Welcome to the obligatory End of Year / Welcome New Year blog!
This is where I talk about my favourites of 2018 and explain how it’s “New Year, New Me” right?
But let’s have a quick look back and a slight peek forward. There’s a lot of stuff in the works!
Right, let’s address the elephant in the room first (his name is Greg, by the way) – where the fuck is the new LORD album? There were more than a few blogs on here and various posts on the LORD and Dominus Records pages where we even went so far as to say it’s Definitely Coming Out This Year.
Well, shit. We have a day to get this done! I better get mixing!
OK, yes… even if I did manage to get it all mixed tomorrow (hey, it’s possible!) that’s not going to be the big reason as to why there’ll be no album this year. But a bit of background and an aside first, some stuff that I’ve mentioned before in blogs but I’ll put it here again just so you don’t have to go hunting.
It’s been a busy few years since we released Digital Lies (and an extended mix 12″ single of the title track), which was our last full album of all new material. Now, on paper this sounds like it’s been a long time since we’ve done anything at all. Digital Lies came out in early 2013 (in fact, it should have been out in late 2012, but we held it back for a few different logistical reasons – similar to what’s happening to the new album). So what have we been doing for 5 goddamn years?!
Besides touring, I’ve been in the studio non-stop since then.
2014 saw The Dungeon Era box set – 4 re-recorded albums from the Dungeon years, plus 4 remixed or remastered original performance albums, and a 200+ page band history. That’s 46 songs that were redone alone. I think it was past 80 tracks all up, and it took 10 months of solid work (and worse, I became a first-time father in late 2013 too, so I was juggling a new baby while I was working on this. Exhausting, much?)
We followed that up in 2015 with the What Tomorrow Brings EP, which had a 25+ minute long concept song, a new unreleased track and a bunch of covers. Actors, orchestration… it was full on. The EP was actually longer than most full-length albums.
2016 was another look back with the debut LORD album A Personal Journey being re-recorded and brought into line with the rest of the back catalogue. Also in 2016 we hopped over the ocean to play the ProgPower USA festival in Atlanta. That was recorded and filmed, so…
In 2017 we released the Live at ProgPower USA XVII album. Being first band on that day, a lot of the technical issues that every festival has were still being worked out during our set. Aside from actually making the recording sound good, there was quite a bit of repair work to make the product release worthy. As well as the live tracks, we included 2 brand new songs and a cover as a bonus on the CD version, and the entire video of the show was edited, colour graded, uploaded to HD Video on Demand and included a tour documentary as well.
By this point, it was non-stop but we knew we had to keep moving forward and start writing the next album. It took until about April of 2018 to have everything demo’d up well enough to convince us we had the makings of a good album. Then recording began.
I won’t go into the extremely boring behind-the-scenes details, but there were a lot of things that either didn’t align schedule-wise or fell through, and it was up to me**SEE FOOTNOTE to grab the band by the collar and drag it over the line. Unfortunately, those setbacks literally put our schedule back months.
And so here we are at the end of the year. No album yet, but as you can see, it’s been utterly relentless from my point of view, completely exhausting and I can’t say a particularly enjoyable process in places.
Even as late as October, we were still aiming for an early December release but as the month ticked away, it became clear that even if the album was done – and we didn’t want to rush it at the end after all of the hard work we’d put in so far – releasing it so late in the year would be suicide from a commercial point of view. There would be no time to organise a proper promo campaign (in a lot of ways, this is even more important than a lot of the artistic aspects of an album – you could be sitting on the best album in the world but if your promo fails, no one will ever know about it), and it would get lost in everyone winding down for the holiday season.
Right, so where are we at now?
As I type this, I’m putting the final touches on the Australian bonus tracks and prepping for a mix. The album tracks are done and off with the other guys for testing now. The cover art is done, and I’ll be starting work on the booklet layout and artwork soon.
We also shot a video for the opening track on the album, which is a full on CGI thing where we spent the day in a greenscreen studio miming to a backing track and a green wall, and I’m currently punishing my new crazy powerful video editing laptop, compositing us into the virtual environment. Just the renders on that alone are taking weeks, and that’s got to be done before we get to the edit stage, to actually cut the clip together. As I look around me, I’m sitting facing 6 screens across 4 computers that have been running non-stop for months now.
We’re in the early stages of arranging the PR campaign to get the album out to everyone. So with all of that said and done, we’re expecting that you guys will see it before April once everything is finally in motion. If it wasn’t for all of the necessary marketing stuff, it’d be much sooner, but trust me when I say that any steps we take now are very deliberate and very important.
So that’s LORD! What else is coming up?
Another release that was supposed to be out last year on our Dominus Records label was the new Serenity Defiled album. I’ve been heavily involved with Serenity Defiled as an ongoing permanent guest musician since the beginning, and there’s a few things in the works that will have me even more involved on the next one. Unfortunately, Serenity Defiled became a victim of of LORD’s delayed schedule – while I was tied up solving problems here, I couldn’t do the job for Serenity Defiled.
We’re aiming for an April release for that now. 2 songs from the album have already been released along with video clips for each one respectively (including a neat “short film” version), so that should tell you everything you need to know about what to expect from the next album! (Hint: you won’t find a lot of piano ballads on there)
In 2018 I was re-hired by Ilium to provide vocals and a mix for their re-recorded debut album. I was an ongoing guest vocalist for their second and third albums back in the mid-2000s but my schedule filled up so much I had to drop all non-essential projects, which included Ilium. They went on to work with some other fantastic singers, but it made sense to get me back on board for the debut re-record because I was so involved in the original recording.
That all turned out so well, they’ve brought me back for more vocals and production work for a new album and EP. I expect to start work on that sometime early in the new year. The reviews have been great for the re-recorded debut, so I expect these new ones to be pretty well-received too.
Now I don’t want to talk for Mark, but he got a great reaction to his first FromBeyond album that was released in 2016 (finally!). The follow-up album is done, barring a few checks on the final master. Hopefully that will see a release sometime in 2019.
If my schedule allows, another album that has mostly been written is the next Blackened Angel album. We’ve been talking about the follow up to Chronicles of Damnation for years now, and the songs have actually been sitting there in an unfinished state for about as long. The concept (yes, it’s another concept album) has been re-written twice, but it’s really all down to me finding time to write the lyrics and flesh out the production. Possibly later in the year? We’ll see.
It’s been a pretty huge year for video related things for me too.
You guys may know I’ve been partners in a business called Dusk Music Video Production for a while. That’s still happening – kind of. It’s actually been folded into the parent companies Arc Shot Media and Heretic Creative Agency. Things have definitely taken a step up gear wise with 4K production, drones, steadicams, etc. and I’ve had to drop a substantial amount of coin on new computer gear to keep up with the new higher quality footage.
I’d say now that if someone asked me to choose what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I’d pick “director” first. Music is still a very important part of my life, of course, and on the video side it’s great to get in there to nail the shot or do the post production or VFX work, but there’s something super rewarding about directing the show and seeing your vision come to life.
The first couple of videos for 2019 are already locked in, and it’s all fun location work, which is a nice contrast to the next LORD one which was all greenscreen and VFX stuff.
So yeah, a very busy year in 2018, despite not having much of a public face for LORD (the 2 festivals we headlined were killer though – cheers to Dave and Damo for having us). A lot of 2018 sucked for me, quite honestly, but you can either be the kind of person who complains about their problems or someone who gets on with it and looks for solutions and alternatives.
Hopefully all of you guys have a great 2019! I know for sure it’ll be another busy one for me, and it’ll be great to see the new LORD album out – I think you guys will really dig it. But more about that when the PR starts!
For now I’ll leave you with a picture my now 5yo daughter drew (amazing – I managed to keep a small human alive for 5 years, go figure!). I think it sums things up pretty nicely! 😉
** FOOTNOTE: I just want to clarify a statement I made earlier about it “being up to me to drag the band over the line.”
LORD is 3 people (yes, 3 – we’ve chosen to move ahead without a permanent drummer, for anyone wondering). We each have fairly defined roles, and in my case it’s all of the tech stuff. Video clips, graphics, audio, website… that’s all me. I’m also the guy who arranges parts for our live shows and gets guest musicians up to scratch, as well as creating our live backing track stuff (the extra keyboards, orchestra, etc.). LORD is all self-contained. We’re our own label, our own touring company, we do all of our audio and video productions in-house, etc. which is partly for artistic reasons (we’ve been fucked over by other people not getting our vision of how we want to do things in the past), but partly because we just don’t have the resources to hire other people to do things for us if we want to funnel any income to touring or promotion or whatever.
If any part of this chain of people we work with falls over, 9 times out of 10 it’s my job to step in and take over to make sure we get it over the line, rather than sitting there going “well shit” and complaining about how “unfair the industry is” and “why we never get anywhere” like we see all over social media. Life also happens, and if any of the other guys are otherwise tied up – which happens to everyone – if we have a deadline, again I step in and make it all happen so we can deliver the product on time, to the standard we think everyone deserves.
HOWEVER: This isn’t to say I’m the only person doing the job here.
Aside from contributing to the songwriting, the great bulk of promo, venue liaison, etc. is done by Andy. I have no patience for this kind of thing and would get frustrated after a couple of days if I had to do this now (I tolerated it in the early Dungeon era days but hated every moment of it). Mark has contributed not only his terrifying guitar playing, but some of our most popular songs, and has been a huge link to everyone involved with ESP. Again, something that I struggle to find time with in amongst all of my other tasks. Both of those guys are a very visible and approachable public face of the band, something that I’m generally not and finding it harder and harder as the years go on to maintain. There’s a weird irony about being the frontman of a band and not particularly enjoying being in the public eye.
No matter how much work I do here, and how much “dragging by the collar over the line” when we need it, no matter how good our music, videos and artwork are, you can not do this all from a small studio by yourself if you aren’t out there networking and being approachable. So it’s important to put what I said into perspective in that everyone has a role, and every part of it is necessary.