Walls of Blood – Descension to AscensionThursday, 7th March 2019
Guitarist Glen Drover has been a staple of the metal scene since the 1990’s. Starting the Canadian band Eidolon with his drummer brother Shawn, they released seven albums over their career before the duo gained the opportunity of a lifetime to join the veteran thrash outfit Megadeth in 2005. He also played in King Diamond for a brief period, as well as touring for Queensrÿche and Testament during his career. Executing his latest project Walls of Blood took six years of assembling the right players and getting the songs recorded based on their busy schedules – not an easy task, but well worth the reward as Imperium features familiar names like Chuck Billy, Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, Todd LaTorre, Nils K. Rue, and Henning Basse among others.
Musically Walls of Blood is high class power metal in the vein of his previous work – heavy, occasionally modern, slightly progressive at times, bringing to mind everything from Nevermore to Evergrey. Reaching out via Skype to Glen, you’ll learn more about the lengthy process and vision he has for Walls of Blood, plus a healthy amount of discussion about guitar technique, lessons learned in Eidolon, and if we could expect some road work to support this project.
Dead Rhetoric: Your newest project Walls of Blood assembles some powerhouse singers across the board – from acts like Pagan’s Mind, Queensryche, Striker, Testament, ex-Judas Priest, and Firewind among others. Tell us how you developed this material on Imperium over the past six years and the decision making behind specific songs for these killer singers?
Glen Drover: Let’s see. It started approximately six years ago like you mentioned. It wasn’t at that point when I first started that I would be doing this kind of project. There was a song I did with Henning, a friend of mine – we wanted to do an old Eidolon song and I got him to sing for fun. I didn’t know if I was going to put it out as a single or what I was going to do with it. It turned out really well, and shortly after that I started talking to Todd from Queensrÿche. I told him about the long-distance collaboration thing I did with Henning and it turned out really well – I loved the concept of doing this. Todd was all over it, so we did a track together and that worked out great as well. At that point, I thought I would do an album of ten songs with ten different singers. It didn’t work out quite like that, but that was the actual concept.
People I knew from the industry, many I had never recorded with before- actually most of them except for Nils. The idea of working with some singers that I really admired was appealing to me. That’s why I decided to do this – writing songs along the way with some of these people in mind. If I was going to get a singer like Chuck, it wasn’t going to be a light song. The whole album is pretty heavy actually. When I started writing and constructing the songs, Shawn helped me out quite a bit too- we’ve done that ever since we were very young. I’d keep the singer in mind that I was talking to, and then construct the song that would hopefully fit their style of singing.
Dead Rhetoric: How much material did you end up sorting through, and was it an easy process to decide what songs would make the final cut? Do you know intuitively or is it sort of a feeling out effort?
Drover: I just did them as I spoke to different people. It wasn’t like I had all these songs – I did the stuff sporadically along the way throughout the last several years. Six years – it didn’t take six years to record it obviously, I was working around everybody else’s schedules. I would record when I was inspired to do so, and if I wasn’t I wouldn’t. Which is normally the way I work these days. 80% of that worked out great- everybody did a killer job. The only thing that didn’t work out was James Rivera for Helstar, I was going to get him to do a track but that collaboration didn’t work. The percentage of collaborations that did work out was far greater than the ones that did not. I’m happy with that, because it’s a lot of long-distance collaborations. They would be sent songs with the lyrics, they would figure out the melodies and do their recordings – and they were awesome. I was able to make the album cohesive- and even though there are many different singers, it doesn’t sound like one song sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the other ones. In my opinion they all fit together even though you have a bunch of different singers on the album.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you find most enjoyable about making a record with varied singers versus sticking to one specific vocalist for the entire record? Is it related to the variety of styles you wanted to put across?
Drover: Not really, because the album isn’t really all that varied to what I’ve done in the past. There are no ballads on it, it’s heavy metal and not that much different than what we would do on one of the Eidolon albums for example. One song would be fast, one song would be sludgier, a bit more progressive- not that much different in terms of the past. It was obviously a lot more working around people schedules, so it took a little bit longer than if you were able to focus around one singer. That’s a lot easier as far as time, not six years like this. I’m glad I did it, I’m extremely happy with the way it turned out, it’s a cliché and everybody tends to say the same thing but everybody who has heard this so far, says this is one of the strongest things I’ve ever done.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you decide upon doing the Alice in Chains cover for “Junkhead”?
Drover: That was just a thing I did for fun. A buddy of mine who lives in Texas, Lance, I knew of his style of vocals. He could really do that Alice in Chains stuff really well, and very close to the original. I thought it would be fun to do one of my favorite songs off of Dirt – and he said yes. Not knowing how it was exactly going to turn out, and by the time I finished mixing it I had to add this to the album. It’s quite amazing how close he sounds to Layne, and it’s a really good tribute to the band.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the concept for the cover art come about – is it a collaborative process between the artist Mario Lopez and yourself or do you give him free reign based on titles and music to come up with something?
Drover: I think it was Shawn helped with the concept- as well as Todd from Queensrÿche. He came up with the album title. The artwork reflects that – alien figures that are rising from the pits of hell. At first I was going to go the other way and call it Descension where these beings are going down, and I changed it to where they were rising, ascending and not descending. That’s basically the idea.
Dead Rhetoric: You also stated that Shawn helped with the songwriting, did you go over ideas of what you wanted him to handle with the lyrics?
Drover: No, I don’t get involved in that department and I never have. I already have enough on my plate, I never got into the vocal melodies and lyrics has always been Shawn’s department when we’ve worked on songwriting. I told him about the idea of doing this album with different singers, could he help me with the lyrics – it would be easier to send them complete ideas with the songs and lyrics, indicating the placements and they could do their thing with it. It gave them a clear picture of where they would be singing, and they came up with their own ideas for melodies. Every song for the most part was as it was initially recorded. Working with world-class singers, you aren’t going to get anything less than that, I think. Unless you are just not on the same page.
Dead Rhetoric: Having been a part of so many well-established metal acts at various points in your career – what do you think you’ve been able to takeaway and learn when it comes to recording, performance, or business aspects that you’ve applied to your own outlook in the industry?
Drover: There’s all kinds of things I’ve learned along the way – starting with King Diamond and within working with Dave and Megadeth, all areas of recording, going on tour and what to do and what not to do. So many different things. As far as recording, that’s what we are dealing with more these days as that’s what I’ve been dealing with these past several years – I still play out a little bit but not as much. It’s a whole different thing, I’ve learned things with ProTools especially on the album I did with Megadeth at the time. I do all the engineering, mixing, and all the guitars/keyboards – deal with other people doing their tracks. When I recorded with Megadeth, we had an engineer and a producer, so I just was able to go in and do my thing. Obviously I’m a lot more involved in the process when I do things on my own and work with other people.
I’ve been doing this for over twenty years. I don’t think I’ve learned much that was new that applied to the recording process because it’s a different situation. I did learn a lot of great things along the way about how to conduct yourself, (and) deal with certain situations while on the road.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think your outlook and guitar technique has changed much from your youth to your current way of playing? If so, what are you more conscious off when it comes to your playing and songwriting?
Drover: I think I am like most people, when you are 18 years old it’s a lot about flash and all that stuff- the more technical side of playing. I still love that stuff – but I always was conscious that you have to apply melody and feel with the important things of playing guitar. If all you are working on is the technical side, that shit gets boring after a while and it ends up sending robotic. I’ve always been inspired by players like David Gilmour, Kim Mitchell, as well as the more technical guitar players like Yngwie and George Lynch, all those guys for those different reasons. It’s important to work on all techniques of your playing and not just the fast parts. For me what makes a well-rounded player is someone who possesses all those things- is a great rhythm player, really good choice of notes and solos and is able to adapt to a situation where he is playing for the song in the solo section. All of those elements form a really good player- and it inspires me to consistently work on all those areas.
Dead Rhetoric: Through the years you’ve probably been hit up for advice or tips regarding guitar playing or situations related to the business end of things. If so, what types of wisdom and advice do you try to impart – especially looking back at possible missteps you took along the way that you wish you had maybe avoided?
Drover: The advice I always give is to try to work on the rhythm playing as well as solos – the pitches when you are doing bends, the vibrato, picking techniques – making sure you have proper synchronization between the two hands. You need to exercise good dexterity within your left and right hands. I push for people to try all of these things, because they are all equally important.
Dead Rhetoric: You also provide guitar lessons for people – what do you think people want to work on the most?
Drover: They want to get into the synchronization of the alternate picking, the more technical sides that can be the hurdles. I went through that too. When I started to get into Yngwie, Al Di Meola, I was more of a legato player. With the inspiration coming from those guys, I started working on the alternate picking and get the tempos up, playing the patterns correctly. It took a little while, but then I got it. It’s a question of how bad you want it, and you have to practice and work for it.
Dead Rhetoric: What memories do you have surrounding your time in Eidolon – you have seven studio records and got the chance to get out there in the world. Are there any positive memories and/or regrets you have about that band?
Drover: Sure, both. Let’s see – we’ll start from the early stages. When we started that band, it was primarily an instrumental band, it was the early 1990’s. This is when I first started getting into home recording. Shawn and I started to make use of this, we decided to record instrumental music and hung into working with a label like Shrapnel. A guitar dominate thing going on, like Vinnie Moore, Tony MacAlpine. Then around 1994-95, we decided to apply things with vocals as we weren’t getting anywhere with the instrumental stuff. We decided to turn it into a full band, with the name Eidolon- which I wish we never used it because some people can’t pronounce it properly and it’s kind of a weird name.
Around that time, we didn’t have all the singers that we have now available doing the kind of music we wanted to do in metal. We didn’t have the internet – now it’s so easy to contact people through Facebook or whatever, reach out to collaborate or join a project. Back then it was classified ads from papers that were issued in rehearsal studios and stuff. We managed to find this guy who was quite young at the time, who seemed to be in the same stuff we were into with Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen. We gave him a shot, and he seemed pretty good- not a great singer, but had potential and I thought we could work with him. Shawn and I agreed – we did four albums with him and unfortunately we got a lot of backlash with that. Each album was getting progressively heavier and he didn’t have the kind of voice to project the power that we needed to hear a singer project – powerful, and versatile that could accommodate whatever songs we were writing at the time. That’s a regret, but it was one of those situations that you work with what you have. We were still learning too, I was working on recording at home to get the productions stronger.
Then we got into Coma Nation, and we worked with a singer who did well in the recording studio – did two albums with him. And we did the final album The Parallel Otherworld with Nils of Pagan’s Mind, and that was our best album. We found the singer that we wanted and had been looking for – a well- rounded, killer singer – and then Shawn and I joined Megadeth, and that was the end of that. That band never got to the point where we wanted it to be, a touring band. We did develop somewhat of a fan base, but we didn’t get it to where we wanted it to be after all those albums.
It was a stepping stone too, because if it wasn’t for Eidolon- we never would have joined Megadeth. Because we played a Wacken show, I met somebody who referred me to get that gig. All these things happen for a reason I guess. I have good memories of the recording process for the band, we played a few cool shows, a few festivals in Europe and North America.
Dead Rhetoric: You have had cool encounters with sports stars like Montreal Canadians hockey player Guy Lafleur who presented the members of Megadeth with their own personalized hockey jerseys. What would you say are some of the correlations between sports athletes and heavy metal artists – and have you had other cool encounters in the sports or entertainment world regarding your efforts?
Drover: Not that really come to mind. The thing you are referring to with Guy Lafleur that I put on my Facebook page- that was a cool day. He came to the show… unfortunately I didn’t get to meet him. We played Toronto, had a couple of days off, and then we played Montreal. Being that I’m from the area, I stayed in the area while everyone else went on to Montreal. I got to the Bell Centre around 5 pm, I flew in. Shawn said I had just missed Guy, and I thought he was pulling my leg. But he did- he went to the pro shop that made all the official jerseys and had our names put on them. Came up to the dressing room and gave the band the shirts- and mine was there as well. He was there with his son, who was a fan.
Shawn has met a few more people along the way, but he had more time in the band, as I left after three or four years. There you have it.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next on the agenda for Glen Drover over the next year? Would you like to take this material on the road – and if so, how would you approach the setlist and touring lineup? Or are you content to possibly work on a follow-up studio outing right away?
Drover: That’s a great question. Just as this album is getting ready to be released, I’m more focused on that. I’ve been asked this question a few times – is it a project, are you going to keep it that way? We’ll see what happens, if it’s really well-received, there’s a possibility I can put a stable lineup together and go play. I have a couple of people in mind who can handle the versatility of the songs. It all depends on how well it’s received, and I’ll know if that time comes. You can only think so far ahead these days. Where it takes me after that, we are going to see.