Helion Prime: Yeah Science!Friday, 29th January 2016
Seeking out some new independent metal, from a tip on my Facebook feed courtesy of MindMaze guitarist Jeff Teets I learned about this Sacramento, California power metal quartet called Helion Prime. Deciding to tackle an interesting metal premise and real scientific theories, you can tell this isn’t going to be fluffy and light-hearted on either the lyrical or musical front. Bands like Iron Savior, early Queensrÿche, and of course the veterans like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden come to mind – guitar riffs that excite, vocal power that rises to the heavens, and an abundance of melody/harmony elements throughout.
Guitarist Jason Ashcraft would answer the bulk of these questions in lightning quick fashion (an hour after sending him the e-mail) – proving the seriousness of the band’s promotional endeavors to have Helion Prime be taken as a serious contender in a scene where differentiation is difficult to attain. Supplementary work would be done by vocalist Heather Michele – as we will learn more about the love of science, the numerous guest appearances and how they came to be for the record, and of course their thoughts on favorite sci-fi films and books given the unprecedented success of the latest Star Wars film.
Dead Rhetoric: Helion Prime formed originally as a project between Graveshadow vocalist Heather Michele and Dire Peril guitarist Jason Ashcraft. At what point did things expand into another full-fledged outfit – and what do you see as the major differences between all three acts?
Jason Ashcraft: I would say when Heather and I started to realize what we had was something bigger than just a side/studio project. We really loved what we were doing and wanted to see it grow in something more. We no longer consider Helion Prime a side project of any sorts it is entirely its own thing and a full time band. The major difference between Helion Prime and Graveshadow is one- the lyrical content, and musically there is a huge difference mainly that we are power metal and not symphonic metal. Helion Prime also steers away from my more gallop riff style that I do a lot with Dire Peril.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about arriving at your band name – which is an alien planet in the film The Chronicles of Riddick? As I understand it, multiple members are huge fans of the movie…
Ashcraft: I had the idea for the name Furyan which the band was originally called for a very short time. Heather and I are both huge fans of all the Riddick films and it grew from there. Eventually, though, I wasn’t completely sold on Furyan as the name for the band and felt if there was going to be a change it needed to be early on. Helion Prime felt like a better fit and title.
Dead Rhetoric: You base much of the lyrical content on real science theories with occasional sci-fi tribute twists. What topics/ concepts fascinate you most in the scientific realm, and does the band do as much research on the word front to get things as accurate and relevant as possible?
Ashcraft: Absolutely. Anytime Heather goes into writing lyrics for a song based on fact or fiction she does her homework and makes sure she’s as accurate as she can be. Space would be a big fascination for us in the realm of science and most of the songs on this album are based in that direction, but the beautiful thing about science is there is so much to talk about that I am excited to see what other directions we may take in the future. The way this idea came about is a couple things took place; 1) I didn’t want to have just Dire Peril 2.0 with a female singer and Dire Peril is obviously 100% sci-fi themed, 2) The idea of making our main focus based on real scientific events/facts seemed like something that would be really fun and rewarding.
Heather Michele: I think the thing that fascinates me the most about the scientific realm is how much we’ve learned within it yet how little we still know. Our universe is so inconceivably huge, and it’s just exciting for me to think of what more there is out there to discover and learn. I mean, we still don’t know everything there is to know about our own planet, let alone any of the other planets in our solar system, our own star, and the infinite amount of other mysteries out there. It gives me chills thinking about it!
When writing lyrics, I do my best to be as accurate as possible, but I also don’t pretend to be a know-it-all haha. Most of my information I’ve gotten from the internet, but I always try to check my sources against other sources. It’s difficult to be sure at times whether what I’ve researched is still a relevant theory, or if it’s since been disproven, etc., but to me, the lyrics don’t need to be perfect. That’s one of the beautiful things to me about science; how ever-changing it is. I just hope that what I write about can interest or inspire another person to research these incredible phenomena for themselves. I’d love for someone to catch any mistakes I may have made. That means people are paying attention! Yeah science!
Dead Rhetoric: The cover from Marc Whisnant of Brilliant Engine design is spectacular – appearing the meld hundreds of thousands of years of various life forms. Can you explain a little bit behind this work, was it a collaborative process and how important do you think imagery is to the overall impact of your style and sound?
Ashcraft: I think imagery is very important for all bands. This cover is phenomenal and we can’t be more happy with how it turned out. Basically I got in contact with Bo Bradshadow who runs Brilliant Engine through a mutual friend and told him of my ideas he then got his artist Marc to work on it. I told them we really wanted to capture that classic sci-fi feel from the 50s-60s and threw them a few examples. The very last thing I said to them once “if you can find a way to put a T-rex in there I won’t complain” and the end result is what you see. I am completely happy with their work and will continue to go to them for future Helion Prime art. Not to mention we got an awesome mascot out of it…Saibot!
Dead Rhetoric: The self-titled album contains a potent power metal sound with attention to strong guitar hooks, solid tempos, and Heather’s engaging multi-octave range and harmonization abilities that contain as many US influences as European to these ears. How did the songwriting and recording sessions go and how do you feel about the final product?
Ashcraft: Basically with songwriting I will write the music and come up with either a title or theme and hand it over to Heather. Heather will then create her own melodies and lyrics over my music. The recording sessions were a real eye opener for us, but in a good way. This is the first time we have ever tried to do something this big and with such high end production. We went with Carlos Alvarez of Dirty Viking Productions for the mixing of the album. He is an awesome guy to work with and I learned a lot during the process.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about some of the guest appearances with Dream Evil’s Niklas Isfeldt for “Live and Die on This Day” and MindMaze’s Jeff Teets who did a guest solo on “Into the Black Hole” among others?
Ashcraft: As it stands right now I am the only guitarist for Helion Prime. That is something we hope to eventually change but we don’t want to go with just anybody and are willing to take our time. For now our good friend Chad Anderson has been filling in live when he can and he’s been a huge help. So, basically when the time came to record the album I just asked a bunch of my friends I know through this Facebook group “US Power Metal Connection” if they would be interested in doing some solo work for the album. That’s how we ended up getting Jeff along with many other amazing guitarists like Josh Schwartz from A Sound of Thunder, Taylor Washington of Paladin, Steven Soderberg of Tangara, Matt Krais and Ryan Patane of ShadowStrike, Bryan Edwards of Soulmass, Brett Windnagle of Soulmass/ Lascaille’s Shroud, and Austin Bentley of Disphoria. I got in contact with Niklas myself through Facebook asking him if he’d have interest in working with us. He was a really nice guy to work with and very into it which made it a pleasure. He did a killer job and we can’t wait for people to hear it.
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