The Final Sleep – Thoughtful Death MetalSunday, 12th February 2017
With all of the bands available at the choosing of the listener, it’s always a pleasure to find an act that simply walk along the same path as everyone else. Far too often, imitation carries the bulk of the weight behind many an act and many are okay with following another’s lead. Not the case for the Troy, NY-based death metal group The Final Sleep. In a region that tends to go more for the brutal or core-ridden approach to death metal, The Final Sleep feel far more European in tone. A knack for melodies (utilizing a three guitar approach) leads the way into a sound that can be both heavy and uplifting all at once.
Having a presence in the local area for a number of years (with band members themselves a part of the scene for an even longer period through other bands), The Final Sleep just recently released their first album, entitled I. Showcasing the same level of finesse and energy the band puts into their live act, I should be found to be a treasure among more progressive death metal fans. Guitarist Mike Stack was able to give us the backstory behind both the band and the culminating release of I.
Dead Rhetoric: Where did the name The Final Sleep come from?
Mike Stack: Appropriately enough, a grave stone. We already had our first show booked, but we didn’t even have a name. I was in Oakwood Cemetery running with a friend, and he found a stone for a veteran. There was a statement on the stone that said something like “He fought his last battle, he sleeps his final sleep”. I read that, and I knew that was it… The Final Sleep. I just hoped that the rest of the band would like it, thankfully they did.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the band originally come together?
Stack: The Final Sleep actually came about after a band called Of Old disbanded. After Of Old, there was a bit of down time, but when it came time to put another band together I reached out to 4 of the 5 members from Of Old, and everyone was interested in starting something new. We needed a drummer though. After a couple of phone calls we were able to get Mike Wood involved. Now, the line-up was complete, with singer Justin O’Connor, bassist Joe Joyes, guitarists Mike Stack & Kevin Maloney and drummer Mike Wood. We played for quite some time with this line up. Eventually, we were without a singer, and even played some shows as an instrumental band. We were constantly looking for a singer though. We had written around a dozen songs since our first demo and were set to record 9 of them, when our bass player quit. Soon after, Jeff Andrews (Held Under, Ironweed, HUSH) joined as lead vocalist and 3rd guitarist.
During the course of recording we also enlisted Jason Van DerVoort (Burning Human) to play bass. While moving ahead with recording, our drummer decided to quit also. Thankfully for us Mike Van Dyne had recently quit Arsis, and was available. The line-up was complete again, with Jeff Andrews-vocals/guitar, Mike Van Dyne-Drums, Jason Van DerVoort-bass, Mike Stack-guitar, and Kevin Maloney-guitar. This all sounds very quick and painless on paper, but it actually took quite a long period of time for all of this to happen.
Dead Rhetoric: The Final Sleep has a unique sound – how would you describe the band?
Stack: I guess the simple answer would be Progressive, Technical, Melodic, Death Metal, but I don’t think that really covers everything we do musically either. I think this can be a difficult question for any member of any band. As songwriters you are so close to the songs you create, that you may not interpret them the way other people interpret them. In the end we just try to not limit ourselves to a specific genre or sub-genre of metal. I also think that a big part of our sound is the way we work with musical dynamics. We are always trying to find a good balance between melody and aggression, dark and light. This holds true with the instrumentation as well as the vocals.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s most important in crafting a sound that isn’t necessarily like what is going around at the moment?
Kevin Maloney: I think you have to be able to hear things that sound familiar to you, and admit they sound familiar. We’ve written riffs, and someone will immediately say “That sounds really similar to _____ band”. Some people don’t like to hear those types of criticisms, but to sound different you have to be able to acknowledge, and accept those facts. If you can’t do that, you will probably sound like another band. I’m not saying we are a totally unique sounding band, we have influences just like everyone else, and they definitely show up in our sound, but we just try our best to not sound like a copycat of our influences. We also pay absolutely no attention to the current trends in heavy music. We just write music that we like to play and listen to, and hopefully other people will enjoy it as well.
Dead Rhetoric: I was a long time in the making – how’d the release finally come together?
Stack: Once the current lineup was comfortable with the songs that ended up on I, Mike VanDyne went into the studio to re-record drum tracks. Keep in mind, this was 2 or 3 years after we originally tracked the drums with Mike Wood, and had most of the rhythm guitars finished. Mike was able to go into the studio, by himself, and track the 5 songs in one afternoon. But unfortunately due to time restraints, scheduling conflicts, family life and so on, the rest of the recording took a lot longer. We chipped away at it slowly, as time would let us, and eventually got it done. We were also very picky, and probably drove our friend/engineer Jason Bourdeau a bit nuts. We are our own worst critics, so it had to be perfect. Once everything was tracked we really dug into the songs for the mix. Again, it took while, but we wanted this to be the best recording possible. In the end, we are all very happy with the finished product.
Dead Rhetoric: How does it feel to finally get the release out there to the public?
Stack: It feels great. The whole time that this line-up has been together, we’ve been trying to get this CD finished, and out there to the masses. It feels incredibly satisfying to finally have something available to the public that really represents the way The Final Sleep sounds.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you go into some of the specifics behind the artwork of I?
Stack: Prior to Jason Van DerVoort playing bass for the band, he actually helped us come up with some artwork for shirt designs. He made a shirt that incorporated a crow, and from that point the crow has stuck with us. While other ideas were thrown around for cover art we decided that going back to the crow as a starting point, was something we could all agree on. It also helped to make a cohesive package, and close the “Crow” cycle of artwork. Once the concept was in place it was just a matter of putting the pieces together. The cover came together in the same way our songs come together. Someone initiates things and then everyone adds their thoughts to it. In the end we end up with something that we can all stand behind, because we each added something to it.
Dead Rhetoric: Being long-standing veterans of the Troy/Albany scene, how would you say it’s changed over the years?
Stack: It seems like there are more bands and shows than there was many years ago. Oversaturation has a poor effect on the scene. Too many shows, local bands play out too often, and it seems like bands come and go very quickly. I think it’s getting a bit better recently, but attendance of shows around Albany is definitely not like it used to be years ago.
Dead Rhetoric: What goals or aspirations do you have for the band, moving forward?
Stack: First and foremost, we just want to keep writing new music, recording music, and playing as many shows as possible. We want get our music out to as many people as possible. Now that we have a CD, we hope it will be a bit easier to book shows outside of the Albany area. We also have 7 or 8 songs written for the next CD, and hope to release it much quicker than this one.
Dead Rhetoric: How crucial have outlets like Reverbnation and Bandcamp been in terms of getting the word out about the band?
Stack: I feel like these types of sites definitely help unsigned underground bands. It’s still very hard to get yourself noticed, but they definitely do help. It’s nice that a site like Bandcamp, Spotify or Reverbnation allows you to check out bands from all over the globe, it gives bands a chance at reaching some people that may not have heard of them otherwise. The fact that Bandcamp allows you to offer your music for free, donations or a set price is nice too. It gives people the ability to support a band even if they download the music for free, because you can sell other merchandise on the page as well.
Dead Rhetoric: You have a CD release party coming up in March. What are your thoughts on the decline of physical sales over time?
Stack: It’s quite sad that music has become so disposable. At the same time I can understand why it happened. It seems that the industry couldn’t keep up with technology. I worked for a mom and pop record store when file sharing began, and record labels were releasing CD’s that had million dollar recording budgets and $20 retail price tags. How could that compete with free? You would think that the industry would have worked on something to make purchasing music more affordable and therefore favorable. Instead that didn’t happen and here we are. At this point, it really comes down to the individual that wants the music, because they have the upper hand now. If they don’t want to pay for the music, they don’t have to, but hopefully they will still support bands they really enjoy.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the challenges for an unsigned band?
Stack: I would think the biggest challenge is getting noticed. With so much music so readily available and it being so easy to get your band out on sites like YouTube, Bandcamp and Reverbnation, it really can muddy the waters. This is one problem I see with those websites, people can just post anything and everything they do musically or otherwise.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next up for The Final Sleep?
Stack: We plan on sharing our newest release I with as many people as possible, and play as may shows as possible. We already have 7-8 new songs that are ready to be recorded, and we can’t wait to write even more. We just want to stay creative, keep moving forward, and making sure we all have fun while doing this.