Cellador – Back on the Grid Part IThursday, 30th March 2017
Bursting onto the power/speed metal scene with their 2006 debut album Enter Deception on Metal Blade, Cellador proved that a young US band could compete with the established European brigade in this style, serving up delightful musicianship and engaging material full of rich melodies and harmonies. Initially tagged for their neo-classical and extreme tempo tendencies as cut out of the Dragonforce mold, ardent listeners who dig deeper into the riff/songwriting catalog will discover that this group aren’t mere clones, instead expressing many nuances of older thrash, progressive, and power elements into their attack.
It’s been over a decade since that record – if you wish to learn more about the twists and turns of that long break between albums, check out this other feature done by yours truly last year for True Metal Lives webzine (www.cellador.com/site/cellador-tml-interview-transcribed/ ). Now the fruits of their long-awaited second album Off the Grid have been unleashed to the world – a worthy successor to Enter Deception, gaining momentum due to tighter songwriting and added keyboard flourishes that do not diminish the established power/speed metal riffs, tempos, and melodies their fans have come to expect.
Ringing up vocalist/guitarist Chris Petersen in Colorado, he’s obviously very excited to regain any lost momentum from being ‘off the grid’ (pun intended) for so long. In this discussion we dig a little deeper into the songwriting, the decision to do The Goonies soundtrack cover on the record, the changes in social media promotion through the years, as well as some of Chris’ fitness and weightlifting routines to parallel his passion for heavy metal.
Dead Rhetoric: In a previous interview we did together for True Metal Lives, you had hope that this new album would hit the streets at some point in 2016. What exactly caused the delay to the first quarter of 2017 for this release – was it more a question of finding the right fit label-wise with Scarlet, or other circumstances that took place?
Chris Petersen: So, as you may or may not know, this lineup went through a massive overhaul around a period of 2010-2012, where the lineup that performed on Enter Deception dissolved, I ended up relocating to Denver to reform the band. I got the band back together and we’ve been playing shows together since 2013. We released Honor Forth around that time as well. Everything was going great for that first year when started playing shows again in 2013. We released that EP that summer, we started using that EP to start shopping to labels, and to make a long story short- we thought we had not one, not two, but three different prior labels that had expressed interest in the band. Two of these labels went so far as to sign contracts offering to release the album. One of them, it wasn’t an actual label contract, it was more we want to sign the band but at a later time due to budgeting concerns. We put a lot of trust in that, and unfortunately due to reasons beyond our control that label ended up pulling out. We started all over, had another label pursue us, and had that label back out after negotiating with us for literally about nine months. This is when we were posting news updates saying the album was done, we were excited to get this out, clips of us recording and little snippets and samples. It didn’t work out, and it was very disappointing but we were back to ground zero again.
By mid-2016, we took matters into our own hands- at least I personally got in touch with Scarlet Records, the label I should have gotten in touch with all along two years ago. They had already expressed interest in putting out the album, we negotiated very quickly on a deal, got the deal signed, and the album in their hands. We had a two-year delay- the beginnings of the recordings for Off the Grid started in 2014, we began tracking this album then and this album has been done since mid-2015. It is what it is, I kind of felt cursed for a while there if it was ever going to come out and all our effort and work was coming to a halt, but luckily things worked out and for the better. This deal is the kind of deal we had been looking for from the beginning, this label is very familiar with the style of music, they know how to push it to the right people and to the right audience. We are now in the position that we needed to be two or three years ago, here it is.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the growth or changes of the band for Off the Grid in comparison to your debut album Enter Deception or the follow up Honor Forth EP? It definitely seems to these ears you put more focus on tighter/shorter songs without losing the speed and intricacies you’ve always had in Cellador…
Petersen: In terms of band camaraderie, things are much better than with the Enter Deception lineup. We were all kids, I have great memories of that time with that lineup. From the beginning, there was always personality conflicts going on there that we don’t have anymore. With regards to the songs, yeah I tried to keep the songs on this album a little bit shorter. I do remember with Enter Deception, at least with working with Metal Blade thinking of songs that were going to be singles and music videos. We did have an issue with a lot of the songs on that album being too long- “Leaving All Behind” was the music video because it was simply the shortest song on the album. You are right to make that observation, I did try to make these songs shorter. I wanted to make sure the songs had good solos, good interludes- I wanted to make sure the songs were focused and to the point.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you end up going through riffs and songwriting with a fine-tooth comb – or were there times during the development process of this album that surprises came up on the spot that you kept in the mix? Because there are times where people can often feel that the melodic/power metal genre can be a little too clinical and precise without that spontaneity factor…
Petersen: It’s a little of both. I am totally in agreement with that second part you were saying, some of the better songs I have written, including the ones that are on our albums, came very quickly. If I second guess myself or doubt myself, where I think something needs to be refined because it’s too simple, I end up developing a bit of writer’s block. There are many songs I haven’t finished because I end up second guessing myself. I like the songs that come to me quicker, and I try to keep a mindset where once I am building momentum I’m going to keep that momentum going. At the same time my songwriting process is sort of a refinement process. It’s like building a house- I come up with the foundation first, the rhythm section, the chord progressions, a very simple rhythm section I should say as in whether it’s a fast drum part or a slow drum part. The chorus, speed picking, and I play these over and over again, both in recording and on guitar. I add all the intricacies as we are going along, and once the riffs and intricacies are there, at least in the rhythm guitars, then I go back with the leads. Then I compose my vocal melodies- and I always compose my vocal melodies on guitar. I write those last, my bassist adds his bass, Diego adds his keys.
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