Pyramaze – Disciples Rebirth

Sunday, 17th May 2015

In my youth, access to proper recording studios was an expensive endeavor – usually necessitating a wealthy band member (or relative) to shell out thousands of dollars for even a good sounding demo. As a result, record labels played an integral part in the development of the scene – as names like Combat, Roadrunner, Noise, and Metal Blade gave credibility to the fans in the 1980’s. Fast forward a couple of decades, when home studios became much more affordable, technology improved dramatically, and thanks to the Internet – you don’t even have to be in the same rehearsal space to develop a great sounding final metal product.

Pyramaze is an international band that certainly reaps the benefits from its trans-Atlantic makeup. Musicians from Denmark and America set a course in 2001 to develop their sound. Three albums into their career, the band hit a series of significant lineup changes in 2008 – resulting in a seven year break as they assembled the right musicians for a rebirth. The result is their fourth album Disciples of the Sun – a little more modern and often catchier, without sacrificing the pure melodies and power/progressive metal they’ve become known for.

Reaching out to keyboardist Jonah Weingarten through Facebook, we were able to set up an interview within an hour by phone. Beyond running through the new album and the obvious lineup shuffle, we also chatted about his orchestration/keyboard outlook for the band, what live opportunities look like down the line, and whether we will have to wait another seemingly long period of time for the next Pyramaze record. Let’s hope not… as Disciples of the Sun is a masterpiece.

Dead Rhetoric: What are your earliest memories surrounding music, can you tell us some of the first albums/bands that spurred your interest in the metal genre and then picking up an instrument to play?

Jonah Weingarten: I started playing keyboards and piano when I was around 6 years old. Actually the first thing I taught myself was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song (laughs). I just fell in love with music and realized I had a knack for it at a pretty young age. My parents were very supportive of that. As far as metal goes, thanks to Napster I was exposed to bands like At the Gates, Cradle of Filth, Children of Bodom, and In Flames, Nightwish, Dark Tranquillity and so forth. In my later years when I was in high school I really fell in love with metal. I realized I could use my abilities on the keyboards and apply it to metal, that never occurred to me before because I grew up in a small town. My musical background which was not metal combined with metal has helped me create a unique sound for what I do.

Dead Rhetoric: Have you lived in Minnesota your whole life?

Weingarten: No, I’ve only been living here for about 3 ½ years. I’ve lived in 9 different states kind of pursuing my musical dreams ever since I left high school.

Dead Rhetoric: In the last 7 years since Pyramaze’s third album Immortal, you’ve gone through some significant lineup changes between the vocalist, guitarist, and bass slots. Can you bring the readers up to speed with how guitarist Jacob Hansen and vocalist Terje Harøy came into the fold- and did you ever worry that Pyramaze may be finished because of the prolonged absence?

Weingarten: I never stopped believing in the band- I’ve been here since day one and I was one of the founding members. Myself and Morten (Gade Sørensen) the drummer are the only ones left from the Melancholy Beast days, but when (guitarist) Michael (Kammeyer) decided to leave because he had too much stress and pressure in his life, a family and so forth, he gave the remaining members the option of continuing the band without him or just retiring the band. Myself, Morten, and Toke (Skjønnemand) the lead guitar player decided we wanted to keep it going. The reason we do Pyramaze is because we love what we do and we love our fans, I didn’t want to let us down and I didn’t want to let our fans down so I was a big advocate of keeping things going. Niels (Kvist) the bass player, he decided to move on because he felt like it wouldn’t be the same without Michael, and with Matt (Barlow) gone. Then we replaced Michael with Jacob Hansen, he’s always been our producer and kind of been there since day one, so we have always felt like he was an extra member of the band anyways. He was the first and only person we asked to replace Michael and he accepted. He’s been very excited about it ever since.

Matt Barlow’s shoes are big ones to fill – we had Urban Breed in the band for a little while and that just kind of fizzled out on its own. I don’t know for various reasons…communication, communication issues and such. Finally we found Terje from Norway because Jacob knew him as he had worked on a few projects (together) in the past. We are very pleased with how everything has come together. In every band you need someone who is the ring leader and organizer of things, so Jacob has filled Michael shoes in that regard- not only musically but also as far as being the principal organizer of everything.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been able to sustain quite a strong stable of big time vocalists like Lance King, Matt Barlow, and Urban Breed (touring wise for the latter). Is that why for this particular release you wanted to go for someone who had the ability but maybe was an unknown?

Weingarten: Absolutely. We wanted to start from scratch, we wanted to have a vocalist who could make a name for himself with us instead of finding a vocalist who had already made a name for himself through other projects. Obviously Matt with Iced Earth, and Lance with Balance of Power… so Terje is a very humble and quiet guy, but when he gets behind the microphone he just tears it up. He’s very talented and we are lucky to have him, we want him to stay with us for a long time and grow with us. Pyramaze is a band, not a project – so I feel this is our rebirth and we are just getting things going again. The fans are being so supportive of us, that’s really exciting and it feels really good again.

Dead Rhetoric: Disciples of the Sun is a very impressive, dynamic album that appears to incorporate a little more heaviness and progression at times. How do you feel the songwriting and recording sessions went, any special surprises or challenges come up that the band had to work through, and what are some of your favorites?

Weingarten: The songwriting process was actually really easy and fun for us. Myself, Toke, and Jacob, we each wrote about 1/3 of the album. I wrote three songs on the album, and Toke and Jacob each wrote 4 songs, something like that. We just have so much creativity at this point inside of us that we’ve been wanting to record, it went very smoothly. I did my parts over here in the United States, they did their stuff in the studio over there separately in Europe – so I wasn’t there for that while they were writing. I sent them my songs and they made them more guitar-oriented, so they took my ideas and arranged them a bit. As far as my favorite songs on the album…I really like the title track, every song has something to offer and something different, and that’s the best side effect of having three different songwriters on an album. I really like “Back for More” that I had written. When I write songs they are more melody based and less riff based, which makes sense because I am not a guitar player. I think that song has the catchiest single melody on the album. “Fearless”, the lyric video that we released, has kind of the heaviest and darkest one on the album, plus “Genetic Process” has a really catchy chorus, brilliant lyrics, so that’s hard to pick just one.

Dead Rhetoric: I also understand that you were able to get Henrik Fevre and Kim Olesen from Anubis Gate to contribute to this record, how do you feel their work helped in terms of the final product?

Weingarten: Henrik wrote our lyrics and vocal melodies this time. He is an absolute genius and we are very lucky to have him involved with us. Michael was the one that wrote all our lyrics before, and so that left us high and dry as far as that went, because none of the rest of us are able to do that very well anyway. Jacob knows Henrik because he has worked with Anubis Gate so many other times in the studio through the years. I can see us wanting to use him again. Kim just added a few keyboard parts here and there, they thought it would be cool to have someone else from Anubis Gate as a guest musician.

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