It was an absolute pleasure to meet and interview vocalist Riley McShane; he was so funny and detailed in his answers, adding his own unique twist; I learnt lots of new things about the band I didn’t know before. Great to get the secret behind their name and the new elements and people on their latest album, “Apoptosis”.
Allegaeon band pic
I absolutely adore the new album. It’s dream mix between death metal and melodic, fantasy style of music. So, it would be great to kick off with some questions about the new album. I love the mix of death metal and lighter fantasy style parts. Is there particular reason you chose to include the lighter melodic verses, rather than just full on death metal all the way?
R: So when i first joined Allegaeon, Greg told me that they always wanted to have clean vocals as well. Right from the first EP, on “Nex of Terra”, they wanted to have a clean section. As it wasn’t his style, it wasn’t where he was proficient, he’s primarly a screamer. So when I joined the band, it was because Greg was a huge fan of my work in Son Of Aurelius, and the album I did with them “Under a Western Sun”, which is very clean singing, power metal kind of stuff. Greg wanted me to incorporate a lot of that into Allegaeon, to which I was a little bit hesitant as the new guy! But with this latest album, now that I’ve been established in the group as the vocalist, I feel I have more creative freedom to show more of what my voice has to offer, where it fits.”
What does the album title “Apoptosis” declare?
R: “The word “Apoptosis” in science is the systematic, self-destruction of cells to make room for new and better cells. That idea of death leading to new life can be applied to many different things. Like our latest single “Stellar Tidal Disruption” was all about a star being ripped to pieces and being pulled into a black hole, and theoretically being spat out on the other side, as the beginning of new large celestial bodies. On the new album there’s a song called “Exothermic Chemical Combustions”, which is all about forest fires, how the forest will burn down but enrich the soil, and create the foundation for stronger growth and deeper root systems. So, scientifically the theory of “Apoptosis” is addressed, but also socially it’s also addressed on the album. It is about moving away from outdated ideologies, and making room for progressive thinking. But where the inspiration for the name really came from, was from Allegaeon as an entity itself; we’ve been through a lot as a band, been through a lot of different members, ups and downs, but now we’re finally at a point where all those trials and tribulations accumulated and we’re the best version of ourselves. So, the idea that we had to leave behind the old, to make room for the new, and better version of Allegaeon!
Brilliant! Well that actually neatly leads on to some of my other questions actually! Hence, I hear you’re trialing a slightly new style, and breaking away from the classic Allegaeon-y style and sound. What was your favourite new element or technique you tried?
R: I feel like everyone on their own terms has contributed something new. For the song he wrote, Greg has broken away from the traditional Allegaeon writing style, verse, chorus, verse, chorus. To something that I think is called through composition, where there’s a singular music motif that you deviate from slightly, but it serves as the center point. So, there’s not really any chorus’, well not any in a traditional sense. In songs such as “Extremophiles (A)” and “Interphase Meiosis” are both very much like that, and that was an key element Greg brought. Michael added an element of just super huge sounding songs, such as “Metaphobia” and “The Secular Age”, which are these huge layers of black-metal-y and full-strum-y guitar sections that are just so gigantic sonic experience. And as we mentioned Brandon Michael on bass, added his dynamics. And Brandon on drums has been playing faster than ever before. And my contributions are heavier vocals than ever before, and more melodic sections than ever before. So, we all try and bring something different!
I was going to ask about including more clean vocals sections and the faster but more dynamic drums. I love that the vocals are even heavier this time, it really brings out the contrast when it suddenly switches to the light, melodic, and almost mystical verses. Do you think you’ll keep this new style, go back to the old one, or try something different next time?
R: I think that it fits where it fits; it depends on the mood of the rest of the song. I think if we added more of these elements we’d have to be careful with how we balance it, so we don’t lose the core Allegaeon sound. As we’re not trying to entirely deviate from that, we want to keep that sound that people identify us with, but spatter in more experimental elements, which is something we’re keen on continuing to do. But whether it’s more of the same or new styles we come across, only time will tell.
What are the new things that bassist Brandon Michael brought to the band?
R: Brandon brought a huge change in dynamics for the songs. Nothing against Cory! He’s a fantastic bass player. But Brandon is a little more committed to playing bass, he has so many different styles under his belt. He can do punk, Jazz and all these different things, and he kind of litters them throughout this record. He adds accents to sections that may not have been there if he hadn’t have been the person writing them. So, he really brings a new dynamic to the band and I feel it really contributes to the overall sound we present in “Apoptosis”.
How did the idea to include the classical elements with guitarist Christina Sandsengen come about?
R: The classical duet is featured on the CD version of the album. On the vinyl, there’s a deluxe edition with two extra tracks that aren’t featured on the CD. One is a solo classical piece, called “In Flanders Fields”, which is all about World War One memorial. And the other is an 8 minute long metal transposition of Bach Chaconne in D minor BMV 10:52, so it's the whole movement from that piece. The classical influence was prevalent throughout the whole record. We didn’t include these two tracks in the initial CD cut because they stand out so much in themselves, so we wanted to bring focus to those songs in their own right, as we didn’t want to devalue them by just shoving them in on the CD with the other songs.
Any new vocal ideas you’re thinking of playing around with in the future?
R: As trendy as it is, the tunnel throat singing is fun; I’m not sure what the threshold is like on your phone! So, it’s the difference between doing this (he gave me an epic throaty roar), and the difference to this (followed by a more rough and raw growling scream). So, adding that kind of dynamic and layer, but I’m not a fan of it being the only sound on a record, but having it in the background can give a sinister edge. I thought about it for certain parts of this record, but i wanted to keep it raw. Micro-tunnel is another type of singing we’ve talked about doing, bringing more Indian type of scales and notes, more world music. Like the Japanese style of percussive singing, in a group! So, we’ve got lots of ideas, but nothing set in stone yet.
What were your inspiration, subject matter or message that was the muse for your lyrics?
R: That contrast between life and death, and cutting out the old to make way for not only the new, but better version of what was left behind. And this is shown throughout the record, linking to the scientific theories.
Science mixed with metal, that’s how to get the kids into school!
R: Yeah one day Allegaeon will be in every the elementary school! But there’s a lot of religious and political lyrical themes too, that leads up to our title track which is pretty on the nose, there’s not really much to interpret.
Yeah fair, sometimes you have to be blunt! Thus I wanted to ask, how did you come up with the name Allegaeon initially?
R: So the way that happened was actually back in 2006 when they first started as “Allegion” and from what I’ve been told, they got at least 3 cease and desist letters from a band in the UK and two in California, all saying no you can’t use this name! So, to stop this happening again, they were thinking about how they can change the word, so they decided to throw in a million vowels into it. Let’s take this word, and let’s ruin it! Therefore that’s how Allegaeon was born! I actually recently got tagged in this post on Facebook, asking how do you pronounce this band’s name? Instead of giving the secret away, I sat there reading along. My favourite was when people started digging down in to the epistemology behind it. There was this one guy who was saying it’s a play on words from Elysium and Elysian Fields, I mean, “A” for effort bro, but you’re going out there!
Yeah digging a bit too deep there! Reminds me of English class at school. Just didn’t want to get sued!
R: Yeap, we just wanted to stop getting cease and desist letters!
Best reason to change a band name!
R: Well, we hate lawyers… (i.n.: we both laughed for a minute)
So, to finish on, any other particular plans for the future?
R: In May we’ll be off touring in Australia with Ne Obliviscaris, Caligula’s Horse, Beyond Creation and Rivers Of Nihil. So, that will be a great set of four show across Australia. Then we have a couple European festivals, FortaRock Festival in the Netherlands and Hellfest in France. But ones at the beginning of June and ones at the end, so we’ll have some time in the middle to hit some more European spots!