Believer – Tech-ier Than Thou

Friday, 29th March 2013

sk any recently reformed band from the 90’s and the response will be the same: Where were you at the beginning? The legacy and legend of bands like At the Gates, Carcass, Autopsy, Atheist, etc., etc., grew to disproportionate levels after they broke up, leaving all of the above (except Autopsy) to re-form and give it another go. Add tech Christian thrashers Believer to the list.

Their Sanity Obscure and Dimensions albums were a vital cog in the early 90’s technical metal scene, running neck-and-neck with the likes of Cynic’s Focus, the three Atheist albums, and Pestilence’s robust output. Led by singer/guitarist Kurt Bachman’s vicious snarl, multi-faceted riffing, and memorable arrangements, Believer quickly gained the respect of the underground, who totally looked past their Christian faith. In fact, Believer are so unassuming with their faith, that even now it’s almost an afterthought.

The new year marks the return of the band (rounded out by drummer Joey Daub, keyboardist/programmer Jeff King, guitarist Kevin Leeman, and bassist/programmer Elton Nestler) and it’s a triumphant one with Gabriel. The album takes the band’s tech metal heritage and turns it into something more palatable than initially thought, with well-arranged cuts like “Medwton,” “Stoned,” “Redshift” and “Shut Out the Sun” displaying a band whose balance is clearly the result of unprecedented growth during their 15-year absence. A very laid-back Bachman gave Blistering the lo-down on all things Believer… We’re what, 15 or so years removed from Dimensions. How does it feel to be back?

Kurt Bachman: [laughs] It feels great. We were pretty excited after the first time we got together in 14 or 15 years and it was a good vibe. We didn’t know what was going to happen. We started jamming again, having fun and it clicked. And it snowballed from there. We weren’t planning to do another record, so it just happened. When did you start to get the “itch?”

Bachman: Joey has been involved in music for a while and has been in some projects and for me, I was at school pursuing my doctorate in Science, but the itch has always been there. I’ve kept up on the metal scene in general and I think doing something more serious several months after we started getting together made us realized we just wanted to have at it. Gabriel is on par with some of your past works in terms of the technicality of the arrangements and riffs. Were there any worries about coming back and not being able to pull this off?

Bachman: Not really. We came into this with no pressure whatsoever. We’re not trying to sell a lot of records and we’re not going to go out and tour for two years behind this. It’s really about passion. The pressure we put on ourselves is for the writing and recording process…everything. So it was a totally different process [than before]. We focused on having a full body all the way down the artwork. It was a lot of work. It was more out of passion and trying to top ourselves. We always want to do something different. We didn’t want to do a Dimensions or Sanity Pt II. A lot of people would have liked that, but for us, we always want to push ourselves and make good music. Your vocals remain pretty much intact and you still have that “sing/scream” snarl down. I guessed they aged well over time, right?

Bachman: [laughs] We were like, “Ok, it’s been awhile. It’s not like I sit around do that everyday.” But the one thing I noticed is that we were able to take our time with the vocals and really sit down and work on them. One thing I found vocally is that when I get older, I can do more. I can push it in different directions, which was pretty cool. The album is technical, but not really technical.

Bachman: I agree. The one thing is that we were in the mindset before is having the mentality that we wrote riffs that maybe you wouldn’t be able to play right away and would be hard to learn. For this one, I may write a riff and it may be simple, but it’s meant to fit the song and we didn’t worry if it’s not technical enough. We focused more on the songs in its entirety. We tried to mature in that aspect and we tried to stick with what we call a “Rush mentality.” You have three guys who could play circles around people, but they don’t. They focus on writing good tunes and use parts that fit the song. I’m not saying we can do the things Rush can do, but we did work within that framework and not worry about, “I hope guitar players out there don’t think we’re technical enough.” Something like “Stoned” and “Redshift” stick out for me.

Bachman: “Redshift” was an interesting one because it was the first song I wrote entirely on bass guitar with drums. Usually, I’ll be playing guitar, get together with Joey and write the song. With this one, we tried to something on bass so the guitar work would be complimentary and that was really exciting for us. We wanted to have a lot of weird electronic stuff and push the boundaries because we really love that stuff. I think it turned out really well. This has happened to a lot of bands after they break up, but were you surprised to learn how relevant and respected Believer has become?

Bachman: Dude, it’s unbelievably humbling, let me tell ya. We when announced we were writing again and touring, a lot of people from other bands came out and offered their support and yeah, it’s really weird. When we listen to these people tell us what an influence we are and they like our old records, it’s quite amazing and a shock. Even with the whole Myspace thing and all of these bands and fans writing us…we didn’t expect that at all. When the band was initially laid to rest in 1994, there were no fights or fall-outs or bickering. Do you think you ducked out too soon?

Bachman: At the time, it was right. It was the right thing to do; it’s where we were in our lives. I always had this interest in Science, so I wanted to do that and it was one of those things where if I didn’t do it now, I would never do it. Joey and everyone was cool with it. Even when we stopped, we stayed best friends – that aspect never left. Where we’re at right now and being able to do what we do right now, I have no regrets. Why do you think Believer has gotten a free pass for being a Christian metal band while so many others have been pummeled by the underground?

Bachman: The main thing is, yeah, we never wanted to be marketed as Christian metal. We never wanted that at all. We never really wanted to go out and have an agenda. We’re entertainers and musicians, it’s what we’re driven to do. Given that, our music, our ability to play, the influences we all had, I think that added to the mutual respect. I’ve been in touch with Kelly [Schaefer] from Atheist and they’re getting ready to do another album and they want to do shows with us and we’re totally stocked about that. Hopefully we can get some shows together with them. It’s very cool. Plus, the Christian metal scene has blossomed over the years.

Bachman: Yeah, but it’s weird because I don’t pay very much attention to it [laughs]. I’m aware of it, but I never paid much attention to it. I’ve heard it has been blowing up, but I got be honest, I’m not up on that stuff. Since you aren’t pursuing this full-time, what type of touring load will Believer be taking on this year?

Bachman: First, we want to see how the record does. We’ll see if people want to see us. We’ll do the Philadelphia area and go up and down the east coast. If a national act comes through, we’ll try to jump on the bill. If some festivals become available, sure, we’ll look at them.

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