ALLEGAEON – From The Stars Metal Came
Fort Collins, Colorado-based death metal outfit Allegaeon formed in 2008, guitarist Ryan Glisan its founding member. Ryan graduated from college, deciding he would attempt to gain employment as well as pursue a musical career. Allegaeon was founded by the American as well as a high school friend who no longer appears in the line-up. The group’s 2012 line-up includes no original members besides Ryan, its membership completed by guitarist Greg Burgess, vocalist Ezra Haynes, and bassist Corey Archuleta.
“We just started playing local shows with some people,” remembers Ryan Glisan. “As we got better and better we just found people to either replace the people that had left, or we just kicked people out as we were wanting to try to find people that would better suit where we wanted to go. That’s how that started. At some point or one another, we ended up with the line-up that we have now basically.”
Allegaeon’s provisional moniker was Allegiance. “We had left it up to an old guitar player to look up if there were any other bands with that name,” the axeman explains. “When he did he had spelt it wrong, and of course nobody else had spelt it wrong when they were looking it up. We thought that we were the only band with that name, and six months down the road I just remember looking around on MySpace or something and finding out there were a bunch of other bands with that name. We decided to change it to something similar, but different. Basically to cut a long story short, that’s how we came up with Allegaeon. Part of it stems from the old name, and we just threw the aeon on the end to make it a little more unique I guess.”
Independently issued, an eponymously titled four-track EP arrived in 2008. “Most of those songs were songs that we had already written,” Ryan tells. “Right around that time though is when we got Greg – our other guitar player right now. One of the songs he contributed and the other ones were songs that we had been playing for a little bit. At that point we decided either we were gonna try to put out a decent demo, or just give it up. We were all getting to that age where we had jobs and all that stuff, so we recorded the EP, spent a decent amount of money on it, and recorded the four songs that we thought we liked the best. Interestingly enough, right after we put it out we started getting contacted by some labels. Inevitably, I think it was less than a year later when Metal Blade actually contacted us saying that they were interested.
“Metal Blade wanted those four songs to be on the first record. We didn’t have a huge fanbase back then, but we had enough people that knew who we were. We felt it would cheapen the CD by putting four songs on there that people already knew. We knew that we had ten pretty solid songs, so we just decided that we wanted to have all new stuff on the CD versus four songs that people had already heard before. That actually did pretty well for us though, that four-song EP.”
The prospect of Allegaeon’s 2008 EP undergoing a re-release is remote, however. “That’s a good question. We always will have those songs available for digital download, but I don’t know if we’ll ever re-release it,” the mainman admits. “We probably won’t ever have Metal Blade re-release it to be perfectly honest, because they are the only songs that we actually own. If we were to re-release it at this point, I’m pretty sure that they would get the rights to them. Seeing as how bands don’t make a whole lot of money off of songs, it’s kind of nice to actually get a 100% of the money that people spend on those songs. We’ll probably try to keep those for ourselves. Every now and again, if we have some extra money maybe we’ll throw that towards getting some physical copies made again. For now and the foreseeable future though, it’ll probably just be an iTunes download.”
It was revealed on December 1st, 2009 that Allegaeon had inked a record contract with Metal Blade Records. “I think that was the offer we took more seriously than the others,” Ryan enthuses. “Some of the others were labels we hadn’t even heard of, or the deals were really, really weird. We had actually flown out one of the guys who works for Metal Blade to come to see us at one point; he was really cool, and gave us good advice. There was just more of a friendly atmosphere and kind of a friendly vibe that we got from Metal Blade, kind of more so than some of the others. I think that’s why we ended up going with them, because we just liked the people involved a little bit better.”
“I’m a little hesitant to say who they were, but we had had interest from two other labels that I would consider pretty big metal labels. Again though, Metal Blade just seemed to be the most serious about it from what we could tell at the time.”
Given the metal subgenre Allegaeon mainly occupy, it’s arguable that Metal Blade was a greater fit for the group. “Yeah, I think so,” the guitarist concurs. “When it first came out, it seemed like a lot of people were saying ‘Metal Blade are just signing some other band that sounds exactly like all the other bands on their label.’ Whether that’s true or not, I think they have a couple of certain styles of bands that they seem to sign a lot. I think definitely our new CD has gone away from how we sounded back when we signed, but I think it works. I think a lot of those new bands that they have are bands that I could see ourselves touring with – it would work well. I think style wise, it works. There are definitely other labels that have that kind of technical, more European vibe, which is how people describe us a lot of times. There are definitely other labels that have bands who do some more things than us, but I don’t know. I think Metal Blade’s been good for us. I think it works.”
Inaugural full-length Fragments Of Form And Function surfaced in July 2010. “The first record was kind of a mix of really, really new material, and really old material,” Ryan notes. “As far as the sound it’s kind of all over the place, but somehow it still kind of works. When we made that CD in Denver at the same studio where we had our EP made, we just had a good time recording it. Most of those songs were all pretty much done, so we were really quick in the studio and knocked them out as fast as possible. It was our first time doing a full CD, so it probably took us a little longer than it normally would’ve. At the time though, we were really happy with it; we thought it was a step up from our EP. I would say most people thought that as well. I know that there are some people out there who still like the EP more than anything, but you can’t always please everybody.
“Looking back on it now, I’d say definitely our new CD is much better than our first full-length Fragments. I think our new CD is a bit better, more well rounded, but I have to say that for what Fragments Of Form And Function was, I think we’re all still really happy with it. We kind of look at that as being a pretty solid first release for us. Obviously when you look back on things you can think of a million things that you’d wanna do better, but for what it is I think we’re all still really happy with it. It was a good experience, and it has done well for us.”
An abundant wealth of performances didn’t accompany the release, though. “We just seem to have something that always comes up,” the songwriter laments. “We’ll be about to go on some tour and it’ll be either we can’t do it, or the tour doesn’t happen, or they lose the booking agent. It’s just seemed like it hasn’t quite worked out super well for us with tours so far, but we did do about six weeks of touring last summer for it. Previous to that I think we had done random shows here and there, mostly around our home state of Colorado with a little bit around the West Coast.
“I can’t say that we always had huge, huge turnouts to the shows, but for a band that was pretty new we played all over the US. Some shows weren’t great, but there were shows in some bigger markets like LA, New York, Chicago, and New Orleans where we actually had some really, really good turnouts. A surprising amount of kids were there to see us, kids who knew the words to all the songs which is odd for me because I don’t even know the words to all of the songs. We definitely could’ve done more shows, but we did do some. Like I said, we did about six weeks’ worth of touring, which isn’t a lot. But yeah, I’d say overall, for what it was and how long we’ve been around we’re pretty happy with it.”
Sophomore full-length Formshifter underwent issue during May 2012. “Well actually, the funny thing is that with the second record we didn’t really have a whole lot of time to get it done,” the axeman divulges. “We got off of our last tour at the end of August 2011, and within basically a week of getting back home we and Metal Blade I guess decided that we wanted to have a new CD out or at least finished by the beginning of 2012. Really, we had from the beginning of September to the end of November to get that album ready to go to the studio at the beginning of December. We only had two or three months to finish working on songs and lyrics, get artwork done, and decide which studio we wanted to go. It was kind of a mad rush to get that CD done, so it wasn’t like our first CD Fragments Of Form And Function where we had developed these songs over a couple of years.
“It was literally a couple of months that we tightened the songs up, got the lyrics done, and worked on the solos and everything. It was actually kind of stressful because we had to do all that in such a short amount of time, but I don’t know. Sometimes it’s kind of a blessing because when you have all the time in the world you sit there and nitpick on songs back and forth forever, and you don’t ever make the decision that the song’s done. This time around we had to be like ‘Okay, this song is done. We have to move on and finish another song.’ Yeah, it was stressful and it was a rush. I think we ended up making a pretty good CD in the end though, which is all that matters.”
Consisting of wholly new material as opposed to a conglomerate of older and more recent compositions, Formshifter arguably flows better overall. “That’s kind of something that we’ve been wanting to focus on more, to always have – and not only within the whole CD but within songs – as good a flow as possible,” Ryan acknowledges. “I would say the new songs definitely are more along the lines of where we want to try to go in the future more so than any of the last CDs, because all those songs on our EP and our first CD were written over such a long period of time that there was never really one phase of the band that those songs were written during. So yeah, I think overall there is a much better flow to the CD and the songs are a lot more cohesive than they have been previously.
“I think four years ago, we were just trying to figure out what kind of band we wanted to be. We knew that we wanted to be metal and heavy and do a lot of fast stuff and groovy stuff and solos, but that isn’t always necessary transferred into a style per se. I’d say four years ago we were just searching for a sound. We were searching to see if we could be more than just a local band playing local shows, but in the future I think we really will try to make it into a viable business really as much as possible, more so than guys that just sit around and write songs. We want to be able to make money doing it. I think that’s everybody’s dream, to be in a band where all you have to do is focus on writing music, playing music, and making money which seems to be constantly harder and harder these days. I think along with that, we want to continue to strive to carve out our own little niche in the metal world, whatever that might be. I think we’re gonna go down the path that we have been that mixes technical aspects, some catchy aspects, solid songwriting, and all the stuff that we do.
“Hopefully we can continue to develop our own sound in the future. If we can be more of a unique band, actually make some money doing it, and expand our fanbase, I think that’s really our ultimate goal. Obviously none of us cannot have other jobs, because we all have to have jobs to pay the bills. It’s just always increasingly hard these days for metal bands to just be in a band and not have any sort of other income, so that’s something that we aspire to. That’s yet to be determined, but that’s the ultimate goal. With anybody that plays music or does anything with the arts, to be able to support yourself and probably a family with money that you make is your goal. So yeah, that would be an awesome goal. We’ll see if we ever get there though.”
In discussing Formshifter, the mainman stated that the outing ‘applies certain elements that weren’t present on the previous record.’ “Maybe I miscommunicated that,” he concedes. “I don’t think it’s necessarily breaking any new ground for us as a band. I would say that I think we focused more on just the grooviness, heaviness, and the feel of the songs. Whereas Fragments Of Form And Function was just a little bit more straightforward, fast and heavy, I think the new CD is a little bit… I hate to use the word emotion, but there’s a little more feel, a little more groove, and a little more emotion. There’s some different flavours of some things though, where we’ve added some classical guitar or some pretty heavy stuff, and some staccato rhythm type stuff that I guess we didn’t do on the first CD. There’s definitely some flavours in there that are different, stuff that points towards what we want to do in the future I guess and stuff that we haven’t done a whole lot of in the past. I don’t know if that really answers your question very well (laughs).”
Musical elements prevalent on Fragments Of Form And Function have been carried over into Formshifter. “We’ve always had blastbeats, a lot of solos, and I guess what we would consider to be catchy choruses and actually fairly standard pop or rock style song structures,” Ryan pinpoints. “In that sense, it’s very similar to our EP or our first full-length. They have all that; there’s still a lot of blastbeats, heavy stuff, and a ton of solos. We still really focused on songwriting, and trying to make the choruses cool and catchy, stuff that people can relate to. In that sense it’s very, very similar to our first two CDs, but I would say for most people who listen to it it doesn’t exactly sound the same. There are some different aspects that we’ve added to the songs this time around. I think mostly it’s just maturity really, just getting better at writing songs. That’s what’s really changed from our first CD to this CD.”
Formshifter’s riffing slightly differs to its predecessor. “I would say that our first album had a little bit more death metal riffing, or a little less groove-oriented riffing,” the guitarist analyses. “The first album had a lot more picking and a lot more of those pedal tone style riffs, whereas the new CD kind of went back more towards – as far as the songs that I wrote – the stuff that I used to listen to, stuff that I always thought had really cool riffs like Nevermore, Pantera. It was less about being heavy or trying to be this brutal death metal band, and more about just trying to have a good, solid groove that really lets the vocals stand out. With the songwriting on the new one, it was actually a little easier because I just kind of went back to how I used to do things. I just laid out a cool drum beat by programming drums on a computer while I was writing the songs, and just jammed out on the guitar. I just work on putting in some different notes to see which sounds the coolest, and that was pretty much it. I don’t particularly think too hard when I’m writing songs; if it sounds cool then I keep it, but if it doesn’t then I delete it basically.”
Death metal is arguably the category Allegaeon falls under. “That’s funny, because rarely do two consecutive people say that we’re the same thing,” Ryan observes. “In one interview someone will say that we’re a tech death band, and then in the next interview someone will say melodic metal. Then there are other people out there that just say we’re straight up death metal. Obviously none of those really apply because whenever we go into a section of a song that might be straight up death metal, very quickly it changes to something… and it’s not done on purpose – that’s just how we write. Whatever we think works best for that particular moment in any song is how we do it. I don’t ever really categorise us personally as anything, but to the average person, yes I would say death metal probably tells the story of who we are better. To the person that doesn’t know the difference, that’s probably what they think we are.”
A wide spectrum of guitarists influence the composer’s playing. “I started off when I was younger listening to a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Metallica, Megadeth, and Pantera,” he recollects. “Those were the bands that I started off listening to, but then as you get better most guitar players go into three different directions. One is classical, two is jazz / blues, and then three is the metal route. I ended up going the metal route, so in the mid to late 90s I got into death metal bands like Morbid Angel, Death, and all those bands. Towards the end of the late 90s, early 2000s – which was my favourite era of metal – I got into all the European bands, and other bands which fit into that genre. Bands like Nevermore, Arch Enemy, Soilwork, and Opeth, and even bands like Symphony X and Dream Theater, Strapping Young Lad. A lot of those bands had some melody, but also had really heavy, fast stuff. Those are my metal influences.
“I’m not particularly too fond of a whole lot of newer bands, especially a lot of the American bands that have come out in the last handful of years. I would say both me and Greg the other guitar player. As far as really what influences our playing, there’s a lot of those 80s thrash / 90s death metal, late 90s / early 2000s European bands, and then the progressive metal bands like Symphony X and Dream Theater. Then there’s all the virtuoso guitar players like Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, so it’s kind of all over the place. I’m really into other music that’s not just metal, but I can’t really say that those bands necessarily influenced me in my metal playing. I just like to listen to a lot of other stuff as well. That’s a pretty broad perspective of what’s influenced me.”
Though Ryan isn’t particularly fond of newer American metal acts, many such ensembles have penned album contracts with Allegaeon’s record label Metal Blade. “I hear what you’re saying, but it’s not like I personally dislike the people in the bands,” he stresses. “I’ve met and hung out with a lot of bands where I don’t particularly care for their music, but the guys are all so really cool. It’s not anything personal, but just musical taste. Everybody gives Justin Bieber a hard time, but if I were to sit and hang out with him I’m sure he’s not a bad kid. I have nothing against him; he’s just doing what he’s doing, but the same goes for other styles of metal that I don’t particularly care for. Somebody likes it, because obviously they wouldn’t be popular if they didn’t. To each their own; everybody’s got their own tastes. If I don’t like it then so be it, but I don’t have any hard feelings about bands that play music that I don’t care for getting big, or getting signed to labels or anything. It doesn’t bother me.”
Formshifter was recorded at Lambesis Studios in San Marcos, California with producer Daniel Castleman, Castleman having previously worked with the likes of As I Lay Dying, Carnifex, Impending Doom, and Winds Of Plague. “It was actually really, really good,” the axeman exalts. “We didn’t have a lot of time to talk to him beforehand because he was super busy. We didn’t know him due to living states apart, but once we got in and actually started working with him I really liked how he operates. He wasn’t at all about trying to change our music, so he didn’t try to take the producer role so much. He told us ‘Look, you guys are the band. You guys are signed, and obviously you’re doing halfway decent because you guys know what you’re doing. I’m not gonna try to change it. I’ll give some suggestions here and there, but I figure you guys know better than I do.’
“He was all about trying to capture all the parts as quickly as possible, and get them to sound as good as they possibly could with the time that we had. He’s a really cool guy, and did a really good job. We’ll probably go back to him again, because we enjoyed working with him so much. We actually got along with him really well. We spent a lot more time than we had anticipated with him, because of something else that happened.
“There was another band who was there while we were there, and the singer kind of threw a temper tantrum because he thought that they were gonna be the only band there. He didn’t want to give up using the places where the band sleep, and didn’t wanna share with us. Basically because of this other band we had to go actually record at Tim Lambesis’ house – the singer of As I Lay Dying – which was way far away every day, and we all had to sleep at Daniel’s house. We had to actually all pile into his apartment and crash with him, so aside from the recording process we actually all hung out a lot outside of it.
“The whole chain of command wasn’t happy from us to Daniel to Tim, who obviously owns Lambesis Studios. They weren’t too thrilled about the situation, but it was what it was. If we were to have been assholes then we just would’ve been no different than he was, so we just decided to keep our mouths shut and try to make a good CD. I think we did. We’ll see.
“It was one of those things that sucked, but in the end the CD came out really awesome anyway. As far as our band goes, we never made a big deal about it. That was basically what happened. Nobody necessarily liked the situation, and I felt bad for Daniel because we were the second band in a row that he had to have live in his apartment with him because of this other band. It was a newer band called… Oh man, I’m totally blanking on the name of it. It was a band that had members from other… I shouldn’t say big bands, but it was kind of a side project band. I honestly cannot remember the name right now. It’s not a band that I would ever listen to; they’re kind of the more poppy deathcore bands. I honestly can’t remember the name of the singer. I had no desire to talk to him, so I didn’t commit it to memory really. So yeah, it wasn’t what we expected but it ended up working out in the long run.”
Science lyrically occupied the majority of tracks featured on Fragments Of Form And Function. “We didn’t even necessarily mean for that to happen – it just kind of did,” Ryan confesses. “We all write songs; I think on this CD Ezra wrote maybe a handful, I wrote like three, and I think Greg wrote a couple as well. They’re not all about science on this one, but there’s still definitely a couple of songs that are. There are a couple of songs about religion. There’s one song called ‘Twelve’ that he wrote about a murder trial basically, about a couple that basically raped and killed young girls and then went to trial. It just very loosely talks about the situation, and then how because of plea bargaining one of them ended up getting much less time than the other because she made a deal with whoever it was that was trying the case. It’s kind of all over the place this time around, and not so much about just one thing. So yeah, without going through each song that’s about as detailed as I can make it.”
As was the case for Fragments Of Form And Function, Colin Marks handled cover artwork duties for Formshifter. Formshifter’s artwork happens to be simpler, however. “That was definitely on purpose,” the mainman confirms. “Colin has always done a very fast, good job for a very reasonable price. The first album is obviously very detailed, and it’s very open to interpretation with what it actually means. There’s a lot going on. We wanted something that was basic this time. It was still kind of cool, and still kind of made sense for what we thought would make sense for us. I just think there should be a contrast really. We didn’t want to have every CD look or sound the same by any means. We just wanted something that was completely different than the first one, and so we decided to go a little more simplistic.
“I think the next CD will have a black album cover that just has literally nothing on it. That isn’t totally true, but it’ll have a snake on it and a name. You get my point. I don’t know. I guess it is what it is. We decided to just basically have our A logo made out of bones and metal parts. It kind of relates to the first CD a little bit, but it’s a lot more simple. We were actually really excited with it. He did it in like maybe a day or two. We’re happy with it. It’s pretty basic compared to the first one.”
Formshifter was released in Europe on May 7th, 2012, in North America on the 8th and in Japan on the 16th, all through Metal Blade Records.
Interview published in May 2012. All promotional photographs by Donovan Roubsouay.