Sorizon – Arise with ThanatosThursday, 4th March 2021
Developing a musical stew that is progressive with power, extreme, and melodic elements within their metal platform, Sorizon have been active for over a decade showing their songwriting and recording skills to the California community and beyond. Their latest record Thanatos Rising may be their most cohesive and diverse to date – elements of Symphony X, Into Eternity, In Flames, Nevermore to Machine Head and Trivium come to mind track to track. These musicians have solid skillsets and know how to execute the material with strength, power, and atmosphere – encompassing a sound that could gain them acclaim in multiple sub-genres.
We reached out to vocalist Keith McIntosh and guitarist Danny Mann on Skype and had a very engaging conversation to bring us up to speed on this quintet. Prepare to learn more about the history and development of their sound, plenty of insight into the preparation and execution related to this album, how they are fostering community through their social media engagement, plus thoughts on the Southern California metal scene and what to expect in the pipeline for shows and promotion.
Dead Rhetoric: Sorizon began in 2008 following the disbanding of Joust. What was Joust like musically, and what did you want to achieve as far as a musical direction / outlook with Sorizon from the beginning?
Keith McIntosh: When I first stumbled upon Joust, Danny and (drummer) Sean (Elston) already had the demo together – and it sounded a lot like Iron Maiden. That drew me to jam with them.
Danny Mann: I would agree that it had a lot more of the classic vibe between Iron Maiden and Megadeth. We would often do Maiden covers, and we still do every once in a while. Shifting to Sorizon, the goal became a little more heavy, progressive stuff. I was getting into Symphony X, and a lot of us did. As they got heavier, that was part of my inspiration. That kind of progressive stuff, as well as Into Eternity. We were listening to a lot of stuff.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you decide upon the newer members for Sorizon?
McIntosh: Things had broken up with Joust. We had some good shows and we separated – it wasn’t a clear-cut thing. We had some trouble finding other guitar players for Joust besides Danny, and other members. Sorizon was like a fresh start. A year later after Joust Danny hit me up and he wanted to start this new project and asked me if I wanted to sing. From there we started setting things up.
Mann: We started off with different bassists and guitarists in Joust, and Sorizon we have had a few changes in the bass and second guitar spots. It’s solidified with this current lineup. Right at the end of Joust we had won this hundred band wide Battle of the Bands where we won money and recording studio time, endorsements. We split up and soon enough that we used some of that recording studio time and some of those perks for Sorizon, off the back of that success.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve released two previous full-lengths and two EP’s from 2010 through 2017. Looking back at the discography, how do you assess these recordings in terms of songwriting, performances, and production value – what moments stand out to you?
Mann: I’ll get that started. It’s crazy that we’ve gone this long. Our first album came out just over ten years ago. If anyone hears that, they are going to hear a pretty different sound. All those things you mention – songwriting, production value, good moments- I believe that people get better with that over time. With a lot of practice, songwriting gets better, production gets better – and I say practice with production too because we’ve always recorded all our own albums. Including this new one, it was recorded by us, the drummer was the engineer and he did the first album too. Each time we are learning more, and one big difference is the first album… Keith and I are the main songwriters, I write the vast majority of the music, and Keith writes all the vocal melodies and lyrics. The first album was really my songs barely untouched. Keith had lyrics and that was good. As we progressed we started being more and more collaborative, working together to revise stuff and rearrange the song structures. Other people writing a little bit, and that’s part of why our music has gotten better, the collaborative effort.
I’m proud of the whole history, but I’m really proud of the new album. The new album has the best songwriting and production because we’ve been grinding this whole time.
McIntosh: We are always just trying to one up ourselves. Not necessarily for listeners, but just for us in the enjoyment playing music. We are always looking for the next best thing. Danny is always keeping up on his gear, finding ways to improve his sound. Most of the band shares that as well. Any good band is going to change their sound. Any good band should be constantly learning and constantly progressing. A lot of people want bands to sound the same. I personally like hearing the changes in bands and musicians. On this album we found our sound. We are working towards finding our sound, and this is the closest that we have come to that.
Dead Rhetoric: Thanatos Rising is the newest Sorizon full-length – containing the two songs from your 2017 EP plus ten newer tracks. Stylistically you incorporate a mixture of melodic, progressive and extreme textures within your metal platform. How did the songwriting and recording sessions go for this effort – where do you see the major differences in this release compared to previous outings?
McIntosh: So on this album we did change our process with writing and with recording as well. Danny was saying earlier, this is the first album where we actually sat down and worked on the composing of the songs as a group. Mainly myself, Danny, and Sean getting together and working with what Danny had already brought to the table, and then our own ideas, hashing it out and working on the structures and the transitions all together. I feel that was a big change in this album. Also with recording-wise and production-wise, we put a little more into it. Our drummer Sean, he loves recording and builds his own pre-amps, microphones, and cables and loves that kind of stuff. He’s always researching and looking for the best ways to record us, mix and master. Those are some of the big moments on this album.
Mann: One thing that changed too is we recorded at Keith’s own place for the first time. He had more time to experiment and add additional harmonies and layers, crazy ideas. There is a change in the level of vocal complexity because Keith had some more freedom with that.
Dead Rhetoric: Themes of death, fear of the unknown, and renewal of hope are tackled in many of the lyrics for this effort. What do you want put across to people when it comes to the lyrical content – and do you gain insight / influence not just from current events but other inspiration as far as books, movies, art, or other media?
McIntosh: I am a big documentary lover. I love documentaries and docu-series. Once I get into that, if I find something that piques my interest I dive into it on my own with research. It’s hard to reflect on all the lyrics and the thoughts because it was quite a while ago, and it leaves your mind when you are in the trenches so to speak. We’ve been working on other things like marketing right now. A lot of this is personal experience, friends and family members that pop into my head. It was before the pandemic, which is funny because a lot of the songs that we’ve been putting out as singles, they have something to do with a current event that is happening which is tripping me out. I wrote some of these songs a while ago and these things are popping up now. Sometimes it’s dreams, or something that catches my interest at that particular time. It was really cool with this album to get a little more experimental with tracking and writing, having a free platform to do my thing. Our last full-length Somnus was a theme-album centered around sleep and dreams.
Mann: I have a related thing not about the lyrics. There is this interesting dichotomy that Keith said about Somnus. It was this concept, but musically a lot of different things. Musically here I had a lot of concept around the songs and how they progress from one to the other. I imagined this story that kind of connects everything, but the lyrics were more free to go into different directions. They all really matched the general vibe of the songs really well. We had these parallel stories going.
Dead Rhetoric: What can be interesting is as you are creating and constructing these songs, if you are working in parallel does it change the framework and atmosphere either musically or lyrically?
Mann: Usually they align pretty well. In one case, there might be… one interesting case is the last song on this album, “Worth and Wisdom”. In general it has an upbeat sound to it, rock and upbeat – but Keith’s lyrics are very catchy. Probably my favorite song on the record, I love what Keith did with it. The content though is very serious and not particularly upbeat. It gives the song a lot of layers.
McIntosh: Danny wrote the song out, I thought I would do my own thing with it. This is what I want to write the song about, everybody liked it and I don’t think they expected me to go that route with the song. It ended up working out. Most of the song is pretty upbeat, but when it gets to the chorus it has a somber feel to it. I think that worked out well, the contrast within the song.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the cover art from Eliran Kantor who has worked with Testament, Sodom and Havok among others. How did the process work from initial concept to final delivery – was it a collaborative process between the band and Eliran or do you give him free reign to create something magical?
McIntosh: I would say kind of both.
Mann: This process, the artwork process for me was a first for Sorizon. It worked without a lot of argument. We have five people in the band who are very talented, opinionated people and we often debate about a lot of different things. The original concept was something I presented to the band first, what if we have this death sort of figure and interplay between the death figure and this phoenix which represents being reborn out of your own ashes. Someone in between showing the push and pull for the darkness and overcoming them to be reborn. That aligned well with my musical story, but also aligns with the lyrics of Thantos Rising.
McIntosh: Not only that, but the flow of the album also. The album artwork represents the album start to finish. The album starts very somber and dark, and it ends with a little more upbeat outlook.
Mann: Exactly. We shared these themes with him, go for it. Eliran just crushed it. Our approach for this album is for our level, spare no expense. We want to make the best songs we can, the best production we can, the best cover artwork we can. We are an independent band so we have limits with our budget, but we did not skimp on the cover art and it was so worth it. We didn’t have to do any revisions, and he was great to work with.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been able to engage your following and build community through consistent livestreaming events through your social media accounts – running contests, answering questions, and playing interactive games. Tell us your thoughts on the importance of community in establishing credibility and building the brand of your band – while also fostering awareness for other bands you appreciate and enjoy?
McIntosh: There has to be a sense of community, and you limit what you can do as a band. With the lack of shows and interaction, we started trying out the stream thing just to have a scheduled and regular outlet with the band. We’ve been doing different things, trying to keep it entertaining and keep in touch with people. Also let them know what we have in the works. When you go to a show, you get to see members of different bands, their fans, so why not bring that into our stream thing instead of having it so isolated and just talking to the same people all the time. It definitely pays to keep in contact with bands and fans in our local area, just for the fact that they have different ideas that may help us along the way. Danny chats with a lot of our friends’ bands about marketing strategies, promoting, sometimes practicing and gear.
Mann: It’s hard as an independent band to build a following. So we thought about bringing everyone together. It’s common for new bands to feel like they are competing against one another – but over time as people mature they realize this isn’t a competition, we all love metal and do our thing, why not build a community and build a scene. I’m proud of what we’ve done. We’ve invited a number of guests from different bands, mostly local, but we even got a legend from the Swedish band Dismember Fred to join us. Everyone has been super stoked and supporting each other, I see people connecting more. It was a replacement for shows, where you see all the community and you feel like you are a part of something. After doing this, maybe this could be part of a brand. Maybe we could be the band that cares about everyone being together, and it fits with our stylistic ADHD. People who like us like a lot of different types of metal. They are open-minded at least, so foster that open-mindedness. You don’t have to be just a hardcore death metal guy, or power metal guy, we can hang out with everybody.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the major difference for Sorizon when it comes to your live performance outlook and philosophy versus the studio recordings? And what have been some of the more memorable show performances of the band to date?
McIntosh: We just try to have fun when we play shows. We’ve played shows with all black metal bands, and the cool thing about our music is I feel we have a little bit of everything in there. We can fit in with whatever show goes on. We have promoters who like to squeeze all bands into one genre for a show, a black metal show or power metal show, and we can fit in with all that. We have a lot of variety in our songs, when we play live its us. We have ADHD, have fun and do our thing. If people like it, that’s cool.
Mann: Our live show is a lot of energy and a lot of fun. It’s more of a like a party, rock vibe. We don’t take ourselves seriously, we do stupid shit on stage, but the recording is more serious. We are really serious about our music, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’ve done some stupid stuff on stage before. For one time we played with a burlesque act and we convinced each other to wear nipple tassels underneath our t-shirts. On the last song we took off our shirts and performed with those nipple tassels, whichever ones were still hanging on. We want to have a good time, we want it to be fun. Seeing us live, that puts us our best. You get the music, the personality, and the energy.
Dead Rhetoric: Being in Orange County, California I would imagine there is always a healthy interest in metal music – and probably a broad spectrum of styles that gain favor. Can you give us some insight into your scene, what seems to be working well there as far as bands, venues, styles – and do you have solid footing within your community or do you gain more of an appreciation in other parts of the US/Canada/global scene?
McIntosh: To be honest that’s kind of a difficult question to answer. Orange County… we are in the middle of the hotspots so to speak. We are in a weird area. If there is a show on a weekday, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to get people there in Orange County than it would be for San Diego County or LA. Orange County is in the middle, we’ve played shows in San Diego and LA during the week and most of the time there is a better turnout, a more energetic crowd. It could be based on more of a night-life kind of deal in those areas. As far as gaining fans – that’s a difficult one too. We’ve been trying to break away from our comfort zone so to speak, pull in fans from other areas.
Mann: We haven’t done that much touring yet, hopefully we can do more later. Something I would say about the Southern California scene is, I think it’s a lot more saturated. There are a lot more shows in normal times every night. It’s so saturated that it’s not special to a lot of people. When I lived in the Boston area and the Northeast where you are at, it was easier to have more of a community. You know all the bands, you root for them. There is so much here, everyone and their grandmother is a metal musician (laughs). There are pros and cons, it’s difficult to navigate that and find your own way. I’m hoping we are building our community more during this time is going to lead to better shows and touring situations.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of the heavy metal scene – how have you personally handled the shifts in the way that people consume and learn more about music, as things have definitely moved into more of a social media/streaming platform based measure, although you still have those diehards that prefer owning physical media and getting a tangible experience with this style?
McIntosh: It’s a weird time for music. Danny and I are close in age, we remember going to Tower Records and record stores, picking up CD’s and having it, seeing it. It means a lot more. It has been difficult to stand out on social media, on these streaming platforms. We’ve learned more in the last year on how to run things than previously. Danny has been a huge part of that. Looking up new ways to put ourselves out there, gain fans, staying interactive.
Mann: We’ve probably done more in this past year promotion and marketing than we did in the ten years before. We were recording, playing live shows, doing what we could for the music. Like Keith alluded to, I took music marketing courses and learned a lot about advertising, social media, and we totally changed our strategy on how to release music. We released eight singles from this album, which seems un-traditional but most people are recommending that you space out your releases to treat Spotify like social media itself. We do think there is still something to offer with the full-length album, it’s a progression that is more meaningful than our other albums.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering where Sorizon is now in terms of establishing themselves, what types of goals or next steps would you like to take to move up to another level?
McIntosh: I think that’s something we need to talk about as a band. We are focused now on releasing the album, we’ve got pre-orders for the vinyl, getting all that out there. Take things one step at a time, tackle the task ahead of us. It would be awesome to play some shows and get this material out there, for people live. Maybe play some opening gigs for some touring bands, see how it goes.
Mann: This is our first record on vinyl, and it’s a dream of mine. We are trying new things for the promotion, working with Eliran, and Adrenaline PR with some of the promotion. We are trying new things and having wins. I know all of us and every musician is dying to play a show again.
Dead Rhetoric: What types of hobbies/interests or passions do the members of Sorizon like to pursue outside of your music activities when you have the free time to do so? Do you believe the friendships outside of your work within the band are as important to establish chemistry, as you’ve been together in this current incarnation since 2012?
McIntosh: We each have our own kind of things we like to do. I like to work out, try to stay in shape. I’ve gotten into yoga with the last few years, brings me a lot of stress relief. Makes me feel good. I have a one-year-old puppy, German short haired pointer, take him on walks all the time. His name is Ronnie James, I am sure you can guess where that is from. I live with my fiancé, that keeps me occupied with my day job and music.
Mann: We’ve all been friends for a long time now. I think it’s a great group of dudes. We all have different hobbies. Especially during the pandemic I got more into photography and video. Pretty soon we will have a new music video for “Thanatos Rising” that I filmed and edited with more professional gear. That’s become a good hobby. Most of us are married or engaged, busy with family, friends and everything.
Dead Rhetoric: What can people expect for Sorizon over the next twelve to eighteen months when it comes to promotion for the record? Has work already begun behind the scenes on possibly additional singles, special covers, etc. until the live show market opens back up?
Mann: We don’t have super long-term plans. One thing we have talked about is doing more music videos, especially now that I am equipped to do some on our own. We might get more videos out of these songs.
McIntosh: It’s funny, because whenever we finish an album, I’m always ready to go for the next one. I’m in that groove, you have a process down when you record, and for me it takes a while to get that going. Once the train is rolling and stops, it’s hard to get the train rolling again. I’m ready to keep going and write more stuff, but we have a lot of other stuff that we can’t leave on the backburner. I would like to this year start writing again. The videos have been awesome, we didn’t have a big footprint on You Tube and I’d like to keep that going too. Even the funny videos. Get some more merch out there, I like cool designs.