Now You Know: AversedSaturday, 17th December 2016
Location: Brighton/ Boston, MA
Style: Extreme melodic metal.
Personnel: Haydee Irizarry (vocals); Sungwoo Jeong (guitar/vocals); Alden Marchand (guitar); Martin Epstein (bass); Jeff Saltzman (drums)
Latest Release: Renewal, 2016 (self-released)
As impressive as the national and international metal circuit can be, many local scenes offer up worthy talent that rivals what’s on display in terms of professionalism, energy, creativity, and overall breathtaking performances. Boston-based Aversed is another five-piece that crosses multiple genres of extreme, classic, thrash, and power metal while developing their own take on the proceedings. Imagine a mixture of Arch Enemy, Trivium, Nevermore, In Flames, and Revocation and that will give you an idea of the diversity, stunning musicianship, and ability to move through smooth, clean melodic hooks one minute then go to extreme blasting proportions on the next measure.
After witnessing a couple of recent Aversed shows across Rhode Island and Connecticut, firing off a series of questions to the band was a must. Tackling the history of the band, their views on the scene locally, and some of the challenges gaining acceptance from certain families among the many topics covered is guitarist/ vocalist Sungwoo Jeong and guitarist Alden Marchand.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about the formative years of Aversed – and did you have an idea of where you wanted to take the band stylistically or were there natural growing pains due to abilities and lack of experience?
Sungwoo Jeong: We originally started as a band in high school playing Metallica/Children of Bodom covers formed by myself, Matthew Cheng, Martin Epstein and Erik Landskov in 2010. After we stopped being a cover band, we started writing our first song “Aversion” (the last track of the Renewal EP) and wrote and recorded our first demo in 2010. I envisioned that Aversed would always be an ‘extreme melodic metal’ band which to me weaves all subgenres of extreme metal (thrash/death/black/metalcore/etc) woven into one final product but at the time we were an all guttural vocal-oriented band. There weren’t any natural growing pains of any kind except I was never a great vocalist so performing dual guitars and vocals was never a task I mastered very well thus affecting the quality of the live shows.
Dead Rhetoric: You gained Haydee Irizarry as a vocalist in 2015 – how much of a game changer do you believe her dual clean/extreme vocals make for Aversed? I’ve heard that at first you may have been a bit resistant to her melodic abilities, but warmed up to the options and versatility it gives the material… at what point did you finally gain comfort?
Jeong: At first, Haydee’s abundance of clean vocals was beyond my comfort zone initially. Again, I envisioned Aversed would be primarily a guttural vocal-oriented band so when Haydee first introduced her melodic clean vocals, it almost came across as a shock but it took some time until I became very warmed up to it and learned to really love the change. It was when I heard the vocals under the context of recordings is when I started to have a change of heart.
Dead Rhetoric: Renewal is the latest Aversed EP, consisting of songs from 2010-2014. Tell us about the making of the recording, how you feel about the songwriting, and what significant changes took place or challenges regarding this effort?
Jeong: The initial songwriting took place in my bedroom, recording multiple drafts of low quality demos with me and Martin over those years. With the addition of Jeffrey and Haydee in early 2015, they contributed minimal change to these older songs with their own unique touch but the sanctity of the songs did not change. The recording was a tedious aspect because there were technical errors with the guitar tracking where a lot of songs would be very noticeably out of tune so we had to go through with deleting many tracks to re-record. Guitars and vocal tracking were the components that took the most amount of time because there would always be errors we’d be dissatisfied with so we just had to re-do them until we were happy. Hey, better safe than sorry. The entire recording cycle lasted from May 2015 until October 2016.
Dead Rhetoric: You shot a promotional video for the title track – can you give us details regarding this performance shoot, as well as how you feel the video medium works in the social media/ internet age in terms of band promotion?
Alden Marchand: We recorded the “Renewal” music video in Ashburnham, MA with our friend Casey McDonough of MCD Films. The video shoot took place on a freezing cold day in November, 2015. It was a very positive experience in a breathtakingly beautiful landscape. We met Casey at Sammy’s Patio during one of our shows and he expressed interest in collaborating. It was a very smooth process and we are happy with the end result. Casey was given almost complete creative freedom with the shoot and he did an excellent job! We feel that music videos work quite well for band promotion in this day and age, as they give people the ability to check out our music and performance with the click of a mouse.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Aversed’s philosophy and attitude when it comes to live shows? What have been some of your standout venues or specific shows/bands that you’ve played with?
Jeong: On behalf of myself, my philosophy of the attitude we should take is to put yourself in the headspace of a die-hard fan seeing you live. The energy and aggression that the fans in the pit exert must reflect that of the band on stage and vice-versa. To me, I’m a fan first, musician second and when I write music, I want to create music that I want to hear. When I play these songs live, it’s a catharsis of thoughts and sentiments I can’t convey in any other way and it’s such a raw and spiritual feeling.
My favorite venue to play is either Sammy’s Patio in Revere, MA or Mill City Ballroom in Lowell, MA. There’s a lot of room to move around and interact with different people in the crowd. There’s no shortage of incredible bands in our area but if I can name two, Seven Spires and Armageddon. They are slightly different from each other but their musicianship and consistency are unmatchable. It is always a pleasure playing with them.
Dead Rhetoric: How important do you consider friendships and chemistry when it comes to developing the band’s career? What skill sets do you think each member brings to the table to make Aversed special or different?
Marchand: We have all been good friends as long as each member has been in the band, although it’s safe to say that tensions rise and fall in any friendship. As far as chemistry is concerned, we are on an ongoing path toward attaining the highest level of synchronicity and emotion in our performances- it’s safe to say this applies to every band in existence. As far as skill sets go… Sungwoo has traditionally written much of the music, being one of the band’s founders. Martin has an excellent talent for arranging the songs and explaining them to anybody who has questions or concerns (resident music nerd). Haydee is a badass vocalist and has helped us diversify beyond our previous state. I contribute heavily toward the recording and production side of the band. Jeff has also changed the sound of Aversed quite strongly, and has added his own personal flair to our compositions, including restructuring existing songs. Though Sungwoo and Martin were primarily responsible for the writing and arrangement of our music for a long time, we have now come to a point where almost all of our new material is written collaboratively among all members.
Dead Rhetoric: Who are some of the bands that you aspire to achieve their level of respect or success due to their discography, philosophy, or musical ability?
Jeong: If I can list few bands I use as a reference for philosophy and musicality would be Dream Theater, Trivium, Arch Enemy, and Bullet For My Valentine. Of course, the musicianship and commitment are all very present but these bands change their direction for every album they put out. Some will love it, some will hate it but I admire this because the musicians are staying true to their own desires by doing this.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you ever worry about capturing a specific audience due to the various layers of melody, power, thrash, and extreme influences that appear in Aversed from song to song (or sometimes within the same song)?
Jeong: I have zero interest in appealing to a niche audience. Ideally, I would like our music to be relatable to anyone who appreciates heavy and aggressive music whether it be deathcore or thrash metal or whatever. If you listen to our song and feel liberated doing so, that is good enough for me!
Dead Rhetoric: Have you started work on the follow up to this EP, and if so how is it working on new material with Haydee and drummer Jeff Saltzman now fully entrenched in the group? Where can we expect the next release to take the listeners- and will diversity always be a constant?
Jeong: We have already started writing many new songs for the upcoming full length succeeding Renewal. The material is a far more versatile and dynamic mix than Renewal and I’d like to think we’ve begun to utilize more colors in our palette through the addition of Jeffrey and Haydee. The goal is to be near complete within a year of today. I would love for Aversed to eternally be a band where diversity is at a constant. Sometimes with a genre like extreme metal, it’s easy to run out of ideas and be creative but we want to defy that difficulty and keep writing songs we want to listen to.
Dead Rhetoric: How do your families feel about your musical endeavors?
Jeong: I know for a fact that for the rest of the band members’ parents and families are very supportive and proud of their musical achievements and aspirations but I can’t say I share that same luxury. My family has expressed strong aversion for this band and the music I listen to for as long as this band has been formed. Even though it is extremely stressful and burdensome to deal with this, I am not entirely bitter about this because I realize it’s a circumstantial matter. This is almost entirely a generational and cultural discrepancy between me and my family. For my parents to have grown up in a post-war/great depression era of South Korea where their parents had it far worse than them, their instilled values are extremely rigid and structured and I know that they grew up with their creative aspirations repressed and crushed. Instead of giving up or being angry about it, these feelings inspire the songs I write.
Dead Rhetoric: What albums/bands do you believe shaped your outlook on the metal genre? And what’s your favorite concert memories purely from a fan perspective (this can be metal or otherwise)?
Jeong: Bands to me that define what metal should be like a textbook are Arch Enemy, Death, Trivium, Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica. Their attitude, aggression, energy, and the desperation for catharsis is all there if you hear albums like Ascendancy (Trivium) or And Justice for All (Metallica). You hear these songs and it’s blatantly obvious that these guys have this brutally intense repressed longing to release their anger and frustration at their own world they live in. If listeners can listen to that and feel a close relationship and connection to these songs, there is nothing else that I can wish for listeners to feel with this band.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next 12 months shaping up for the band? Do the members of Aversed have outside side activities that they do in the metal or music world that you would like to share?
Jeong: Within the next 12 months, I hope we would be near finished with our full-length album. Jeffrey recently joined NH-based extreme metal band Solium Fatalis. They are an incredible band and I think Jeff is an extremely capable musician for their level of technicality. Haydee is in an epic theatrical metal ensemble called Queen Boudica and they had their first performance at RISD college a couple weeks ago. I recently joined a post hardcore/Emo band called Robinwood. Believe it or not, many songs off Renewal are actually heavily inspired by emo music and I grew up listening to that style so I didn’t hesitate when they asked me to join this band. Outside of the metal world, I would say we are all pretty versatile with our skills. Alden is really into cooking, Martin is a math genius madman, and I recently started ballroom dancing for my college so I would say we are all pretty open-minded individuals.