Dialith – An Altered Transformation

Thursday, 25th April 2024

Photo: Jason V. Mannello

Established as a force in the US symphonic power metal landscape, Dialith has carefully crafted a body of work that encompasses multiple influences inside (and outside) of the metal landscape. Their latest EP Alter probably contains their most ambitious array of songs to date – exploring aspects of Celtic and Middle Eastern textures while also incorporating Irish whistle, saxophone, and numerous orchestration accents. We reached out to vocalist Krista Sion to give us the scoop on this newest set of songs, video work with “Shadowdancer”, expectations going into the Mad with Power festival that they’ll perform at this summer, her own piano explorations that took place during the pandemic to add to the Dialith creative cause, AI / social media promotion talk, as well as what the future holds.

Dead Rhetoric: Alter is the latest EP for Dialith – the second part of a proposed trilogy of EP releases. Tell us about the development of this set of material – did you encounter any specific obstacles, challenges, or surprises during the process, and how do you feel about the final product now?

Krista Sion: The series of EPs we decided on because Extinction Six was a really ambitious album, especially for a band that has no label backing, financing it all ourselves. We decided we wanted to keep the quality of work, but just to make it more feasible we did a series of EPs that will culminate in one full album at the end. This particular EP (had) no surprises. At this point we’ve been in the studio for three previous releases, so we kind of know what to expect. This is our first time doing promotion for an EP, because with the last EP we decided to put all of our budget into internet ads. We are still deciding on if that was helpful or not, but this time we are doing promotion for it.

What I have noticed between promotion for an album and promotion for an EP, less people seem to be interested in an EP. It is a learning experience; we have been doing this for nine years so not too many surprises.

Dead Rhetoric: And do you enjoy the process of working in multiple studios for recording this material?

Sion: I have only ever recorded in one studio – we do the vocals in one place, Randy Pasquarella at Pasquarella Recordings. Cullen has recorded drums with a couple of different people – for Extinction Six it was with Dave Kaminsky, and for these two EPs it was with Dexter’s Lab in Connecticut. Mark and Alasdair record their tracks directly at home.

Dead Rhetoric: Was this material written around the same time as the last EP Atrophy, or did you develop it more recently?

Sion: In segments. That was another decision that we made; we all work regular jobs so to put all of our effort into writing one full album it’s a little much. But I think it works. What I have noticed and this was done a bit unconsciously, Atrophy is pretty purely heavy metal, it’s a symphonic power metal thing, that’s where we live, but Alter is very different than the songs that are on Atrophy. Alter takes a lot of inspiration from Celtic influences, Middle Eastern influences, there’s a saxophone solo in one song, even the name Alter it relates to transformation. The album cover for Atrophy is a wintry scene, staying in one place – a lot of it was written during COVID so I think a lot of people can relate to that. Alter, it’s a spring time scene, new beginnings, new life forming. I do really like the way things came out.

Dead Rhetoric: How did the special guest appearance with FoolishFrankie on saxophone come about for “Ironbound”?

Sion: Alasdair knew he wanted to do a saxophone solo. He had been listening to a lot of music with sax in it. He found FoolishFrankie on YouTube, he reached out and asked him if he wanted to do this. That was how that came about.

Dead Rhetoric: “Shadowdancer” is another standout track for which you shot a video. How did the video shoot go – and what prompted the unique drum solo spotlight from Cullen Mitchell, as that throws a unique twist on the normal ‘guitar / shred’ break yet keeps people very captivated along with the Middle Eastern elements to the song?

Sion: Yeah, “Shadowdancer” came about as wanting a departure from what we’ve been doing. We are always trying to test different things. The drum solo was all Alasdair’s idea, and Cullen did the solo, wrote it and played it. It came about as a way to test the boundaries. The video shoot was lovely. We shot it at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts center in Katonah, New York. It was owned by some wealthy musicians and artists, a couple, and they have their friends art in the place, turn of the century, 1900s. Now it’s a performing arts center, we reached out to them, and they were more than accommodating. They also showed us some other rooms and we did use a few of them in the video. There is one with blue wallpaper, so that was a different room. It’s really beautiful. We worked with Eric DiCarlo again, who did our video for “Ignite the Sky” and “Hair” our Lady Gaga cover. He’s really good. We really love the way it turned out.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the cover art for Alter – and how was the process working with Marta Sokolowska?

Sion: It’s Marta, she did both EPs and also did Extinction Six that cover. She’s a fantastic artist. We tell her the ideas that we have, and she just brings them to life.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ll be performing this summer at the Mad With Power Festival in Wisconsin. How do you feel about the lineup and the opportunity before you to play in front of an audience that has a curated interest in the more melodic styles of metal stateside?

Sion: I’m so excited. This is actually going to be the biggest show that we’ve ever played, so of course it’s exciting to play to that many people. The lineup looks great – Oceans of Slumber, and I’m excited to see a few other bands. It’s summer, it’s a nice festival, you get to meet people.

Dead Rhetoric: Have you been able to secure a bass player to fill in for Mark Grey – as I understand he won’t be able to play that show?

Sion: Mark will not be able to join us, unfortunately. We do have Dan Saillant, he plays in Perennial Quest, so he will be joining us on bass.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess the career arc of Dialith at this point? What are some specific future goals or benchmarks that you would like to hit / achieve over the next year or two?

Sion: Dialith, it has undergone a few changes. We really like to play shows, especially early on in our careers. We don’t do as many shows anymore, as we are really focused on recording, putting out stuff that people can watch and listen to. I think that will continue going forward. After this series of EPs, I’m not quite sure where the path is going to take us next. If it will be another album, if it will be another EP or a series of EPs. At this point we do not have any plans.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel you’ve handled coming out of this prolonged pandemic as musicians and people? Did you discover or develop any new insights about life that maybe you didn’t take into account before?

Sion: Yeah! As a musician, personally, I did during the pandemic find a lot of time to sit down at the piano and really learn, which was a goal of mine. I’ve only ever really been a singer, so I really wanted to help out with the writing part of it. I started taking piano lessons, which led into learning music theory. That was a big part of it. Mark and I wrote “Writhing Red”, that one was written during the pandemic. Personally, I don’t know if I learned something new about myself. Maybe I originally thought of myself as not a very social person, but maybe I should get out there more.

Dead Rhetoric: The development of AI has been a big topic as of late – especially with its impact on the entertainment industry. What are your thoughts on how this technology will affect the music industry?

Sion: AI, I think, of course it’s a big topic. As a musician, as a lyricist, as a writer, I think it takes something away when you just let a machine do the work, it takes something away from the purity of it. It seems a little bit lazy to me, to enter prompts into a computer and be like, I made this. You are using stolen artwork, stolen music. I don’t have a good view of AI, but in terms of where the industry will take it. I think the big labels that are just out to make money, they may crank out AI bands and albums in the hopes that they will make some money off of it, but I think there are enough artists and musicians like myself who feel that it takes something away from the artistic value of it. Artists and musicians are more prone to that kind of idea, anyway.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you think there are specific social media channels / platforms that have worked better than others in gaining more reach and improving the following for Dialith overall? What do you enjoy most about this type of engagement with the fans?

Sion: I don’t think there is a specific channel that I’ve found. I’ll be the first to admit that maybe Dialith isn’t the best at doing social media, but I haven’t really noticed if we’ve gained more fans through Instagram versus YouTube or Facebook. I do like interacting with fans on social media, but personally I find the need to make content all the time very exhausting and inauthentic as a musician. I don’t want to be an influencer; I have no desire. I just wanted to be a musician, and I find it very unfortunate that the industry is focused on cranking out content to keep relevant rather than focusing on the music.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you find that’s a tough balance as a band, the music part versus the business and promotion part of this industry?

Sion: Oh yeah. When you are putting in all of this work into having a quality product, like the EP or the albums, and there is the other side with the social media marketing making of a product – it’s a hard balance. Music marketing has been around for as long as music has been a business, but I also feel that something has definitely shifted over the past ten or fifteen years where the focus is less on the music itself and more on meaningless content.

Dead Rhetoric: What have you been enjoying for music as of late over the past few months when it comes to personal tastes? Is it a mix of metal and outside genre releases, and do you believe this helps you creatively when it comes to developing your own material for Dialith?

Sion: Recently, I don’t listen to too much outside of metal. I do really like Irish folk music – St. Patrick’s Day just passed, so I’ve been into that. I really love the Dublin University Choir. All of that Celtic influence took place for “Writhing Red”, so it definitely gets pulled in. Other than that, what I’ve been listening to mostly, the new single from Seven Spires, a lot of older stuff. I find myself going back to the older Nightwish albums, Theater of Tragedy, Tristania, all of those late 90s, early 2000’s releases.

Dead Rhetoric: What plans are in the works for Dialith – or any other special guest appearances / side projects – that people can look forward to over the next year or so?

Sion: We will work on the album we will release after the next EP – we are hoping for late 2025, early 2026 for that full album. Cullen has Cemetery Moon, which is a black metal band, but as far as Alasdair, Mark, and I we do not have any side projects. I did some guest vocals for Adamantis for their song “House Carpenter (The Daemon’s Lover)” on their 2022 EP release – we recorded that back in 2021. I did do vocals for a project on a song called “Shadowbound”, someone doing a solo project that reached out to me. That is on YouTube. If somebody wanted to reach out to me to do vocals, I would absolutely say yes.

Dialith official website

Dialith on Facebook

[fbcomments width="580"]