Alex Oden Shares His Black Epiphany With The Metal World
Musician Alex Oden, whose other project Mortiferous Scorn was highlighted in an entry of our "Unearthing the Metal Underground" column, is currently working on new material with the more symphonic leaning act Black Epiphany. In anticipation of the new release, the debut Black Epiphany album "Mocking the Dead" has been made available as a free download at this location.
Taking time out from rebuilding his home studio and recording tracks for the upcoming release, Oden corresponded with Metalunderground about the differences between his two solo bands and how he approaches song writing.
xFiruath: Fill me in on the history of the Black Epiphany project. Is it a solo act at this point or a full band?
Alex: Right now Black Epiphany is a solo act. I recorded the first Black Epiphany album “Mocking the Dead” back in 2006 or 2007 right after the first Mortiferous Scorn album “Rotting.” The album sat in limbo for a few years because I was very busy with Mortiferous Scorn and didn’t have time to promote two projects at the same time. Now I’m much more comfortable promoting and managing my projects, tasks that seemed like a huge headache a few years ago are now typical and easier to deal with.
xFiruath: How does Black Epiphany differ from Mortiferous Scorn?
Alex: In Black Epiphany I use keyboard, synthesizers, and pianos quite a bit. Every now and then in Black Epiphany I’ll also use samples or sound effects as well. I try to keep Mortiferous Scorn’s sound more basic guitar, bass, vocal, drums without adding any filler. It’s more cut and dry which helps me get that brutal and angry sound.
Also in Black Epiphany I usually write the riffs in a musical key. This makes it easier for me to make keyboard, syth, piano, etc. parts fit over the top of the riff. Putting the music into a minor key also helps me create an overall dark mood. When I write a riff for Mortiferous Scorn I try to not use a key and keep it atonal or chromatic. It seems to give the music a sense of insanity and urgency which is what I’m going for with Mortiferous Scorn.
xFiruath: How specifically would you describe the music of Black Epiphany?
Alex: I really didn’t know how to classify Black Epiphany’s music until I went on Wikipedia and started browsing through all the genres and sub-genres of metal. The one I found that fit Black Epiphany the closest was gothic metal or black metal because of the synths mixed with heavy guitar riffs. To me I’ve always thought of Black Epiphany as symphonic death metal. Classical music has been a big influence of mine and I like to incorporate that with my metal influences.
xFiruath: How is the recording going for new material and do you have a solid title decided yet?
Alex: Recording has been going well. I’ve been rebuilding my home studio while trying to record at the same time so it’s been a challenge trying to make time for everything. I have a few different ideas for a title to the album but nothing is set in stone yet. Usually something just clicks when I know I have the right title for an album and unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet.
xFiruath: Tell me about how you approach the song writing process. What specifically do you do while writing any given song?
Alex: I’ve approached the song writing process from many different angles. The one that always seems to work best is sitting down with the guitar, practicing my scales for an hour or so to get warmed-up, and then just start hammering out riffs with my drum machine. Once I have a riff I really like I’ll write it down and then start building a song around it.
When I write a riff I really like to analyze it and determine where it will fit best in a song. I try to determine if it’s a verse riff, a strong chorus riff, or maybe an intro, the options are endless. I also like creating interesting song arrangements that keep the listeners attention. It takes some extra time and effort but it’s all worth it in the end.
xFiruath: What do the lyrics deal with in Black Epiphany?
Alex: I like Black Epiphany’s lyrics to be like me telling a horror story to someone. I’ve based a lot of Black Epiphany’s lyrics on Clive Barker’s books and movies. The song “Mocking the Dead” was based upon a story in “The Books of Blood” by Clive Barker. The imagery that Barker creates in his work is perfect for Black Epiphany’s music. There are two songs on the new album that are lyrically based on Clive Barker stories as well.
xFiruath: Has the band played live at this point and do you have any upcoming shows planned?
Alex: Black Epiphany has not played live yet. I don’t have any plans to play live with Black Epiphany but that could change someday. I definitely would like to make Black Epiphany a live act if I found the right people.
xFiruath: Been to any good shows lately?
Alex: I haven’t been to a live show for awhile. I would like to see Origin live. I know they stop in Des Moines whenever they’re touring around, man I would love to see those guys live!
xFiruath: What’s your local metal scene like?
Alex: I haven’t followed the Des Moines local music scene in a few years. I played my last show in Des Moines a couple years ago and haven’t followed it since. When I was following the scene there was a lot of diversity in the bands. At the time there were only three or four metal bands that I can remember. There were a lot of emo and cover bands but not many metal bands that I can recall, but that may have changed over the years.
xFiruath: Outside of your own music, what bands and albums have you been digging lately and what do you like about them?
Alex: The latest band I’ve been listening to is Origin. I kept hearing more and more about them from people in Des Moines that had been to their shows. I decided to pick up their CD and check it out. When I first listened I couldn’t believe my ears. I’d never heard anything like this before in my life. The speed, technicality, and intensity were absolutely incredible. Another new band I’ve been listening to is called Pelican. I don’t really know how exactly to classify their music other than it’s slow and heavy. They’re an interesting change of pace every now and then.
xFiruath: As a musician in the overall genre of “extreme metal,” how do you feel about where metal is at today and where it’s headed?
Alex: I think metal music is still underground at this point. I can’t really ever see metal being mainstream but I know people will always listen to it. It seems like guttural vocals and blast beats are becoming more widely used than they were years ago. I think this is good because it opens up new creative options when writing songs.
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