Massakren's Parker Jameson Talks Black Metal And New Self-Titled EP
A young band hungry to make a name for itself, Massakren has already started to make a splash with its new self-titled EP and "Threshold" music video. Taking a base of Dimmu Borgir style black metal, but throwing in plenty of extra flourishes and even a thrash influence, the members of Massakren were amazingly only between 16-20 years old when the EP's tracks were recorded, following in the footsteps of some of Scandinavia's most influential bands.
Massakren's vocalist Parker Jameson filled in Metalunderground.com on the band's formation, the musical history of the members, and the recording process for the new EP. Parker also delved into subjects such as black metal's place in the metal scene, and how perception of certain styles can influence listeners. Commenting on the subject, Parker stated "People need to use their ears and nothing else when judging bands. Their popularity shouldn’t impact your views on their songwriting."
Read on to find out more about this up-and-coming black metal juggernaut that is poised to storm the genre and take absolutely no prisoners.
xFiruath: Fill me in on Massakren’s history. How long has the band been together and how did the members meet up?
Parker: Frontman/lead guitarist/main songwriter Parker Jameson and his brother/drummer Spencer Weidner conceptualized the idea in early 2008. After briefly attending Indiana University in search of like-minded musicians, Parker met guitar player Charlie Federici, and that solidified the line-up. After writing much material, Justinian Dispenza, also from IU, assumed the role of live bass player.
xFiruath: What’s your personal history like in music and did you take lessons?
Parker: I started off on saxophone at age 10 or so. I learned my theory and developed my musical ear, actually preferring to play things by ear or memory rather than reading the sheet music. That ability transferred over and helped a lot when I picked up guitar. I took lessons for a few weeks, but quit and became self-taught, mimicking 80’s rockers and guitar virtuosos.
Spencer has played drums since age 8, taking lessons both behind the kit as well as being a serious marching drummer. By the age of 14 he could play all of Dimmu Borgir’s material, and as a sophomore he was snare section leader for our school’s drumline. Charlie started off playing bass, and after winning a guitar at a Metal Mike Chlasciak clinic, switched to guitar. He took lessons at a local music store and music theory classes in high school.
During our formative musical years we took it really seriously, trying to get as good as possible as quickly as possible, as we knew from even back then that this is what we wanted to do.
xFiruath: Is there a story behind the band’s name?
Parker: When it comes to metal we almost exclusively listen to and draw influence from Scandinavian and European bands. “Massakren” is Norwegian for ”massacre,” which both matches our sound and lyrical content and also is a sort of tip-of-the-hat to the Scandinavian scene that has been so influential on our sound.
xFiruath: Tell me a bit about the “Immersed in Chaos” album and your new EP. Where were the tracks recorded?
Parker: The EP is composed of songs we wrote shortly after forming and played extensively when we were first establishing ourselves in the Midwest. We recorded them at Bota Studio (Oceano, Born of Osiris) in Lake in the Hills, IL, and have been pushing it to the public ever since.
xFiruath: How would you describe the sound of Massakren?
Parker: We really enjoy and combine aspects from many subgenres of metal. It’s pretty common in our material for a song to go from Immortal-esque thrashing to an Arch Enemy flavored twin guitar solo. We’re big on shred/power metal guitar soloing, Dimmu/Nightwish/Ensiferum type orchestral arrangements, really fast drumming, and brutal but memorable verses and choruses. It’s hard to pin us down as one style because of all these influences, but I think you get the idea.
xFiruath: How does Massakren go about writing new material?
Parker: I generally write most of the material. I’m not one of those guys who is continuously writing music. Rather, I’ll just sporadically get hit with an urge to write a song, and then I lock myself in my room and do it. I start either with keys or guitar, randomly riffing or messing with melody lines until I find something I like. After that I go back and figure out backing chords, choruses, a spot to put in a guitar solo, orchestral arrangements and that’s pretty much it. Not including lyrics, it always takes under a few hours to write a song, sometimes less than one. If it takes longer than that, I put the guitar or keyboard away and start totally new the next time.
Charlie also collaborates with me on about 40% of the material. When he and I are in a room with guitars together, we can pump out a full song in like 30 minutes. It’s crazy. We feed off of each other’s riffing and ideas and have great chemistry as song writers. Whether I write the song, Charlie and I collaborate, or he writes it, drums are always just heard in the back of my head and verbally conveyed to Spencer. I also oversee all the orchestral arrangements for our stuff.
xFiruath: What’s going on in the lyrics?
Parker: To date, I’ve written all the lyrics except the verses to one song, which Spencer helped out on. Our lyrics are largely medieval battle and death themed, with most songs having a clear image and specific story/scene to be told and described. Other songs and topics deal with pagan gods, the occult and esoteric, and ascension to power.
xFiruath: Do you get the chance to play live often and will you be heading out on the road anytime soon?
Parker: These past months have been a little slow due to the recording process and whatnot, but we will be relentlessly touring the nation starting in September as support for various other metal bands.
xFiruath: What’s going on in your local metal scene these days?
Parker: Chicagoland’s local metal scene is largely dominated by hardcore/deathcore/metalcore bands. That said, I feel like the past 5 or 6 years death and thrash have been on the rise. There are more of these types of shows sprouting up, more acceptance and local following, and just more recognition overall. I feel like it’s only going to keep getting better.
xFiruath: What do you think of the state of the black metal genre these days and how do you feel about the latest output from those black metal bands that have been around since the style’s beginning?
Parker: You have your “true black metal” fans and bands who are big into the classics, the Helvete stuff, and all those obscure bands nobody will ever hear about. A lot of that stuff is really great. However, it seems like a lot of people who are really into those bands are against anything that differs from the established “true” norm, and keep to this really narrow style. Then you have the more modern, higher production quality, “commercial” bands and fans, the stuff that the first group avoids and dismisses entirely.
Honestly, there are tons of great true black metal as well as modern black metal bands. That said, there is also a ton of garbage in both categories. People need to use their ears and nothing else when judging bands. Their popularity shouldn’t impact your views on their songwriting. Both areas certainly seem to be growing and getting more exposure and recognition though. Regarding more modern releases from old bands, I think a lot of these bands have been consistent. They’re still putting out good stuff. The most recent releases from Burzum, Enslaved, and Immortal in particular are my favorites as far as new releases from “old” bands go.
xFiruath: Been to any killer shows lately?
Parker: The last I saw was Iron Maiden and Dream Theater last summer. Glad I got to see them with Portnoy!
xFiruath: What bands and albums have you been listening to recently?
Parker: Lately I’ve been cranking Amon Amarth’s “Surtur Rising” and Watain’s “Lawless Darkness.”
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