Borealis – Conceptual OfferingThursday, 29th March 2018
Canada has a rich appreciation for all things metal – including the power/progressive genres where many European bands made their first foray into North America by playing key shows in Toronto or Montreal. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Orangeville, Ontario’s Borealis have made steady strides to improve their status within the genre by releasing consistently strong material and delivering the songs on the road whenever possible.
This year the band’s fourth studio record The Offering is another conceptual affair – tacking child sacrifice by a cult that’s part imagination, part horror movie influenced from the mind of vocalist/guitarist Matt Marinelli. Musically songs like “The Fire Between Us”, the emotive “The Devil’s Hand”, and driving “Into the Light” embrace a fuller aural outlook, the orchestration vibrant while the dynamic elements reaching intense mood swings from sadness to happiness all through the course of the hour-long recording. Many like to compare the band to Evergrey, Kamelot, and a bit of Vanden Plas – but there’s this added sense of gothic haunting to the proceedings.
Reaching out to Matt for another Skype chat, we cover everything from the new record and its challenges when fleshing out the storyline, the man’s appreciation for 80’s slasher movies, his new affinity for the Amorphis and Katatonia discographies, and thoughts on proper social media use.
Dead Rhetoric: How is Borealis’ lineup now with guitarist Ken Forbert back in the band and bassist Trevor McBride in the fold for a little while?
Matt Marinelli: I think the band is better than it’s ever been. Kenny, we’ve always worked so well with him. And Trevor we’ve been friends with him our whole lives, and he has some really good skills on the bass so we are really pumped to take this lineup on the road. The studio doesn’t necessarily fulfill what we really need, and I’m really pumped about this new lineup.
Dead Rhetoric: The Offering is the fourth Borealis album, and another concept record that delves into your interest in cults through horror movies. What comes first when developing the material – fleshing out the storyline and lyrical concepts you cover, or developing the musical framework and then positioning the right words and ideas around that?
Marinelli: Usually we start with the story outline, and then we go to the music. The lyrical content is actually the last piece we do. I think for me I find it difficult because some words are just hard to sing- so we try to make the words fit the melodies that we create. It’s the story first, then the music, then the lyrical content.
Dead Rhetoric: What was the biggest challenge you faced when creating this record?
Marinelli: The biggest challenge was trying to say everything we wanted to say within the story line with the music. It is very restrictive when you are trying to fit such a detailed story into individual songs. So that was probably the most difficult part for us- trying to get the story line to come across with the music.
Dead Rhetoric: How much of an asset is it to have drummer Sean Dowell as the producer and mixer for the band? Do you ever think about using outside services down the line, or trust the process internally to be objective enough regarding the final output?
Marinelli: We definitely have all of our trust with Sean. Especially nowadays with how the industry is, it’s very expensive and when we have the opportunity to record within our own personal studio we are going to take it. Sean has proven himself capable of doing a very good job, so we have all the trust with him to do this. I can’t ever see us renting a studio in the future- the cost becomes so expensive and with CD’s becoming more obsolete you have to really get your money back with all the stuff that you put into it. I think for the future we will always kind of stick to our home studio.
Dead Rhetoric: Sarah Dee of Solarus (who you worked with on their Reunion album) appears on a couple of tracks as a special guest. What qualities do you enjoy most about her voice, as they work out brilliantly on “Scarlet Angel” and dramatic closer “The Ghosts of Innocence”?
Marinelli: I think she has a very nice tone, and it’s a good contrast because she has a soft voice, and my voice tends to be a little more aggressive, or fairly loud. It blends well with the music- she’s very great to work with, she’s a fantastic talent at vocals.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you already know the two spots where you wanted her to appear on the record?
Marinelli: Not at first, no. We always knew she was going to be placed in the final song, but “Scarlet Angel” was kind of a last-minute thing where we thought it would really help with the story and improve the song a little bit.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us regarding the story, as I know it was influenced by your love of horror? Did the inspiration come from a specific film or your imagination?
Marinelli: It was a bit of both. There was one movie in particular called The Devil’s Hand, just the title alone was a very interesting title. When I watched that movie, it kind of sparked that interest. A story about that can be very interesting. I took that premise of the cult from that movie, and then I made it into more of a fictional story just to give things more of that dark fantasy element.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about the Stan W. Decker cover work – how did the concept flesh itself out?
Marinelli: Stan is fantastic- we don’t have to do a lot to get what we are looking for. He has a good idea for the vision that we have. For instance, when I went to him I gave him the idea – we just needed a cult around a tree, and there will be a child in the center of the tree burning. He immediately knew what we were looking for- that dark fantasy, panned labyrinth type style. The cover is pretty much the main event of the whole album – it’s when they are sacrificing the child for their god. We are very pleased with the way the cover turned out, and we will probably be using him for future albums.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the North American tour with Evergrey in 2015 go in terms of establishing Borealis – and what takeaways did you apply seeing such a veteran band in the scene night after night?
Marinelli: It was a phenomenal tour for us- and it was the best lineup that we could ever be paired with. Just from our history, we have always been compared to Evergrey. A perfect tour to be on, all the fans new and old were really well accepting because of the similarities. The one thing I really took away from Evergrey is that they are really laid-back guys. I think they don’t try and stress out about the little things- it’s really easy on tour to stress out about so many things. I learned that it’s important to just enjoy the ride and ever since then I’ve taken that to heart.
Dead Rhetoric: What was the thought process behind re-recording your debut album World of Silence and issuing it again in 2017?
Marinelli: We did that because in 2008 when we first released World of Silence, it was a self-released effort and it didn’t get out that much. People heard it, but it wasn’t a mainstream album by any means. When AFM came to us and said they would like to re-release World of Silence and Fall From Grace to keep things relevant and let people have a chance of getting those records, we were talking about re-recording a couple of songs. Then we decided that maybe we should just re-record the entire album, because it would give the new fans better quality in the production anyways, but give the old fans a little bit of something new. We will get some people who don’t like the fact that we did this, but the original album is still out there. Another reason why we did this is, so we can include these songs into our live set- it was the only album that had a different tuning from all the other albums. Now having done this, we can include these older songs into our live set.
Dead Rhetoric: When do you first remember gaining an interest in horror movies? I remember from a previous interview your love of the 80’s slasher movies, what are some of your favorites and what captivates you about this style of cinema?
Marinelli: I think it’s nostalgia- it’s definitely not the best cinema to break down the qualities of an 80’s horror movie, it’s cheesy. When I was 9 or 10, I watched Nightmare on Elm Street religiously. I would watch it every day on this recorded VHS tape- ever since then I was very interested. Some of my top 80’s slasher films, Halloween even though that’s from the 70’s, Friday the 13th, The Mutilator, My Bloody Valentine, Slaughterhouse- there are hundreds, I could just keep on going.
Dead Rhetoric: Lately you’ve been delving into the Amorphis and Katatonia discographies when you have the free time to check out music. What albums have you gravitated towards, have you had the chance to take in either band live, and do you believe the diversity in your listening habits has positive outcomes for the outlook and development of Borealis style-wise?
Marinelli: I have not had the chance to take in either one live- and I am fairly new to their music. I’m really bad with album names. I love Katatonia’s last album that they did. Because I sample them, and then I buy them – as I still love CD’s. I’m still old school. Under the Red Cloud was the first album that I got into with Amorphis, and then I went into their back catalog- which was equally as good to me. Katatonia was the same… The Fall of Hearts, and it was completely opposite of what I thought Katatonia was all about. I always had this impression that they were very, very heavy and aggressive sounding – and I heard this album and it was not what I was expecting. After that I bought their live DVD, and it was phenomenal. I love how different it is from the usual old power metal that I listen to. It is refreshing to get into that style.
For The Offering, people may not hear it but when I’m writing I took influences from Amorphis when writing this new album. It gives me a new view on writing- because before I compared a lot of my writing to the bands I’d always listened to. Now, getting into this slightly different style it’s been helpful to create new things.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe you’ve gained a better sense of the importance of social media and consistent content / connection with your fan base through all the various platforms -in addition to what AFM Records can provide for the band?
Marinelli: Definitely. This is something that we lacked quite a bit with. We are trying a lot harder to be more on these social media sites. It is everything- it is how you can keep in contact with your fans and reach out to a massive amount of people very quickly. In the future, you will start noticing more and more social media status updates from us. Before that, it was almost nothing – especially because of Kenny since he does that for a living.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the discussion come about to tackle the Rocky soundtrack classic “No Easy Way Out” as a non-album cover – as it really works well given that heavier sheen?
Marinelli: The first thing we noticed is, (Robert Tepper’s) voice sounds very similar to my voice. We all love Rocky so much – it’s a song that we’ve always liked. We thought it would be cool to give the song our own sound. We are proud of it, we didn’t change it too much, we kept a similar vibe that the original one had.
Dead Rhetoric: Are there any other covers you would think about tackling down the line?
Marinelli: Yes, we have one. We are thinking about doing “Separate Ways” by Journey. And I think we can make it slightly heavier- it has such a cool melody and feel to it. I think it would be fun to do.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the state of the Canadian metal scene? Would you say it’s a great blend of influences from America as well as Europe, which in turn allows for musicians to strive for originality in their output?
Marinelli: Yes. The Canadian scene, and North American scene in general, is booming. Before these European bands would come over, and it was scarce. Nobody knew these bands really existed. They are now frequently touring the United States and Canada – which I think is good too as more North Americans are getting into this style. Hopefully as a result we can see the popularity grow and we can have more festivals pop up – we are lacking in that department.
Dead Rhetoric: If given an unlimited budget to pursue Borealis to the fullest extent of your imagination, how would you envision things playing out over the next three to five years?
Marinelli: If we had more funds, we would be touring everywhere for sure. Funds is the only thing that is holding us back, getting out to Europe. We would love to record with a real orchestra- any band that plays this style of music, playing with a real orchestra would be the ideal thing to push things to the next level. If you are touring with an orchestra, people would go just to see it- even if you are not into metal.
Dead Rhetoric: What worries you most about the world that we live in today? Where do you think people need to put more of their focus on to make things better overall?
Marinelli: That’s a good question. I feel that social media can sometimes hinder things. People have so much access to everything they almost feel entitled to things. Slowing down on social media – Facebook and such. I understand if you are in a band, I get it- but just every day life I feel that people are so glued to this technology that they are forgetting what’s around them. Eventually that’s going to hinder things, and technology is going to take things too far.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you find that an oxymoron in the sense that social media is supposed to be connecting people when in another aspect, it’s making people distant and more reclusive?
Marinelli: It definitely is. We have to find a happy medium with some of this stuff. To me, there is a movie called Idiocracy – it’s a comedy movie but it’s almost terrifyingly real. Hopefully we will find a balance with it.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the rest of 2018 looking for Borealis activities – or other studio endeavors that may crop up down the line?
Marinelli: We will be playing live. We’ve been in the studio for long with the World of Silence and The Offering albums, we want to get out and play. We are going to do a lot of stuff in the Ontario area for now, to play in our hometown a bit more. Hopefully in the fall we can go out and get another North American tour going. Europe is always something we want to do, but unless we get invited to do it, financially it’s almost impossible to do. There is a video we are in talks about, we are playing on doing one for this new album. Hopefully everything lines up shortly.