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Interview

Third Ion Discusses Lineup Changes And Sophomore Album "Biolith"

Sci-fi prog metal band Third Ion got us all hot and bothered here at Metalunderground.com last year with the release of debut album "13/8 Bit," which had the group mentioned in our list of the best metal newcomers of 2015.

Fast forward to summer 2016 and Third Ion already has a sophomore output on the way, with the "Biolith" full-length release due to drop in just a handful of days.

That new album sees some elements staying the same while others have undergone big changes - most notably in the vocalist department. We caught up with guitarist / keyboardist Justin Bender to get an inside look at those changes and how this second album came together.

xFiruath: There was a lineup change earlier in the year with new vocalist Dave Padden coming on. What happened there with the shift, and is Dave actually on the new album?

Justin: Yeah, totally. He sang 100% of the vocals on the record. I sang a bit on "13/8Bit," but this time we just let this monster singer do his thing. We didn't have much time in the studio, but he absolutely owned it.

Tyler just didn't want to be in a band, really. He has dual citizenship with the U.S. and just wants to tour his folk music by himself all year. That's fine, we wish him the best. We tried out two people from around where I live (Saskatchewan), but Mike had suggested Dave right away, and so we got a demo from him as well. He tried out, just like anyone else, but he had a definite advantage. We were blown away.

xFiruath: “Biolith” is coming out just a scant year after the release of “13/8 Bit” - when did the writing and tracking for this album actually begin, and how long did that process take from beginning to end?

Justin: "13/8Bit" was released in May of 2015, but was finished mixing in November of 2014. So Aaron and I started working on "Biolith" in January 2015, and we were half done writing and recording the music by the time "13/8Bit" came out. So we had a real leg up, time wise, a good head start. We also were on a roll, tons of ideas, lots of great riffs from Mike made it into the songs - we just didn't want to stop. We are taking a break right now though, so this timeline likely won't be repeated for next album. But... Who knows.

xFiruath: Where did recording take place and did you face any particular challenges or obstacles on the “Biolith” album?

Justin: All over western Canada, and that right there is the challenge and biggest obstacle. Haha! We did all the guitars and drums at the same time while we wrote the songs, at Aaron's studio in Winnipeg. Mike recorded his bass and keys parts in Vancouver and sent them in, and I flew to Vancouver to work on the vocals and we tracked them at Creativ Studios, I engineered the sessions myself. All the editing and mixing was done at my house in Regina. It actually really wasn't as difficult as it may sound, the first album was done very similarly, so we have a pretty good workflow going on.

The real biggest challenge was working on lyrics for a few months without knowing for sure who was singing on it. I didn't write a single thing until the music was all done - I am already approaching the next album differently, I have a ton of storyline notes and concepts written down. And then when we knew we had Dave, I didn't really know what he would do with it. Next album, my approach will be much more refined.

xFiruath: On that note, musically and lyrically what has shifted on this album, and what will be remaining similar for fans of the previous album to latch onto?

Justin: Lyrically it is pretty similar. Space stuff, sci fi stuff. Our mascot, Dr. Zero, is featured on both album covers and this time we actually wrote some backstory and that is what the song Biolith is about. Musically, it's way nuttier and I think a lot more fun. Aaron's drum parts crack me up sometimes. They get a bit ridiculous, but in a totally fulfilling way, to us. I don't intend for any record to sound exactly like the one before, so some people may be put off by that. But that is okay, to us it's just a fun creative thing, with no rules, and we will keep it that way.

xFiruath: Who handled the cover artwork, what's going on in the scene, and how does it connect to the music?

Justin: Actually, my best friend Harley did both albums. This one began as a 3 foot oil painting, then he digitized and finished it with his tablet. I am blown away by it, it's totally what we wanted. As I mentioned, it is lyrically relevant to the title track "Biolith." On the cover Dr. Zero is in pursuit of a giant space-whale, Möbius Dick, who holds within him the key to restoring cosmic balance. Mobius is a biolithic creature, of sorts, and had excreted rock around him, to hibernate for millions of years in what was basically a planet, orbiting a distant star. On the cover he is exploding from said planet to try escape our hero.

xFiruath: You guys crowd funded this one through IndieGogo – how did that process go, and how does crowd funding change the process of recording and releasing an album for a band like Third Ion?

Justin: It went really well. I'm not sure if this would be obvious, but is really a LOT of work. Now having seen one nearly through to completion, I think if we ever do it again, it will be easier. It's just super time consuming, and you have to have a system and stay on top of everything, be very organized.

With this album it really came down to the fact that we had put all our spare time and money into making the record, that if we wanted to release it this year we had to find some funding. I honestly don't know what we would have done without it. Probably just a digital only release, but the artwork looks fucking badass on the digipaks so in my mind it was worth it. Metal fans still buy CD's and our distribution still wants physical options. So I am very glad we did it.

xFiruath: Have you read any reviews so far, and what has stood out for you in the reaction from listeners so far?

Justin: I have seen about a half dozen, all extremely positive. 9/10, 8.5/10. Stuff like that. A couple of reviewers seemed to find they needed to pause songs and collect their thoughts. Haha That makes us happy, because we have silly ideas for messed up rhythmic stuff, we have all played in bands with odd meters all over the place, so we are at a point where we can just have fun with trying weird shit. And it seems to really wow people so far, which is super neat to see, and rewarding.

xFiruath: Where will the band be performing in the near future in support of the album, and do you have an official release show lined up?

Justin: A release show in my city, Regina, SK (Canada) July 29th, and that weekend we play the Loud As Hell festival in Drumheller, Alberta with a ton of great bands. We have other plans but I can't really say much yet, but they involve more of western Canada still at this point.

xFiruath: Are you active in your local metal live scene, and are there any venues nearby that really support metal?

Justin: Totally! I do live sound routinely at the Exchange, and we get a lot of the metal gigs. I would describe it as a very metal city, but it is a small city so I have seen the turnouts fluctuate over the years.

xFiruath: What music are you listening to lately and what's coming out soon that you are most excited for?

Justin: I just heard about the new Opeth today. I loved "Pale Communion," so I am very excited. I saw Corrosion of Conformity the other day for the first time in 19 years, and that really rekindled my love of "Blind," "Deliverance," and "Wiseblood." Those three albums meant a lot to me as a teenager. I still say that "Blind" has the most entertaining non-doublekick drumming on a metal record.

xFiruath: Anything else you'd like to mention?

Justin: We are revamping the online merch store and will have some killer new shit available soon, so watch for that here - also we are going to launch something at spreadthethird.com soon, but for now I think it just forwards to the main site. Up the ions!

xFiruath's avatar

Ty Arthur splits his time between writing dark fiction, spreading the word about underground metal bands, and bringing you the latest gaming news. His sci-fi, grimdark fantasy, and horror novels can be found at Amazon.

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