Beneath the Massacre – A Long Awaited ReturnWednesday, 26th February 2020
It’s been eight years since Beneath the Massacre released Incongruous. There was never any notice from the band that they were going on a hiatus or quit – there was just an absence of new music. Some live shows here and there, but nothing fresh for fans to dig into. That changes this week, when the band releases Fearmonger. Utterly explosive in its frenetic and technical attack, it’s also balanced with some monstrous breakdowns and tempo changes. In short, it’s exactly what extreme metal fans have been waiting for from the act. We chatted with guitarist Chris Bradley about what the band has been doing since 2012, Fearmonger itself, as well as what he recalls about the early days of the act.
Dead Rhetoric: What have you guys been up to since 2012’s Incongruous?
Chris Bradley: We started trying to write the album in 2012 and then, with our lives, we put it on the backburner and procrastinated. At the time, our drummer had back issues. That also made it slower, but we always had the idea that we would finish the record. But man, the years go by so fast! I don’t know what’s going on – it’s mindboggling that it is 2020 already. But yeah, it was mostly our lives getting in the way and some heavy procrastination. Maybe we needed a break too – always being on the road and not having an album so close we didn’t feel the rush. I’d say about 3 years ago, Elliot [Desgagnés] asked if we were finishing it – we had all of these sketches and ideas on my computer and we said, “Yeah, let’s do it!” Fearmonger is the end result of that happening.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that the downtime helped you to get in a better creative space?
Bradley: Not really – while we weren’t doing anything I wasn’t playing a ton of guitar and practicing. It was more like, once we decided to finish it – I was lacking discipline. I would come home after work and would go to start working on the album and it was like, “Fuck.” I was having a hard time getting into the habit of working on the album. It was tough, so that’s why we decided for the first time to do the pre-production before and hire our good friend from Ion Dissonance, Tony, to handle all of those aspects.
I didn’t want everyone sending their tracks [to me] since it would slow down the writing process too much, so we sent the track to him and if they wanted to work on specific parts and do little switches, they could do that with him. That way I could continue writing more riffs and more songs. That took even longer than I anticipated because the tracks were so raw. When I write, I don’t pay attention to if it is clean, or this or that. In the spur of the moment, if I have an inspiration I write it down so I don’t forget it. Sometimes, it’s so unclear! So we decided to re-track everything in the pre-prod and it took so much time. I thought it was closer in my brain than it was – but some stuff was not there anymore so I had to really work on that.
It was tough to get into the groove, but after 4-5 songs it got better. After 8 songs, Tony didn’t have any more time as he was heading back to audio school. So the two last songs we mostly did alone. It was a weird process this time but it was cool. But yeah, having the time off didn’t help. If I was getting back into it now, with a brand new cd, I would be more disciplined and have more structure. The way we would work would be more organized from the start.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel you are back in that groove at this point?
Bradley: At this point, yes. But like I said, it took a lot of time to get into it. The thing is, our live set is on the click now and that’s actually helped me a lot in my playing. We never used to do that, so I never practiced on a click. It’s cool because I can try to practice parts slower, and then speed them up. I can get my muscle memory down better I find.
Dead Rhetoric: In that it is 8 years in the making, what can longtime fans expect from Fearmonger?
Bradley: We just tried to be intense, so intensity. What I find is that each song has sort of a vibe. It’s not like I would just go into harmonized thirds and that stuff like before. There’s a bit more character to each song than just harmonized thirds that go into a tapping riff to sound crazy. There’s more structure to it, but you have to listen to it. The first time you go through, it’s like you said – explosive. But with headphones, there’s more character to it I think.
Dead Rhetoric: I would agree with that – there’s a lot of intensity at the start, but as you keep listening to it, there’s more things you can dive into and explore on a deeper level.
Bradley: Yeah, once you assimilate to it. I think the pre-prod helped a lot with that too. We have to leave a place for vocals, and even the bass parts we try to write as the backbone. We don’t just want to throw everything at 100% crazy. We try to let it breathe. If I would write songs that were tappy from the start, I know our singer would not be good with that. So we try to create balance for each part, and create interesting riffs and not just wackiness all the time.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you talk a little bit about what the title of the album means, as well as your recent video for “Rise of the Fearmonger?”
Bradley: Elliot came up with that concept – I find that the video, there’s one interpretation of it being the media controlling us how they want. They can even invent both sides of the story and create the solution. The Hegalian Dialectic. But also the mindset of fear – they can use this fear to create solutions. But it’s also open to interpretation. The way Elliot writes is not just with one specific part – you can see it one way but also interpret it with other aspects. The title Fearmonger is more of a historical narrative of fear, and how the media and elite can control through that. But this is from the guitarist [laughs], not the singer who wrote it.
Dead Rhetoric: You were kind of going into this, but what do you feel is the trick behind making something technical without losing some of that accessibility to non-musician fans?
Bradley: We try to be intense, but if we are too intense we will lose some fans for sure. The writing, like I said, if the singer doesn’t feel he has any space I know it’s probably too much. Too much noodling and riffing. We don’t want to be just a guitar band, where it’s just guitar, guitar, guitar – even if it does have a big place within the band. That’s why we work on structures together, so that it fits all together for us. That’s what I felt really helped us this time. Our music back then was all really written with just tracks on my shitty computer before the studio.
We couldn’t listen back and see that we could cut back a few things or repeat a riff a second time. We use a lot of repetition, so that at least if the part is complex if it comes back another time your mind can recognize it and assimilate some of the intensity. If it’s just proggy from beginning to end, if there’s no hooks, it’s hard to follow – even for me. If some bands have no hooks, I lose interest after a minute or so if there’s nothing to hook onto. So we try to make some catchiness within the technicality. The structure part is important for us, like I’ve said already, coming from Elliot, who isn’t a guitarist.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s it like being in a band with your brother?
Bradley: It’s cool. What can I say – we are like best friends. We travel together, which is a cool part. If I had done all this without him, we wouldn’t spend so much time together. We get along super-well. It’s all just positive.
Dead Rhetoric: You guys, along with Despised Icon, more or less pioneered the early deathcore waters. What do you remember about those days in the band?
Bradley: I remember how things picked up after we launched our first EP, Evidence of Inequity. We got a lot of attention at this point, and a lot of people still talk to me about the first time they heard it. We got tours quickly, and some we would have maybe liked to have had more experience for. Our first touring experience in the US was like 75 days in a row. We started a tour with Animosity, The Faceless, and As Blood Runs Black. The tour finished on one side of the country, and then we were on the first Summer Slaughter ever so we had to drive back and do it all over again. That was intense for us. From not touring at all to two full-on tours in a row was crazy!
Dead Rhetoric: What still draws you towards heavy, aggressive music?
Bradley: I think I just like writing music like that for some reason. I pick up the guitar and it comes naturally to me. I don’t know why, or if it is due to me writing it for so long. The other type of music I like to write is punk rock. California-type punk rock, like Lagwagon. Bizzarely enough, but I don’t know why I write these two types. Perhaps it’s a performance thing – I like to challenge myself as a player. But my interest in music just comes naturally.
Dead Rhetoric: You have an upcoming tour and the album release. Anything else on your plates for 2020?
Bradley: There’s nothing else we can announce yet anyway. But we are hoping to promote this album as much as possible. We want to work on another video clip, but as far as touring goes I’m not sure right now. But we are open to touring for sure. We have arranged our lives so we are all available for it. I just want to go out and play.