Seven Spires – Silver Linings Over Black CloudsThursday, 2nd September 2021
COVID-19 wreaked havoc over the metal industry – shutting down touring and festival opportunities on an unprecedented global scale. Seven Spires felt the squeeze more than most – lining up two significant North American tours across 2020 that had to be cancelled. As you’ll read about in this interview from guitarist Jack Kosto, the band just buckled down and got to work on their third album Gods of Debauchery. A fitting ending to a trilogy storyline that has been years in the making, listeners can expect the most varied outing to date – incorporating aspects of extreme metal, power metal, pop, progressive, Disney/movie soundtrack elements, and a host of other influences across these sixteen tracks.
Prepare to learn about how Seven Spires took the reigns to get this record out sooner than anticipated, Jack’s thoughts on producing, mixing, and mastering, how they were able to get Roy Khan and others to guest on this record – plus key insights into the band’s social media strategy, how they work with Frontiers Music, and a glimpse into the future.
Dead Rhetoric: Gods of Debauchery is the third Seven Spires album – coming out 18 months past your last effort. Discuss the frustrations of having to cancel two touring situations set up across North America in 2020 due to the pandemic – and how the band was able to channel all that energy into getting this new record done probably in a quicker fashion than anticipated?
Jack Kosto: Yeah, obviously it was super disappointing to play the first show of our tour with Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum, and the entire day leading up to playing that show we were waiting to see if the city of Philadelphia would let us play after all. It was just call after call, this show is cancelled, Florida is cancelled, by the end of the night it was obvious that everything was done. We got back in the vehicle after that show and said we were all going to have to go home, so what should we do? I thought we should go to Adrienne’s place and write a new album while we can. And at least turn some of that sadness into something productive.
We holed up for nearly six months and just wrote every day, really put the pedal to the metal so to speak. And I think if we hadn’t done that, the album wouldn’t be what it is and as good as it is in my opinion. A little bit of a silver lining to the black cloud that’s been the last year and a half now.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess the depth and diversity of material on this set of tracks compared to your previous discography? Where do you see the greatest differences or improvements to the overall output?
Kosto: If you know Seven Spires, we are no strangers to diversity in tracks on an album. If you have heard any of the singles, we have a song “Lightbringer” that is very much in a pop style, we released another single with the title track that is an eight-minute melodic death metal sort of a thing. And we’ve done everything in between. It’s sixteen tracks, if nothing else it’s the most album that we’ve ever made at one time (laughs). It’s just as diverse as we’ve ever been able to do, but at the same time with a long list time and more tracks it let’s us be able to do more of that.
I think it’s more of what we’ve always wanted to be in an album.
Dead Rhetoric: Which do you think were more of the challenging or more difficult tracks to work out in terms of the songwriting or the performances this time around?
Kosto: There is some extremely technical stuff on this. The title track is a prime example, at least from the guitar player’s perspective. Really difficult riffs that will be a tough one to play live. Chris is doing a lot more blast beats, and really fast double bass stuff. Technically speaking, I think this material is overall more difficult to play than our previous albums. On the other side, it was really important to us this time that the emotional content with each song was absolutely correct. Just because we play the part correctly a few times doesn’t mean that it was the correct version of that part for the content of the song. We spent a really long time honing the performances so that everything felt just as good as it was technically played.
The recording quality as well, we stepped up a little bit. The mix is maybe a little different than our previous work. We wanted more of an organic, raw, more human sound while still being a Seven Spires record.
Dead Rhetoric: How did it feel for Adrienne to finally complete the storyline for this trilogy of albums?
Kosto: I can’t speak for her exactly, but I think we are relieved we ended it the way that we did. It was a challenge getting there, because we have been thinking about this story for years and years. We didn’t have all the music for it yet. We are really happy with how it ended, we hope that other people like how it ended. It just tied everything together in a really nice way. We are excited to move on from this particular storyline that we’ve worked into three albums now.
Dead Rhetoric: You have some special guest vocalists on this record – including Conception/ex-Kamelot singer Roy Khan on the epic “This God Is Dead”. How did the collaboration take place, and do you see it as a passing of the torch from a veteran to rising artist by having such a revered singer appear on this record?
Kosto: Uh, that’s a great question. First off, having Roy on our record is a dream come true – we are huge fans and he is one of our favorite vocalists on the planet. The old Kamelot records that he is a part of were highly influential to our writing. It was a huge honor to have him on there. We basically cold emailed him. Sascha our mix engineer and good friend of ours, he worked with Roy on all those old Kamelot records. He had an old email address, and we asked him if he knew how to get in touch with Roy, as we had a song we would like him to be a part of. And he had this old email address, he didn’t know if he would even respond, but you could try. We did, and he emailed us back within an hour. He emailed Adrienne, knew who we were, he learned about us and loved her singing, he wanted to be on the song. He wanted us to send the lyrics and what the song was about, the character he would be playing. It seemed like he cared right off the bat, and that was fantastic.
As far as passing the torch. I don’t know if any of us really think about that. It’s nice to be able to put a voice that has influenced us into something that we actually created. Hopefully it was a nice experience for him too.
Dead Rhetoric: And how did you decide on the appearances of Casey Lee Williams and Jon Pyres for the record as well?
Kosto: Jon I worked with him in my other band Threads of Fate, and I love his voice. He has a real melancholy way of singing that I can’t really describe from a technical aspect. I knew when we had a song that had an opening for a guest vocalist, the character of his voice would be perfect and make everyone weep. Casey, Adrienne and Peter work with Casey and her father Jeff on the soundtrack from RWBY and the live shows that go with that. When we did the song “Lightbringer”, it was Adrienne’s idea to have Casey on there. It came out in such a way that it’s hard to tell the difference between their voices in the song. That’s a little bit of a testament for the right decision to get her on this, she fits in so well to that particular song.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about the cover piece this time? Would you say it’s a continuation with the trilogy storyline that Seven Spires has set about since Solveig?
Kosto: Yes. We did a little bit of a Star Wars thing, the first album falls in between Emerald Seas and the new one. The new one is the final installment of the story. The album artwork was done by an artist named Tomas based on a sketch Adrienne did while we were writing the new album. She had a very clear vision of what the album art should be. Tomas took that and made it stunning. We gave him a rough idea of these two characters, and the outline. It was almost occult looking in certain ways. He took it and made it beautiful. So hats off to him.
Dead Rhetoric: Now you said you have already released a number of singles and videos off the record. Is it difficult to decide what singles to introduce and preview the record – and how do you feel about the video work over the years with the band?
Kosto: Sometimes it’s pretty difficult, other times it’s really easy. Usually we know that there may be four or five songs per album that we think, this may be a good single to release ahead of time. It’s also up to the label a little bit with their schedule, once we pick those songs what order they want to release them in. Usually we have a pretty good idea pretty early on.
Video-wise, we’ve worked with the same videographer every video since the one for “The Cabaret of Dreams” years ago. We tried going somewhere else once, and it was an epic failure. We are going to keep working with Jonas at EmVision Productions from here out, at least I hope we are. They really are hands on with translating what we come up with a concept into a very practical and concrete way of filming a video. They seem to be able to get this excitement out in a music video without being too cheesy or using too many special effects. The way they work with lighting, cameras, it’s second to none, I think.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve also been developing your skills as a producer, engineer, mixing, and mastering for other artists beyond what you do within Seven Spires. What is your outlook on your role and work in these capacities – does it differ based on the needs and skill sets of the projects and bands on hand?
Kosto: It’s absolutely different depending on the project. For Spires, I am basically the recording engineer for almost everything, and I send it off to Sascha Paeth to usually mix and master. This is an awesome thing for me, the music is so close to me personally I think I would never let it go if I were the one trying to mix it. Maybe I could make it better, or this isn’t right – not having to make those decisions for the songs I’ve written, or the ones we’ve written for Spires, is great.
Producing, mixing, or mastering for other bands – it’s all about whoever’s name is going to be on the cover. My personal tastes have nothing to do with it, I’ve always tried to bring out the best in that particular artist. Which is easier or harder depending on how well they know themselves and how well they know what they are trying to do. Sometimes it’s a process getting their vision out on the table so that I can work from there. So far, so good I think. I’m still kind of honing the craft and usually the people that I work with are also honing their craft. I like to think of it as a wheel that’s turning but slowly moving forward – a little forward, back a little, and hopefully the entire thing is rolling in the right direction.
Dead Rhetoric: You are twenty-five years old and have been able to create a solid body of work in the music industry so far. How have you handled the workload and expectations/pressures that come about?
Kosto: A lot of different ways I suppose. How do I answer this? Similar to doing anything else with a big workload, you have to learn how to spend the time that you are working fully focusing on working really hard, and then knowing when to take that time off to sharpen the saw, relax, and make sure you are relaxed for the next big project. Trying to eat healthier, working out more, be a good human being. Have friends, socialize, whatever – all the stuff that isn’t work is so important to the quality of work you put out. If you don’t have a healthy balance to all of those human things in your life then it’s really difficult to continue being the machine and cranking out song after song, piece after piece, essay after essay.
Dead Rhetoric: Has it been important then to have the support of family and friends that aren’t necessarily in your life that aren’t as connected with your music and what you do to balance things out?
Kosto: Yes. Even if you do have friends that are into the same thing, it’s really nice to know that you have people that know when not to talk about work. And to talk about other stuff. Family as well, it’s hard for them to get the music industry because it’s such a complex thing. It’s outside the realm of what the average person thinks of. It can be everything’s stardom and glamorous, and there’s no effort involved, it’s a business just like anything else. It’s important to have anything outside your job to help center you, so you don’t just become a one-dimensional person.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess the musical chemistry and personalities within the four members of Seven Spires? What do you think you each bring to the table to make you unique and special as a whole?
Kosto: Aside from us all being music students, and all being extremely passionate about our individual crafts – I always want to be the best guitar player I can be, I know Pete works every day to be the bass player he can be, the same with the rest of us. We all have this individual drive to get better individually, and when we come together the whole is better than the sum of its parts. We all like each other, we get along and we are all good friends, that really helps too to let that individual skill blossom in a good way. We all have pretty different music tastes when it comes to various other genres – Pete’s a jazz guy, gypsy jazz, and tech death. Chris is into death metal, loves pop, thrash, bands like Dragonforce. I come from the 80’s shred guitar school of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, old school rock and roll. Adrienne loves pop music, rock, trance, EDM, all sorts of other stuff. Part of the reason why we are able to do so many diverse songs on an album as well is we all like this different material. If we were just trying to borrow from something just to have it be popular or cool, I don’t think it would work as well as being fans of what we are inspired by.
Dead Rhetoric: What have you changed your mind about the most either in the music industry or outside of it over the past five years – and why?
Kosto: It’s been more difficult to see other people, in the mass of other people, collective as not kind of selfish in some ways. It’s disappointing to see people complaining that there are no shows, I’m so sad – not to get into any kind of politics based on the virus, but it’s just been an insane time for anyone watching this all unfold. If we are ever visited by aliens and they watch us over this last year, they are probably just going to get into their ship and fly off. (laughs).
I’ve also changed my mind about, it’s been reaffirmed that not everything is guaranteed to be the same. You have to really value every day for what it is. Not always be looking to the future, because the future isn’t always guaranteed. As we’ve seen with all this shutting down of stuff.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel Frontiers Music has been as a label for Seven Spires – considering you are probably the heaviest and most diverse act stylistically on a roster more well known for melodic hard rock, AOR, and melodic/power metal leanings?
Kosto: Yeah. I think you are definitely right, they do lean more towards the AOR thing. But they’ve shown in spite of that, they really actually dig what we do and are trying to help us as best as they can. Getting us out there with the stuff. With the marketing stage with this album, we’ve hit a better rhythm. I would say that all the guys at the label work really hard as well and take our feedback really well. We do feel very strongly about how we are presented, the copy that’s written, each Facebook post that goes up, the advertisements. We might drive them a little crazy sometimes with rewording things, but they are good sports about it. They seem just as committed as we are that everything is as successful as it needs to be. Hats off to them as well, they’ve been great in every way.
Dead Rhetoric: That is true – you’ve always been very vocal but appropriate when it comes to your presence on the internet and through social media. Has that always been a conscious decision from the start of the band, or did you take it more into account as you’ve built the community and fanbase?
Kosto: It’s definitely always been a conscious decision. Adrienne is really the social media whiz. She’s always finding out the latest new algorithm, what hashtags you need to use to make the post do better. Which is really time-consuming and something a lot of people don’t think about. Social media is here to stay for the near future and extremely important in getting you out there and in front of other people. Especially when there are no shows happening. It is a very conscious decision, and we think about it a lot, every day. It’s part of the job.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Seven Spires over the next year or so? Will there be touring excursions stateside and abroad planned for 2022 as things open up and are safe to do so?
Kosto: Yes, more than anything else we all just want to start playing shows again. As soon as it’s not going to be a drag for anyone. We have some stuff in the books, we can’t say anything right now. We want to tour with this album a good long while. Get over to Europe, maybe go to Asia, Australia. We are really looking to start playing live again. We really miss it, as I’m sure everyone reading this misses going to shows as well.