Order of the Dead – Wielding the CurseWednesday, 7th October 2015
Seeking new talent as much as following the veteran artists has been imperative for this journalist since getting into the metal scene during the 1980’s. Fortunate to have a number of live venue options from week to week within a couple hour circle of New England, there are times when an out of state band will get an opportunity to impress. Such is the case for this Rochester, New York quintet Order of the Dead. After witnessing a live assault in western MA one weekend night, picking up their latest EP “A Black Curse Comes” was a no brainer – as the band fuse together a killer brand of thrash/death metal with some technical and groove-oriented nuances that are sure to whip up your adrenaline and release some pent up feelings in a better way.
Firing off a series of questions to guitarist Jody Roberts, you will learn more about the history of the band, their own potent Rochester metal scene, and the need for people to support bands in a digital age where ‘free’ seems to be a common place thought.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you give the readers details into the early days of Order of the Dead- especially when you started and how the current lineup came together? Did you also know right away the type of death/thrash metal you were going to play, or did this evolve over time?
Jody Roberts: It evolved over time. I joined in 2009 and they had already been playing shows with the original line-up. There have been numerous line-up changes, and obviously each new member is going to bring new ideas to the table, so there’s an evolution that takes place. I do have a vision, musically, that I am following, but we also want to let it evolve as organically as possible. We’ve gradually gotten heavier and more technical in the time I’ve been in the band, for sure.
Dead Rhetoric: During 2011-2012 you recorded two demos – how do you feel about these recordings and songs at this point? What were some of the highlights or challenges that took place?
Roberts: I still like most of those songs, and love a couple. I know that some of the other guys do, as well. We’ve been talking about bringing back “’Brotherhood of Darkness”, and we occasionally play “What Humans Remain” and “Neurot/Despot” live. The recordings came out great. Erik Anders (the producer) had a great vision on how it should sound, and is a very talented producer/engineer and musician, and great dude.
Dead Rhetoric: Your latest recording A Black Curse Comes possesses a great balance between American aggression and European melodic sophistication. I’m curious to know your thoughts on this 4 song EP – from songwriting to recording to the cover art and final outcome?
Roberts: I learned a lot recording with Anders on the previous recordings. There were basically no time constraints, where I’m used to having a project take 3-7 days in the studio. Maybe 10 max. There was a lot of time to experiment with ideas, sounds, try different things. So with the EP, I did a lot of pre-production on my own with Audacity, and a final pre-production with a friend, Colin Busse from Abhor, and was really able to map out every working idea. It really helped maximize the time with Micah (Etzel, producer/engineer for A Black Curse Comes) and gave me a pretty clear picture of how the recording should sound and feel. And then, Micah blew us away with his mixes and his ideas and production guidance. Another very talented individual. With the artwork, we found Gary Ronaldson by chance on Facebook, and he was very receptive to the artwork ideas and the overall sound and feel of the band. Great guy, super easy to work with, and I think we got in right before he grew into the juggernaut he is now. There were other ideas that were discussed that didn’t come to fruition… we were originally talking to Dullest Records about two 7″ records with related artwork, kind of a before/after piece, but that just didn’t pan out. Overall, I’d say we have been very lucky. I’d ultimately love to see A Black Curse Comes as a blue/grey swirl gatefold 10″ on 180 g, that would be amazing.
Dead Rhetoric: Describe Order of the Dead when it comes to live performances- and what have some of your favorite shows been through the years? Do you enjoy playing on diverse bills as much as when you perform with bands of a similar style?
Roberts: Diverse bills are awesome. We love straight metal shows, especially if there’s different genres, but we’ve had some awesome shows with blues bands, ska bands, hardcore bands, alternative bands. It’s really special when a mixed genre show goes off right and there’s a good crowd of mixed fans that probably wouldn’t be checking out the different bands on the bill in other circumstances. We’ve played with tons of different bands, and will continue to do so. We feel it opens us up to a wider fan base. As far as live, we just try to give it our all. It’s easier when the crowd gives it back, but we try to be as solid as possible, every time. Our job is to bring it. The crowd should bring it, too.
Dead Rhetoric: How is the scene for underground metal in Rochester, New York? Do you feel you gain more respect/appreciation outside of hometown confines than within?
Roberts: The scene here comes and goes, but there’s always been killer bands. Right now we have some true greats… Gutted Alive, Ancalagon, Burndwiller, Abdicate, Desekrator, Blizaro, The Highest Leviathan, Blurring, Revival… We’re pretty respected here, I think. There’s a great deal of respect between most of the bands here, I think. There’s also a lot of band member whoring lol so that probably helps a lot. Almost everybody has more than one band. For example, John and Colin are in Ancalagon, Mike is in Halothane, Bill is in The Abhorrent, I’m in Burndwiller. Our whole scene is like that, pretty much.
Dead Rhetoric: Has work begun on the follow up to A Black Curse Comes – and if so what can fans expect in terms of the songwriting? Will you continue to introduce new dynamics or are you pretty satisfied with the direction of Order of the Dead?
Roberts: We’ve written 4 songs and have pieces of 3 more. Pre-production has begun on two songs, “Pit of Snakes” and “Into Nothing”. There’s definitely more dynamics in the newer songs, and better songwriting. Things flow better, and we’re not afraid to rewrite a song many times over if it needs it. It’s a slower process, but the end result is much better, I think. It definitely is a continued evolution, as far as the overall sound and feel of the material, however. Gotta keep the quality high!
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider the benchmark albums or bands that everyone in the band can agree upon for long road trips or inspiration when needed to kick you in the ass?
Roberts: We’re really all over the place with our music… lots of Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, stuff like Morphine, Bloc Party, Bee and Flower, J.D. MacPherson, Steely Dan, Uriah Heep… Carcass, Cattle Decapitation, Naglfar, Order of Apollyon, Lord Almighty, classic thrash like Testament, Overkill, Xentrix, Artillery… newer styled stuff like Rivers of Nihil, Periphery, Fallujiah… I dunno, we’re literally all over the place.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of heavy metal in 2015? If you were in charge of keeping the movement alive, what areas of focus would you put your attention, time and money into?
Roberts: It’s hard. Everyone feels entitled to have everything for free. Nobody wants to buy anything. Nobody knows who we are, and 1 day after our EP came out, it was all over downloading sites. That’s both good and bad, really. It’s good that it’s available, we want people to hear us, but merchandise and gas and gear cost money. People need to start stepping up and supporting bands. If they don’t, eventually bands will have to stop touring. Or not even start touring. It’s getting pretty hard.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next 12 months playing out for Order of the Dead in terms of live shows, video work, recording, etc.? Would you like to gain a record label contract or is the band content remaining an independent entity?
Roberts: We have a video for “Sucking the Marrow” from the EP in the works, we’re writing and pre-producing right now, and when spring hits, we’ll go back out doing weekends like we have in 2014 and 2015. Hopefully we can keep returning to areas we’ve already been to, and hit some new areas, as well. Just keep growing our warfront organically. We’ve talked about a lyric video, and have ideas for a video for “322” off the EP. We’re probably going to shop the pre-production demo with the EP and our resume to labels over the winter, see what happens. We shopped the EP in 2014 before putting it out ourselves. We’ll do that again, if need be, but label support would certainly be nice. I have better ideas for promotion if we do it ourselves again. I learned a lot with the last EP.