FeaturesMythologik – Wading in Purgatorium

Mythologik – Wading in Purgatorium

Professing a love for thrash and melodic death metal, Texas-based duo Mythologik aim to establish themselves through their affinity for all facets of both subgenres in their songwriting. Strong melodic vocals over the top of a diverse selection of riffs, tempos, and hooks allows the band to encompass a wide array of influences across the globe. Their latest album Blood in the Sky stands up well next to a lot of their influences – combining a sense of purity with catchy, crunchy passages that are equally dark as they are heavy. We caught up with vocalist Joe Gregory and multi-instrumentalist Bryan Eckermann to learn more about how the two members got into heavy music, the process behind the latest album, their love of Paradise Lost the book and how it influenced the lyrical themes, if the band will play live or remain a studio project, favorite bands / concerts, and future plans.

Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about your earliest memories surrounding music in childhood? At what point did you discover heavier forms of music – and eventually pick up an instrument to start performing in your own bands?

Bryan Eckermann: I started getting into music, and especially heavier music, during high school: Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth. I was a generation behind when that stuff originally came out, but I always liked the old school stuff – Judas Priest. I wanted to start playing guitar around 1997-98, learned a bunch of Metallica songs, then navigated onto Megadeth, the harder stuff. Learned somehow from some tab books, but I wanted to get straight into writing my own music. Honestly, I wasn’t very good at guitar before I just started trying to write my own songs. It was a growing process of writing and learning at the same time.

Joe Gregory: My musical influences started in the 70s – I liked a lot of southern rock bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd was huge, then Aerosmith. I started picking up a guitar in 1980, when I started learning Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, I heard that, and it was a big shift in my musical tastes. Of course, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer in the early 80s, just like Bryan, Dark Angel. All of these bands are huge influences on us. I used to play rhythm guitar in another band, and the other guitarist’s technical expertise went up, and mine stayed the same. I wanted to switch instruments, and we always had trouble finding singers. I’ll give it a try, and I was able to scream and hit the high falsettos, so I knew what I was doing. I’ve been singing ever since.

Dead Rhetoric: Discuss the genesis of Mythologik – where did you want this band and style to differ from other acts you’ve developed?

Eckermann: Mythologik kind of accidentally came about. Joe messaged me on Facebook, and we had been friends on there for a while. I heard his band; he had heard my stuff. He sent me a message wanting to do some guest vocals, if I had anything that I needed guest vocals on he was more than willing. I was like hell yeah, and it just so happens at that time I was kind of really in a burnt-out phase, but I had a whole ton of songs sitting around. All the music was done, but no vocals, I didn’t have the will to do vocals and turn it into my solo stuff. When Joe asked about that, I sent him a song, just do what you want to it. I didn’t really have any expectations of what he might do. I had heard him sing before, he sent it back in two days I think, and I was blown away. I sat down to mix it with the tracks he gave me in its final form, I thought it was great. Why don’t we just start a new band? He was all for it as well. I sent him song after song, he would knock them out.

By the time we had four songs, we decided to put those out for the EP for last year; to get the name out there once we decided on a name. Get some footing in the scene before we went in big. We never stopped writing from the EP to the album, but the album does contain some songs that were written on the spot as compared to previously being written. It’s like half and half on the album.

Dead Rhetoric: Blood in the Sky is the latest album from Mythologik. What can you tell us about the development of this set of material – and where do you see the evolution or development from your self-titled EP of last year?

Gregory: The ongoing theme if you take on Blood in the Sky it’s based on the Paradise Lost story. That’s the emphasis of it. As far as the stylistic changes, from the EP like Bryan said he had a lot of songs ready to go that he just hadn’t finished and put vocals on them. When it got to the album there were some (songs) that literally he would shoot over ideas and complete songs that were quick. He just kept going, we wrote thirteen songs in a matter of a few months. The album is kind of a mix, we really want to push the boundaries on a lot of stuff vocal-wise too. On the track “Fallen Empire” I use a real clean, almost soft voice on it at the beginning and at the end of the track. That’s what I love about working with Bryan, we are both so open-minded about shifting things. We bounce ideas off each other daily. It’s been extremely fun working and doing this project.

Dead Rhetoric: Is it a challenge for you Bryan to handle all the instrumentation, the production work, and the cover art?

Eckermann: It’s always a challenge, but I’m used to it. I do my solo albums; I add the vocals myself on those. I am used to lots of weight being on my shoulders, and I have a nice, streamlined process where I’m always kind of working on something every day. Whether I get burnt out on the music, I’ll work on the artwork, or work on videos. My brain is always active and I’m thinking about what I need to do next, then I get those breaks from writing music when I am doing artwork, then I come back revitalized with new riff ideas. I built an easy set up to record into, when I write it’s a streamlined flow, there are no obstacles in my way.

Dead Rhetoric: Were there any specific songs that took on a great transformation from the initial demo/idea generation to final outcome?

Eckermann: I think Joe would agree with me on this, I think “Fallen Empire” is the one that stands out as being the most different but also being extremely bad ass in its own way. I had that one written from a while back, 2019 maybe I wrote that song. It was special to me; I was holding on to it – I kept saving that song. I was intimidated to write lyrics to it, I was afraid I was going to mess it up because the music was so perfect. When I sent it to (Joe), I told him don’t be mad if I don’t like what you do necessarily, I gave him a shot at it. When he sent it back to me after I was mixing it, I loved it. It was totally not what I was expecting, and it was totally what the song needed. I think it’s going to be a real standout track for people – even though we didn’t put it out as a single because it’s eight minutes long. It’s one of those hidden gems that hopefully everybody gets to.

Dead Rhetoric: What sort of topics or subjects do you like to tackle on the lyrical front for Mythologik? Do you see the lyrics as important as the musical component to have something strong to say and convey to the listeners?

Gregory: Yes, from my viewpoint because on the side I also write books. I’m used to writing a lot. When it comes to the lyrics, in my mind it had to do justice with Bryan’s music. Because with “Fallen Empire”, that song I was so floored by what it was. I have a lot of themes floating through my head, especially with the lyrics. Paradise Lost, I liked the theme of that book. When you are raised Roman Catholic, everything is no, no, no, life should be pain, and you are guilty of everything. It’s nice to read something that’s from Lucifer’s point of view. If you read the Biblical side of things, and then you read this, you get a broader picture. It’s nice to keep an open mind.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges facing Mythologik in establishing a stronger presence and foothold in the scene with your work?

Eckermann: When we started off, the idea to do the EP first was to get the foothold in with some listeners before presenting a full product. We had limited expectations on what that might achieve, because we had no followers when we put out the first song. We made our Facebook and Instagram accounts starting from nothing, and hey here is a song. We got pretty good response from the EP. I’ve used Clawhammer PR for my last solo album and Scars of the Flesh record, and they did things very well. I hit them up about this EP, and they really helped us get a footing. With the full album, I feel like we can only go up from here. A lot of the comments on the EP were like, we can’t wait to hear what this band will do with a full-length. We want bigger things to come when the album comes out – Joe had mentioned the possibility of doing some festival appearances or something. We don’t have a full band; I have friends and bandmates that I may be able to call upon if it’s time. We want to make sure it’s something big, because it would be quite an endeavor to get this music down live, but not impossible.

Dead Rhetoric: Will Mythologik remain more of a studio project or are you hoping to assemble a band and play shows with this outfit? Do you have a preference for the studio versus the stage – or do you enjoy both aspects for their own unique reasons?

Eckermann: I have a little bit of mixed feelings on playing live shows. I’ve done it for twenty years, and there’s been great (gigs) and there have been terrible ones. I don’t know how much I love it now compared to what I used to. That’s why it would need to be a good offer for Mythologik to put that daunting effort to teach other people what to do. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I really enjoy writing and doing the studio stuff. Regardless of whether we play live or not, Mythologik will continue to write and grow even if it’s just a two-man project.

Gregory: I love to experiment in the studio, but I love the feeling of playing live too. When you have a great audience, you can get a great energy boost from them. The interaction of the fans with your music it’s very satisfying. An addictive feeling.

Dead Rhetoric: What three bands do you believe have had the greatest influence on your outlook of the heavy metal genre – and what’s the best live show you’ve witnessed purely as a fan in the audience, plus what made that show so special to you?

Eckermann: My favorite band is Hypocrisy from Sweden. I love them for countless reasons. They have every type of song you could possibly imagine – vocals, high screams, slow, fast, doomy. They have it all for me. King Diamond was huge on my inspiration list. His story telling, bringing the music to life visually, even if you are just listening to it, you can picture in your head what’s going on. Another one would be Death – I’m a big Chuck S. fan, you can hear it in my riffs. As far as live concerts, that’s a tough one. I’d have to say seeing Mercyful Fate in 1999 on their last tour before they disbanded, the 9 tour. Derek and I went to that show, my buddy, we didn’t know the opening bands and Nevermore was one of the openers. They just blew us away, Jeff Loomis started riffing, Warrel Dane came in on the vocals. That was a standout show.

Gregory: Slayer is a big one. Early Metallica, of course. And a little band out of Austin called Watchtower – one of my all-time favorite bands. Some of the best shows I’ve ever seen were in the local Austin, San Antonio area. Seeing Watchtower back in the 80s, they put on some amazing shows. They did a reunion show earlier this year in Austin, and they were fantastic. Didn’t miss a step. The best non-metal show I ever saw was Nine Inch Nails, on The Downward Spiral tour. Absolutely stunning.

Dead Rhetoric: What sort of hobbies or interests do you have outside of music when you have the free time and energy to pursue them?

Eckermann: I have an addiction to buying metal band patches and making battle vests. If I ever do find any other free time, I like to crochet blankets. Very odd, but those are the two side things I can do when I find some free time.

Gregory: Mine is I write books on the side. Currently working on my eighth book. It’s all fiction, three are young adult and the other four are adult themes. More sci-fi, fantasy and it’s a lot of fun.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for anything related to Mythologik or any other bands/projects in the next twelve months or so?

Eckermann: For me we are going to push this album really hard, promote as best as we can. We have two more videos coming out. We started jamming, Scars of the Flesh again. We just added a new bass player, and we are looking to book some shows and started writing for our next album. Although our process is a little bit slower, I can’t say for sure how long that might take. My next solo album is musically done, just missing vocals. That’s on my to do list once I get some down time after this album push has died down a bit, I will work on my vocals. Probably throw Joe some songs too to work on the next Mythologik album.

Gregory: We will make a good push on this album. Try to keep my vocals up to par. We may play live, that would be fantastic. Just go from there.

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