Dialith – Siren’s ExtinctionTuesday, 20th August 2019
Watching a band blossom from its initial roots to a full-fledged act is awesome – especially when you are there on the ground level. In the case of Connecticut symphonic metal band Dialith, what originally began as a two person operation with guitarist/songwriter Alasdair Mackie and singer Krista Sion for their debut Through Stone EP has now developed into a full outfit – currently a four-piece with bassist Mark Grey and drummer Cullen Mitchell rounding out the membership. Their new full-length album Extinction Six showcases their take on the genre – adding a mixture of heavier and power influences to the mix, while keeping the melodies, hooks, and harmonies sharp and bristling with energy.
We reached out to Alasdair and Krista to discuss the undertaking of Extinction Six, their attitude regarding the art of promotion and social media to keeping the effort top of mind, plus favorite albums/show memories and what the future holds for this outstanding act.
Dead Rhetoric: Extinction Six is the follow up to the band’s debut Through Stone EP. Can you fill us in on the ambitious nature of this debut full-length – and where you see the major differences in the songwriting and performances versus that first recording?
Alasdair Mackie: So when we started this from the beginning, we knew we wanted this to be symphonic metal. We wanted it to be epic with these orchestral and choir parts. But when we made the EP our skill level wasn’t quite there yet. It wasn’t where our level needed to be- we got some strings and chord progressions in the background, but it wasn’t quite symphonic metal. With Extinction Six, I think we got it where we wanted it to be and what everyone wanted to do. And that’s how we went full steam ahead on it.
Dead Rhetoric: And how do you feel Krista about your vocal performance in comparison to the EP?
Krista Sion: On top of this, I took a few months of vocal lessons since the release of the EP. I redid the vocals for “Where Fire Dwells” and “In Every Breath”, and I think you can definitely tell the difference. Specifically in regards to the color of my voice, and the breath control.
Dead Rhetoric: Your video for “The Sound of Your Voice” has received great views through YouTube – what can you tell us surrounding the video shoot, and did you make a conscious decision to edit things from the original album version that is a little longer?
Mackie: Starting with the shoot – that was a long day. We just happened to find this old church, literally down the road five minutes from us. We have passed by this church hundreds of times- the people that maintain it, it’s no longer in service as a church, it’s more of a historical site, but the people who run the place were stoked to have us film a video there. We rented the space for the day, got some fake ivy leaves from Amazon, decorated the place and spent the day there shooting the video. It was a lot of fun.
Sion: It was freezing cold! (laughs)
Mackie: We shot the video in October. I remember my hands were so cold I could barely move my fingers, luckily we were just miming the playback and lip-syncing.
Sion: It is a historical site so there was no heat in the building at all. All the electricity in the building was being used for the video equipment.
Mackie: We based … the YouTube video was sort of a big deal for us as well as running our YouTube ads. We wanted to have a song that was optimized with those ads in mind. The way a YouTube ad works is, you run an ad and it plays our video- the listener has the option to skip after five seconds. We want to draw them in within those five seconds so they will watch a bit longer, and we also want to keep their attention. “The Sound of Your Voice”, the studio version, has a very long intro and the vocals don’t come in until 1:30-2:00, so we cut the intro by a lot to have the vocals come in within the thirty second mark. The chorus comes in quicker as well – so it was more optimized for a YouTube setting.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you tell us about the concept behind the cover art – and how important do you believe that work is in conveying more of the imagery and message behind Dialith?
Mackie: Before we decided to use “Extinction Six” as the title track, we wanted to use that song as the representation for the whole art style and the look of the album. The artwork is a direct representation of the song – you can see that the song is about humanity destroying itself, all life on earth and nature takes over. You can see that with the ivy growing on the skull and the ruined building.
For me personally, I love great artwork – it gets me excited to look at the artwork while listening to the album. It’s a good indicator of quality, if a band puts effort into their front cover, there’s a good chance they put a lot of effort into the music itself. It creates an identity.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to the lyrical content, it seems like you have a mixture of influences from literature to real life situations, can you tell us about the themes behind the album?
Sion: They come from a lot of places. The first three songs on the EP, I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to draw from. I didn’t know what kind of identity Dialith was going to take on. So “Where Fire Dwells”, the lyrical content is very, very different from other songs. It’s basically describing a Greek myth, and I have never written anything like that since. “In Every Breath” is more where Dialith started to take shape – it’s very steeped in metaphor, and that’s where I want to draw a lot from. I want to write stuff that’s personal to me and that can be interpreted as being about (things like) the book Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo– which is very obvious in “The Wraith”. I want to make things palatable to a listener so they can relate to (the content) on their own and be able to draw some of their own conclusions.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel so far about the worldwide response to this record? Have there been any surprises in terms of appeal, and how do you handle any criticism if it’s given?
Mackie: So far the response has been great- especially in the YouTube comments that we’ve gotten. We’ve seen comments from all over the world- a lot from South America, people seem to really be digging us there. Criticism – we’ve received a few reviews, no bad reviews, but I feel the criticism has been fair. The person definitely listened to the album and gave it a fair response, and I can agree with their criticism. There’s always room for improvement in our future releases.
Dead Rhetoric: How important was it to seek out the assistance and work of Jacob Hansen for the mixing/mastering of this record?
Mackie: I told the rest of the guys in the band that I wanted to treat this album as if it was the only album we’ll ever release. This is the only band I’ve been in, and this is the only full-length album I’ve ever made- I want to go all out and do it right. With Jacob, it was a safe investment and although he costs a lot, we knew we would get a professional product, and that’s exactly what we ended up with.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel the current lineup is gelling now that you’ve been able to perform shows together and develop Dialith from a project status act to a full-fledged band entity?
Mackie: Absolutely. We started as a two-piece and I was just writing the music on my own, it did whatever. With the additional members, I have a feel for their styles and their skill level. I do tailor the music more towards them and what I think they would like and what I think they would be able to do, but also leaving room for them to use their own flavor to it. With the live performance, I think it’s helped a lot to build that bond.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on performing live compared to the studio recordings – what do you hope the audiences are able to take away from a Dialith performance, and what have been some of the more memorable show moments so far?
Sion: What to take away from a live performance is more of the engagement. When you are sitting alone listening to an album, that’s a very personal experience. When you are experiencing a concert, it’s more of a social thing. I think what is important for a band to remember is to engage the audience. They are there to have fun. You want to make sure that they are taking away a good experience and not feel like they wasted a night that they could have spent doing anything else.
I really liked performing in Massachusetts recently, we played at The Starlite which I thought was a really cool little venue. I think I performed very well there.
Mackie: Our best show ever in my opinion is when we played at the Shamrock Café in Waterbury, CT. It was this tiny bar, the place was packed, the sound was terrible- I could only hear the drum set and white noise, I couldn’t even hear myself. But the place was packed and there was a lot of huge energy from the audience.
Sion: That Virus of Ideals show we played over a year ago, I really liked that one as well.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of symphonic and power metal today – what areas do you think need to improve for the vitality of the scene?
Mackie: I think things are improving. As opposed to the mid to late 2000’s, Nightwish had just released Once and then every band was a copy/paste trying to recreate that album and none of them could do it. The way symphonic metal is going now, people are adding their own sub-genres to it. The big ones now are Fleshgod Apocalypse, combining death metal and symphonic metal.
Sion: I can’t think of one specific band that would just describe symphonic metal today.
Mackie: Exactly. Everyone has their own twist on it.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe that’s why interest in the genre is picking up in North America- more musicians are starting to gravitate towards the diverse influences?
Mackie: I think so. Or even if they aren’t symphonic metal, at least adding symphonic elements. People see the power in adding those orchestral parts to take a regular song and make it sound extra awesome. We’ve been seeing that more even within metalcore and other genres that you wouldn’t have expected this to come up.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you worry about the reliance on backing tracks from these artists live when it comes to recreating the proper performances?
Mackie: For me personally, I don’t have a problem with backing tracks because it is necessary- you can’t bring a whole orchestra on stage every time with you. It would only bother me if I see them back tracking the guitars- that I find a little strange.
Sion: I did see one band, I think it was Xandria – a couple of years ago. I couldn’t really tell from the audience what had happened with their backing track, but I saw their singer just rip her in-ear monitor out. She couldn’t keep up with what was going on, and they just stopped at that point with their backing tracks and performed without them.
Mackie: That’s a good point. Adding a computer to the mix, that can just ask for trouble. I’ve heard so many horror stories where something goes wrong, and you are dead.
Dead Rhetoric: Are you able to avoid this because of Charles on keyboards?
Mackie: Somewhat… I guess this is the time to properly announce this. Charles is no longer in the band – he left in February. We’ve been doing entirely backing tracks for the keyboards. There are some pros and cons to that. Using backing tracks and no keyboards, the changeovers between songs are a lot smoother. We press play on the iPod and we just follow the track, there’s no awkward gaps between songs and we are just ready to go. The more reliant we are with backing tracks, we are putting ourselves more at risk of having to make sure everything goes just right.
Dead Rhetoric: Where would you like to see Dialith in terms of a career over the next two to three years?
Mackie: Our plans beyond this album, instead of playing a lot of local shows like we did the past year and a half, our next step is to write some more quality songs and just keep releasing more music videos. We want to emphasize the music video, we think that’s the best chance to reach a wider audience and become more successful. We would like to get more eyeballs on us.
Dead Rhetoric: So you are placing a lot of importance on the power of social media to building the brand?
Sion: That’s the only way I find music now. Pretty much through YouTube and Spotify. Those are the only two avenues I use to buy and find new music, so I assume that other people are using the same platforms.
Mackie: If you can bend YouTube to your will, if you can get other websites to suggest your video, then you are set. YouTube can do the work for you and make you go viral, if they determine your video is a quality video.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think as a new band have been the greatest learning curves that you’ve had to work through that maybe other acts or musicians never put much stock or energy into?
Mackie: Oh boy!
Sion: I would say that PR, public relations, that was a huge learning curve. When we released the EP, we just released it- we didn’t do any kind of promotion for it. I didn’t realize that was a thing you could do. Once we started talking about this album, I forget exactly I learned about it, somehow I found out you could do promotion for albums. That’s a great idea- I contacted Dewar PR and (Curtis) is really good, really knowledgeable and that is who we went with. There’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff like that that nobody really puts a lot of thought into. If I were to ask another band, I think something like that would not have come up.
Mackie: A lot of people want to focus on making a great record, getting the mixing and mastering done properly – but then forget to budget for actually promoting the (album).
Sion: And YouTube ads have been very helpful as well to us.
Dead Rhetoric: What have been three of the most important records to shape your outlook on heavy metal from a musician standpoint, and what have been some of the most unforgettable shows that you’ve witnessed purely as a fan?
Sion: I would consider the three heavy metal albums most influential to me as Within Temptation – Mother Earth, Nightwish – Once, and Tristiana- Widow’s Weeds. Those are three that come to mind off the top of my head. As far as shows that stuck out to me- I recite the one concert when I was 14 I saw Within Temptation live. I cite that concert as the one that I always knew I wanted to be in a metal band. Just because it was only my second concert ever, but it was so amazing – the way I felt, I was very in the moment. It was at Irving Plaza in 2007, on The Heart of Everything tour.
Mackie: I’m jealous – I love that album (laughs). As for me, I’ll also say Nightwish – Once, that is the album that started it all for me. I will add Arch Enemy – Wages of Sin. I learned that whole album on guitar, front to back, couldn’t learn every solo but I tried. That taught me the best learning experience on guitar, ever. Riffs, harmonies, solos, rhythm section – everything. It made me a much better player. The third one… that changes all the time. I will go with Dream Theater- Scenes from a Memory. In terms of an entire album composition standpoint. It is one continuous song and they bring back themes from different songs and melodies make a call back – it blows me away every time I hear it.
My first concert was Nine Inch Nails back in 2008. That was in Philadelphia in an arena, and I had never seen such an amazing special effects stage show since then. The light show was unbelievable and the performances were great as well. 2010 – Slayer and Megadeth did a dual headliner tour. Megadeth did Rust in Peace in its entirety, and Slayer did Seasons in the Abyss in its entirety. That was my peak Megadeth phase that year and that is still one of my top five albums, Rust in Peace. I had a blast there. Nightwish, their very first tour for their new album Endless Forms Most Beautiful. The first show of the tour in New York City, and they were playing these new songs live for the first time. In particular their song “The Greatest Show on Earth” – there is this moment where the band stops playing and there are these sound effects going on. I remember seeing the keyboardist Tuomas hold up his hands to signal the band to all come back in – and they all come in at once and I felt the energy blast. I love that moment.
Dead Rhetoric: What types of hobbies / interests do you have to recharge your batteries away from the band- and how do you balance things as far as work/career and musical goals?
Sion: We all have regular jobs. Balancing that is sometimes difficult- if something needs to get done while I’m at work, I make the time to get it done. Everyone has to have their day jobs, but there are worse jobs than what I do (laughs). As for hobbies, I really love animals- I have two dogs, and I walk them a lot. I take my German shepherd to the dog park. I ride horses – I have done that since I was nine. There is a pony in a barn down the street that I used to work at, and nobody rides him anymore, so I ride him. I like to read as well.
Mackie: I have a day job as an IT technician, I work on computers in my spare time and I built my own PC. I bought a house last year, and my goal is to fully deck out my office. I will build my own acoustic panels and make it look and sound great. I want to create a space that helps me be creative.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year shaping up for Dialith in terms of promotion and band activities?
Mackie: We have new music written beyond this album, we would like to record a video for one of those songs hopefully this fall. And if we are very lucky, maybe release something new next year. Although if we judge based on the time it took us to release this album (laughs)…. We are not stopping, we are going to keep creating and keep pushing ourselves forward.