Now You Know: AraFriday, 20th February 2015
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Style: Song-based death metal with technical aspects
Personnel: James Becker (Bass, Vocals); Erik Stenglein (Drums); Jerry Hauppa (Guitars); Adam Bujny (Vocals); Jon Liedtke (Guitars)
Latest Release: Devourer of Worlds (Self Released)
“You have to write songs. Everyone knows if you’re going to step up to the plate in metal, you have to be able to play. Technique is a given, so in order to stand out you have to have substance to what you perform. Few bands today write albums where each song has its own identity, and that’s something we try to bring to the table. If you can only depict one mood in your writing, you should only be making one-song records.” One listen to Ara’s latest release, Devourer of Worlds, and you’ll be able to get a feeling for guitarist Jerry Hauppa’s words. While many death metal bands spiral towards creating the most technically driven product, Ara keep it heavy. There’s something to be said for an album of this nature that manages to keep all of its grit intact.
“We’re all across the board [in terms of influences], but we share an affinity for well thought out, song-based death metal, which I think we all can agree is in a bit of a slump right now,” adds Hauppa. “I can’t speak on behalf of the other guys directly but you can hear a lot of the bizarre Canadian death metal bands of the 90s in my playing in addition to the more harmony-based melodic death metal as well as the early Suffocation type of sound. We all love that stuff but regardless of genre, if the music we hear is intelligent and meaningful chances are we will appreciate it and draw influence from it.”
Ara is the combination of members from a few different bands from the Milwaukee area, including Northless, Concentric, and Shroud of Despondency. “Jim (bass) and I were playing in Concentric since maybe 2004 or so, and I feel we’ll be consistent musical partners in the future,” says Hauppa. “I’ve been lucky enough to have him stand by the often silly stuff I put into writing and we always wanted to get a death metal band off the ground, but as I imagine is a constant issue for people attempting that style you have to have an incredible drummer. We are unbelievably lucky to have behind the kit multi-instrumentalist Erik Stenglein, who was constantly egging me on to write death metal songs for a new project while we played together in Northless. Adam Bujny is a long time friend whose vocal and lyrical talents haven’t been utilized in far too long, and very recently we were aligned with Jon Liedtke (Shroud) on guitar who couldn’t be a more perfect fit. We’ve all known each other for years in the Milwaukee scene and we all love death metal, so it was just a matter of time before this would happen.”
With the number of bands increasing by the moment, choosing a name is no simple task. Hauppa takes us through the process. “As I imagine with every current band, we had a few songs down and no moniker to define us, but we collectively liked space themes and I showed up to practice one day and the band had decided on Ara. It’s the name of a star and fits our occasional sci-fi lyrical leanings well.”
It goes without say that as you peruse the song titles, “Cadaverlanche” will stick out as a rather metal sounding track. It also shows that the band isn’t afraid to have a bit of fun in the lyric department. “Adam is quite the genius when it comes to lyrical ideas, and as serious as the music is, we all have an appreciation for tongue-in-cheek death metal lyrics,” Hauppa explains. “We definitely have fun in this band, and are constantly making left-field jokes to keep our otherwise fairly bleak worldviews from making us entirely intolerable. That, and suffocating under the weight of countless corpses is pretty metal subject matter.”
The band chose to have the very much in-demand Colin Marston master Devourer of Worlds. “As longtime fans of his many bands, especially Gorguts, we knew we had to have someone who understood what we were trying to do to master the record,” notes Hauppa. “We loved the organic way Colored Sands breathes, and since we purposely leave out a certain level of polish to make our releases sound savage the way death metal should, it was a logical choice. We already had an incredible mix thanks to Shane Hochstetler at Howl Street Studios, but Colin gave the record even more life.”
With two independent releases in the bag, Ara is at home releasing their own material. “We would love to have label support to get the releases we make in the hands of as many people as possible, but if we don’t find the right label fit it won’t stop us from making music on our own,” adds Hauppa. “We are very gifted to have Shane as an incredible engineer and Jim does amazing artwork for our releases as well, so we are pretty self-sufficient. We do feel confident about our product however and know that any metal label should be proud of what we do.”
A quick look at Ara’s Facebook page shows that they are quite dug in to the local scene. There are a number of gigs that the band has engaged in and will be in the future. But the band is looking to potentially expand their palette in the future. “We would love to get out on the road but we also have to factor in the scheduling of Northless, which Erik and I also play in. Northless is touring the west coast this year but hopefully Ara can hit the road soon as well,” states Hauppa.
So where does Ara see themselves in a few years? “Headlining Gigantour, obviously. Over Megadeth,” jests Hauppa. But for now, “We want to play as many shows as possible to support the new album as well as get new guitarist Jon up to speed with the rest of our material, but I would hope to get in the studio somewhat soon again to record what most likely will be a split with hopefully an equally awesome death metal band from Minneapolis if that comes to fruition. In the meantime we want to get the word out about Devourer of Worlds to as many people as possible. Thanks for the time you devoted to it and the band already!”