Sight of Emptiness – The Essence of Absolution

Wednesday, 15th January 2014

Rather than using it as an excuse, the melodic death metal gents in Sight of Emptiness have leveraged their Costa Rican locale into opportunities most bands on American and/or European soil would crave: Opening slots for Black Sabbath and Megadeth, guest appearances by the likes of Death/Deicide guitarist Ralph Santolla, Ugly Kid Joe vocalist Whitfield Crane, and former Megadeth/King Diamond guitarist Glen Drover, and most importantly, a presentation that for an unsigned band, is top-notch. It’s the classic case of a group willing to go above and beyond, a refreshing tale in the present day and age of get-signed-quick schemes thanks to convenience and trends. It makes Sight of Emptiness easy to back, but we wouldn’t be saying anything if the music wasn’t up to snuff. Their new album, Instincts, is of course, rather up to snuff.

“Since the very beginning we wrote down a list with goals and we set the bar really high,” begins drummer Rod Chaverri. “We challenge ourselves to be professional musicians and that means taking music lessons, investing in pro equipment, paying [for] rehearsal space, the best studio you can afford every time you have a new album, etc. For us and many other independent bands, [the] Internet is the biggest tool, but anyone can have an artist profile on Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, Myspace, a YouTube and Vimeo channel, etc, so the content you put out makes all the difference.

“Hiring professional video producers, photographers, front-of-house sound guy on all gigs, and the most important, a record producer does not come cheap,” he continues. “We are not rich, just regular working-class people trying to make ends meet. You can see and hear our previous material and witness the evolution we accomplish by re-investing all the money we get on gigs, record and merch sales, and none of that income goes to our pockets…neither is it used to buy drugs, booze or any trivial stuff.”

Aside from the obvious detail of Costa Rica being far from a metal hotbed, Chaverri said maintaining a steady lineup is just about as difficult as making it out of their home country. While the time-consuming nature of finding replacement members is always a brain-drain, the drummer believes the band’s current incarnation will stick.

“The six guys you hear on this album have been in the band for many years already and you can hear it in the final result. The other big obstacle is the pre conceptions and prejudice against a metal band with open minded attitude like us, you are either too heavy and underground for the mainstream media and fans, but as you start to get some notoriety outside the metal scene, include clean vocals and different type of instruments, you suddenly become a sellout for the underground so called true metal fans. We just keep true to ourselves and move forward, because we are not even half way on our musical journey.”

Instincts (the band’s third overall), sees noted Swedish producer Tomas “Plec” Johansson (Scar Symmetry, Slumber, etc.)  manning the board (“Plec took the songs to another level for sure,” enthuses Chaverri), as well as the aforementioned guest spots from Drover, Santolla, and the oddball in the bunch, Whitfield Crane. Crane, best known for his work with Ugly Kid Joe and their short-lived romp with commercial success in the early 90’s (see: “I Hate Everything About You”) lends his patented hum to “Essence,” the album’s leadoff track.

“Whit is Dave Ellefson’s close friend and the first time we opened for Megadeth, he was a guest and he checked us out from the side stage. He really liked the band, and that was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. He was so nice and down to earth that we kept in contact and we ended up playing a Dio tribute together and as luck would have it, he was in Costa Rica again when we were in the studio and later filming the video, taking a vacation for the Ugly Kid Joe reunion tour.”

Aside from the notable guest contributions, Instincts sees SOE cultivate a familiar, yet multi-faceted take on melodic death metal. As in, aside from the bevy of traditional cuts, the band went outside their comfort zone, going as far as to include some instrumentation from their home country’s Ministry of Culture. (Could one imagine a band like Lamb of God having Hilary Clinton lay down a bongo solo?)

You never stop learning and improving as a performer, but on this album we didn’t want a collection of songs, we wanted a well-rounded album, hence the search for a producer,” relays Chaverri. “We realized that our main goal from that point on is to look for our own sound and grow as songwriters more than anything. ‘Paradox’ is a good example, we did experiment with patterns and instruments in order to create our own sound and identity, we include ‘Tambito’ (traditional Costa Rican rhythm) at the end of the song, featuring Costa Rican Minister of Culture Manuel Obregón on the marimba & piano.”

At the present time, Sight of Emptiness remains unsigned, yet the band’s global reach continues to expand thanks to recent gigs in Iceland, Spain, Portugal and the UK including the Bloodstock Festival. Again, rather impressive stuff for a band without proper label backing, and as Chavarri wraps, he admits the band is in talks with several labels, but nothing concrete has been formalized. And ever the optimist, he points to some pretty strong cases for the odds being in the band’s favor.

“We understand that they need time to evaluate our band; there is no knowledge or precedents from our country. For a big metal label it must be like taking a chance on a Brazilian band many years ago, before Sepultura got signed, a French band before Gojira or a Greek band before Septic flesh. Since it took such a long time for all of them to be signed, we remain 100% positive and we let our music do the talking.”

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