God Forbid – Better Days Are HereSunday, 31st March 2013
(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)
From a pure sonic standpoint, God Forbid should never have ended up amongst the “New Wave of American Heavy Metal” gang. Heavier than Lamb of God and Shadows Fall, but not as melodic as Killswitch Engage, the New Jersey-based metallers have remained afloat thanks to a daunting tour schedule in promotion of staccato-laden thrash gems like 2004’s Gone Forever and 2005’s IV: The Constitution of Treason. And while they’ve never been the sexy or safe pick between their contemporaries, the words “reliable” and “forward-thinking” instantly spring to mind when thinking about God Forbid. They’ve yet to disappoint…but they’ve yet to plateau.
After a three-year layoff, the band returns with Equilibrium, their first for new label Victory Records. With the departure of founding member/guitarist Dallas Coyle now very much a thing of the past, GF is able to lock horns with brutal modern metal and liquefied thrash, all the while holding steady thanks to the grizzly bark of Byron Davis. This refocused platter benefits greatly from the acquisition of new guitarist Matt Wicklund (ex-Himsa), and Davis’s new-found clean vocal approach, of which according to the singer, has been a long time coming.
Presently hitting the boards on the first annual Trespass tour with Five Finger Death Punch, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, and more, we caught up with the laid-back Davis via telephone. Pressing topics like the new album and tour were on the agenda, but as you’ll read below, so was the imprisonment of Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe, whom Davis considers a very close friend. Read on…
Blistering.com: Does it feel good to be back out on the road and re-start the album/tour cycle?
Byron Davis: Yeah, it feels really good to be back out here again. This is where we belong, this is where we’re at our best, and what we enjoy the most. The new songs have been clicking really well, but unfortunately being on the Trespass, we have to pick and choose what to play. We’re playing some new songs and some old ones, but we’re really happy with the response and the excitement of people coming and seeing the band, amped that we’re playing. With the direction this record is going, we’re very happy with that. It’s all coming into play.
Blistering.com: You’ve done so many of these summer package tours, so it’s almost like your summer home in a way.
Davis: It is to some degree. This tour is different than those, but it’s much like the same thing.
Blistering.com: You took three years to release Equilibrium, so what did you do to keep yourself busy? Did you have to get re-acclimated to normal life away from the band?
Davis: Right now, it’s the opposite – it’s trying to get re-acclimated to being on stage. We’ve been playing shows here and there throughout those three years. I can’t say for everyone, but I’ve been working jobs in between tours since we first started. It’s just a matter of trying to forget about working your regular job and playing your music, unlike some of the other guys who have been playing and writing…it’s living life day-to-day and trying to make it happen and enjoying it. It’s definitely been eye-opening after being gone for so long, but it feels right at the same time.
Blistering.com: Did a lot of the songs for Equilibrium happen over that three-year span, or did Doc [Coyle, guitars] come into the studio armed with the songs?
Davis: Doc wrote a couple of things, but for the most part, our new guitar player wrote a lot of the songs. It was good to have an in-surge of fresh blood. Things were a little up-and-down at the time and it ended up breathing life back into the band. That drive, determination…he brought it back. It’s a good feeling. Dudes in the band were at each other’s neck, so it’s definitely a good thing. It good people focused on what we were before, which is a band that’s all about the music. We’ve always been about the music, but sometimes life throws you a curveball, so you got to work around it.
Blistering.com: Dallas’s [Coyle] departure put a cloud over the release ofEarthsblood, so it must have been good to have that out of the way for the new album. Was that the sense you got?
Davis: Yeah, totally. His departure definitely stalled us. We had [done] some good things and he found himself somewhere else that he thought was more important for him at the time. He did what he had to do. You can’t really fault the guy for wanting to pursue other avenues. It definitely stalled, but if it didn’t happen the way it did, we wouldn’t have written the record we wrote. Some people believed the band was over and we couldn’t move forward without him, but that’s not the case. We were able to write exactly what we wanted to write with everyone on the same page as to where we wanted to go next. For as bad as him leaving and all that, it worked out. I’m really happy with the product we have now and our choice of bringing Tricky into the fold really paid off.
Blistering.com: On prior God Forbid albums, you were mainly tasked with doing the growls and screamed, but on the new album, you’re doling out some clean vocals. What brought that out in you?
Davis: Actually, the departure of Dallas [laughs]. We’ve been doing this for a long time. When Determination came out, I had some ideas for going in that direction, but some people were reluctant about it. We went and did that album, and did Gone Forever and before we went in the process, he decided he wanted to do some singing. So it evolved from the initial idea to him singing. Then on Earthsblood, he had a song that I did some singing on, so it was a progression that was inevitable. It needed to come, but there was too much arguing and bickering before to make that happen. Once that lightened up, it was impossible for it to happen.
Blistering.com: I was surprised you started to do them, frankly.
Davis: A lot of people were. Everything we did on this record is from the heart. We knew we’d be shaking up the waters by doing something different. It’s never been our policy to not do something we wanted to do. At the end of the day, whether people buy the record or not, you have to put your stamp on it. It’s more important for us to be happy than outsiders who have no idea what it takes to make a record, to create the best album you can make that someone can script out in four or five sentences in some freaking blog or whatever.
Blistering.com: It must have been nice to do an album without any sort of distractions or band member issues, which makes Equilibrium probably your most cohesive since Gone Forever. If we can go back, there seemed to always be something, especially around the time you got off the tour cycle for Determination.
Davis: Determination, the thing about that album was we were doing crazy amounts of touring. By the time we came home, the entire subgenre that is so-called “metalcore,” blew up. As soon as we came home from tour. Everyone that was doing anything close to what we were doing started to get recognition for what we were doing. It felt like a kick in the face, so that’s why a lot of aggravation occurred within the band. Then we did Gone Forever and luckily, we were able to shoot-up on that record cycle and did the Ozzfest. Things happened, but there wasn’t the greatest follow-up for us touring following that album. So basically we did Ozzfest, to ten weeks in Europe with Machine Head, to nothing. There were no other tours for us, so we said “fuck it” and that’s when we did Constitution.
Blistering.com: You’re really good friends with Lamb of God and Doc was on loan to them a few years ago, so what’s your take on the Randy Blythe situation?
Davis: Straight up, I think that shit is bullshit. I think the fact that for one, our U.S. government is not getting involved in it, it’s like…it’s crazy to me. I know there’s certain things they can’t do because there’s some papers he has to sign as far as like with amnesty or some shit. The fact that the U.S. isn’t saying anything outside of the metal genre, is pretty sad. Randy is a good guy. And the last thing I would ever see Randy doing is hurting someone. That’s not him. And the way they are treating him is totally out of his character, there’s no need for it. If it was someone else, it would probably be less important because Lamb of God is a big, American band. If it was some pop icon, it would be over with, people would be stepping in. It makes me not want to go to the Czech Republic.
Blistering.com: To your point, I’ve heard people say that if it were Justin Bieber, it would be over with already. We have our scene and it’s a really big one, but the mainstream media doesn’t appear to care.
Davis: Not at all. Our scene is huge, but this country doesn’t care about metal like they should. It’s all about hip-hop, R&B, pop music. You have this guy who is very interactive with his fanbase and is this really cool down-to-earth person…the coolest person on the planet and he’s sitting in some jail cell in Prague and they’re not doing anything. It really blows my mind that this is going on. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. I like to get into politics, but the shit that is happening right now…I can’t really grasp my hands around it.
We’re very tight with Lamb of God. We came up through the basement with those dudes, and those dudes are like our brothers; that’s like family to me, and the fact there’s not much I can do other than screaming “Free Randy” and signing petitions and getting the word out there, I wish there was more I could do. It sucks that this is still going on and he’s just sitting there and no one is doing anything.
Blistering.com: You’ve played tons of shows with people stagediving and I don’t think any one of you singers would forcefully push someone off the stage with the intention of hurting them.
Davis: Stagediving is cool, but there has to be some understanding. People need to look at both sides of it. Sometimes, bands don’t mind if people get on stage. If want to get on stage and dive off, cool. Sometimes we don’t like when you linger onstage because that opens up the possibility of someone getting hurt because there are actual people onstage doing things and you could be in the wrong spot. Some bands have guitars swinging around. It’s cool if you want to get up there, but get up there and jump off. If you’ve done it three times and security has to remove you, then it’s not the band’s fault. A third, fourth time, it’s overwhelming. And not to mention the incident with Dimebag, some musicians get a little freaked out when you come up on stage because you really don’t know what’s going to happen.
Blistering.com: How much of this has started to make you think twice when you get on stage?
Davis: I’m always careful. I hate to think that mindset after that happened because you’re supposed to be safe onstage; you don’t want to think of any negativity when you’re up there. If someone is too close and they’re too close, you gotta handle it the best you can. It’s supposed to be about friendship at the shows, so I try not to think of the negative aspect of it. But if someone is up there and are lingering too long, I’ll say “You gotta get off my stage.”