Beyond Fallen – The Power of ContinuitySaturday, 22nd October 2016
Many musicians possess a natural calling to channel their affinity for a particular set of bands into their own creative outlet – regardless of what’s in fashion. Pennsylvania’s Beyond Fallen started in 2003 as a group who wanted to develop a classic, power metal sound and throw in some heavier/thrash-oriented elements, professing an obvious love for veteran benchmark acts like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iced Earth, and Iron Maiden among others. Establishing themselves worldwide through a series of full-lengths and EP’s (even gaining an overseas record deal for their second album Mindfire), they’ve also been fortunate to spread their sound on stages beyond their local stomping ground and into festival action across the Mid-West USA and Europe.
The latest Beyond Fallen record As the Spires Fall showcases a veteran quintet razor sharp in songwriting, performance, and production aspects- leaving everything out there for the audience to treasure. From the triumphant opening intro “The Arrival” to the closing, thrash-oriented double bass and crunchy rhythms for the closer “Hatecrown”, this is ideal for those metal heads that miss a lot of versatility in a US metal band. The live energy of these tracks and more floored me on a recent weekend trip they made up to Connecticut, so a follow-up interview with vocalist Joe Karavis via phone took place recently. We delve into the 13 year-plus discography, including show highlights – while also pondering his views on the live scene, his own festival organizing for NE Metal Meltdown, and a lot of memories regarding Sabbath, Maiden, and Priest.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music? How did your passion for heavy metal begin and eventually push you into becoming a vocalist?
Joe Karavis: When I was really young, I was growing up on some of the stuff my parents listened to- actually one of the singers was Ian Gillan from Deep Purple, Freddie Mercury of Queen, all the classic stuff. Great singers of the 60’s and 70’s. When I got a little bit older some of my friends played guitar and drums, and there was nobody to sing. Even though I wasn’t a singer, I just picked up the mic because no one else was doing it. As a result, I eventually got into playing in bands.
Dead Rhetoric: Beyond Fallen began in 2003 – how did the original lineup develop and did you know right away the style that you wanted to achieve, or do you think you need some time to gel and evolve?
Karavis: I didn’t have a band at that time and I was looking to do something. Maybe a project and get some guys together- and it was actually (guitarist) Steve (Jasuilewicz) who got ahold of me, and I had never met him before but he knew who I was from some other bands I was in before. He told me to come down and check them out- I don’t think they even had a name for the band or anything at the time. They hadn’t even played out yet, but they were doing a whole bunch of classic metal covers- Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, obviously because of Steve they were doing some Iced Earth- they were covering some obscure material, a lot of stuff that people wouldn’t normally play in a cover band. I had already done original stuff before then but everyone else in this band were pretty new, they were feeling their way. We banged out a bunch of covers and basically getting a feel for each other. Once we saw that it worked out, I knew that I wanted to do originals and we started writing more and more. Maiden, Priest, and Iced Earth obviously were influences to our sound. The whole band was intact already when I came around- I came up with the band name, we started to go from there. Steve as far as the music goes became the main songwriter, and I wrote the lyrics.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about the self-titled EP and debut full-length Lost in the Shadows – how do you feel about these releases now a decade plus into the band, and how was the fan acceptance/ critical response?
Karavis: Obviously I had been in the studio before we did those recordings, but the other guys, I think it was their first times ever in a recording studio. This was totally new to them when we did the first EP, or demo as we called it. It’s funny, one of those songs we still play out a lot to this day – even though we have 30 other songs. Some of the stuff is pretty good, yeah it’s pretty raw, and we have changed two of the members since then. We were just talking about one of those songs the other day “The Traveler” and how we’ve always liked that song, Steve and I talked about possibly re-working it for the live show at some point if we ever get time. Lost in the Shadows– I’m really proud of that too, even some of the bumps on that album. As a whole I’m really proud of it to this day, and we still play a lot of songs off that live. I love what we did- it’s stood up pretty well over time. Time goes so fast- we put that out over a decade ago. Sometimes you look back on stuff and you kind of cringe or want to hide it away- we are still into it because those are really good songs and they stood up pretty well, playing them live people that are into metal are into them. The production is a little bit raw, but I kind of like it. I wouldn’t go back in and re-record it, because that’s where we were at during that time.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you gain interest in Dutch label Melissa Records who would put out the second album Mindfire in 2007?
Karavis: (The owner) had started a small label with a couple of bands and we were one of the bands that he wanted to put on. Because Lost in the Shadows was getting a little bit of label interest in Europe with some people, some people were talking about us. A lot of these people, they know each other from going to all these European metal festivals together. It was one of those things, he came along and we decided to do something with him. We had already booked the Headbangers Open Air festival show in Germany, so it all came together really well. Unfortunately we didn’t have anything written- we were just playing around and had a lot of gigs. He asked us to do an album for him in a couple of months, so it was a lot of work. We really had to be a factory cranking the songs out but I think Mindfire came out really good.
Dead Rhetoric: You were able to play Headbangers Open Air in Germany in support of this record – can you tell us about the festival, how you feel about your performance, and what makes European metal audiences so different from what you experience in your local area or across the United States?
Karavis: The festival was great. It’s a pretty good size festival- it’s not as big as Wacken, but it’s a great festival. We met a lot of bands and a lot of people over there. We got to see a lot of people that we’ve gotten to know over the internet, face to face so that was really cool. We went on towards the end of the day on Friday, I’m thinking around 5 pm and everyone was already cranked up by then. We get on stage and everything went great- the crowd was into us and there were some people singing along to some of our songs, which was mind-blowing. It might be one of our best gigs we ever played, hanging out and being there, being a part of it. Just to go from PA on a plane to another country to play a gig is a dream come true. It’s something that we hope we can go back again and do, now that we have this new album.
The European fans are pretty passionate about their metal. The people there are really into it – we have a lot of passionate fans in the United States as well, but they are very spread around. I think whatever the reason is they are very passionate over there, they just went crazy for it.
Dead Rhetoric: In a recent conversation at one of your live shows, you mention the Machines of Corruption EP release in 2013 as not being a ‘fun’ time for Beyond Fallen. Can you take us through what happened and why there was such a long gap from Mindfire to this release?
Karavis: There was a lot of stuff that came together and happened all at once. We had some members that had some health problems, we had some members that had family issues, financial issues- split-ups and divorces, a whole bunch of things. So we spent a lot of time writing material, we just didn’t get it recorded. Then two members left for health reasons- they were having some trouble. We circled back around, got things going again and got it back around to get back out there playing and get those recordings done. It was a struggle, from when we got back from Germany until we got that release out, we lost our practice room and a whole bunch of things happening. We did pull it together enough to do it- it wasn’t meant to be permanent. We were able to put that out, and I think there are great songs on there- but it reminds us of handling a lot of bumps. This wasn’t as smooth as the new album went.
Dead Rhetoric: The new album As the Spires Fall is another outstanding release – with probably your best songwriting and production values to date. Take us into the recording and songwriting sessions for this – what challenges or surprises came up to make this the definitive Beyond Fallen full-length?
Karavis: We started working on the material and Steve was hell bent on making sure there wasn’t one riff or one note that wasn’t going to be something he was totally into. We started putting the riffs together, and for the first time we did a lot of pre-production for this record. We all had studios to work on the files at home- I have a little vocal booth in my house that I set up, everyone had a little something to get ideas down on and get into the computer. There was winter, snow, cold- but we were working from home and everybody was contributing in putting things together. We would pass the ideas and build things little by little, all this pre-production stuff until we were happy with things. We really prepared, there wasn’t really any surprises when we got into the studio- besides the high end production value you get in a recording studio. All we had to do was execute the ideas in the recording studio- so I don’t think there were any challenges. I got into a car accident and I got banged up a little bit in the middle of the recording sessions. We stretched things out over a period of time, kept tweaking it until we were satisfied. We put the most time and the most effort into this of any of our recordings, we went over things like a fine tooth comb. The songwriting is better.
Dead Rhetoric: Has it always been important to have diversity for Beyond Fallen in terms of the songwriting- heavier stuff, mid-tempo offerings, as well as a ballad on the new record?
Karavis: Yes. Like all of our CD’s have, we have a formula to it. We want a song like this, something slow, something fast, something thrashy. When Steve is coming up with these riffs, he thinks a lot about that, we don’t want to repeat ourselves. We really paid a lot of attention to it being… not a concept album, but something that you can listen to and feel like you are on a journey from the first song to the last as opposed to being a bunch of songs thrown together. We thought about the order of the songs, we paid close attention to that. Steve came up with material where the next song would be totally different than the one that came before it.
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