Woe of Tyrants – Chris Catanzaro
Death metal band WOE OF TYRANTS recently released their sophomore album, and first with Metal Blade Records, Kingdom Of Might. The band mixes aggressive riffs with a melodic touch, and an inspiring message to boot. Vocalist Chris Catanzaro recently took time out of his busy schedule to talk about the band’s new album, his lyrical inspirations, today’s metal scene, and much more!
Can you go into details about the songwriting and recording process for the band’s sophomore album, Kingdom of Might?
We released our album, Behold The Lion, on Tribunal Records in the summer of 2007. We exhausted all our new material for that. The Metal Blade thing happened in October, which was a few months later, and they wanted us to write a new record. So we stopped everything we were doing and locked ourselves away for about five or six months working and practicing six, sometimes seven, days a week. We finally got enough material together and shopping around where we wanted to record it. We decided with Joey Sturgis (The Devil Wears Prada, Gwen Stacy, Brothers Von Doom), who runs Foundation Studios. Joey invited us up there to demo a track and we liked what he was doing, so we went with him.
As far as the recording process go, we did it in parts. We went up there in shifts, so everybody didn’t have to stay up there the entire time. Joey was extremely easy to work with; he was very relaxed as far as the environment goes, so that was nice.
How has the band progressed from Behold The Lion to Kingdom Of Might?
Well, Behold The Lion was a lot more raw and we were a lot younger. We wrote that album three years ago; some of those songs on that album we wrote four years ago. It was a long process when we didn’t release anything for a long period of time, as far as recordings go. So when we laid everything down for Behold The Lion, there was a progression on that album even from some of the early songs to the later songs. There was a progression in our songwriting as we matured as musicians. That same transition can be heard from Behold The Lion to Kingdom Of Might, only everything on Kingdom Of Might was written together. It’s a lot more consistent all the way through, as far as the one particular sound goes; Behold The Lion was very raw and all over the place. I still love playing the music from that album and listening to the album, but Kingdom Of Might is under control.
The lyrics aim for a more positive message than what is normal in death metal; what is the reason behind that?
For one, and this sounds lame, I don’t like people to feel down. It’s okay to be angry and get fired up and be aggressive when you’re listening to heavy music, that’s a huge part of it, but I got my own personal beliefs and I don’t try to push it on anybody. To me, I wrote everything honestly and as heartfelt as I could possibly write. I don’t mind being on stage and smiling and having a good time and not feeling the need to throw vulgarity at the kids there. I don’t think (that being negative) is something that is necessary to be a death or thrash metal band. We try to avoid gimmicks anytime we can; we’re not a Christian band, but everyone in our band is adamant about the fact that we like to be a positive influence. With more success becomes more responsibility as a role model; someone that other people want to emulate. I think that kind of responsibility shouldn’t be something you take lightly.
What were your inspirations lyrically for Kingdom Of Might?
The first lyric on the entire record is “look to the skies for the evidence” and I think that sums up a lot of what the album is about. It shows that there is two sides to everything; dark-light, good-evil, that age-old comparison. For me, honestly, if I walk outside and look around, I just think that there is so much inspiration in the natural world around us, without it being a biblical thing. You can tell by looking at the song titles that there is a lot of biblical reference, but to me, it’s more about the values, instead of pushing it on people. There’s no preaching on this record; it just more of trying to evoke curiosity.
What song (s) are you most proud of on Kingdom Of Might?
The first track after the instrumental is “Soli Deo Gloria,” which is Latin. I actually borrowed that from Johann Sebastian Bach. He used to put that at the end of every one of his pieces that he wrote, which means “to you alone the glory.” To me, I look around and I see a lot of evidence of a creator. I think that, to me that was kind of me pointing out in respect of that. I can’t make water, I can’t make grass grow, you know, all the stuff that is perfectly set-up and perfectly designed. It’s very impressive, so respect-wise, that’s why I really feel that song.
I would also have to say “Like Jasper And Carnelian” because that song is a little different approach than we’ve ever taken before. It’s a little more melodic, and I was glad we were able to put it in there.
What, in your eyes, qualifies as a great song?
For me, a song that evokes a mood; that’s why I like Cult of Luna so much. I could pop in one of their albums and it could take me to a different place. That to me only happens not only a vocal part or a guitar part, but when it all comes together you can tell those parts were meant to come together at that exact moment. It allows the song to take its own direction. I’m a fan of hooks; a lot of bands try to do, but it’s hard to do it tastefully without it coming off like it’s forced.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently during the recording process?
I would have probably played less World of Warcraft (laughs). One of the songs I didn’t have the lyrics for, and I honestly wrote the lyrics to the last song I recorded while I was sitting in the studio, almost in its entirety.
Do you remember what song it was?
Yeah, it was “Sounding Jerusalem.” I already had all the rhythms played out, as far as the patterns, because I write them first. I remember perfectly just sitting there that morning, I was the only one left in the studio. The vocals for that song were the last thing left we had left. I was sitting there and I was like, “Joey, we’re going to have to wait a couple hours because I have to write these lyrics.”
What are the band’s upcoming tour plans?
(In late March) we leave with The Agonist and Salt The Wounds. That takes us all the way to the New England Metal & Hardcore Fest, which we are really excited about. We play that, and then we leave directly from there with Cattle Decapitation. We are basically booked until June.
Are there any special preparations you do to keep your vocals strong on tour?
Honestly, I’ve been ridiculed before because I don’t warm up. It’s just not my thing, I guess. I’m sure I’ll pay for that someday, but as of now, I don’t do anything. I try not to drink stuff like alcohol, caffeine, but I really don’t pay too much attention to those rules. Sleep is the most important thing, at least to my voice. If I don’t have any sleep, I could feel myself getting very hoarse. I’ve been fortunate so far to have never blown out my voice.
The band recently filmed a video for “Break The Fangs Of The Wicked.” What is the concept behind it?
That song lyrically kind of culminates to a positive message. They did a great job when they edited it together, but there was a lot more things I wanted to do with it. As far as the concept of the video, we have that girl tied up like she’s been kidnapped and we have this other girl…I was pushing to have another girl be the heroine of the video, as opposed to having a guy do it, because that’s so common. You have two options in any situation; you can do the right thing or you can do the wrong thing…but there’s that third thing that pops up in your head and tells you which one you should do; your conscious. It tells you which one is the right choice, even if it’s a dangerous decision, like breaking into a theater because you hear somebody screaming. That takes guts; doing the right thing does take guts. That was what we were trying to get across, even though when you have to have us jumping around too, it’s kind of hard to make that obvious.
What did you want to do different with the video? Was there some stuff cut that you were disappointed with?
There were some things that would have been hard to do. I would have wanted it to have, just to make it more obvious and make it easier to digest, I wanted to have people walking by outside the theater and cut to the girl screaming and have people walking by hearing it, and keep on walking. Then have that girl walk by, hear it, second-guess herself, and go in, but we didn’t have enough video or time for it.
What does Woe Of Tyrants have that makes the band stand out amongst the rest of the younger metal bands out there today?
I’m not sure how much we stand out. I like to think we do. I mean, I think every band thinks they are unique, even though they might not be. We have parts that as death metal as we can possibly come up with and we have parts that are really calm and melodic. You don’t have that sometimes in aggressive death metal and thrash metal bands. We’ve never been that “breakdown” band, which has kind of hurt us a little bit on the road. We don’t play the “chugga-chugga” riff that give people the opportunity to dance. We have one little breakdown part in our album. That’s one thing that sets us apart; we don’t go with formulas when we write. We don’t try to go, “hey man, people really like this.”
Do you think bands that play breakdowns rely too much on them, and that devalues the music as a whole?
I think if you rely on them, yeah. The way that happened, in my opinion, is that you see some of these bands that did it and did it well, like Poison The Well. Bands that have a lot of talent; they were writing stuff that was very progressive, as far as the songwriting went. The kids that wanted to start bands took the easiest part of that music, not the best parts necessarily, but when a band constantly has to rely on being heavy, all open, I think it takes the integrity out of it. I’m not naming any names, or bands I’m accusing, but I would find that boring. Yeah, it looks cool if you are playing something extremely easy, and can throw your guitar out three times without hitting a note, or throw your guitar in the air and catch it, it becomes theatrical.
Do you think the metal scene is heading towards that?
No, I think its coming off of that to where people are now realizing that you can only play an open note so many ways. It seems that there is more of a push towards good guitar playing and technical structuring of songs. I see that as good things, because there are a lot of talent out there, and if kids are making a ton of money just playing really simplistic stuff, then they don’t really have any incentive to really push themselves artistically into new areas.
Do you think mainstream music listeners will ever appreciate bands like Woe of Tyrants?
Yeah, I like to think there is a possibility for that, but I’m also completely aware that it is a fickle industry. It’s a very contrived industry. There is a chance that if we write a song, it might catch, even if we don’t have melodic singing. If we got to be besides bands like Nile and Behemoth, since they are playing some insanely aggressive and heavy music; however, they are still playing to 1,200-1,500 kids a night because there is a growing market for that. So yeah, I think there is a chance that a band like ours could have that that song, but that’s what you need, that one song that grabs people and the rest kind of falls into place.
If Woe Of Tyrants could go on tour with one band, which band would that be and why?
I would want to go out with Pantera, but I know that’s not really possible anymore. As far as the realistic thing goes, I have always wanted to tour with Amon Amarth. I think they are a perfect example of a band that is easy to digest, but their good and solid songwriting has catapulted them. They aren’t overly-technical, they are just a very solid band. I would love to tour a band like Amon Amarth or a band like Nile; something that could challenge us. If we go with bands that only play open note-type songs, that’s not really a big challenge to us, because we’re the only band on the tour that’s playing a little more technical stuff. I would like to go out with a band like Dying Fetus or Vital Remains; a band that is playing very technical stuff and see how we are received.
By Dan Marsicano