Power Theory – Fire with ForceThursday, 6th February 2020
Establishing their presence with traditional power metal, New Jersey’s Power Theory have assembled a decent buzz while building their following since their inception in 2007. They’ve gone through natural lineup changes while releasing three full-lengths, an EP, and a compilation album – setting the stage for their latest album Force of Will. Beyond the three significant member changes that have occurred, it’s evident in the songwriting, performances, and overall production that the band are pushing their traditional/power songwriting to another level – dynamic, potent, energetic, and wide reaching. The type of record where you can sense a love for Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Saxon one moment – then Iced Earth and Helloween the next.
We reached out to guitarist Carlos Alverez and over the course of this almost hour-long talk we delve deep into a host of topics. Prepare to learn more about his background, his recording studio work, thoughts on acquiring guest appearances for records, and honest discussion about promoting Power Theory to gain a bigger foothold in the scene among other fun talking points we had.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell me about your earliest memories surrounding music growing up, and how you eventually discovered heavy metal and the desire to pick up an instrument to play yourself?
Carlos Alverez: Okay, wow – just going right in for the deep end, huh? (laughs). My earliest memory of an interest in music. For the most part actually, I’ve been listening to metal since I was a little kid. I was born in 1974, by the time I was five I had my own Kiss record player and I had all the Kiss albums up to that point – Judas Priest albums. I grew up with all the 70’s rock music playing on the radio all the time – before it had to loop back around again and have to get cool 25 years later. There’s always been that interest in music because of having it around me all the time.
As far as metal – I think Kiss and Judas Priest really sort of… when I listened to them, they sort of grabbed me a little bit harder than Styx. As I get started getting a little bit older I discovered Iron Maiden, Slayer, and Metallica around the time Ride the Lightning came out. Iron Maiden- Killers was the first album I purchased with my own allowance money. It’s been a pretty much lifelong thing for me.
Back when I was 13, I was already a fan of Helloween at that point – I picked up the Walls of Jericho album and the Judas tape. Fun fact, I had one of the copies of Walls of Jericho that Noise Records had fucked up and swapped with Celtic Frost – To Mega Therion. The cassette tape had all the names of the Helloween songs, but they coincided with the exact number of songs on To Mega Therion – that was a fun confusion. It led me to love Celtic Frost. There are so many scary bands that are trying to outdo themselves with the horrifying lyrics and scary music – Celtic Frost to this day is the only band that can still creep me out. I listen to some of their songs with the lights off and the headphones on when I was a kid, there is something very genuine and dramatically honest in the way Tom G. Warrior sings things.
I loved Helloween when they were speed metal – and Keepers of the Seven Keys Part One comes out. I got that, and I was like okay – I think might want to learn how to play an instrument. It’s Iron Maiden with the speed of Metallica, the guy can sing higher than Bruce Dickinson. Then a year later, Part 2 comes out – I grab that and before I was done my first playthrough of that album, I had already decided to buy my first guitar. Kai Hansen, everything he wrote and he played, not to take away from Michael Weikath but for some reason I connected with the melodies and style of Kai’s writing.
Dead Rhetoric: You joined Power Theory on guitar a couple of years ago, but your relationship with the band goes back even further behind the scenes since 2015’s Driven by Fear record. Bring us up to speed on how you discovered the band, and what convinced you to join the ranks on guitar?
Alvarez: Basically what happened was, Bob the other guitarist lives only twenty minutes away from me. We had a mutual friend that had an internet radio show, and they had a chat room and they would play some songs from my other current release with a band called Shadowdance. I was in the chat room and Bob jumped in the chat room. The deejay guy mentioned we live right near each other – we started talking on our own, and Bob told me Power Theory would be playing right around the corner from where I live. I came out and checked them out, we became friends. That was back in 2013. At that point, I really didn’t want to have anything to do with bands (laughs). I’m not really big on the whole band thing. We were friends and we hung out, and when they were getting ready to start what would become Driven by Fear, they were working with some people where it wasn’t working out for them. A lot of time went by with no results – and I was minding my business, and Bob called me up to ask if I could help him out with the album. They wanted to start from the ground up, and I said sure – let’s make an album. I jumped onboard as an engineer and producer, helped shape some of the songs, and write some little bits and pieces. I hadn’t joined the band, but I watched from afar. A couple of years later, they lost the one guitarist, and they had Nick from the band Wretch- a phenomenal player, a nice guy. He was coming over from Ohio, but that was only for so long.
Sometimes around New Year’s of 2016, going into 2017, Bob was like he needed my help. He had two shows booked for the next couple of months, and he didn’t ask me to join, but to play guitar for those two gigs. He’s helped me out in a billion different ways, and he’s one of the most generous people I know, so of course I did that. And that was three years ago! (laughs). Here I am. I guess I’m in the band, I never really got the phone call or anything. My equipment just never left the rehearsal room.
Dead Rhetoric: Force of Will is the latest album – including three new members in the band. Where do you see the major differences in this record compared to previous discography – and how do you believe the new members shape the output differently?
Alvarez: That’s like a two-part thing. Regardless of who was going to be in the band at the time of writing for this, the intention was already there. I had a lot of discussions with Bob. You can either just keep going with the same formula you are going with – which is working for the band and an integral part of the band’s identity – or you can push things. I come from a different background for this particular style of music. I think we could make something that is Power Theory on steroids, and still not sacrifice the core elements of what makes the band Power Theory. He was all about that, the next album has to blow Driven by Fear out of the water.
We didn’t consciously set out to make something faster, heavier, or more intricate – just with the goal of thinking things would fit or not fit on Driven by Fear. How it can be the ugly stepchild for that album. We let things naturally happen because of the writing, a lot of the songs have less formulas. There are two songs that are seven-minutes plus long, a lot more emphasis on the twin guitar attack. If you draw a Venn diagram, Bob and I have our own influences, but somewhere in the middle we have a lot in common. Bands like Priest, Maiden, Helloween, this really dynamic twin guitar attack. It’s neat when a listener hears us and can tell what parts are Bob and what parts are Carlos. He’s more of a blues-based kind of player and I’m more of a classical-based guitar player, or I like to pretend I am. We use that diversity in personal style to make our guitar parts stand apart from each other while trying to make it compliment the song itself.
Dead Rhetoric: I think that aspect is something a lot of dual guitar players in today’s bands don’t necessarily think about. If you listen back to those records, you could tell what was a Dave Murray part in comparison to Adrian Smith, or what Glenn Tipton was doing next to K.K. Downing – even though they listed it on the track liner notes. After a while, you could tell distinctly who was taking on what parts…
Alvarez: Everybody has a go to set of things that they do. Certain ways of phrasing things, licks, all that stuff. Even though you try to twist them up and try to present them in unique ways – so you aren’t doing the same Yngwie lick over and over again – you still after a while know somebody is going to be paying attention. This guy he’s not big on legato, but the other guy is. If I hear a long legato run on the guitar, I can pretty much tell which one it is. That’s what we shot for – because neither one of us is some kind of shredder or guitar hero or anything like that. We both have a very deep respect for the idea of what a guitar solo is supposed to be. In my mind a guitar solo is something that is supposed to compliment the music that is going over the top of it. It should never be beating the shit out of what is happening underneath. Bob feels the same way, so hopefully that comes across.
Dead Rhetoric: The track listing contains a mixture of straight forward anthems and epics like “Albion” and “The Hill I Die On” positioned perfectly as midway and closing efforts. How conscious is the band of pacing and proper dynamic placement for the running order of an album?
Alvarez: I slaved over that. That was my whole doing. We weren’t sure up until the last-minute what songs were going to be included, even though we had a pretty good idea of about 80% of them. I had multiple track listings worked out just in case we bumped one song and added another one. That was entirely intentional. If we were going to start with this, you have to move into that – bring a different type of energy, sometimes bring things down, and then back up.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the guest appearance with Piet from Iron Savior come about on “Spitting Fire”? Do you think there’s an upside and curiosity factor that takes places when name musicians appear on these types of releases that can bolster the profile and respect of another act?
Alvarez: The easier thing is… some people when they request or look into having a guest performer, a guitarist or singer, I think sometimes they are doing it from the perspective of if we get this guy or girl, they have a huge fanbase and that fanbase will check us out because of it. That is entirely the wrong way to look at it, because there is no guarantee of that happen. How it all happened – I have been friends with the bass player of a German band called Paragon, Jan Bunning for about 18 years. He is very good friends with the names of the Hamburg scene – Piet, Kai, and others. We had this song, and Bob and I are big Iron Savior fans. I bought the first Iron Savior album the day it came out because of the song that was on one of the Gamma Ray albums he contributed to. It definitely has this strong, Iron Savior/Paragon vibe to it. We were thinking of having a guest performer on that song in particular, regardless. We thought the nature of the song lyrically lent itself to having a dual between two different vocalists.
Paragon was wrapping up the recording of their last album, and Piet was doing the mixing and mastering. I asked Jan if I sent a message to Piet, would he be interested in this? He said yes, send him a message. It was pretty easy. Piet being the legendary professional that he is … we sent him the music and he sent us the performance back a couple of days later. Everything was done. And even better, I completely screwed up the files I sent him because I had to bounce the backing tracks from two different sessions. I sent him the guide vocals two measures too soon. He sang all his parts to these guide vocals, and it still sounded awesome. I botched up the files to one of my heroes – how can I tell him I need him to do this again? I finally sucked it up, sent him a message, this is what happened. He read the message but by the time I saw he read the message he had already sent me a whole new set of takes in the correct time. And that was it, and it was amazing.
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