Some people tend to believe that the interest in pure heavy metal represent some kind of resurgence indictating that the genre was dead and buried until Earache, Nuclear Blast and Metal Blade (again) started signing new heavy metal-acts. The fact is, heavy metal was never dead in the first place. It never died during the nineties, it just went pure underground, many hundred meters below the point where it is at today. There were some terrific stuff released during the early nineties, some killer releases, self financed or on small, independent labels that never were heard by the masses since the once great publications (Metal Hammer, Rock Hard, Metal Forces and so on) suddenly started dissecting garbage and the big breakthrough for the Internet was yet to happen. So what does all this have to do with Assembly At Dusk, a quartet hailing from New Haven, Connecticut in the US?
While not pure heavy metal, Assembly At Dusk, just like those underground acts doing what they believed in during the horrendous musical climate of the nineties, have recorded demos by themselves at their own pace. While most bands of the nineties pressed their music onto CDs or to an lesser extent, tapes, Assembly At Dusk has used the technology of today and made their two demos available for free online. Both recordings show that the band is capable of delivering some highly enjoyable and quite refreshing epic metal with lots of good ideas. I got in contact with Jeffrey (vocals and bass) and Brian (guitar) to get more or less the whole story of this promising band. I am sure we will hear more about these guys soon, so grab the chance to follow their career from now on.
Under what circumstances was Assembly At Dusk formed? Did the members know each other from before? What did you have in common that made it possible for you to form a band together?
Jeffrey: – Brian and I were previously in a band called The Pathos of Clytaemnestra a few years ago. That band had broken up, but we still wanted to play music together, so after taking a break we got together and started thinking about what kind of music we wanted to play. If was important for me that we were both on the same page and happy with our music. In The Pathos Of Clytaemnestra, I started the band, so Brian was trying to write music to fit into my idea. Now I’d say it might be easier because we started together from scratch. Ryan and Brian have been playing in a band together named Iron Hand, and since Ryan is a good guitarist and likes metal, we thought we’d ask him to join our project. Jordan (drums) was friends with one of the other members of The Pathos. I think we all get along well because aside from really liking metal, we all also like a lot of punk and hardcore bands, so we understand each other.
So far, your demos have been available digitally only. How has this worked out for you? Were there any expenses that had to be recovered from the Bandcamp-sales, or were these recordings that didn’t cost you much?
Jeffrey: – We didn’t spend anything really. Brian recorded both of the demos in his basement. Bandcamp has worked really well for us. We haven’t played a show yet, even though we’ve started booking, so it’s been a really great way for us to get our music out there.
Brian: – No expenses to recover so far! The whole band comes from a pretty punk background in addition to being into metal, so we all generally tend towards a more do it yourself-approach. Record it ourselves, release it ourselves. That way we can offer it to people for free, with the option to throw us some funds if they want, and increase the chance of people downloading, sharing and appreciating our music, which is the whole point.
Are both your demos supposed to be released in tape format? Will you handle these releases by yourselves, or is there a label involved?
Jeffrey: – Our demos are being released on tape format. We’re excited about that. We’re still waiting for the final product, but we hope we’ll have them available soon. Originally, a local label was going to put the tapes out, but that kind of fell through, probably as much my own fault as anything, but we decided to just put them out ourselves. We’re only getting 200 tapes made, so it doesn’t cost too much. The demos will also be released on vinyl through Unborn Productions out of Norway. We’re very excited about it. We’re recording an extra song to add to the vinyl version.
How did you get Jonas of Unborn Productions to do the vinyl release?
Jeffrey: – As far as I know, I think he found out about us from someone posting about Assembly at Dusk on a message board. He just wrote to us one day about getting our demo tapes for his distro. After a couple emails, Jonas wrote back and asked if he could press the demos to vinyl. We were excited about it and said yes immediately. We also decided between Jonas and the band that we would record another song for the vinyl to make that release special.
Are you one of the bands that see your music being pressed onto vinyl as a real highlight, kind of making the music itself worthier than if it was available only on tape as a download?
Jeffrey: – Yes we are. We will always want our music pressed to vinyl before tape, CD, digital download, or anything. We grew up with vinyl. As Brian said, we all also have a punk ethic to what we do, so I think that also influences our desire to see our music on vinyl.
What will be your next step when it comes to recording? Do you have enough material for a full length release, is an EP something you would like to do, or will you continue to put out demos?
Jeffrey: – We have over 40 minutes of material and we’re still writing. Right now I think we all want to focus on playing gigs and getting our music out there. We would love to put out a full length release, but hopefully that will come from shopping our demos around. We probably also won’t record much for a while. I think we’ll just work on performing and networking for the time being.
Do you think the six songs you have recorded for your demos so far, will feature on your debut album? Or will you rather focus on writing and recording brand new material?
Jeffrey: – The material we’ve written so far is very strong. I would love to see some, if not all of those on an album. We’re also pretty industrious, so we’ll keep writing more songs, and when the times comes we’ll have a bit of a selection to choose from.
It’s early days, but what do you feel are your strengths in a live setting, and which aspects do you have to work on? Do you play only your own material, or have you done cover songs as well?
Jeffrey: – We have some things booked, but we haven’t actually performed yet. But from our past experience and just from practicing, our strengths are that we have fun when we play. We have a very strong presence. We like to be professional, set up quickly, clearly the stage quickly, but when we play we have a good energy. We don’t do any cover songs right now, but we’ve tossed around a few ideas. But we’ll keep that secret.
Brian: – I have been playing in bands with Jeff and Ryan for a long time, though in different setups, so I think there is that inherent comfort in playing live with them. I think when the time comes we will be able to deliver a good performance that captures what we are trying to convey as a band.
Being a new band today, trying to spread the name, but facing competition from bands all over the world, what are the biggest challenges?
Jeffrey: – Our biggest challenge is finding bands that we can play with. Most of the heavy bands in our area are more aggressive. There is a lot of metalcore around here. Assembly at Dusk doesn’t even have mosh parts, so if we play those shows people are going to be looking at us like we’re from another planet. So we might not be able to gig as much as we’d like, but hopefully things will pick up as we become more connected with bands from the area. That aside, we don’t worry about competition. Our music speaks for itself and I think people will see when they hear it.
Brian: -Thinking about it as competition is something that I think is foreign to us. We strive to create music that satisfies us first, and if we are successful in doing that then other people will be interested. I have seen certain areas of the music scene turn in to fights to see who can sell the most tickets, or bring the most people in to clubs to drink and I feel comfortable saying that we have no interest in that. We are happy to build a fan base based on the strength of our material, rather then forcing things on people, which I personally find very off-putting.
On your first demo, Jeffrey also performed drums along with vocals. What kind of experience do you have as a drummer? Do you feel that this affected the end result of this recording?
Jeffrey: – Yeah, I have been playing drums for almost twenty years, but I’ve never been a consistent drummer. I don’t practice much, and I think that shows here and there in the first demo, but as you know, that was recorded more to find a real drummer, so it was successful.
Did you find your drummer, Jordan, or did he find you? What’s his musical background?
Jeffrey: – We had an ad on Craigslist and Jordan responded. I was excited because I knew him already. You never know who you’re going to get when you put out classified ads. He’s been in a variety of bands metal and punk, but he has a lot of good experience and really gets what we’re doing. We’re lucky he found us.
The first demo was apparently recorded to get you a drummer and a keyboardist. We’ve already covered the fact that you got yourself a drummer, but are you still on the lookout for a keyboardist? What are you looking to add to the band by including a member on this instrument?
Jeffrey: – We were looking for a keyboardist and we tried someone out, but we ended up realizing that we didn’t really know what we wanted, so we scrapped that idea. Our music is pretty layered as it is, so I think we’re doing fine as we are.
Brian: -That was an idea that was much better in our heads than in practice. We quickly realized forcing those parts in to our songs was going to do more harm than good so we decided to stick to what we had.
The sound of the latest demo, titled “Summer Demo 2013” seems to be more powerful compared to the debut. Did you record it at the same place and with the same equipment?
Brian: – As Jeff mentioned both demos were recorded in my and Ryan’s basement, which is a pretty bare bones setup. One small room, a bunch of microphones and a computer for the most part. I am much happier with how the second demo came out, and I am glad there is a noticeable sound difference between the two. We definitely put more time in to getting that one sounding the way we wanted than we did with the first demo. With all respect to Jeff’s many abilities, having a dedicated drummer rather than a drummer/bass player/vocalist helped a great deal too. We are also all more comfortable playing with each other. But yes, same place and equipment, just a difference of time.
Musically I feel the recordings have a lot in common, but I guess that is natural as the first demo was made available early this year, hence the material must have been written more or less in the same period of time. Do you feel you have found your musical expression already and only look to polish and better it, or is Assembly At Dusk at band with will experiment with the sound and the songwriting in a way that could see you going into a quite different direction?
Jeffrey: – I think we’re in a pretty good groove right now. Our songs have a bit of variety, but still all sound like the same band. That gives us a lot of room to play with in our songwriting. We really knew what we wanted to do coming into this band, and I think we’ve really got it down already. Our sound probably won’t deviate too far from where it is right now, so if you like what we’re doing now you should also enjoy what we’re doing for years to come.
You mentioned that you knew very well what you wanted to do with the band. What was your main idea or philosophy for the band? Do you see the music you are creating as something that is made more or less isolated from other bands playing a similar style, or are there bands that you are openly inspired by?
Jeffrey: – When Brian and I were tossing around ideas there were bands that we both liked in common, such as Enslaved, Alcest, Immortal/I/Demonaz, Ghost, Sólstafir, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath. We wanted the music to be dark, cold, but I wanted free reign on the vocals to be able to sing 100 percent. I’d been in bands where I yelled and screamed and did my best Kam Lee-impersonation, but that takes a toll on your throat. I wanted to have music that was inspired by black metal to an extent, but still had clean vocals. Brian was willing to let me try it. It took a little doing to find my voice for this band, but I did and I think we’re happy with it. But beyond that, Brian’s riffs have a very original style. I don’t think there is anyone out there who really writes riffs like he does. I think it’s what really sets our music apart.
Brian: – We are definitely into the idea of experimentation, but within the relative structure we have established so far. We want to be a metal band, and that will not change, but there are always little things you can try to throw in for some musical “spice”.
“Based around the idea of blending dark minor chord riffing, guitar harmonies, and soaring vocals that lament the bleakness of modern urban life…”, says your Bandcamp-page. How do you feel your lyrics accompany your musical idea?
Jeffrey: – The lyrics are all a metaphor about the city where I live. Even though it’s not actually post-apocalyptic, it feels like it sometimes. People here don’t treat each other very nicely. A lot of people feel it’s hard to trust your neighbors. Much of the city can be dangerous. Many areas are rundown and there’s a lot of blight. People are robbed, beat up, and killed, for what? So many here live with a sense of desperation, and sadly they don’t see beyond the barriers they’ve created for themselves or, unfortunately, the barriers that have been created by society. But there are also some great things here too. There are strong pockets of community, art, culture, and people doing positive things and treating each other right. There is hope here. There is always hope. I think this all comes through in our music and lyrics.
Brian: – We leave all things pertaining to words in Jeff’s capable hands. Knowing his situation and where he is coming from, I think he has been very successful in setting the appropriately bleak tone, with the occasional grasp at hope and light. Musically, we just try our best to mirror that ethos.
The picture Jeffrey is painting of his hometown sounds really depressing, but I guess it’s not that easy packing your things and leaving for something else?
Jeffrey: – It’s not easy. I think about leaving Hartford all the time, but I live in a house that my grandfather bought over 70 years ago when the city was a different place. My family has lived here for several generations. I can even trace my heritage back to the founding of the city through my Dutch ancestors. It’s a love/hate relationship. I feel very attached to it, and I’ve seen it change for better and for worse. For me it feels post-apocalyptic because I remember a time when the city was safer and one could walk around at night. My grandparents used to walk all over the place at night when they were young. If I did that now, it would be very risky. It’s a small city, but I still drive everywhere for safety. I’m sure at some point I’ll pack up and move down to where the rest of the band lives, but we shall see.