Metal lover, you've been damn lucky this year. Your listening habits have been well served by the aural atrocities perpetrated globally throughout 2014. And it all just got sicker. Portland, OR metal collective Barrowlands is a harrowing hybrid of black metal terror, progressive twists and turns, and doomy contemplation with bold, emotive cello. Their first full-length, Thane, is alternately a weapon and a consoling shoulder. Need an earful? We're here to serve you a bit of Thane, just to give you an idea of what this band is capable of.
Guitarist/vocalist Dave Hollingsworth hit us up with his thoughts on the way Thane came together (just after the stream), and newest member Amanda Machina (also of AVRAM, the band that created Metal Noam last year) chimed in with how she got involved as well.
How did the sound on Thane come together? The members' varied backgrounds seem to collide into something that works extremely well.
Thane is a refinement of the original demo that we released a couple years ago. That demo was a refinement of a previous band that three members were members of. When two members left Mary Shelley, we decided to take the sound and try to move in a more majestic and atmospheric direction. Joe, Ray, and I all love black metal and doom that evokes a huge sound, with melodic elements layered on top. Martti brought his dynamic drum style to the mix, which really contributes to the music being more than a typical straight ahead black metal sound. We later added Jake, on lead guitar, who contributed a lot of the melodic hooks on the album. Once the line-up was assembled, we discussed things really in depth. We wanted to make sure that the music was something that we would enjoy listening to ourselves. We honed in on the things that we really liked about old material, and focused on those things. We talked about what parts we didn’t like, and intentionally avoided those types of riffs. When we were done with the songs for the album, we tested them live, and made changes as we went. Everyone’s input was taken into account, and that really helped strengthen the album.
Amanda, how did you, in particular, get involved with the band? How does it feel different than other music you've worked on?
(Amanda) I got involved with Barrowlands because I heard they needed a new lead guitarist, and my friend Nate Carson had written about them before. I found the music to be elegant and still aggressive. I love it! It’s different than other music I have played because of the textures and layering. I have never played with a cellist before. It requires me to keep my playing minimal and concise to fulfill the role of making melodic statements on top of this beautiful, sonic, layered texture of Barrowlands.
Is Barrowlands part of a community of Portland bands (gigging, supporting each other) or does it operate separate from that?
We are friends with a lot of the bands in the Portland metal scene, and we definitely support their efforts. The other bands in the area have been really supportive of us as well. There is a spirit of camaraderie among the metal bands, because we are all doing something we enjoy.
Does the band write songs together, or are they mostly written by individuals?
Songs generally originate as a collection of riffs that I (David) bring to the studio. I write on my acoustic guitar, at home. My goal is to hear the melody cleanly first, then try them with distortion and tremolo picking. Often times, I bring in simple structures, and jam on them with Martti, until we feel like we have something strong. While the genesis is my original idea, we do a lot of co-writing as we construct the arrangements. Often times a part will start as one thing, and slowly morph into something else as everyone layers their parts onto the original piece. As the songs evolve, it becomes impossible to distinguish what the original riff-seed was. The drums, bass, lead, and cello parts take the original idea to new heights.
How well does the outcome of Thane match the original intent/vision for the music? Did the music change during the recording process?
It came out extremely close to how we intended. There were a few parts that got embellished during the recording process. We added more acoustic into the mix that we had originally planned, but it seemed right for those parts. The vocals also had some small tweaks done. I changed some of the lines, added some parts, and deleted some others. I wanted to make sure that things had the correct impact. Jason Walton did an excellent job mixing and mastering it, always taking our input into account. He made our playing sound great. We couldn’t ask for more.
Any thoughts about what's next for Barrowlands? What do the next few weeks/months bring?
We are hard at work on new material. First up is a 7” split with Nefas Terra, from Russia, on 9th Meridian Records. The song is mostly done, and ready to be recorded next month, with an expected release early in 2015. After that, we will continue writing the follow up to Thane. We hope to release it last in 2015. Most of the songs have been had the core structure written already. They only need finishing. In addition to the new material, we will be playing live throughout the year.