The Summoned – Revel in Controlled Chaos Part I

Friday, 30th June 2017

Dead Rhetoric: Sessions is The Summoned’s second studio album – six years after the last one. How does it feel to finally release this record – and tell us about the trials and tribulations that took place in the interim? Do you feel like things are better overall because of this longer time to work out the material to your satisfaction?

Murphy: It feels amazing to have this thing out. We spent a long, long time working on it. There was a really long period of writing, a lot of it on my behalf. You see a lot of time when there is a big break in albums there’s definitely stuff going on. There was definitely stuff going on- we had done a few tours. A whole month in 2012 where we did the major Northeastern coast and Canada, and then we did another Eastern coast tour the following year. I had been writing the record, I started writing some of this in 2010 right before the first album came out. The ideas already started, we took a long time to perfect it. I think it shows in how much time we put into it, and how well it came out in my opinion. Over that period of years of work and spending the time, picking it apart and having a few smaller setbacks, things that just happen, member changes. That should come as no shock to the metal community, members in metal bands come and go, sometimes in more bands than others. As long as there is a core set to a band, I think that that begins to really to shine through.

With Sessions I think that was what happened, there’s a lot of core member writing. People that have been in the band for years at that point, we were already melding together and honing our craft and sound. I get a lot of free range to go crazy with guitar riffs, and the other guys kind of keep me in check.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you decide where to go in terms of progressive parts, technicality, and also thinking of places where there can be a bit of groove or hook-oriented elements? Are there times where you ever wonder if you’ve gone ‘too far’?

Murphy: (laughs). Yes, that’s happened, and more than once. I let the music come. I get really into a space when I write, I get my own head out of the way and don’t let my ego get involved and just play the guitar. I sit with the guitar and basically what comes out, comes out. I’ll start to write down what came out. I write down everything so that all the music on Sessions, is written out. I may release it possibly, a guitar tablature book for this, as I have everything all written out. There were times where I went a little too overboard- very odd time signatures, very hard parts that were a little obscene. Steve is actually a really good buffer for that- I don’t know what it is about him, but he has this kind of thing where he tells me to lay back. If he can’t get behind it and write vocals for it, it’s not going to go. There’s a lot of give and take and a lot of trust involved with that. A lot of people see that as him hindering me from writing whatever I want- but at the end of the day you are in a band, and you are in a group of people.

It’s not a one-person show, unless you happen to be for lack of a better reference point like Chuck Schuldiner or Michael Keene, where you write all the music. Even in those respects, I’m sure they have a lot of back and forth conversations with the other musicians you work with. Even I knew sometimes when it was a little too much, where it wouldn’t make sense. Especially with the big picture where you find rhythms and grooves in places, create a feeling and not just a crazy tech atmosphere which I find one of the biggest problems with technical death metal. To me it feels like a lot of showing off- even though I’m not judging anybody. Being able to pull that off and shred like that is amazing- I don’t like to do it because I like progressive music that you can bang your head to or move your body to and feel the music to not just be like ‘wow, that was crazy!’ all the time.

Dead Rhetoric: What themes are important to the Summoned to get across in the lyrics? Is it challenging for Stephen to figure out at times where and how to come across because of all the intricacies in the music?

Murphy: We work really long and hard on the vocals. We take a long time proofreading the lyrics, and parts for where we thought things should line up. Steve has a natural knack for finding his place through all that chaos. If anything, it adds to the music, it doesn’t feel like it’s out of place. That’s definitely something else that we’ve honed in on over the years, he was writing paragraphs in the past for lyrics. He figured out he doesn’t need to do that, to fit huge amounts of words in- that he could slow it down and pull back on the lyrics like Meshuggah, the (shorter) amount of lyrics (needed) to get your point across faster. I think he did a really good job with that on Sessions, the concepts that come across through the actual singular songs relate to the major concept of the album. All of that was very planned, proofread everything, we all talked about concepts of each song and how they related to the concept as a whole. In a sense, with Sessions being a concept album, it doesn’t read like a book. It’s not like Dream Theater’s Metropolis Part II: Scenes from a Memory. It doesn’t read like a linear story, there’s a lot of jumping around but it makes sense because of the spastic nature of the music.

Dead Rhetoric: Could you delve a little bit into what the central concept of Sessions is all about?

Murphy: Yeah, of course. Sessions is about a man who goes in to see a psychiatrist and for whatever happens to be ailing him, there are a lot of things buried in his psyche. The idea is he gets put under all these different tests and each test ends up sending him into his own subconscious mind where he’s dealing with something or reliving an incident. In the first track “The Pendulum Swing” that’s kind of the introduction to the concept, he meets with the doctor and the whole idea of the pendulum swing, so he gets sent into a state of hypnosis. Then that leads him into a space, not necessarily a room, but there’s all these doors to his own psyche, and he goes through each one of these doors as the album progresses. In “Faradic”, it’s him coming back through electric shock treatments, straight back into this desert world. “Fractal Patterns” is next, and Steve has much more of the concepts laid out for all of the songs- that is more Rorschach ink block tests that end up sending him back deep into his subconscious to go through all that.

From there we go into “The Grave Mistake”- that feeling of not feeling at home in your own skin, we basically go through that through a dream state where he leaves his body and finds himself trapped in another body, and can’t get out of that said body back to his own. We do a lot of those push and pull things. “Built of Glass” is about being built of glass but having your emotions shattered by other people. Specifically, in relationship or romantic relationship aspects. From there, “Vertiginous” is one of the more insane songs on the album, the concept has to do with seizures being the major cause of him delving back into his psyche. Man, I really have to talk to Steve about this (laughs). I’m drawing a blank on this one- it ends up relating to the last two songs on the record where he realizes more things about himself. He relives his own birth in “Primogenial Birth”, that is one of the more death metal driven songs on the album. That ends with the birth itself, and the last two songs “Recollection” and “Satori” have a lot to do with becoming more self-aware of his own situation, and the ‘aha’ enlightening moment. There’s a nice twist on the end of the album which if you follow the concept, you can get right with it, it’s like an M. Night Shyamalan plot twist. I won’t give it away, but it’s really good.

Dead Rhetoric: It’s great to hear that you are willing to put forth as much work in the lyrical content as you do the music, so that you provide intelligent, thought-provoking words to consume along with the controlled chaos of the music…

Murphy: I really feel that way too about this. That’s why I gel really with bands that use that forward thinking aspect in metal. Like Decrepit Birth used a ton of that, Death, Cynic, all of that stuff. Those are all big influences on me.

Part II of Matt Coe’s interview with The Summoned will post tomorrow, July 1st.

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