The past two years between previous album Formshifter and its successor Elements of the Infinite has not been an easy time to say the least for US melodic death metallers Allegaeon. The departure of band founder and guitarist Ryan Glisan alone offered a threat to the future of the band and seeds to doubters of their ability to continue to be a potently impacting force within metal. Overcoming those obstacles and determined to prove certain people wrong, Allegaeon has not only shown itself to be as powerful and impressive as before but unleashed one of the albums of the year and their finest incitement yet. Keen to find out more about the time leading up to the new album, the difficulties it faced, and the heart of Allegaeon itself, guitarist Greg Burgess kindly spared a chunk of his time to reveal all…
Hello Greg and thanks for taking time out to talk with us.
It is a few days after the release of your outstanding new album Elements Of The Infinite, a definite album of the year contender in our book. How are the emotions and expectations as it starts seducing the world with its sounds?
Thanks so much man for having me, it’s mixed for me. I’ve been so busy making sure things go right and with all the jobs I have, I haven’t been able to fully enjoy it. That being said I kinda feel a little vindicated from some of the hate mail I received saying we were shit without Ryan.
Does Elements Of The Infinite feel more of a triumph because of that then, because it comes after the departure of as you mentioned band founder guitarist Ryan Glisan and drummer Jordon Belfast as well as other obstacles which came the way of the band in the past couple of years?
Well Jordon hasn’t been with us for like what 4 years now? He hasn’t been in the equation for us as a band for a long time, but the Ryan thing absolutely. Like I said in the previous question there were a lot of people that thought we were gonna crash and burn without him. I’ve always written half of the albums up to this record, why people thought I was incapable of writing more than that pissed me off. I found their lack of faith disturbing, so yeah I feel I triumphed a little bit. This has nothing to do with Ryan by the way, I wanna make that clear, we only wish the best for that dude, and I really hope he’s successful in his pursuits. But sometimes having a point to prove can really lead to good things. Look at Mustaine’s career, a whole career based off of getting even with Metallica; I think he was very successful.
Enlighten the readers of other problems around that time. It was a serious threat to the future of Allegaeon?
Well I mean after our tour with Job For A Cowboy, we came home and basically lost a guitar player, the van’s transmission was shot, and we had no drummer. It was a lot to overcome. I guess it’s all in attitudes. We looked at it as an opportunity to excel instead of walls. I think that is what propelled us further. When we were offered the Wretched tour, Metal Blade basically said to us, “Hey look if you wanna do this, figure it out and do it. If you don’t well then we’re not sure you have a future with us.” It wasn’t harsh; it was just a reality check. We launched an indiegogo campaign, and the fans basically saved our asses. After that I got some fill in’s and we did the tour, and it basically was a new beginning for us.
Tell us about new members Michael Stancel and Brandon Park, how did the link-up with the guys come about?
Both of the guys started off as just tour fill in’s, they did such an amazing job and we had such a good time with them that it became clear very fast that they were our guys. They were fans to begin with and their attitudes were hungry. It felt great having new blood in the band, and honestly we needed a full line-up since we’d been in pieces for the past 3 plus years. I knew Mike from his other band Artemesis. The other guitar player in that band was my student so I knew the guy could play. Brandon just was persistent on Facebook, and really wanted the gig. We’d played with his former band Suffer The Wrath so I knew the dude was good, it was just a chemistry issue.
Taking the evidence of your first two albums alone, Fragments of Form and Function and Formshifter, for a non-musician and knowing the technical level and imagination you guys are at it would be a prospect to intimidate many guitarists and drummers joining the band. Did you find a full or sparsely filled queue applying or were Michael and Brandon your prime suspects anyway?
Well to be honest we were looking elsewhere to fill the spots. Our buddy Peter Joseph who was in the Absence was slated to take Ryan’s spot. I had been talking to him for a while and the talks were really really good. Mike did the tour and was just killing it every night; every band on the tour was like you should just take Mike. My biggest concern was respecting Peter, so we didn’t give Mike the job outright, but when we went through Tampa Peter basically said “dude you should just take Mike he’s rad”. It kinda just was right. As for Brandon, it’s a little more complicated. We actually got JP who played on Formshifter to join the band for like a couple of weeks, but he couldn’t do this tour we had lined up. I just couldn’t take the risk of it being a recurring problem. It sucked cause JP is incredible, and one of our best friends. After JP I asked our last touring guy Shawn McGuffin to step in, he wasn’t interested. So I got into that desperation mode. Our buddy Jeremy Portz who’d performed on all the Vale Of Pnath albums we kept going after, but it just wasn’t coming together. So we were just drummer less once again. I needed a drummer for the tour, and I remembered Brandon. I’d had reservations about Brandon due to association through other people. The first time I ever saw Brandon play this dude came up drunk off his ass, and started bashing our guy, saying we should get Brandon to do it. I was immediately pissed ‘cause our guy was great, and this dude was just disrespecting him to our faces. So that was kinda strike one against Brandon. Next we were playing another tour in St. Louis and another “friend” of Brandon’s came up trying to get us to do coke with him. It was automatically guilt by association. Both these dues claimed to be friends of B Park, one was an ass the other was a coke head. No Thanks!! I don’t want that shit screwing up what we got going on. Then Brandon said something on Facebook about how stupid drugs were or something so, I reached out. It’s so funny now, ‘cause these dudes almost blew this opportunity for Brandon, and getting to know B Park, he’s completely the opposite of everything I thought about him. Crazy! We can laugh about it now, but I was really concerned at first. After the first show with Park, I knew he was our guy. We did a few more shows on that tour then our van broke down. B Park works on a farm so he’s really good with machines. The dude fixed it and got us up and running again…so here we are sitting freezing our asses off in our busted van, and I’m like this dude is so hired.
Did you approach Elements Of The Infinite any differently to your previous albums, especially with Ryan no longer part of the process?
Very much so…My work load was double! Not only did I have to write all the material but we had to take over his responsibilities. He usually communicated with the artwork guy and he worked with Metal Blade on the fine details. I had the most free time so I just took it up. Also getting Joe Ferris on board to collaborate with all the orchestra stuff, yeah it was the hardest I’ve ever worked on an album.
How long did the album take to make?
To record, about a month and a half.
There has obviously been plenty of pressure to the making of Elements Of The Infinite so was it as enjoyable as other releases to bring to life?
It’s early days yet, but so far I’d say the opportunities we’ve already gotten from this record have made it the most enjoyable record we’ve done. I am definitely proud of it. I certainly feel all the hard work is paying off for once.
You recorded the album as the others with producer Dave Otero, he seems to add an essence and presence which your sound requires and flourishes even further with?
Well Formshifter wasn’t recorded with Dave it was done with Daniel Castleman. We really liked working with Castleman however after the split with Ryan, and the Pyrithion EP, and everything going on there, and the Lambesis fiasco on top of it, we really wanted to separate ourselves from it. Plus my friendship with Dave had grown a lot over the years, so it felt really good coming back. We really sought out his producer role, since I thought my objectivity was compromised from writing so much material. I needed a fresh perspective, and we really respect Dave to not pull punches. I’d ask him straight up, I have no idea if this part is good or it sucks, what do you think? I even wrote multiple solos for parts going, hey man which do you like better? He was very helpful to us.
How would you on the inside say your sound has changed just between Elements Of The Infinite and Formshifter?
Well Formshifter was interesting ‘cause we went in cold, and there was a lot of trust developed between everyone. We didn’t have a drummer so we kinda didn’t know how the album was going to sound. This one, I was meticulous. We had the track listing, all the preproduction done before we even stepped into the studio. We knew everything about this album before it was even recorded. That helped keep the vision. We even had all of Joe’s stuff ready to go before we got in. It made the process go really smooth.
Has it been an organic evolution or something you have been working towards or had in mind for a while?
I think it’s been organic. The decisions on this album weren’t spur of the moment, they were all thought out, and methodical.
Talking to you and reading other interviews members have made, it feels like the band was as much as anything just trying to produce a strong and potent album to keep the band on track. Has the fact that for us and a great many it sees the band at a whole new plateau and creative ingenuity surprised you, either the reactions of the fact that it is that good?
I think so. I mean I was just hoping that this record wouldn’t lose ground…that we could make a point that we were still relevant. The fact that not only we seemed to achieve that, but also the vast majority of the reviews think we’ve surpassed our previous efforts is very rewarding. The band is more a family now than anything we’ve had before. We look out for one another. Everyone is happy within our organization, and that’s the way we aim to keep it. It makes for a great working environment.
There are strong evocative orchestral elements across the new album; who composed and brought those to provocative life?
Being a studied classical musician, this is something I’ve wanted to do for years. We’ve just never had the technology until now to pull it off. The composition of the orchestral and choir elements was a direct split between Joe Ferris and I. Working with him couldn’t have been more exciting, and he’s definitely part of our writing team now. I’d write these choir and string parts and he’d flesh them out or just revamp them in some cases. In others he would just run with an idea he had, and made it truly awesome.
Give us some insight to the themes and premise behind the album and songs.
OK from the beginning. Threshold Of Perception is a look at death. It’s a look at it from a sociological and chemical standpoint. Tyrants Of The Terrestrial Exodus is about the evacuation of earth and some of the corruption that will inherently be present in the choosing of who gets to go. Dyson Sphere is about building super structures around a star, The Phylogenesis Stretch is about Goldilocks Zones…the distance where life as we know it can exist around a star. 1.618 is about the golden ratio. Gravimetric Time Dilation is about gravity and mass, and how it effects time. Our Cosmic Casket is about black holes. Biomech II is about 3D printing organs. Ages of Ice is about an Ice Age that comes as a result of a meteor hitting earth. And lastly Genocide for Praise is about the 10 plagues of Egypt as it is described in the Bible.
You guys have a passion for science or just lyrically it suits your musical ideation?
It’s really just what we’re interested in. We love it, we love learning about it. It truly is a pleasure to write lyrics about this stuff you learn a lot.
Is there a particular moment or aspect to Elements Of The Infinite which gives you the greatest pleasure or satisfaction considering it’s kind of harder than expected journey into being?
Just that we achieved what we set out to do and it’s broadened our goals to expand onto the global stage.
Now the album is uncaged and out there, what comes next for Allegaeon?
Lots of touring…we wanna crush these couple of US tours we have lined up and then head overseas.
Thanks again for chatting with us, any final thoughts you would like to share?
Thank you to everyone who’s supported us, and to all the new fans, we couldn’t do this without you!
Read the review of Elements Of The Infinite @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/allegaeon-elements-of-the-infinite/
The RingMaster Review 13/08/2014
Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright
Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from