An Interview With Drummer Neal Gist From Of Raven & Ruins
Of Raven & Ruins are an unsigned band from the United States, but listening to their music would never tell you that. With a symphonic style along the lines of Dimmu Borgir or Gothmog, but with a strong death metal edge, Of Raven & Ruins sound like they should be sharing the cover of a major metal magazine with the best out of Europe. The band's drummer Neal Gist spoke with me about the origin of the band's interesting name and their debut full-length release "Bound To Prophecy."
xFiruath: Somehow Of Raven & Ruins is unsigned, which is honestly baffling. Are you guys actively on the hunt for a label at this point?
Neal: We did submit our album before it's official release to a few record labels. Metalblade records responded that they thought our material was strong, it just "wasn't what they were presently looking for." Nuclear Blast said that they are booked full with bands and not looking for any new artists at this time. Both showed interest in our future projects though, so we'll see what that holds. Any of the other labels we pursued never responded, unfortunately. Ultimately, we all felt like self-releasing our first album would be a positive learning experience. We've learned a lot this last year, and I'm sure all our trials will be instrumental in the success of our next album.
xFiruath: The inside cover on “Bound To Prophecy” includes a nice explanation of your band name, but could you give me a recap for our readers who haven’t had the chance to read it?
Neal: Absolutely. We already paraphrased as best we could to fit inside the album booklet, so here it is word for word: Many people ask us what our band name means. Well, for those who haven’t had a chance to ask yet, here is our story: ravens have been known for many things throughout mythology. In some cultures, it is believed that the Raven symbolizes wisdom and prophecy. It is known as the messenger who travels through distance, time, and the heavens to share his insight with others. In our symbol, and many others, the raven is entwined within a pentacle. The pentacle symbolizing magic. In this way, the raven is also the bearer of magic. As musicians, we like to think of ourselves as the messengers. The magic, in our case, is the music itself. We use ruins to help depict the setting of our story and the mood of our music. A lot of the feelings and events we draw inspiration from might be considered dark, eerie, or full of conflict. Thus, you have a story of Raven & Ruins.
xFiruath: What do the lyrics on “Bound To Prophecy” deal with? Do you start with lyrics and build a song around it or do you have the music and then put the lyrics to it?
Neal: The lyrics in Bound to Prophecy actually have a whole lot to do with the explanation of our band name and symbol. That particular song is easily made personable, and we tried to make it that way. It probably has different ways of relating to different people. That's usually how most of our lyrics work, so everyone can find a way to relate. And hell, if they don't like what we're saying hopefully the music gets the job done! We always write the music first. I don't think we've every written a song around lyrics, though now I kind of want to try haha.
xFiruath: Who did the cover art for the album?
Neal: The band worked out the concept/layout and gave that to an artist by the name of Joel LeLievre. He's a very skilled graphic designer working in Canada.
xFiruath: Where did you record the album at and did you work with a producer or self-produce the album?
Neal: We recorded the album at a studio in Texas called Origin Sound. The mastering was done in New York at West West Side Music. We produced the whole thing ourselves.
xFiruath: What do you guys have planned in the future for the band?
Neal: Interestingly enough, about half of the material on the album is pretty old. Some of the songs on the album are over four years old. We had a lot of material we were working on prior to the album, but decided to keep a lot of it just in case we got signed and a record label wanted us to whip out another album real quick. Now, we're taking our time and polishing all those songs, and of course, writing new material. As much as we like Bound to Prophecy, we have confidence that the next one will completely blow it out of the water. We're not doing any gigging at the moment. There is a potential East Coast tour in the works, but after our last two being canceled we're afraid to publicly commit to it. When we are beyond a shadow-of-a-doubt that it's going down, we will let you all know immediately! Booking tours independently without label backing is not that easy now days.
xFiruath: What is your local metal scene like and how has the fan reaction been to your music so far?
Neal: Well, the metal scene is not as strong as it used to be. With the economy and all, it's hard to get folks to drop some cash on a local show. And in a sea of "metal" bands overflowing MySpace and local establishments, sometimes it leaves the wrong impression on people new to the genre. Despite everything, our local fan base has definitely been ever-growing. Performing with national acts these last few years has definitely helped propel our personal fan base. But now, with “Bound to Prophecy” in hand, we're really looking to reach out to new fans on a worldwide level.
xFiruath: What first got you into metal and how did you get involved in music originally?
Neal: We all come from very different musical backgrounds. I didn't even really know what metal was when we formed the band in February, 2005. I think that the variation in our musical tastes really plays a part in writing the kind of style we do. Ben was the leading voice in the direction of our music, which was melodic death metal at the beginning, and overtime, we all grew into our own unique style together.
xFiruath: What bands or albums are you personally listening to the most right now?
Neal: Well, I can't speak for my band mates presently, except for Michael Jackson we're all huge fan,) but I've been jamming a lot of 90's alternative rock lately. I know, very different musical backgrounds. As far as metal goes, lately I've been listening to Bloodbath, Mors Principium Est, Kamelot, and Hypocrisy.
xFiruath: What’s your favorite non-metal album, and why?
Neal: Hmmm, the answer to this question changes with the weather, I'm afraid. At this very moment, I'll say Less Than Jake’s “GNV FLA." Their upbeat, energetic optimism through their music gets me grooving every time. Variety's the spice of life, right? I go to metal whenever I need my aggressive fix!
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