2020, huh? Wow. What the fuck was that. ?
Coming out of some of the worst fires Australia’s ever seen this time last year, who would have thought that things could have somehow gotten more on fire in a lot of other ways?
This global pandemic has essentially decimated quite a lot of the industry I work in, and it’s stopped LORD’s touring plans dead in its tracks. We can’t really complain too much in the scheme of things, which I’ll get to in a bit – touring may have been shot in the head but we’ve been really busy this year otherwise – a lot of our friends and peers have literally lost their livelihoods as their jobs have disappeared out from underneath them. If there’s one bright spot on the horizon, it looks like the vaccines will be available in the coming months and we can slowly think about getting back to normality (whatever that is). I’m definitely thankful that I live in a country where things were brought under control fairly quickly and any flare-ups are being managed well.
You might have noticed that this is the first and only blog this year. The last one was my Reflections of 2019 post, last NYE. Wow. Well, you can probably guess that things have been non-stop for me if I’ve been this quiet, and this is definitely the case. If anything, the pandemic has given me more work as artists hunker down and think about other ways to generate income or do prep for future releases and tours now that their usual means to promotion have been ripped away from them this year.
So, what have I been up to?
Let’s go back to 2018 for when this all began with the writing and pre-production for LORD’s Fallen Idols album.
Fresh off of recording and doing guest vocals for Ilium’s Sirens of the Styx: Re-styxed, we launched into the writing for Fallen Idols. I won’t talk about that too much here since I chatted about that in the last two end of year blogs, but, briefly, it was an absolutely exhausting experience that made me question if I want to still do this… until it was released, hit #2 on the Australian Independent Label charts, #20 on the “proper” ARIA charts and became our best selling and best reviewed album ever. It’s amazing what kind of a pep talk that sort of reception gives you. ?
I’m going to assume you’ve heard it by now, but if not, check it out HERE.
With barely a chance to catch my breath, I jumped into Ilium’s Carcinogeist album and Enviro-Metal EP that we recorded simultaneously, where this time I took control of the production from the get-go. After helping with things kind of half-way through the previous album, we figured we were all on the same page with the direction this time and my advice to the guys was simply “trust me.” They did and everyone brought their A-game. I think they’ll agree that Carcinogeist would be up there as one of their top albums, and it’s one I’m personally really proud of my contributions on. But we’ll talk more about that in a bit.
By now, the idea of doing massive vocal choirs and super-precise melodic metal had definitely worn me down. As much as I think both LORD and Ilium releases came up brilliantly, doing them all back-to-back does become a real chore.
In a complete tangent, I hopped off of Ilium into Serenity Defiled’s Dead Earth Syndicate album, not just as a guitarist and producer, but this time as vocalist. LORD has definitely wandered into extreme metal territory and we released Chronicles of Damnation by Blackened Angel in 2013 where it was a melding of extreme and power metal, but this album was the first full in-your-face brutal album for me, and it was a tough gig. Very happy with how it came up, but wow… if this was supposed to be a break from doing huge choirs, it worked out to be just as difficult. More on this in a bit too.
In the middle of it all, I was doing video clips for both LORD and Serenity Defiled, and a few other artists as well, so I’d have money to pay the bills and, you know, eat. That basically takes us up to the beginning of 2020, which was going to be the year where I get to see a lot of these big projects go out the door and I could work on a few other small things and bask in their respective glory.
Fooled myself again, didn’t I?
I’d started work on the forthcoming Carmeria album with the sense that it was going to be big, but how much work could it really be, right? Famous last words! On one hand, it was a real privilege working on such a huge album with the freedom to guide the process into whichever way I thought served the band best. I contributed orchestration, a couple of solos, arrangement changes… very hands-on. I also worked really hard with their singer to get the scope of what they were trying to do across properly. And therein lies “on the other hand.” ? If I was worn out by the choirs and arrangements of LORD and Ilium, I had no idea what I was about to get myself into with Carmeria. We went all-out on this thing to make it as big as it could possibly be, and what I assumed was going to take a couple of months lasted most of the year. But I’ll get back to this in a bit also.
Both Ilium and Serenity Defiled brought Andy and me on board to help look after their releases, from the logistics of getting them onto all of the digital platforms, disc replication, etc. and the associated promotion of the discs. The first part of the process was entirely painless. Getting the releases done and out there was something we’d done a bunch of times already so it all went like clockwork. The PR campaign was drawn up and set into motion, early reviews were looking super positive, when suddenly….
Just as the campaign was starting to find its legs for both bands, COVID-19 hit and the bottom fell out of the industry. People (rightly) put their focus on their families and safety rather than “let’s review these two underground bands from Australia” and all of that work was lost in the carnage.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t pissed off and utterly disappointed about that. Both of those albums deserved far better than what they were given, and I personally think they’re some of the best music I’ve ever worked on in the last 30 years of doing this stuff. 2020, hey? ?
So what did I do this year besides that?
Having my schedule dominated by Carmeria, we turned to the very talented Wayne Joyner to do a fantastic lyric clip for Chaos Raining, coinciding with an EP release that featured a new song called A World Insane. This was written really quickly by me, specifically for this EP and it’s turned out to be quite the runaway track – huh, go figure!
The second FROMBEYOND album indeed came out to a pretty great response. Let’s all badger Mark to finish the third installment! ?
Blackened Angel… yeah, OK. That didn’t make the cut. Sorry guys. It’s not a dead project, and there’s definite plans for the next one already in the works, but we want to do it right and that’ll take more of a break than I’ve had so far.
Carmeria’s album was finally finished and the decision was made to delay it until 2021. Probably smart given the environment it’d be going out in this year. I can say that this album is absolutely MASSIVE. For a small taste, check out the first and second video clips here. If the PR goes off well and this gets heard by the right people, it’s going to blow a lot of minds.
Speaking of videos, I’ve been busy either by myself or with my Arc Shot Media partner in crime, James, doing a lot of video work while this has been going on. ASM is now the preferred supplier of all cinema advertising content for Val Morgan NSW wide, so there’s a good chance you’ll see some of our work before the next film you see once we’re all allowed back into public spaces. It’s definitely keeping us both busy (and fed), both with corporate work and knocking out some really cool music videos too.
James was also busy this year rediscovering his love for writing music. What a lot of people may not know is James was once an international touring musician himself for many years before falling back into “getting a haircut and a real job” life and then getting into video production and then teaming up with me. This time I was teaming up with him and produced a string of heavy commercial rock songs, with more to come I’m told!
And in a huge change of pace from the brutality of Serenity Defiled, I ended the year working on a folk/country-esqe album that featured Juz, who you may remember from the early Dungeon days, and a very close personal friend of Demonica from Platinum Brunette. That album will be out early next year too, along with a couple of clips I’m doing for them, but here’s A PEEK. Not what I’m normally known to produce, but I think this album came up great and I can’t wait to see it out there.
I closed off the year with a shoot for a local pole dance fitness studio, just as my recording studio speakers finally gave up the ghost and died. Buying new speakers was not entirely what I had in mind for the money I made from the pole studio shoot. ?
I’ve been trying to get to urgent studio repairs and upgrades for the last 18 months, and I have a new work computer that’s literally been sitting in the corner of the room for an entire year waiting for a break to integrate it into the studio properly, which never came. My goal for the first part of 2021 is to finally get things at least to the point where I can add gear to it rather than knowing I need to do major work to get things prepared or integrated.
Immediately after that, I have an album mix, two music videos, a live album and DVD/BluRay, the next Ilium EP and a bunch of already slotted-in work for Arc Shot Media already booked in, and we have a very special treat for LORD fans coming early in the year too. I won’t say too much about it for now, but I can say you’ll get your money’s worth. ?
For now, I’m going to take a day off and hang out with a smart mouthed
little jerk adorable child I helped make (I managed to keep a small human alive for 7 years – amazing! The smart mouth is entirely my fault. Sigh), eat pizza and watch some fireworks on TV.
Here’s to a busy and much better 2021 for us all. Stay safe, yeah? ?