The Writing Process: The Second Age

01.gif

And so it is upon us, the final installment of the writing process for the Second Age. This week the eye of the Obelisk is fixed firmly on the final track of the second disk: "And Reach The Stars". And Reach as we shorten it to, was a weird one for us. I had the core concept for the verses using those really Ruins inspired, melancholic  chordal melodies. The slow, mournful drag of that rhythm droning out the repetitive melody for me just spoke of an aching, a sense of loss and sorrow that had a terrible machine feel to it. Some true Hybrid Nightmares enthusiasts may notice that the opening riff was taken from one of our unreleased tracks that we only played live once or twice: The Judgement. A lot of riffs came out of that song, it never worked as a composition but the composite parts were reused amongst songs on the Ages. The chorus of And Reach was an experiment I was working on when I was rewriting Labyrinth for Gumley. I started to muck around with a folk-y rhythm and a sweet melody that one guitar could play as well as the chords.

The structure for this one was pretty standard until we got to that extended chorus. I could lie to you and tell you it was for artistic reasons, but honestly, it was an entirely selfish decision on our part. We liked the chorus so much we extended it from the original two repetitions to a ridiculous six. Fortunately, Gumley came to us with a beautiful lead to go over the middle two reps that was like an homage to Maiden, before going into the iconic leads that replicate and elaborate on the chord melodies and run over the final two repetitions.

Lyrically, this song was a piece of teamwork between myself and Loki. I came to the band with about 3/4 of the lyrics and placement done. In the same vein as What It Means To Die, this one was inspired by the Celtika books, focusing on the portrayal of Daedalus the inventor, and his two sons Raptor and Icarus. It is a new take on the classic tale of Icarus and his journey into the skies that ends in tragedy. In the original myth, Icarus has wings made of wax which melt when he flies too close to the sun. In our version, the brothers both have wings made of brass and wire and are charged with discovering the secrets of the gods. During their ascent, one of Icarus's wings breaks and he allows Raptor to use his momentum to push beyond the atmosphere, causing Icarus to fall.

For me, the story told a tragic story that had many moral implications. The idea of a father forcing his dreams and aspirations on his children, to the point that he stitches painful machine wings to them and sends them on a journey beyond their capabilities. The reliance on technology can lead to disaster, the failure of Icarus's wing demonstrates this. The most poignant message for me came with Icarus' sacrifice and the idea that great success can only be achieved by standing on the shoulders of others. It is not a sentiment I enjoy or agree with, but the inherent pain and sorrow within that idea resonates with me deeply.

I think this is the dark horse of the CD, it's not an obvious song. I hope that years down the track, Nightlings will be calling out for And Reach The Stars when we ask if they want to hear a rare one. Give it a spin, listen deep and take away more than you had to start with when that opening riff kicks in your teeth.

 

01

The Writing Process: The Second Age

harrison-krix-skyrim.jpg

As Korn so famously said; here we go again! Yes it's time for another installment of the writing process and it is time to turn the unholy gaze of the Obelisk upon "What It Means To Die". As I mentioned in the writing process for "Only The Dead Know", this song came about from me noodling around trying to figure out some Celtic reels and I was heavily inspired by Eluveitie and Turisas when I put this song together. I had an idea to have the lead reel playing over something heavier so I mucked around with some Amon Amarth style riffing until I found something that added some gravity to the chorus and made it heavier. The verses in the song are really quite simple, very similar to "Mourn Not the Dead", which this song has sort of become a sequel to. I knew as I was piecing it together that the bridge had to take it in a different direction as the tone from the first half of the song had been quite Celtic and wheeling through these bouncing riffs and catchy lead choruses. I settled on the more Nordic folk style influenced by Turisas for the big "get em up and moving" style riffs with that constant triplets feel that always echoes within a part of me that wishes I could be wielding an axe on a medieval battlefield instead of just studying it from 1200 years later.

True magic happened when Ben tried playing a distorted version of "Only The Dead Know" over the top of these riffs and it gave it a truly epic and mournful feeling that was just perfect for the tone of the second half of the song. We had this idea to have the solo play over the chorus riff (classic metal technique), and to keep in the battle spirit, it became a dueling guitars solo that culminated with a harmony run that brought  us into the heavy and retrospective outro riff.

Lyrically, this was an interesting one. I have a huge and well documented fascination and love of Warhammer 40,000, in particular the Space Wolves. The original lyrics I had written for this song were a sort of funeral rite for a fallen brother of the Space Wolves and hinged on their signature farewell motto "Until next winter". This was the working title of the song for about a year, Loki was focused on other songs at the time and we hadn't really discussed the direction for this one. When we got around to it, Loki really enjoyed the idea of continuing the story from Only The Dead Know, the Celtic king and his missing daughter. He came up with the concept of a war between this king and warlocks who used black magic to try and rule the world. The vocal pattern he conceived of is insane, I still don't know where he finds space to breathe, he follows the damn triplets in the verses!

 

This song is a fun one to play live (not very  metal thing to say, I know). It is simple enough to allow us to move around and just get into the groove of the riffs and has such a powerful bridge that I can't help but get worked up every time Loki incites the crowd to "clash your arms and beat your chest!". I look forward to seeing the carnage the Nightling Warriors create in the mosh when we play this song at future shows, our fans fear no pain!

Look to your swords, bind and mark your shields and keep your axe sharp. Until next winter, sons and daughters of the Obelisk.

Ps. Skyrim is my life, enjoy this steel war axe and Whiterun guard's shield

 

harrison-krix-skyrim

The Writing Process: The Second Age

1235031_10151885689871952_681402884_n.jpg

Hang on to your hats folks, coz it's time for another installment of The Writing Process! This week I'll be taking you through the process and ideas behind the first ever Hybrid Nightmares track to ever feature solely clean vocals: "Only The Dead Know". Okay so, a fun fact to start with. The actual acoustic guitar part that plays throughout the song is very old. In fact, if you trawled through all of the footage of us recording at Pony Studios for the self titled EP in early 2011, you would hear me strumming through it as I showed Trav T-1000 the new Celtic thing I was working on. It is just background noise to Addy recording the drums for Emperor. So it has it's origins way back then and I sat on it for ages (pun intended) as I tried to find a way to make it more HN. The original concept for the song was quite epic, using the basic chord progression as a building block upon which the rest of the song would pivot. I had just finished reading the Merlin Codex series of books, which center around the adventures of a Celtic lord in search for his missing children, assisted by Jason and the Argonauts in an awesome history  mash-up. I was inspired to turn this chronicle into an epic fireside tale accompanied by acoustic guitar and simple tribal drums.

Well, the years went by and my attention was drawn away to focus on the other songs that make up the Ages project. I left the Celtic song alone for a long time, putting all of my efforts into developing a more coherent sound for the songs I had finished already. While I was noodling away at some sort of lead down on the bottom of the neck of the guitar, I stumbled across the little lick that became the main theme for "What It Means To Die" and then I realised I was writing a follow up to "Mourn Not The Dead".  Now that I had a strong metal-based way to continue my theme for the acoustic song, I shortened it and started to devise lyrics and vocal melodies. After a year or so of mucking around with it, I presented it to the band. With their approval, I continued the ideas I had explored and when it became obvious that the clean singing was going to stay, we then faced the task of finding someone who could a) sing the part to our satisfaction, and b) put up with us long enough to spend the time in the studio learning and recording the part. We found our answer to both requirements in Mr. Andrew Hudson, of Harlott fame, a good friend of the band (see bottom picture). We kept the identity of our guest singer a secret and asked people to guess who it was. No-one got it right, as this was the first time anyone had heard Andy step away from his flawless thrash vocals and into the arena of clean singing. When it was revealed, everyone had a collective "What the fuck?" moment, and it was pleasing to have surprised so many people, both for us and for Andy.

Although it is short and sweet, I really love "Only The Dead Know" because it serves its purpose beautifully as both a way for Hybrid Nightmares to show some diversity, as well as an awesome lead in to "What It Means To Die".

Well, that's it for now, next time I will be taking a deeper look into track 4 of the Second Age and giving some history for what has become one of our most popular songs. Take care of yourselves, see you soon.

 

Jonny

1235031_10151885689871952_681402884_n Pictured: Andrew Hudson and Michael Gumley backstage at EV's metalfast 2013

The Writing Process:The Second Age

Labyrinth-007.jpg

Hails Nightlings! It is time once again to delve into the madness that is the writing process for Hybrid Nightmares, and this week I will be shedding some unholy light on how we went about writing "In The Labyrinth". The Second Age was always a tricky one for us because it had to tread the fine line between the peace and melody of The First Age, but prepare you as an audience for the sonic onslaught that The Third Age presents with the theme of War. We also faced a challenge with our first acoustic track with clean singing in "Only The Dead Know" but more on that in coming weeks. Here for your reading pleasure is the story of how "In The Labyrinth" came into being. "In The Labyrinth":

So to start with, credit must go to Gumley for creating the raw bones of the song. We met up at his studio one Sunday arvo and he was wriggling in his seat, literally unable to sit still because he was excited to show us the song he had written for the Ages project. He played through the whole thing for us and our immediate reaction was that it was too melodeath for Hybrid Nightmares. We all listen to and appreciate melodeath in one shape or another, and have mad respect for the local bands who put their own Aussie spin on the genre, but for us, it was too similar to what had already been done. Gumley was stricken, forlorn and generally a bit put out.

After we had played a viscous round of HORSE out on the basketball court, Gumley tasked me with "blackening it up". I knew straight away that the core of the song, the structure and the flow of it were fine, it was just the techniques and the scale that were giving us grief. So I immediately shifted it into our tried and true G Harmonic minor over D scale that gave it that Behemoth/Nile/Lamb of God sound and incorporated more of our "melodic chords". These chords are a staple part of the Hybrid Nightmares sound, and simply put, they involve barring a power chord on the bottom three strings while using the other three fingers to work a melody at the same time. We first used this technique on Mourn Not The Dead, and the chorus of Emperor is one of my favorite examples.

Using this scale and implementing the melodic chords, we quickly found the direction the song needed to go in, the tech-y bursts in the verses were our homage to the melodeath origins of the song and then the extended periods of double kicks brought us right back to classic HN sound. Ben still hates playing this song the most simply because he was absent for the writing stage on this one and when we brought it to him, he realized he was left with playing long sections of very fast tremolo picking that take a toll on his hand and wrist. If you watch him during live shows, you can actually see the hate rising like a red tide behind his eyes during those sections of the song.

Loki brought the lyrics in relatively late on the track and he was adamant that 'dust' would feature prominently, but the rhythms and rhymes he span on the track showed that it wasn't for a lack of interest that he was late with the lyrics, but rather that he was working hard to make sure it was exactly the way he had imagined it.

The guitar solo at the end of the track is another little nod to the melodeath beginnings and when Gumley showed us the finished solo, we all thought it was the best solo Dethklok never wrote. We still sing it out loud when we practice it, showing that a solo doesn't need to just be flashy and technical, but catchy as well, with lines that stick with people.

I hope you enjoyed reading about "In The Labyrinth" and that you like listening to it as much as we do playing it (except Ben who is a grouch).

May the Obelisk gaze upon your soul and find you worthy!

JonnyLabyrinth--007