeningTuesday, 15th May 2018
A band that we at DR have been keeping tabs on since their Æpochalypse EP, Æpoch recently went to the next level and delivered their first full-length album in the form of Awakening Inception. Being wrapped into the tech-death scene, it’s one that requires that bands repeatedly step up their game, in many ways, as they continue to evolve and grow. Based on Æpoch’s current track record, it’s clear that they are ready to push the boundaries and make a name for themselves as they rally on.
Awakening Inception offers just the right amount of tech-y goodness without forgetting the main purpose behind it all – that of course being the songwriting itself. Æpoch weaves consistently enjoyable tracks that, while offering impressive fretless bass, technical wizardry, and brutal vocals, feel like complete songs instead of “wow” moments that have been linked together. On the eve of Awakening Inception’s release, we jumped on Skype to chat with vocalist/bassist Brett MacIntosh and drummer Greg Carvalho to talk about the band and it’s evolution, where they want to be with Awakening Inception and beyond, and some insightful chat about the challenges of trying to gain ground as a Canadian act, and the tech death scene itself.
Dead Rhetoric: The album is only a few hours away from being released. How are you guys feeling?
Brett MacIntosh: Stoked! Everything just got finalized today, like the shirts and cds, they just came in. Unfortunately, those that pre-ordered the album won’t have the physical by the release date unless they are local but everything is getting shipped out so it feels good to be on track.
Greg Carvalho: It’s finally coming together after so many years.
MacIntosh: I feel very relived.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that there’s been a larger awareness of this album than your previous material?
Carvalho: 100% I would say so.
MacIntosh: Thankfully yes. It’s got a lot to do with Austin [Weber] and Mind Eraser PR. We partnered with them, so it’s helped a lot in terms of premiering the songs and the full album stream. This week, our sales have picked up a ton since the stream. We are very grateful and stoked about that.
Dead Rhetoric: How have you grown as players in the time since your last release?
Carvalho: I’d say we’ve grown quite a bit compared to where we were, just leaving Æpochalypse, for myself especially. Just taking music as a whole I had a whole different perspective on how I wanted to execute my drumming. I’ve been drumming for about 6 years now, and when we did Æpochalypse, it was like, “I want to do some cool shit here, and some cool shit there” – on the newer stuff, I realized I needed to lay back…it’s not my time to shine. I needed to keep it wholesome and do things for the song overall.
MacIntosh: It’s funny that you say wholesome, because I think the two biggest steps up on the album are the drums and the vocals. While you may have the song mindset, and what’s required for the song, I also feel like his drums are really amped up in general. It helps the song intensity but it doesn’t steal the spotlight necessarily.
Dead Rhetoric: So would you say that there’s a sense of maturity that you’ve gained in that time?
MacIntosh: As far as playing our instruments, yes. Songwriting-wise, it’s kind of hard to say because a lot of these songs were started around the same time as the EP songs. We have just had more time to refine them. I think that has made a big difference.
Carvalho: Especially with Kyle [Edissi] and Taylor [Wroblewski] coming along, they’ve been a huge part of the whole thing in terms of what the album sounds like.
MacIntosh: Kyle has offered a lot of really small tweaks, but they have really embellished the way that the songs have turned out.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the things you learned from Æpochalypse that you applied to Awakening Inception?
MacIntosh: Natural sounding drums. I feel that even though the production on this album is a bit more loud and thick, the drums still sound natural. If you are listening to it in a car, the drums still sound like you are behind the kit. A lot of other bands these days, not to throw anyone under the rug because I still like the music and the songwriting, but a lot of other bands – especially several that I’ve heard recently – the drums are very obviously replaced. We didn’t even use a click track. A lot of the drums are not replaced at all.
Carvalho: It’s pretty mono in both ears. I have such a weird set up because I’m left-handed but I play open-handed right. But I have the toms set up as a lefty as well, so it’s kind of weird when you listen to it with headphones in. It kind of sounds displaced from what you would think a regular drummer would have it set as.
MacIntosh: But it’s actually all coming from the right direction. I think that, and without trying to sound to arrogant – myself, as the bass player, I have learned to subtly and tastefully parts that will make me stand out. That’s what I’ve learned from the EP. We had the two part song on the EP that had a few standout bass lines but as a whole, I was kind of just doing the bass player thing. I have got to say I’ve been very humbled by the reaction to my bass lines on the new album so far. I guess it worked – I tried to throw that Forest [Dominic LaPointe] influence and a lot of people like it.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s funny that you mention that, because when I think of both of those releases, the bass definitely stands out a lot more on this time. So I was surprised you didn’t mention that as a big thing in terms of growth. It seems pretty clear to me that it makes a big difference.
MacIntosh: Thank you!
Carvalho: We definitely took more time with this than with the EP. I feel like the EP didn’t have as much accessibility to it as we did this time. Brett had a lot more time to co-produce. The guy we recorded with was local and on the EP, the guy we did it with was an hour drive away. It was only on certain days, once a week/twice a month that we could go and record. It was very hard to pinpoint times to meet up with him.
MacIntosh: The schedule was not the best last time. For this album, every time that our producer Jonah [Kay] and I were both available, we were together editing/mixing/making small tweaks. The song “Tabula Rasa” got cut by about a minute and a half at the last moment. I rearranged that song, and it probably turned out better. But we are eventually going to release the original version of that song.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you see M.D.M.A. as a bonus track to see where the band has come from?
Carvalho: From my perspective, Æpochalypse was a concept with all the songs and lyrics, so to put M.D.M.A. with it, it wouldn’t have fit with the concept. That’s why I figured we put it on this time. This album isn’t one concept – it’s a wide and vast array of things.
MacIntosh: I 100% agree with Greg. I’ll just add to that, in the sense that M.D.M.A. didn’t fit in the concept. As a fan, I’m a huge collector of cds. I love bonus tracks and I hate not having the accessibility to the old, original songs that I like. We have fans that love the demo, but also love the new material. On the demo, we only had 300 copies that were made and they were long gone. If someone wants those songs – the original 2 songs were bonus tracks on the EP, and now this is available on this album. People who want to pop a cd in their car and have access to our entire discography now have it all available through the bonus tracks. That’s very important to me.
The other reason is that we didn’t really have time to solidify a cover for the album. We wanted to do a cover, and we did Death on the EP. We were kind of hoping to do a Gorod song for this album but it didn’t work out. Our one guitar player left in the middle of the recording process. We just wanted to make sure that we had the album out in time for our tour [with Bloodshot Dawn]. We just opted to only due the bonus track of the old demo stuff. So that at least there was some incentive to buy the disc over the digital. It’s kind of neat hearing it remastered, because to me, I can hear the difference in the kick and the snare – even some of the cymbals compared to the whole album.
Carvalho: The production is definitely different, and I love the new production on it.
MacIntosh: It sounds louder since it’s been remastered, but you can still hear the different tones, so it’s kind of interesting to hear.
Dead Rhetoric: Did the Canadian tour with Bloodshot Dawn stem from Brett’s contact with the band?
MacIntosh: Actually it did. I’m a huge fan of that band, and I have run a Facebook page called ‘Bring Bloodshot Dawn to North America” for like 4 years. The band has known about me running the page – I offered them admin [status] but they said I did a good job. It was just to spread some awareness. Because of that, and we had Ben Ellis do a guest solo on the EP, and because I’m legitimately their biggest fan [laughs], Josh said that it made sense to offer us a spot on the tour [about a year ago]. At that point, we weren’t really ready but I said, “Hell yeah! We are going to make this happen!” We basically planned the release of the album around that offer. It’s kind of surreal.
Dead Rhetoric: You planned the album for a specific window. You mentioned ditching the cover, but where there any other challenges you faced along the way?
MacIntosh: The biggest challenge was Bobby [Chounramany] leaving the band. Greg tracked his drums in like 4 days in June, and we were amped up and very on track. We were hoping to track the bass next, but because it was fretless bass, the producer and I thought it would be better to have the rhythm guitarist track first. Just to make sure my notes were lined up with his notes, intonation-wise. So we started tracking bass, then decided to track guitars – Kyle was on vacation in Europe, so Bobby started tracking guitars. When Kyle got back in the beginning of August, he started. Then Bobby just stopped showing up.
Carvalho: Bobby lost interest. We aren’t really too sure why.
MacIntosh: We know he wanted to go to culinary school, but we thought he was going to finish the album. It was a huge challenge. We wanted to have the album finished by the end of the summer and we were left with incomplete rhythm guitars and could not move onto bass. Kyle finished the rest of the rhythm guitars – he had to learn some parts that he had never performed before, since there are two different guitar parts. Greg and I had a side band going over the summer with Taylor, so we thought he ripped so we wanted to see if he could come in and track a few solos, so that it wasn’t just Kyle’s style all over the whole album. He had seen Bobby jam with us a few times, so he tried to do some similar things in a few sections. Honestly, him coming in saved the album. There aren’t many local guitarists that would have done it justice.
Carvalho: He learned the stuff so fast. He came to a couple of practices and before he was even considered to be in the band, he knew the whole EP from start to finish.
MacIntosh: He can play! The album probably would not have been done in time if Taylor did not step up and help us in that way. Within the first month of him playing shows with us after the album was complete, we figured that we would not find a better, tighter live line-up than this, and had him join the band.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s a number of guests on the album as well. Do you feel the extreme metal scene has a lot of comradery?
Carvalho: Yeah, a lot of people like to contribute. To me, I wasn’t really into the music scene at all – this was going back right before Æpoch started. When I met Brett, he showed me that even though the local scene didn’t have much going on at the time…now it’s pretty big and going. But online, with the groups and stuff, there were a lot of people really into metal. It’s a huge community and it blew my mind when I saw it. It opened a different view to me about everyone wanting to contribute and help each other out easily.
MacIntosh: The community is very tight. Vinyl is getting popular now, and I feel guest spots are getting popular too. I pushed for guest spots for two reasons. One, because it’s in right now, and two, for self-gratification. The vocals on the album are my three current favorite death metal vocalists, besides the singer of Job for a Cowboy. That’s self-gratifying for me to have my favorite vocalists alongside me. They didn’t write with me, except Stevie [Boiser]. Stevie and I wrote “Delirium of Negation” together, so that was extremely fun to have a collaboration at that level. People think, “Oh, you just want this guy on your album for higher promotion.” It helps, but for me, it’s mostly self-gratification.
Dead Rhetoric: Right – you get excited about having that particular person on there.
MacIntosh: Exactly. They can put their own tweaks on the material. I love their style in their stuff, and it would be sweet to have their little tweaks in our stuff. It also helps be grow as a vocalist too, because I get to replicate their style to perform it live. Taylor gets to do that on the guitar too, so it helps everyone in that aspect.
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