Reverence – Interview by Noisefull.com and Rocking.gr
Though they’re coming from the other side of the Atlantic, American metallers Reverence have manage to combine both U.S. and Euro power elements within their own special blend. We ask from guitarist and one of the band’s main composers Bryan Holland the details behind the making of the brand new “Gods Of War”. Below you can read all the interesting things he answers to our questions.
Since it is the first time we are talking with you, please give us a brief CV of the band.
Reverence is a heavy / power metal band from Detroit, Michigan USA, we formed in 2010and we are releasing our second album called “Gods Of War” on November 4th and was just released in Japan on Oct 21st. “Gods Of War” is follow up to our debut album called “When Darkness Calls”. Several Reverence band members are from other known metal bands including Drummer Steve ‘Dr. Killdrums’ Wacholz from Savatage, Vocalist Todd Michael Hall from Jack Starr’s Burning Starr and Riot V, guitarist Bryan Holland, myself, from Tokyo Blade, guitarist Pete Rossi from Sanxtion and Bassist Michael Massie from Overloaded.
Would you like to tell us what you had in mind when you formed the band? How you came up to collaborate with Todd, ‘Doc’ and the other two guys? What is each of them bringing to the table?
Well, I wanted to form a band that incorporated all my favorite bands and influences all into one but with my own twist. So I wanted to pull from the sounds of classic era Judas Priest, Queensryche, Dio, Savatage…maybe some classic Helloween and Accept thrown in for good measure.
After I left Tokyo Blade in late 2009, over the holidays I spent some time mentally deciding what I wanted to do, so, on New Years Eve 2009/2010 I got on Myspace…yes, when it was still hip! And I did a search for metal singers in my area and Todd popped up, I contacted him a few days later and we decided to meet shortly thereafter when we decided to team up and got a game plan together. We started writing and after a few songs I contacted my former Tokyo Blade bassist / band mate Frank Kruckle and he joined up. I have been friends with ‘Doc Killdrums’ for nearly 20 years, so I sent him the demos and he immediately signed on. I had always intended to make Reverence a twin guitar band just like all the classic bands I loved so Doc suggested Pete Rossi whom he had done another project with.
“Gods Of War” is a hell of an album. Great guitar work, great melodies, great vocals, great rhythm section…this is how good heavy metal should sound in 2015. Would you mind to share some details about the making of the album?
Thank you for your kind words! Our first album, “When Darkness Calls”, was already 3/4 written by Todd and myself by the time Pete Rossi joined so he was only involved in some of the song writing and has his fingerprints all over the album. But this time with “Gods Of War” he and I co-wrote nearly everything, we would get together at my home studio and work on riffs and ideas until we finally had a full song, then we would send a demo of it all to Todd and he would write his lyrics and vocal melodies, sometimes he’d make some editing suggestions and tweaks musically until we’d have a pretty well finished song and we even kept tweaking up through the mixing process. Some songs like “Angel In Black” Todd would actually send us a few different vocal melodies for the verse and choruses and we’d pick the best parts or add new ideas. On “Cleansed By Fire” I had a fair amount of the vocal melody already written, then Todd took it and added his own spice to complete the song, we did this without ever being in the same room, gotta love technology! We recorded most of the music at my home studio, Todd recorded all of his tracks in his home studio and Pete and Michael also recorded a few tracks in their own studios as well.
I think that the new album pretty much continuing the legacy of “When Darkness Calls” with no major changes. What was your vision regarding the sound of the new album?
We purposely wanted to stick to that same musical direction but still expand in our songwriting which I believe we’ve done. I really think this album is a bit more adventuresome, we’re not reinventing the wheel by any means but as a follow-up to “When Darkness Calls” I believe its accomplished its goal in building and expanding the Reverence sound. I believe some of that was in part due to Pete and I writing closer and having more of his input.
All the songs have this ‘in your face’ attitude with mind blowing riffs and blazing solos. It’s kind of back to basics but in a more modern way. Is your main goal to set things in motion and get the heads of the fans roll?
I think the ‘in your face’ feel is just who we are, we try very hard to put a lot of energy into the recorded performances and just simply hitting a chord and letting it ring behind the vocals just isn’t ‘us’! Pete and I always try to shake chords, putting in pinch harmonics and harmonies as much as possible, this allows us to put a lot of energy into the music. Pete and I would purposely write darker sounding riff and chord progressions and to never play the same notes or chords at the same time, we’re always looking for other harmonies, octaves, etc. to compliment and add texture layers in the music, keep it interesting. It’s boring to just have both guitarists playing the same thing all the time.
Again, we purposely try to keep one foot in the past to the music that we grew up loving but we aren’t fooling ourselves, we aren’t those bands and it’s not the ’80s anymore so we can’t help but to live in the present which naturally adds a more current sound. Pete is a tremendously talented guitarist so I have to give him a lot of credit, he really kills it on this album, he’s got some really blazing and emotional solos on this album. As far as getting the heads to roll, I think if you can write a great riff and / or groove and can manage to get the fans’ heads moving and fists in the air, then that’s mission accomplished for us.
I sense a conflict between US and European Power Metal in your music. We have the strong dark riffs that most US power metal bands have, but then again we have the pompous refrains with a more European (melodic) approach. Do you agree?
It’s not really a conflict per se, but your right, there’s always been a real difference between the Euro and US styles of metal and being lovers of both styles we thought, why not mix them together in our own blend. I think this blending is shown more on “Gods Of War” than showed up on “When Darkness Calls” which is a bit more straight forward, we experimented with expanding a bit and its seems from the recent reviews and fan reaction its seems to have worked. It really comes from having influences on both sides of the pond.
Do you want to share some details about the lyrics, album cover and the album title?
Well, not being the writer of the lyrics, I’ll do my best to convey the thoughts behind Todd’s lyrics, I know he usually tries to write from life experiences, etc. Ok, here we go…”Gods Of War” I believe is about the world government putting men against men for their own profit, they are the gods of war. The soldiers on the cover art aren’t fighting the ‘Dead God’ emerging from the background, he’s manipulating the soldiers to fight each other. I’ve always had a real draw to the World War 2 era and given the explanation above it made the most sense to use the largest worldwide conflict as a basis for the cover art versus using a resent conflict.
“Gods Of War” the song seemed very strong to us and the most fitting to carry the album title. “Heart Of Gold” is about not losing the good in yourself no matter what your confronted with in life. “Until My Dying Breath” which is also our first video that is out now, is about never giving up on whatever your chasing in life, stay with it to the very end. “Angel In Black” is based on a dream I had about having a guardian angel, in my dream, my guardian angel was a beautiful woman in black who protected me throughout my lifetime but when it finally was my time to leave this world she became my own personal angel of death. “Tear Down The Mountain” is a great song about not letting things stand in your way, tear them down and get past them. “Blood Of Heroes” is about recognizing the sacrifice by our soldiers defending freedom and is also based in the WW2 era given the use of Churchill’s words just before the solo. “Battle Cry” is just a great never give up your love of metal song, “Choices Made” is about not living in the past with regrets of your past choices. “Splinter” is kind of a reflection, lamenting seeing how things pass by so quickly in life. “Cleansed By Fire” is really about living through the challenges that life presents and “Race To Obscene” is about the entertainment world always trying to outdoing itself, someone always has to be more extreme, more vile to stay in the public eye, where will it end, how far will it go?
Why do you think someone has to listen to Reverence? What would you think he’ll get from listening to your music?
I think the main draw to us would be our style which draws directly from many classic ’80s metal bands but beyond that I would hope fans would also like that even though we play aggressive and dark music we try to give a positive message within the songs. A lot of metal music is looked at for being the purveyor of evil and violence but it doesn’t need to be that way.
What goals you have set with Reverence? Is it a full time band or it is more something like a project?
It’s as full time as it can get, given we all have families, jobs, house payments, etc. several of us have our own businesses but we obviously are committed to Reverence continuing to release music and looking forward to being able to get enough interest to do some tour dates through Europe next year, we’d really love to get to Japan too now that we have a three album deal with Marquee / Avalon.
Albums like “Gods Of War” can make the genre of power metal strong again. Do you feel that perhaps more people will start to pay attention again to the genre because it hasn’t been so popular the last decade?
Well it would be nice to be part of a pivotal change like that, but it really takes more than one band to push for that change, we’re proud to be one of many bands that continue to carry the torch for this genre and for what we loved in our youth. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out but at least we know we gave it our best shot.
Do you have any plans to do some touring for “Gods Of War”? Is it possible to see you here in Greece someday?
Yes, we’d really like to take this on the road and play the new material live. As much as we enjoy writing and recording new music, as musicians taking it to the stage is the ultimate goal and bring he music to life. We would love to visit and play Greece, I had the pleasure of playing in Thessaloniki and Athens when I was in Tokyo Blade and know full well how passionate the Greek fans are about their metal! I can’t wait to return to your fine country. Hopefully we get the interest in the band to make that happen.
What are your future plans?
Well we have a live album is done and ready for release, we recorded it during our ‘When Darkness Calls US/Euro tour’ and originally wanted to get it out before “Gods Of War” but Marquee / Avalon wanted us to wait, so that should hopefully be out in 2016 and we’ve already begun writing the next album. We wrote 23 songs in all for “Gods Of War” and recorded 13 so we may possibly use some of the left over songs on the next album. I’m really pushing to try to have that completed for a late 2016 release on top of hopefully booking a run through Europe.
Which are your all time favorite albums that had greatest impact to you and your perception in terms of songwriting?
The albums that are my favorites are Ozzy – “Diary Of A Madman” and “Blizzard Of Ozz”, Savatage – “Hall Of The Mountain King” and “Gutter Ballet”, Triumph – “Allied Forces” and “Never Surrender”, Queensryche – “Operation: Mindcrime”, Dio – “Last In Line”, Judas Priest – “Screaming For Vengeance” and “Defenders Of The Faith”. I don’t know why so many of my favorites come in pairs, no metal loving fan should be without these albums.
The guitarists that influenced me most are Randy Rhoads, Criss Oliva, Rik Emmett, Michael Schenker, these albums and guitarist changed my life as a teen. Criss Oliva was criminally underrated, Pete and I worship Criss’ playing.
Songwriting can be tricky, as we all know many songs are written with a formula in mind (verse, pre-chorus, chorus – verse, pre-chorus, chorus, solo, rinse and repeat) while others kind of just write themselves you just try to hold onto the ride and capture it as fast as its given to you. We try to step back if we see a song falling into a formula to see what we can change to break the formula up a bit…music shouldn’t be boring, it should excite you and bring out and energy and passion.
Please name the 5 albums you have been listen to lately…
Wow, that’s tough…I really haven’t listened to many new bands, but I am listening to the new Helloween, the new Judas Priest and last King Diamond compilation, “Dreams Of Horror”, the new Panzer and the Testament album “The Formation Of Damnation” …but I still pull out my old Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak” and Rainbow’s “Long Live Rock N’ Roll” albums too…they never get old!
Thank you very much for your time. Last words from you…
Thank you Kostas my friend, I really appreciate your interest in Reverence and for giving me a forum to reach out to metal fans that may not have heard of us. I sincerely look forward to setting up some Greek tour dates and bringing our blend of metal to all the Greek fans, in know from experience how crazy all the Greek metal heads are! Please stay in touch, Keep it Loud!