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