Oh, Sleeper's James Erwin Explains New Album "Children Of Fire"
Oh, Sleeper has already given fans a chance to snag the new album "Children of Fire" through digital retailers, and the physical release of the band's latest devastating metalcore assault is just around the corner.
More than just another slab of melodic metal, "Children of Fire" is a composed of songs that tell a complete story, detailing the journey of a priest and his atheist daughter. Oh, Sleeper guitarist James Erwin recently shared his thoughts on the album and its progression from earlier material with Metalunderground. Talking about what fans can hear on the new release, Erwin commented, "With Children Of Fire we really set out to push boundaries, both lyrically and with our sound. We loved elements of our past albums that were just super heavy and we wanted to take it a step further." Erwin also touched on the imagery and artwork found on the album, as well as the band's Christian convictions and how fans tend to hold the band to a higher standard because of those beliefs.
The full interview is available below, or you can also check out the "Children of Fire" title track by navigating over here.
xFiruath: What did you set out to do with "Children of Fire" that you haven’t done before and how does the album compare to anything else you’ve done in the past?
James: With Children Of Fire we really set out to push boundaries, both lyrically and with our sound. We loved elements of our past albums that were just super heavy and we wanted to take it a step further. When we first started writing it seemed like it was just gonna be super brutal all the way through without much singing at all, and some of the album really reflects that, but the melody of the album really started taking shape towards the end and we ended up with something that at times sounds dark and terrifying but also has elements of beauty and melody that are pretty signature for us.
xFiruath: When was “Children of Fire” written and how does the band usually write music?
James: We started writing for this album right at a year ago when we decided it was time and it felt right to start writing again. We had just done an Australian tour and a few successful headliners so the morale was really up for everyone. Writing for us is sorta complicated because our drummer lives in Delaware and we all live in Texas. We had the same problem on SOTM and we were forced to come up with a solution, so we started writing out and demoing everything on a midi program called Tab-it. Riffs would get passed around and drums can be added too, so you have a really rough idea of what it'd sound like even though it's never been jammed before. We actually have video game sounding midi versions of both our past two records. Shane also started doing rough demos with real guitars and fake drums for this record too, so going in this time around even though we'd never jammed out any of this stuff, we knew it was gonna be special.
xFiruath: How would you personally describe the sound of your music to a potential new Oh, Sleeper fan and what musicians or bands inspire your sound?
James: Describing your own band to someone is always a tricky thing, but I just sorta generalize it into us being a melodic metalcore band. We have plenty of brutal parts, but incorporate lots of melody as well. As far as who inspires us, the range of artists is huge. Deftones is a big one along with NIN and Meshuggah and then going back to our childhoods with bands like Embodyment and Living Sacrifice. Honestly, everyone listens to so many different things it's hard to pin our influence on just a few artists.
xFiruath: Tell me about the recording process for the new album. What studio did you go to and did you have any particular challenges or triumphs this time around?
James: We recorded the album with our longtime friend and producer Andreas Magnusson. We have a good relationship with him and he really gets our sound. We didn't really have too many hiccups this time around. Everything seemed to flow pretty smoothly and we ended up with what I think is our best sounding album yet. Andreas really captured the energy that this album needed.
xFiruath: What are the themes present in this album and what do the lyrics deal with?
James: The concept of this album is super in-depth and is a complete story from front to back with every song being a chapter in that story. Taken out of context, individual songs might seem very violent or godless to people, but it all serves the story and helps make it complete. I don't wanna give too much away, but basically the album presents a story in which the whole world thinks that God and Satan are both dead. It follows a father who is a priest and his atheist daughter as they deal with this and find the real truth. There are also real world current events that they deal with as they try to bring justice to a world that seems to have no right or wrong, where they feel as if they have to be the judges for humanity’s wrongs.
xFiruath: Who handled the artwork and how does it tie into the album?
James: Ryan Clark handled our artwork again this time around. He really knocked it out of the park with our past two albums so we knew he'd do the same here, and he did. We wanted him to portray a dark and hopeless feel with the imagery as a lot of the record feels that way. He really nailed it. We also wanted to keep our broken pentagram logo in as well, and he found a way to really make it work. The album looks like a horror movie so we are all super pumped on it!
xFiruath: I wrote an article about Christian black metal and its place in the metal scene earlier this year and am currently working on a follow-up about pagan metal. Although there are exceptions, it seems like in general Christian themed metal bands take a lot of flak from the extreme metal community, while bands with other religious themes (paganism, Satanism, etc.) are more readily accepted. Would you agree with that assessment, and why do you think that is?
James: I'd totally agree with that. Metal started out as a dark and anti-establishment movement. It's extreme and different and a lot of people don't wanna see metal portrayed in a "safe" way or a way that is contrary to what it has always been. But we love it. I grew up listening to Metallica and Pantera too but just wanted to tell a different story with it and so did everyone else in the band.
xFiruath: How do you feel about how Christian metal bands are portrayed in the public spotlight and how Christian band members represent themselves? For instance Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, an outspoken Christian, recently appeared on Nightlight to discuss his belief in the devil and witchcraft, which seemed to garner a mostly negative reaction online.
James: People hold us to such high standards it almost ridiculous. We aren't perfect dudes and even within our religion there are a million different ways people believe. So it's almost like a million people holding you to a million different standards, as if a million people will ever know who we are hahahaha. But we just live by our own convictions and beliefs and don't apologize for it. If you can't like our band because we disagree on what we believe, then I guess you never really liked our music to begin with.
xFiruath: With the new album finished, what’s on the horizon for Oh, Sleeper?
James: With the album done and having just come out, we have plenty of touring to do. We wanna go all over the world with this one, so be on the lookout for us!!
xFiruath: What’s going on in your local metal scene?
James: Dallas / Fort Worth has a great metal scene. It's always the best show on any tour we do and people here support us. We have the best hometown, plain and simple.
xFiruath: Have you had any really memorable shows lately?
James: My favorite show recently was our last hometown show. We did a show for $1.00 and it was huge. So we decided to make our CD release show another $1.00 show. Should be fun!
xFiruath: Do you personally attend shows often, and have you had a chance to see any great or terrible concerts in recent memory?
James: The last show I went to that I was really pumped on was Glassjaw. They've been my favorite band for 10 years now and I got to see em the night before we left to record this last album! I also love to watch The Chariot anytime I can see em.
xFiruath: What albums are you listening to and do you have a favorite release so far this year?
James: I've been jamming the two new glassjaw EPs that came out earlier this year. Chino from Deftones new side project Crosses is really awesome and I know it's gonna throw a lot of people off but I love Brad Paisley, his new album rules haha.
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