"Hands of Fate" is less thrashy and more melodic than your previous releases. You've always incorporated traditional metal elements in your music, but this time you seem to have abandoned your thrash roots almost completely. Why?
When we got together to write the "Hands of Fate" record we just felt burned out on thrashier stuff, as simple as that really. I was a bit bored with the "duh-bah-duh-bah-duh-bah" drum beat. I mean, there's not a terrific amount of versatility in it, snare on the beat, snare off the beat, 16th notes on the bass drums, 1-2 patterns on the bass drums or single kick. It is what it is? It just felt we'd done loads of that on our other records and what we hadn't really fully explored was just straight up four to the floor, head banging grooves. It gave us more flexibility when constructing tempos too. Thrash beats are typically fast, so it doesn't change the colour of the music that much when you adjust tempos by a margin of like 15BPM either side, whereas with groovier stuff you can have a lot of fun figuring out like 163BPM is the correct tempo! Why? Just because! For us it's all about being inspired and going wherever the inspiration takes you.
You have also decided not to have a colourful painted cover art this time around and the new one is very simplified. Is there a particular reason behind this decision?
Sure, with time I grew to dislike the album cover for "The Fateful Dark" and decided not to carry on in that direction. It coloured the band in a certain way and made us look a bit silly and didn't in my view represent the music very well, which should be the principle purpose of an album cover. Also, the whole mascot thing got irritating, like who did we think we are? We're never going to do it better than Iron Maiden right? So why bother? I like throwing curve balls too, artistically, we don't have to be a slave to any particular concept or clich?, we like to explore different avenues and that's why we purposely went about as far away as we could go from the previous album art, but still remain in the broader "metal" spectrum.
It seems that along with the music, your lyrics have changed as well, and they are more personal now. Would you mind explaining it?
You've been doing your homework! Respect. I was encouraged to think more introspectively on this record and push myself completely out of my comfort zone, which was again very refreshing for me too to try something a bit different. I also think that music should reflect the lyrics so, of course, if our music is slightly different then it is natural that there will be a difference in lyrics also.
I caught you live recently and you played I think six tunes from "Hands of Fate", which is quite a lot. It seems that you really want to push your career forward with this release?
Awesome, yeah, we've been playing a lot of new songs. The new material works well live and is fun for us, and the cool thing in a way with a band like ourselves is we don't have a platinum selling back catalogue of essential hits that we can't not play, so we have older fans, but frankly we've made so much progress with "Hands of Fate", I think most people are coming to see us because of that record. We've made big steps especially in Japan and at home in the U.K., so now we will try and establish ourselves properly in mainland and then just keep making records and growing.
You co-wrote the song "Out of Time" with Tesla bass player Brian Wheat. It's quite a surprising move to be honest. As much as I like Tesla, they're more of a bluesy hard rock band. So how did this collaboration come about?
That came about through our management. Tesla is a great band and had a lot of success, especially in America. People in Europe don't realise but they have like 5 platinum records and 3 multi platinum records in America which is a big deal. So, when the opportunity arose we were totally open to it and figured we could probably learn a thing or two? And we certainly did! Again, it comes down to that spirit of being open to experimentation and just following an idea with no idea of where it's going to end up.
You guys recorded the drums in the legendary Rockfield Studios, where bands such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Queen or Motörhead did their records. Were you cool about it, or was it like visiting a metal temple?
Sure, after the first day we kind of forgot all of that stuff and were just immersed in recording, but it's an amazing place with great history. The best story was of the guys in Rush helping to repaint window frames during the "Farewell to Kings" sessions.
OK, you've got four albums out and you're already on your third label. You're moving up the ladder of course, but don't all those changes affect the band in a negative way on some level? You know, new contracts, new people who take care of you etc.
Yes and no, I mean sure, it would have been a bit easier if we'd landed on or near the top with our first record, but it doesn't really happen like that for the majority of bands and we're in the majority! But as you say we're climbing the ladder and it seems we've always maintained a solid 45-degree upward trajectory and we've had to work hard at it.
So, with the new label, new management, new style and two new members on board, it looks like a total restart of the band. Taking all those changes into consideration, have closing the chapter and changing the band name ever crossed your mind?
It's definitely a restart, but we didn't really consider changing the name. You build something, and you put time and effort into establishing it, if you rename the band you start from zero again, and whilst yes there are some benefits to that there are also negatives so on balance it's not something we would have done.
You shared the stages with Amon Amarth and Cradle of Filth, among others, which are both quite different stylistically to what you do. So, were their fans nice to you, ha-ha?
Absolutely! Those packages worked great. Metal fans get a bad rep for being closed minded, but I think generally it's not that metalheads are closed minded it's just that they have highly tuned in bullshit detectors. So, if you get on stage and they can tell that there is integrity and craft behind what you're doing you'll connect with them, if you don't, you won't! Both of those tours were very successful for us, and great bands and even nicer people to boot.
Do you already know what's happening next after the festivals and the European tour with Exodus?
We're about to announce some more DE shows with a big American band, then we've got EU tours lining up for the back end of the year, we're preparing to enter the studio this year too to cut the next album and we're working with a really great new team of agents who are talking about taking the band far and wide in 2019 and beyond! The future looks super bright right now and I can't wait!