Aquila – Metal Is Metal

Thursday, 1st September 2022

It’s evident that there’s a bevy of talented bands hailing from Canada these days. Add Aquila to this list – active since 2006, these musicians pull together a sound that contains a mix of death, thrash, metalcore, and groove-oriented influences. Their latest EP The Great Fire gathers influences from the likes of In Flames, Lamb of God, Machine Head, or God Forbid on all fronts musically/vocally – containing hooks, twin-guitar action, and this heaviness, aggression, plus brutality that should make for pit crazy activities when airing these tracks live.

We recently caught up with vocalist Mark Arruda on Zoom, and he was happy to take us through his early musical memories to finally starting his own original band pursuits, a discussion of the Aquila discography, favorite live show memories within the band and as a fan of metal, plus talk of Slayer, Metallica, Lamb of God, Death, and future plans including work on the next full-length effort.

Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music growing up during childhood? At what point did you make the progression into heavier forms of music, and then have the desire to start singing or performing in bands?

Mark Arruda: Earlier I had a lot of family members that were into the hair metal, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, stuff like that. It wasn’t until the black album came out by Metallica, I heard “Enter Sandman” on the radio, and I wanted to find out who that band is. Metallica started my journey, you start going down their albums, find this awesome music and that this guy Dave Mustaine was a part of the band. Then you search Megadeth stuff, and that got the snowball rolling.

I live in a small town in Ontario. There wasn’t too many metalheads I guess in the nineties. Everything was, you had to go to the record store to find music. We had a small music store, very rarely you would find things like Sepultura – Roots, and that was on the shelf. I grabbed that right away. Once I started driving, I started going to Windsor, and then going to local shows, finding people that are into these styles of music. I bought Death – The Sound of Perseverance, for some reason when I bought that album, I wanted to be in a metal band. I bought a guitar, started learning, I don’t know what it is. It’s still one of my favorite albums, it hit me in a certain way that I wanted to start playing in a band, play music. I started playing in bands in the late 90’s, early 2000’s.

Dead Rhetoric: Aquila started in the mid-2000’s – what were those early years like as far as the demos and the Imperium album, did you feel like you were discovering your sound over each recording and release?

Arruda: It first started in 2006, I joined around 2007. We did a three-song demo, it was pretty raw. When I re-read some reviews on it, it had a little bit more of a black metal vibe to it. Then we did our second three-song demo in 2008, and we sent those out for reviews. We got more into the metalcore scene. When we did Imperium, we were all young guys. The other band members are eight years younger than I am, so they were into that metalcore style, influence that was going on. My influences were a little broader than theirs. We tried to incorporate some of the blast beat influences, and the metalcore aspect. Now that we are a lot older now – I’m 45 and the rest of the guys are 36-37, those early influences in the 80’s and 90’s are starting to show a little bit more in our music today.

Dead Rhetoric: What was it like working with Glenn Fricker from Spectre Sound Studios, who is well known for his YouTube channel these days?

Arruda: Glenn, I get that question a lot. A lot of people are scared of him for some reason, because of his demeanor on YouTube. He is nitpicky and very particular, but it’s all for a reason. You have to be prepared going into the studio, and us doing those demos with him, in those early years – he didn’t rip us, but if we couldn’t handle this, we couldn’t move on. You are in the studio, he wants the best product, he wants you prepared. He makes it as professional at that time as possible, and that’s what people need to understand he wants you to get in there and do your best. He took his time with the demos, with the album, he’s gotten better and better. Look where he is, he does a lot of stuff. He does know what he’s talking about. If you are prepared and ready to go in the studio, you will have a good time with him in there. We always enjoyed working with him. That first time, it was pretty intimidating.

Dead Rhetoric: Were there specific circumstances that took place for the seven-year break between recordings in 2013 and the Jewel of the Empire’s Crown EP in 2020?

Arruda: In 2014, I was getting ready to get married, life came in. Once our priorities change, so I left the band for that reason. They tried to continue things in 2015, the drummer Matt McGuire got engaged, we each took our own step back. We started our own families, our careers – we did as much as we could with what we had in the 2009-2011 period, we did as much work and shows in our career as we could. We did shows every weekend for a long time, and three Canadian tours that we booked on our own. Keep pounding the cement, keep going, we wanted to make regular money and start our own families. We had other goals in life.

In 2019 is when we started talking (again). I had my son in 2016 and McGuire had his kid. Things were a lot more relaxed, we just jammed together. Our bass player lives in Calgary, but we have a friend who plays bass with us live. And then the original guitar player lives in British Columbia, but we have Tony now, he joined the band last year, and Anthony Rimac, our other guitar player, they are best friends as they were in a high school band together.

Dead Rhetoric: The latest EP is The Great Fire. How do you feel the songwriting and recording sessions went for this set of material – what were you hoping to accomplish this time around that may differ or expand upon the previous discography?

Arruda: We wanted something that was going to be brutal I guess. We were going more towards a heavier direction then the last two EP’s or the Imperium album were about. We wanted something that would push us musically. And get into the influences that we are listening to now. We all listen to a lot heavier stuff. We wanted things to be more brutal, and still keep our Imperium sound. It’s not a big broad change in sound or genre. We just added for what we’ve already had and came up with something that we are proud and happy with what we’ve accomplished. I think we’ve grown as musicians and as artists. We came up with something pretty unique, we wanted our own sound but add these influences of heavier and brutal artists.

Dead Rhetoric: You love writing about ancient Roman events and themes, this time developing a concept around the Roman Emperor Nero. Where did your fascination with the Roman history begin, and what sources do you like to consume to paint the accurate portrayals you deliver in these lyrics?

Arruda: Matt and Anthony believed that this would be the theme of our lyrics. When I first joined, I thought lyrics were more about the way I felt or things that were happening in my life. That is what I used to write about before, so having a Roman theme like this, it was interesting material. I started to become more infatuated with this – someone like Nero, reading up on him and how I would feel. Instead of just giving facts, I would also take on this person and that event putting it into today’s world. Let me put myself in there, taking the certain emperor and his actions into account. I use the internet, reading through stuff, and go from there. Matt my drummer, he’ll give me a certain person and discuss the history of that person. He doesn’t like that I twist things – it’s a story. Artists do this all the time, they do it with movies, why can’t I do it with the lyrics? Mix it all up, it makes things fun for me.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the outlook and philosophy of Aquila when it comes to the band live versus what people hear and experience on record? And what have been some of your favorite or more memorable shows to date with the group?

Arruda: I think live people get to see the energy of the songs. I think when people see us live, they will see a pit going on. They may not get that listening to the songs on record, but there’s always this energy at our shows. One of the favorite shows, was the first time we played a show in Windsor. We ended up selling out the venue. Windsor has a very hardcore scene; they didn’t believe a metal band could sell out one of the venues there. Doing that, showing that we mean business, it made us very proud. Matt McGuire worked his ass off for that show, promoting it. We opened up for Cryptopsy a couple of times, and that’s always a good time. We played in Victoria, a weekend with Unleash the Archers. They were great hosts for us. They took care of us for the weekend, that was cool. The bonding with other bands and metalheads, there aren’t too many people like us.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s the local scene like in your part of Ontario, Canada when it comes to metal? Do you believe you gain proper support and appreciation not just from the venues and promoters but also other bands and fans? Are there specific styles that seem to go over better than others?

Arruda: In the beginning, when I went to Windsor, it was a very hardcore scene. There weren’t very many metal bands at the time. To play there, you had to get their respect, especially in the early 2000’s. Once we came around, other bands came around and started creating a metal scene. I don’t care where you come from, when I book shows, I will book any type of metal. Hardcore, death metal, thrash metal, grindcore, whatever it is. I just loved it. Metal is metal to me.

I think now, I’m not too involved with the metal scene in Windsor as I moved to Kitchener, and other band members live in Hamilton. They have a good scene in Hamilton. Here is Kitchener where I live, I went to a couple of shows, the kids here are very into it. There are a lot of young, awesome bands around here. There’s a band called Raider, Invicta, amazing bands, thrash and death metal bands out there. They are very talented.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges or obstacles facing the band in terms of making more of a foothold in the scene?

Arruda: Just for us now today, our time. Just trying to get together sometimes to jam, getting together can be the obstacle. We have work, family time, we need to sleep and rest and find time to jam together, write songs, etc. It would be good to jam more often if we could and play more shows out there, but families come first. We are doing this for fun, we are here to enjoy it. I want to go further and push further, but I have other responsibilities.

Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider three to five of the most important albums in the metal field that helped shape your outlook and appreciation for the genre? And what’s the best concert memory you have, purely from a fan/audience member view, and what made that so special to you?

Arruda: Let’s see. I have to throw Reign in Blood in there, Slayer. Death – Leprosy. And uh… Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power. Those three… there is the thrash album, the ultimate thrash album is Slayer, right? And then Death… it helped shape death metal. There are arguments to be made for sure, but Leprosy has what a lot of death metal bands have tried to copy, especially after it came out. Death is still influential for a lot of people. And I threw Pantera in there because of the whole groove metal movement, there is a groove now in their music – death, thrash, they throw groove in their style. You could also throw Metallica in there for albums with Master of Puppets, one of the greatest albums in metal, right? But that’s tough – Reign in Blood, or Master of Puppets? If you can’t have a pit going when hearing Reign in Blood, there’s something wrong with you.

When I got to go backstage at the Sounds of the Underground tour. I got to meet Randy from Lamb of God, I got to see their set at the side view, being so close to the band. Watching it all go with the crowd, it was so amazing. And the first time I saw Slayer at Harpo’s. I fought so hard to get to that first row, in my young twenties. That was the most insane crowd – Hatebreed was the band going on, and Chimaira as well. This is during the God Hates Us All tour. During Hatebreed there was a mosh pit going on the main floor, and the second level another pit going on. When Slayer came on, I fought to get as close as I could. I had to get a breather out of the pit. There were less people around me.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Aquila over the next year or so now that the release is out?

Arruda: We were talking Matt and I about this. We started going with EP’s, releasing two to four songs a year to release music that way. Keep us current. And with talking to him more and the rest of the guys over the last couple of weeks, we decided if we are serious about this, let’s do a full-length. Just do ten or eleven songs, even if takes three or four years to do it, so be it. We are considering this album that we are thinking about as our third. The two EPs from 2013 and 2020, that was supposed to be our second album. Now us coming back with this EP The Great Fire, let’s write something and see what people think.

We are going to play some shows, all the way to November. We will take the winter off to concentrate on writing some songs for the album. We want to go to East Windsor once, hopefully get on some festivals in 2023. Music-wise we will concentrate on writing and release a single at some point in 2023 just to keep people on their toes.

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