RSS Feed

ACT OF DEFIANCE – Burial And The Birth
Anthony Morgan
August 2015

Act Of Defiance (l-r): Henry Derek, Chris Broderick, Matt Bachand and Shawn Drover

On November 25th, 2014, it was announced that drummer Shawn Drover had opted to part ways with Los Angeles, California-based thrash metal outfit Megadeth following a ten-year tenure in order to pursue his own musical interests. One day later on the 26th, guitarist Chris Broderick announced his departure from the Megadeth ranks, also wishing to pursue his own musical interests.

“After ten-plus years of being in Megadeth, I just started to come to the decision that at some point I wanted to do something on my own, and have my own musical ideas and stuff – like I did before I joined that band,” Shawn reasons. “I was in a band called Eidolon; we had five records on Metal Blade, and most of that music I wrote. I wrote probably about 90% of those records, so there was a lot of creative input on my part with Eidolon.

“I started to get to the point where I kind of wanted to be able to express myself how I wanted to again. The band had a really huge break, taking more than a year off with this new management company coming in, saying they wanted the band to take a year off. I just thought if there was ever a time to make a move, that would be the proper time so not to put the band in a kind of situation where they couldn’t find a replacement in due time. Of course, having a year off, they had plenty of time to get new guys.

“Oddly enough, Chris was kind of having the same thoughts. Once I expressed to him what my plan was and what I was thinking about doing, Chris was thinking kind of the same thing. We started to talk about it, that maybe we should team up and put our efforts together and see where that takes us. That’s exactly what we did, once we left that band. Then of course work begins on writing a record, finding musicians, finding a producer, finding a manager, finding a record company, and finding a booking agent. All of those things Chris and I had to do on our own, but here we are.

“This all started in November, and we were able to do all of those things I just said and much more in the space of six months. The result is Birth And The Burial (August 2015). I think we set out exactly what we planned to do, which was to have a record released by December. At this point, we’re completely on par with what we set out to do initially.”

Existing from 1993 until 2007, Canadian thrash metal ensemble Eidolon very much included the rhythmist’s songwriting contributions. Perhaps there was less creative freedom within the Megadeth camp. “It wasn’t that I couldn’t,” he clarifies. “It’s just that Dave (Mustaine, Megadeth mainman) was always the chief songwriter. If you look at their catalogue throughout history, most of the songs were written by him, and that’s fine – there’s nothing wrong with that. I knew that going into the situation, but as someone who creates music, I just started to feel like I needed that outlet again. I wanted to write heavier music without compromise.

“We didn’t write any songs to try to make a hit or any of that stuff. The music was purely written for the love of heavy metal without paying any regard to what’s popular today or what may be popular tomorrow, or how we can write a hit single – all of that stuff. We didn’t care about any of that shit. It was all about expressing ourselves in the purest form by writing heavy metal songs. I had no interest whatsoever in… Just so you know, there are ten songs on Birth And The Burial. I wrote five and Chris wrote five, and that was the initial plan as well.

“Again though, we didn’t get together and say ‘Okay, let’s write this kind of song,’ or ‘You write two of those kinds of songs,’ or ‘You write a hit single.’ It was ‘You write five songs, and I’ll write five songs.’ There was no plan. We just knew that we were going to write really heavy music, and that was our only kind of goal – again, to make music without compromise, like pure heavy metal – and that’s exactly what we did. Going back to what you said, I never had an issue with the fact that I couldn’t write as much material as I wanted because I knew of that situation going in. I did get a song on the Endgame record (September 2009) that was nominated for a Grammy; it was the first video and the first single. It was a song called ‘Head Crusher’, so obviously I was able to express myself. That’s case and point with that song, but I don’t know. I just felt like I wanted to branch out on my own. That’s pretty much the long and short of it.”

Shawn Drover

Shawn and Chris’ swansong effort with Megadeth, June 2013’s Super Collider, and the band’s overall direction at that time could perhaps have been the source of discontent. “I don’t think someone should quit a band just because a record doesn’t do well,” Shawn states. “I mean, Jesus… It’s certainly not the most well-received record in their catalogue though, is it? Again though, it’s just a matter of performing on somebody else’s tunes. I was a drummer who played drums on those songs. Regardless of whether I like them or I hate them, that didn’t play a part in the reason behind why I decided to leave that band at all, no. Of course, that’s just internet chit chatter, which at the end of the day means nothing, does it? Nobody knows the real reason, which is why I am telling you the real reason right now. I just purely wanted to express myself, and do it my way, and that’s exactly what I did.”

Super Collider generally received a negative reception. “It’s not my favourite record, certainly,” the sticksman admits. “I would rather listening to Killing Is My Business (June 1985), certainly. It’s no secret – I’ve always expressed as much in the press. I’ve always been an advocate for the heavier stuff. If you’re in a metal band, it should be heavy. That’s why you call it heavy metal. Look, it’s okay to explore and do different things. I understand that, but I don’t always necessarily agree with it. When you’re in a situation where there’s no democracy though, there’s not a whole much you can do about it, so you just kind of roll over with it. I don’t think anybody in the band loved that record. Sometimes you do things that are a little bit left of centre, and sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. That’s all subjective, though.

“Again, like I said… Is it my favourite record? No, it’s not. I would rather listen to Peace Sells (September 1986) or Killing Is My Business; if I was to listen to that band, I would put on those two records before I put on Super Collider, certainly – as would most heavy metal fans. I don’t think that’s a big secret, is it? Again though, what someone can construe as being a crappy record, other people can say ‘Wow, I really love that record. I think it’s great,’ and that goes for any band. You can listen to Judas Priest, and some guy will say ‘Turbo (April 1986) is my favourite record,’ but then the guy by the side of him will say ‘What? Are you crazy? There’s no way. Screaming For Vengeance (July 1982) is the best record, or Defenders Of The Faith (January 1984), or whatever.’ It’s all subjective, isn’t it? To me, as long as you support the scene, that’s what matters.

“To bicker about something negative all the time I think is a waste of energy and a waste of time. I would rather focus on promoting something that I love instead of going on some stupid ass message board and promoting something… Not promoting, but talking shit about something that I hate. Why would I do that? To me, that is… If you don’t like something, don’t listen to it. I would rather focus on, listen to and talk about – to you or whomever – about something that I like to listen to. To talk shit about something… Again, someone can read this and say ‘Shit, I really love that album. I think that album’s fantastic, and now I think the drummer’s a dickhead’ because I am talking shit about something. It’s not really an intelligent thing to do, because by talking negative about something, or somebody, or whatever, you’re potentially pissing off somebody who really likes that band, or likes that person, or likes that song.

“A lot of people have done that over the years, and… I don’t know. I would rather just focus on talking about things that I like. There’s enough out there as it is in heavy metal with declining record sales. My thing is, I think we should all try to support the scene as much as possible and be positive, and not dwell on the negative. I don’t think it’s good for the scene at all, so I’d rather just focus on positive stuff.”

Of the full-lengths Shawn cut as part of Megadeth’s line-up, May 2007’s United Abominations is this interviewer’s personal favourite. “That definitely had some more aggressive stuff, something fast,” Shawn critiques. “That’s the kind of stuff I like; that’s the kind of stuff that I really gravitate towards and that’s the heavier, more uptempo kind of stuff, but not everybody thinks that way. I do. Like I said, when I hear heavy stuff, I want it to be pretty heavy, but everybody’s different.”

The percussionist’s musical concern post-Megadeth happens to be Act Of Defiance (including Chris, of course), with Shadows Fall rhythm guitarist Matt Bachand occupying bass. “That was a happy coincidence,” he enthuses. “I’m not sure if you know, but the Shadows Fall guys, after 15 years… I’ve known those guys since 2000; I’ve known Matt and all of those guys for 15 years. When I found out that Shadows Fall was breaking up, I read about it on social media or something – that he was looking for a new situation, a new kind of new band. It was like ‘You know what, man?’ Matt of course is a good guitar player, but Matt’s also a bass player, so I thought that I should maybe give him a ring. Oddly enough, this was right when I was doing drum tracks for Birth And The Burial. At that point, we still didn’t have a bass player.

“Our producer who did the record – Chris “Zeuss” Harris… We did this up in Connecticut, which isn’t far from Massachusetts at all. Actually, he was good friends with all of those guys and produced most of their records, so he said ‘Hey man, I thought of an idea for a new bass player. What do you think about Matt?’ I said ‘Man, I was just thinking about that last night,’ so it was just a weird kind of happy coincidence that myself and the producer thought of the same guy at pretty much the same time. We gave him a ring; we called him at the house, and he said ‘I’m absolutely interested.’ We sent him a couple of tracks that we were working on, and so it was pretty much that easy. Again, it just fell into our lap at the perfect time.

Megadeth 2013 (l-r): Shawn Drover, David Ellefson, Dave Mustaine and Chris

“Henry (Derek, ex-Scar The Martyr) was a little bit different; with Henry, we did a big YouTube search and all of that stuff. Guys lived too far away, and stuff. We kind of had him on a list, and narrowed it down from 30 initial people that we looked at to maybe four or five serious contenders that we were really considering. Once I heard that Henry could do different things with his voice, he instantly became the frontrunner. He left the band that he was in, so again, it was just a matter of him being available at the right time. We snagged him up quick. He jumped right into the record, wrote half of the lyrics for the record, and dove right into the situation. It kind of worked out well for us. We didn’t have to look too hard thankfully to find these guys, so we’re pretty happy about that.”

Of the 30 initial candidates, not all were considered in the flesh as it were. “Someone would send you a link, like ‘Hey, check out this guy,’ or ’… check out that guy.,’” Shawn augments. “Then you’d find out that he was in a band, or that he wasn’t doing it any more. Initially we had probably 20 or 30 guys we just looked at, putting in the link and watching the video, like a performance that they did or something like that. Like I said, we quickly narrowed it down by process of availability and stuff to maybe five or six serious contenders we were considering.”

Musically speaking, Act Of Defiance’s members have much in common with their frontman. “Of course there are obvious questions that you need to ask a guy who you want to be your bandmate, like if they like the same kind of music that we like, and what are their influences,” the composer explains. “Of course, we came to find out that he’s a big King Diamond and Mercyful Fate fan, and that he likes Death and all kinds of different stuff that I love as well. Right off the bat, we had a lot of common interests in terms of who our influences were and what metal bands we loved.

“Of course everybody in the band loves King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, so we just had common ground right off the bat. Again, like I said, we wanted a singer who wasn’t one-dimensional. We didn’t want a guy who was just gonna scream his head off all the time, but we didn’t want a guy who was just going to sing melodically as well. We wanted someone who could kind of do both and could kind of mould his voice into different ways, and he was able to do all that. I think that was ultimately what sealed the deal, was again, we had those common interests musically and influence-wise, and the fact that he could do so many things with his voice was kind of what sealed the deal. It turns out he lived ten minutes away from where Chris does in LA. That was very convenient, where he can just come to Chris’ studio and cut demos. All those things played a factor, so yeah, we’re really happy with his performance on the record. I think he did a great job.”

Such comments suggest the aforementioned are musical influences on Act Of Defiance. “When I say influences – ultimately, who you love listening to and all of that stuff – I don’t think it really played a part, any of those bands,” Shawn submits. “We didn’t really try to sound like King Diamond. We didn’t try to sound like Death or Testament, or whatever. Like I said, when Chris and I wrote the music, he wrote five songs at his house and I wrote five songs at my house. Again, I didn’t sit down and say ‘Okay, I wanna write a song that sounds like Death off of the Leprosy album (August 1988). It was nothing like that. It was just writing some tunes, writing stuff that I wanted to write, and Chris the same way. If you listen to some of Chris’ songs on the record – like ‘Poison Dream’ or stuff like that – they have these classically influenced intros and stuff. ‘Refrain And Re-Fracture’ has this big, prolonged acoustic intro, for example. I couldn’t write anything like that. I’m a guitar player, but I’m not that advanced as a guitar player.

“Chris is; Chris comes from a different kind of musical perspective, where he likes to throw some of those influences in – like how he play with the classical, and things like that. Then he’ll write a song that’s pure thrash metal, though, like a song like ‘Throwback’ which is progressive thrash metal. It’s a complete departure. All of his songs sound different from one another, and so do mine. I just think it’s a really cool, multi-faceted heavy metal record. It doesn’t sound all like one thing. Every song sounds completely different from each other, and yet it’s all still heavy metal in the end.

“I’m pretty happy about that, but to answer your question, I don’t really… We didn’t go in and say ‘Okay, you love that band. Let’s try to sound like that band.’ It wasn’t like that at all. I’ve been writing metal tunes for 30 years now, so at this point I don’t… I haven’t tried to sound like anybody since I was probably in my friggin’ late teens. It kind of comes out how it comes out. There’s no pre-meditation or attempt to emulate a band, or sound like a band. If it does, I don’t apologise for that. It wasn’t intentional, but listening to that record, I don’t hear any blatant rip-offs of anybody. It’s just heavy metal music.”

Act Of Defiance (l-r): Matt Bachand, Chris Brodericdk, Shawn Drover and Henry

While Chris happens to be ‘from a different kind of musical perspective’, Shawn’s writing approach hasn’t changed through the years. “For me, writing songs has always been the same since I was a teenager,” he reckons. “Since I started writing, I go in my room, and I plug in my guitar. It’s always a guitar riff first. I don’t think I’ve ever written a song on drums, like ‘I’m gonna do this beat, and put a guitar part to it.’ It’s never been like that. It’s always been… Because I play both, I’ll come up with a guitar part, but – once I kind of manufacture it – I’ll instantly know what kind of drum beat I’ll wanna put behind it, like whether it’s a double-bass drum fast thing, or a slow thing, or a more weird thing, or whatever it is. Putting the guitar parts together, I always have the drum parts in the back of my mind. It’s never really too difficult to create drum passages for the guitar stuff that I write, because the guitar stuff that I write is already pretty much in mind and pretty close to what I wanna do.

“I write when I’m inspired. I’ll be driving in the car and come up with some weird riff in my head, and I’ll just run upstairs when I get home and record it. I’ll plug in and record it, just like I did when I was younger. Over the course of time, you just assemble these riffs. Next thing you know, you have 40 or 50 different riffs. You pick out all the best ones that you want and you start formulating it into songs, like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. Like ‘That riff goes with that riff’ or ‘Oh… That’s pretty cool,’ or ‘I’ve just gotta write one more riff.’ It’s like putting together the pieces of a musical puzzle. It’s been done the same way for almost 30 years now. That’s never really changed, so it’s old school that way. I don’t record on ProTools; I just got my little tape recorder gear and stuff, and record it like that. That’s how I initially write songs, and it’s been the same way for almost 30 years.”

The songwriter for each respective track featured on Birth And The Burial can be identified, should the given listener be familiar with each respective songwriter’s motifs. “I think some songs, for people who know Chris’ playing, and know what I did previously in Eidolon and stuff – like the song ‘Headcrusher’ I did with Megadeth – it’s really not too difficult to decipher some of the songs,” the musician views. “Like ‘Throwback’. I could’ve written that song; that’s a song that I certainly could’ve written, because the thrash stuff is really a part of how I like to express myself. There’s a song on the record that I wrote called ‘Thy Lord Belial’ and that’s a full-on thrash metal song as well, but if somebody listened to ‘Throwback’ which was our first single, our first video and all of that stuff, I think most people would have to look at the credits to see who wrote it – like ‘Did Shawn write it?,’ ’Was it a collaboration between Chris and Shawn?’

“On the other hand, there are other songs like ‘Poison Dream’, which is certainly something people would know who wrote, or ‘Refrain And Re-Fracture’ because of the big acoustic intro. Most people would right away go ‘Okay, I’m pretty sure Chris wrote that one,’ because he’s highly schooled in classical guitar and all of that stuff. That’s not something that I could write. I’m not qualified to write something that good on guitar. I’m a heavy metal guitar player. Chris can play any kind of guitar; flamenco, classical, rock, jazz. He can do it all, whereas I’m strictly relegated to rock music and heavy metal. That’s kind of where it starts and ends with me, in terms of being creative. I couldn’t jump onstage with a jazz band and play guitar. I couldn’t – there’s no way. Chris could do it in a heartbeat.”

For those unfamiliar with each respective songwriter’s motifs, Shawn supplies the musical credits for Birth And The Burial’s compositions. “‘Throwback’ was Chris, ‘Legion Of Lies’ I wrote, ‘Thy Lord Belial’ I wrote, ‘Refrain And Re-Fracture’ was Chris, ‘Dead Stare’ was Chris, ‘Disastrophe (A New Reality)’ I wrote,” he lists. “‘Poison Dream’, Chris wrote that, ‘Obey The Fallen’ I wrote, ‘Crimson Psalm’, Chris wrote, and ‘Birth And The Burial’ I wrote.”

1 | 2

<< Back to Features

Related Posts via Categories