Summoning the Lich – Fantasy & DeathSunday, 7th March 2021
With inspiration from a number of fantasy series behind them, Summoning the Lich take massive storytelling and world-building efforts and bring it into a throttling death metal experience. Adding to the dark fantasy setting is plenty of musical wizardry and melodic touches, providing a surprising degree of accessibility to an otherwise frenetic release. A mixture that is sure to set the underground ablaze as word gets out. We spoke with vocalist David Bruno about the story concepts in their debut full-length (and planned story trilogy), fantasy influences, and other topics like turning the story into a novel or card-based game.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the sound of Summoning the Lich?
David Bruno: I would say that we are death metal – we go for aggressive death metal. Technical sounds with more traditional composition and songwriting. We don’t try to put ourselves in too much of a sandbox outside of that. It’s kind of just death. Some people say that we have core elements. We don’t try to be core, but we also aren’t afraid to chug if that’s what the song needs.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you say about United in Chaos as your first full-length?
Bruno: It is 12 songs. It’s a culmination of about a year’s worth of writing. The story focuses on the Lich and his conquest of the kingdom of Rodor. We basically joined the band with it initially being a fantasy band and it progressed further into the concept realm. With this album, we are anchoring in a trilogy that will continue on with the next two albums – the tales of the Lich and his conquest of the planet. But this first album is our attempt to bring everything that we love about death metal into an album and make it something that we want to listen to. We kind of wanted to add another album to the many that we love. We weren’t trying to really focus much of a direction besides keeping it death metal and heavy.
Dead Rhetoric: This is the first chapter of a trilogy – how far are you with writing the overall story?
Bruno: The main story line is completely hashed out for the trilogy. There are little odds and ends that I’m still working on but the central storyline is actually written beyond the trilogy at this point. We are solidifying the other details while we are working on the second album.
Dead Rhetoric: Does it make it easier or harder to have a planned trilogy in terms of both lyrics and music?
Bruno: I think it makes it interesting. It’s hard because it kind of depends on how you view it. From a writing standpoint, I would say it’s the most difficult thing I’ve done. I’m trying to not just write a cohesive story that makes sense – one that is tangible and captivating, but also make it musical and have lyricism to it – have it rhyme and be catchy. You want those chorus hooks, at least we do, in these songs. So we walk the line on that.
In terms of the musical direction, we have all discussed the trajectory of the story line and we know what each album needs as far as a slight tonal difference from song to song. What we typically do is just write. We tend to not write with too much purpose. We write the songs and then I will assess the feel of the songs and apply it to the part of the story that I think it will fit best. That has what has worked for us so far and what we are continuing to do.
Dead Rhetoric: You are putting it into lyrics so it fits within a musical framework. Is it something you’d ever consider expanding upon, since you have the groundwork, and turning it into a book of some sort?
Bruno: That’s something I am definitely going after once the release cycle is over – right now we are handling the interview cycle and putting out our merch…we are in charge of our own merch store. So there’s a lot right now, but by mid-March or April I am going to get started and at the very least I am working on a digestible codex that will give accessible plot/story points and a few maps – things like that. I would love to do something like a novel or graphic novel in the future. Those things are more up in the air at this point. But the codex is something that I am actively pursuing this year.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you say are the biggest influences in writing the story for the band?
Bruno: I have a lot, being a nerd I have digested a lot of media. A key influence would be Lord of the Rings. I was probably like nine when it came out and that just completely blew me away. I had already started to read the books at that point, but seeing it on the screen completely changed my point of view on how epic something could actually be. Beyond that, Adventure Time or even playing games like Magic: The Gathering and just reading some of the card descriptions or reading some Dungeons & Dragons campaigns like The Sunless Citadel – that has some influence on the roots of some of the side story with a few characters. But I watch a lot of Adventure Time, as well as some anime too. Anything that is kind of nerdy, I try to explore and dabble in and draw some influence from.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s a lot of crossover between nerdy things and metal in general.
Bruno: Definitely. How serious can you take a genre that is mostly either horror or fantasy-based? It’s supposed to be fun and a release. It’s aggressive, but we thought it would blend really well.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you say about the artwork, and the purple and green color scheme?
Bruno: As far as the artwork goes, we don’t work exclusively in that we wouldn’t work with anyone else, but as far as our key art goes, all of that is done by Austin Phillips and he’s kind of like a 5th member and he really brings to life the imagery for us. We sat down with him and went over what we wanted – something that would capture the first opening of the album. What is depicted there is the Lich after the first song, once he has become the Lich. In the background is a character from the third song on the album, “The Gatekeeper.”
He nailed the art – all he asked was that if we minded if he stuck with a primary color with a clashing accent. We thought it was a cool idea, and we’d seen some other bands do it before, like The Black Dahlia Murder. They do that brilliantly. Austin came to us with the first draft and it was insane. So a lot of it was his deciphering the lyrics we gave him and the story and he brought it to life with his amazing imagination.
Dead Rhetoric: I saw your video that Travis Ryan of Cattle Decapitation did and some of the memes on your Facebook – do you like having a balance between the more serious material and injecting a bit of your own sense of humor too?
Bruno: I think there’s space for all kinds of things. There are bands that take themselves super seriously and you have ones that are essentially joke bands who have good music but everything about it is a joke. We take ourselves pretty seriously as far as the music is concerned, but this is death metal. At the end of the day, we don’t make enough money and we never will, to make it something that are aren’t having fun with or have a passion for. We are all pretty goofy dudes so we figure that instead of trying to put on a front, we may as well be our genuine selves and try to connect on that level with fans, while presenting the seriousness of our work to be contained within the work and the live performance.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s obviously a huge lyrical piece in the fantasy realm. Many tend to associate that more with a genre like power metal. Do you feel the death metal landscape is just as solid for crafting a story like this?
Bruno: I think it’s headed there for sure. Maybe if I was posed that question 10 years ago, my answer would have been a little different. There are definitely musicians that break the mold. Devin Townsend can create Ziltoid albums and everyone will devour them no matter what because they are amazing. But at the end of the day, I think that fantasy and nerd culture in general has penetrated every part of our society over the past 6 years. Game of Thrones I think was a big trigger for that, bringing in a bunch of new audiences.
I think that a lot of death metal people – I have seen more bands coming up that have fantastical elements. Fantasy has so many good story elements with a dark side that aren’t necessarily portrayed in other genres, like power metal. Not all the time, but much of power metal is bright and uplifting. We are trying to do the other side of that coin and tell darker tales within a fantasy setting. I feel like if bands can write about horror and gore, why not write about malevolent witches? It’s not too far off.
Dead Rhetoric: You also have booster pack cards you can buy too – in the idea of dreams and aspirations, would you like to create a game with characters as you move forward? Something like Magic: The Gathering or D&D?
Bruno: If we had unlimited access, I would love to do something like Magic: The Gathering. The D&D thing would probably, if I could get my hands on a couple of dungeonmasters and campaign creators to help me with the aspects of it I would struggle with like the functional aspects of the game versus story line, I think it would be a bit easier to produce just because of the scale. I looked into something like a trading card game and what it takes. The amount of different cards and variations you need in order to keep packs randomized was absolutely fiscally mindblowing. Maybe if we are at the level of like Meshuggah or something one day we could afford it [laughs]. But I think the D&D style table top campaign would definitely be possible.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any future goals for the band? Anything you’d like to achieve?
Bruno: It’s hard right now, because of the state of everything in the industry. We intend to tour once everything clears. We feel that a big part of our experience is the live performance. But on top of that, a real goal aside from finishing the second album, is to really hit hard with doing things like streaming – individual member streams, a recorded live performance with us in the chatbox and an aftershow where we do Q and A. Really trying to make that person to person connection that we can’t do with shows now.
I think that’s a key point of the whole metal experience. That comradery – something that many of us feel has been lost from our lives in the last year. We want to do everything we can do try to connect. At the end of the day, that’s a big part of the enjoyment for us. Meeting people and getting to experience different people’s stories and enjoyment…talking and shooting the shit.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel that has been a way that Summoning the Lich has been able to stand out, aside from the lyrical piece?
Bruno: I think our biggest goal – I don’t know if it has helped us stand out per say, but we chose to strive to have our composition be more traditional in a way that it allows for riffs and hooks to be prevalent. We kind of want to be that stepping stone for people into the more extreme scene. For people just getting into heavier stuff, we want to be the band that pushes you into death metal. If we can have those catchy choruses and have that tech death feel or extreme metal abrasiveness – or blackened elements here or there – we feel like it allows for a wider fanbase as well as give us a position in the marketplace to be that stepping stone band. It’s something that is always needed in extreme genres. Otherwise you have the same people forever and it eventually fades.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s nice to hear a band shooting for that. A lot of times a band doesn’t want that position and instead they just want to be the most extreme or what have you. I think it can set a band apart.
Bruno: We are all mid-20s to 30 now, and we have kind of gotten through that phase of being within a specific genre or something. We just want to write cool music that people, as well as ourselves, enjoy. This is what we enjoy. We love verse/chorus stuff and we love the extreme progressive/tech and death stuff. We wanted to merge the two, it just made sense to us.
Dead Rhetoric: We have spoken about some of this already, but outside of the album release, what are your plans for 2021?
Bruno: We will do a bunch of streaming soon, we will have playthroughs and at least one live performance. We will do a couple other things that I can’t discuss quite yet but some cool stuff. We are working on album two and making headway there. Other than that, I have the codex and the rest of the band will play it by ear and wait for the call for being safe to get on the road.