SkyEye – Soldiers in CommandSunday, 17th October 2021
Quickly striking while the iron is hot from their debut full-length Digital God, SkyEye signs with Reaper Entertainment for their new record Soldiers of Light. Upping their collective game in all departments as far as musicianship, production, tones, abilities, and songwriting, it’s evident that these gentlemen have all the tools in place to make a mark in the heavy metal world with their music. Incorporating traditional heavy metal, progressive, and power styles along with a vocalist in Jan Leščanec that can rival singers like Bruce Dickinson and James Rivera in their prime, they may single-handedly put Slovenia on the map as a new destination to look for when it comes to quality acts.
We reached out to Jan and he was happy to bring us up to speed with the work behind the new album, signing with Reaper Entertainment, how it is working together for multiple members at the same company for day jobs, the versatile lyrical content for the record, and a preview into what’s coming ahead for the band.
Dead Rhetoric: When we last talked to the band, you mentioned that the new SkyEye album would be more of a step up in terms of technicality and arrangements than Digital God. How would you assess the evolution and differences between Soldiers of Light and that record, especially in terms of production, songwriting, performances, and personal musical abilities?
Jan Leščanec: We were very pleased with the sound and with the direction that we were heading on the first album, so we did not change the winning formula and we once again collaborated with our producer and mixing engineer Grega Smola Crnkovič. But there is a little difference in a good way because the band is tighter now than it was three years ago, our producer Crnkovič is more experienced now and we have Boban, our mastering engineer, so the Soldiers of Light album sounds even bigger and more up to date than Digital God. For our second album we prerecorded all the songs before we entered the studio. We did not do that for our first album, so I think this is the main step up if we are talking about the arrangements. And the band plays tighter now than on the first record.
Dead Rhetoric: There seems to be an ideal blend between shorter, compact compositions as well as a couple of epic tracks, including the closer “Chernobyl”. Does your approach differ between the evolution of these different songs, and how do you maintain listener interest through an epic track that can be over ten minutes long?
Leščanec: When Grega or I write the song or put some basic ideas together, we do not write with any agenda in the back of our minds. We simply love to write the music and it does not matter if the song turns out to be four minutes or twelve minutes long at the end. This is not something that we deal with during our writing sessions. Maybe this natural process of writing is the key to our success. There is only one motto for us. The good song and the bad one. If we as a band are satisfied with the song, I have no doubt that the fans are going to be satisfied too, because we really put our hearts into making it.
Dead Rhetoric: Where did you want to come across lyrically with this record – and how important do you believe the lyrics, vocals, and melodies are to the overall output of SkyEye when it comes to the final product?
Leščanec: I (Jan) wrote all the lyrics for the Soldiers of Light album. Soldiers of Light is not a concept album. We named the album after the eponymous song “Soldiers of Light”. That song was one of the first written and it is a powerful burst of positive energy. In a world full of negative energy and lies we need light. SkyEye’s torch is glowing in the dark to cast out the shadows from people’s lives with music. Sadly we can see nowadays, that the truth is dying, the world is falling apart and we the people are more divided than ever. That’s why we need to let the light back into our lives because music is the healer and ‘we are the soldiers of light with no weapons to fight, just shinning, just shining. Knowledge is God, God in us all. Wisdom is heaven on Earth.’ The song “Detonate” is heavily influenced by the movie Armageddon. A giant asteroid is approaching the Earth and we humans must detonate it before it enters the atmosphere and causes mass extinction. The song “Constellation” was the first single from our upcoming album. The lyrics of the song talk about the human desire to discover new worlds and to reach distant stars: ‘exploration is in our hearts and in our soul’ because we all are made of intergalactic stardust and Earth is just our temporary shelter, our current station in our intergalactic travel: ‘far beyond our Sun we will find a new Babylon’. The song “Son of God” describes the issue of pedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church. “Eternal Starlight” is a song about the sudden loss of a friend in a tragic accident and about the guilt and burden that we feel because we did not have the chance to say goodbye and it is based on real events. There is also an epic song about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and so yeah, we covered many different topics and there is definitely something that we all can learn from and remember, that we must never forget some horrible events from the past – and try our best not to repeat them.
Marko Havčnik: I must say that guitar vocabulary from Grega and Jan is beyond expectation, and it was a thrill when we were collaborating and exploring many ways of the songs’ path. It was fun experimenting with melodies and different chord progressions to give the melodies a different taste and hopefully we took a higher step up in the musicianship.
Dead Rhetoric: You are also a part of the Reaper Entertainment roster – how did the deal with this label come about and what do you hope they are able to provide for the band more than what you have been able to build yourselves on a DIY basis?
Leščanec: It all started with our appearance at a live stream event named the European Festival Alliance that happened in August of 2020. We were chosen by the Metaldays festival (the biggest Slovenian metal festival) as their representatives among others like Rotting Christ. We were really shocked at first, because we never played at the festival and we personally did not know any of the organizers, nor did we apply to play there. It was a strange time back then because we did not practice for a few months prior to the concert due to the pandemic. But we said to ourselves fuck it, we are doing it. It was really exciting to be a part of something that big. The feedback was beyond expectations, and we were really happy that we took that chance. We had the best response among the bands from the viewers according to the organizers of the festival. After the festival, we got some offers from the record companies and we chose the young German record company named Reaper Entertainment Europe because they had the most realistic yet very ambitious plan for us. And we got a manager. We shook hands with Boban Milunović, who is the main organizer of the Metaldays Festival and we very much appreciated his work among others in the business so it is a privilege for us to have a chance to work with him. We are sure that together with our label and new management we can raise the band on a higher level.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the idea behind the cover art for Soldiers of Light – and how important do you believe imagery/cover art can be when it comes to giving the listener insight into the band?
Leščanec: The artwork was based upon the title song “Soldiers of Light” and was done by Aleksandar Živanov who is also known for his fabulous work with the Metaldays festival. We just gave him the lyrics with some basic instructions, and we immediately fell in love with the artwork. It’s very powerful and symbolic, in your face kind of with a positive burst of energy. Sadly we can see nowadays, that the truth is dying, the world is falling apart and we the people are more divided than ever. That’s why we need to let the light back into our lives. SkyEye’s torch is glowing in the dark to cast out the shadows from people’s lives with music.
I believe that imagery is almost as important as the music and the bands, especially younger ones, are somehow ignoring that fact or trying to do the complete opposite – to overdo it with shocking imagery, clothing, behavior…
Dead Rhetoric: Recently you were able to play live for a couple of festival dates. Tell us how it felt to finally play live for the first time in well over a year – how was the response and do you believe that the fans really savor and appreciate live performances now more than ever due to the COVID-19 impact?
Leščanec: Yes, we were lucky to be able to hit the stages after this corona disaster. A year and a half with no live gigs. Sad. We really missed playing live. Now even more than ever. We had a great response from our fans at the concerts. I can say that people are a little more restrained than they used to be before the corona hit the big stage, but I am sure that things will soon get back to normal.
Dead Rhetoric: Three of the band members work at the same company – can you tell us about your day jobs, and do you believe there are some aspects of your work that you’ve been able to apply to the ethics and outlook of SkyEye as a band?
Leščanec: Yes, Grega, Marko and Jurij work at the same company at different positions. Jurij is a graphic designer, Marko chief engineer and Grega is the manager of one of the divisions at one of the biggest companies that makes high quality stoppers (cork) for boutique winemakers. Primož is a radiological engineer who works at a hospital and Jan is a police officer. It is hard to say that we are able to apply some aspects of our work to the ethics and outlook of SkyEye as a band. Probably yes.
Dead Rhetoric: When looking back at the musical career of SkyEye, what would you consider some of the highlights to date? Also, how does the band handle setbacks or failures when they come up – do you believe you have great communication and problem-solving skills to work things out as quickly and efficiently as possible?
Leščanec: It is very important that you solve problems in a band as quickly as you can. Because being in a band is like being in a relationship. If you are not able to solve problems in time, things will start to crumble sooner or later. I think that we have good communication and problem-solving skills. And most importantly we are great friends with each other and try to support each other as much as we can.
One of our highlights up to date was playing as one of the headliners at the Metaldays festival in 2021. Big stage, big crowd, heavy storm during our setlist. Unforgettable memory.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you view the outlook and evolution of the metal scene from when you were growing up to how things look today? What changes (if any) would you like to make if you had the resources, funds, energy, and time to do so?
Leščanec: I can answer this question from my own perspective as a resident of a city called Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Actually the whole band lives in Ljubljana which is still considered a small European city. I was not a part of the metal scene in my teenage years because back then I listened to classical music, and I discovered heavy metal when I was around 22 years old. I did not have many metal friends so back in the day I was traveling alone across Europe to visit concerts like Maiden or Sabbath (Heaven & Hell) because huge shows rarely happened in Slovenia. I must say that things are not bad here in Ljubljana, of course the scene could have been stronger and bigger. There is a small but strong army of metalheads who keep the local metal scene alive and if I have resources I would definitely build another venue for live gigs with a heavy metal bar with some kind of heavy metal “library” where metalheads could borrow CD’, vinyl, equipment… And there would be many rehearsal rooms available for bands to practice and record… Yes, I would build some kind of heavy metal village if I had the money and time to do so.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve talked about in the past your love of Iron Maiden. What would be some of your favorite albums and songs from the band – and what do you admire most about this iconic act that you try to apply to SkyEye?
Leščanec: My favorite Maiden albums are Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and Piece of mind. The whole band loves Maiden because of their music and their passion for music and loyalty and respect they show for the fans. They are the real deal, and they always give 100%. No bullshit. Just great music.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next twelve to eighteen months shaping up for SkyEye in terms of promotion, videos, touring, etc. to support the new record? Has work behind the scenes already started on the next full-length, and if so, what can the fans expect?
Leščanec: We will put all our energy into making SkyEye album #3. We would like to have enough material for our next album till the end of the spring 2022. The new material is killer! We will stay in the same musical direction, and we will record and mix it with the same team as on previous albums. As far as live gigs are concerned, we have some big plans about touring in the near future, but the deals are not sealed yet because the future is very uncertain due to covid-19. We hope for the best. If not on the road in 2022, definitely in 2023. We are also booked for the Summer Breeze festival in Germany and Metaldays and some shows in Slovenia in 2022… and we will release one more music video from the Soldiers of light album. So stay tuned and visit our FB page, email@example.com or Instagram or our official web page Skyeyeband.com for more info.
Thank you Matt for your passion for the music and great questions!