Two nights ago, one of my NCS collaborators (Alexis) and I hit Studio Seven in Seattle for Dark Tranquillity‘s headlining We Are the Void Tour. Along with Threat Signal and Mutiny Within, the night also featured an opening performance by a Seattle band called Blood and Thunder. We’ll be posting our review of the entire show tomorrow, but we decided it was time to focus on Blood and Thunder in a way that the typical format of our concert reviews doesn’t really allow.
The two main draws for us at this show were, of course, Dark Tranquillity (who were cosmically awesome) — and the band we’re writing about today. We’d seen them for the first time a month ago when they opened for The Finnish Metal Tour on its Seattle stop (reviewed by us here), and we were super-impressed. Now that we’ve had the chance to see and hear them a second time, we’re even more blown away.
The local Seattle metal scene has a growing number of talented bands that we predict you’ll be hearing a lot more about in the near future, but Blood and Thunder may just be the best un-signed extreme metal band in Seattle.
We spent time talking with some of the guys after their set at Studio Seven. In addition to being superb songwriters and musicians, they’re as nice a bunch of metalheads as you could want to meet, and they were patient enough to pose for some photos outside the venue (like the one above and a few more after the jump). But they’re also dead serious and very intelligent in the way they’re going about trying to make a name for themselves in this overcrowded niche of music. It was an eye-opening conversation for us.
(Continue reading after the jump for our report on that conversation, our review of Blood and Thunder’s set, and a big batch of our barely tolerable concert photos of this band in action . . .)
First things first: the music. From a 10,000-foot level, Blood and Thunder plays modern melodic death metal. But that’s really just the starting point. In addition to delivering powerful, head-snapping grooves and tremendously memorable melodic themes, the songs (as played live) include infectious instrumental jams that are technically sophisticated and just carry you away like an irresistible current.
It’s hard to overstate how technically capable each of these guys is — Ryan Yancey on drums (he’s also the lead vocalist), the amazing Billy Keller and Jeff Weaver on guitars, keyboardist James Furrow, and Nick Hughes on bass. They play with tremendous command and confidence, and the instrumental work is both inventive and as tight as a vacuum seal.
Lots of young musicians out there have developed their talents to the point of technical competence, or even brilliance, but what’s rare is to see technical chops combined at such an early stage of things with real songwriting talent. All the songs Blood and Thunder played in their set were written for a forthcoming album, and they’re all really original, distinctive, and memorable. We were particularly taken with one called “Children of the Sand”.
Plus, the band is just a shitload of fun to watch, and the enthusiastic Studio Seven crowd really got into their set. It was a real let-down when it had to end.
But the upside was that Alexis and I got the chance to talk at length with members of the band (mainly Ryan Yancey and Nick Hughes) after the set ended and during breaks between the other bands’ performances as the night progressed.
The guys in Blood and Thunder seem to get along well with each other, and they’re clearly having a lot of fun with their music. But they’re also dead serious about their ambitions and their music, and they’ve got a carefully considered game plan for taking their collaboration to the next level.
As frenetic ringleader Ryan Yancey described it, the starting point was to find band members who not only were very talented musicians, but also people who wouldn’t let their egos get in the way of dedication to excellence. (Humorously, Ryan explained that he decided to do the vocals himself, in addition to playing drums, to avoid the narcissism and drama of working with stand-alone vocalists.)
The band is also dedicated to creating their own well-executed product, paid for out of their own pockets, so that when the time comes to hunt seriously for a label, they’ll have a finished package of music and artwork ready to deliver. They’re hoping (and it makes sense) that this will make those label doors easier to open.
But for that scheme to work, the band needs capable professional help with the studio work and the mixing — and that’s proven to be a frustrating hurdle. They’ve already spent some fairly serious money and a lot of time tracking all the songs for a debut album — only to be thoroughly disappointed with the sound quality and the mix produced by the pro they hired to do it.
By this point, the band had already written 4 new songs for yet another album (which they describe as an even more technical approach to what they’re doing now), yet they realized it would be counterproductive to release the previous album’s worth of material in a form they couldn’t be completely proud of. So, while continuing to work on new music, they’ve engaged yet another engineer to re-record some of the tracks (including Ryan’s vocals) and re-mix the music in an effort to achieve the sound they’re after.
It’s been a frustratingly fucked-up turn of events for them, but the band is pushing ahead with this plan, and we hope it turns out right in the end.
It’s definitely the smart thing to do — because the one recorded song from the forthcoming album that’s up on the band’s MySpace page is a pale reflection of the way that song sounds live (the other songs streaming on that page are from an earlier EP). If these dudes can eventually manage to capture in digital form the kind of performance they consistently deliver on stage, then we have little doubt they’ll find the kind of label support they’re after.
In the meantime, Blood and Thunder is continuing to play live shows as often as they can — and we’re going to continue watching them as often as we can. Here are a few more of the photos we took when we cajoled the band into posing for us, plus a batch of shots we took of their set at Studio Seven on May 28: