Reign Of The Architect Preparing To "Rise" With New Full-Length Album
Band Photo: Reign of the Architect (?)
An effort five years in the making, Reign of the Architect is now nearing the official release of "Rise" through Pitch Black Records. Based in Israel but featuring musicians from other parts of the globe, the multinational project will drop its debut album on April 16th (May 14th in the US).
To get a taste of the group's crazy death-prog-opera mayhem, Metalunderground.com will soon be premiering a sampling of songs off "Rise," so stay tuned for further details. In the mean time, guitarist and band mastermind Yuval Kramer go in touch with us to explain how the ambitious project came together.
Covering a wide range of sounds and styles, "Rise" features musicians giving their all in everything they do. While explaining how the album came together, Yuval said: "When we write music I always push myself and the musicians I work with to the truth. To that raw emotion, looking for the exposed nerve and let it scream for you. Letting each of us be honest, naked and exposed in front of the microphone. Some takes finished in tears, some in smiles, some with bleeding fingers and sore throats and without it, it's just not worth it.”
Putting saw raw emotion into an album necessitated some interesting setups in the studio, with Yuval commenting, “weird things happened here, not all of them were fully clothed.” Get the full scoop on "Rise" and the history of Reign of the Architect below.
xFiruath: Reign of the Architect is an international project that’s been a long time in the making – can you give me a brief rundown of how the group came together and who all is involved?
Yuval: I have a "talkative" persona and on top of that our story is so long as it is, that "brief" rundown might take a few days but I'll do my best to keep it short… It all started in the fall of 2008, leaves left the trees, letting them naked to the mercy of the cold Jerusalem's mountain night winds and I thought that I should stop blabbering about the weather and check my mail. I got a mail from a guy, Mauricio Bustamante. He presented himself as a Mexican drummer who heard me on the Amaseffer album and he wants to work with me on an album. I said, cool, send me something, he sent me a demo, I liked what I heard, recorded my guitars, sent it back, he liked my ideas and we started working.
Three years before that, my good friend Yotam 'Defiler' Avni (vocalist of the awesome Israeli technical death metal band "Prey for Nothing"), came to me with a short grim story he wrote about WWIII. He asked if I can make it into a progressive metal opera. I decided to use Yotam's idea for the basic concept of this album and started working on collecting materials. I wanted to use a few different voices that each will have its own character, we looked all over the world and in the end I found these awesome people right here in my back yard, not buried (yet), but here in Israel. Lots of people came and went; some because of musical differences, some because of technical difficulties and some just got kicked out.
As you can imagine, it's not easy to write music with someone from a different continent and things take a lot of time. In 2010 we had all the basic materials written and Mauricio came to Israel to record drums for the album and we moved to the pre-production stage. I sunk into the studio with the two crazy vocalists – the ultimate Davidavi 'Vidi' Dolev and Tom Gefen. We finalized the concept, the lyrics and wrote the vocal melodies, after that I went deep into the production, taking all the basic ideas that we wrote and recorded and making it into an album. This kind of album is very hard to produce, we had two different bass players (Kyle Honea and the legendary Mike LePond), guest musicians (solos from Joost Van Den Broek and Assaf Levy), guest vocalists (Jeff Scott Soto, Grace Chana Woolf, Adva Kramer and Defiler) and somewhere between 200 to 350 channels per song. Vidi and I sat in the studio for months, fine tuning, re-recoding, re-mixing, and re-thinking about re-tiring. At the end I recorded my solos and we got the amazingly talented Nina Vouraki to add some pianos (yay! more channels!) When we were done, I sent the album to Germany, to my good old friend, Markus Teske for mastering… and after 5 years in the making – we had an album in our hands!
xFiruath: How did you finally get hooked up with Pitch Black Records for the release of the album?
Yuval: When we were done with the album we went to the next stage – the stage. In order to get it to as many people as possible. We looked for a manager that could help us with all of the things other than writing the music. Finding a record label, promoting the album, booking shows and all the “behind the scenes” that every musician here knows. We found Mr. Jon Knight who quickly became a part of our family. We sent our album to countless labels, some I knew some I didn't, some came back to us with "Sounds cool!" and gave crazy weird offers, some said "Sounds good but we don't have money," some said "you sound like shit" and some never got back to us. The option of releasing the album ourselves was on the table as well, but we really wanted to be able to find someone who would say "I believe in you.”
When Jon came to us with the reply from PB we were really excited, the conversation was really quick and we felt that we all want the same thing: World domination and trillions of dollars… but we are willing to say that this is all about the music. Phivos (the guy behind PB) turned out to be uber-cool and we saw real quickly that we both want to cooperate and to have a mutual future.
xFiruath: When were the songs on this album written, and how did the writing process happen?
Yuval: The basic harmonies and song structures were mainly written by Mauricio and me, each in his home, in Mexico and in Israel. The vocals and the full production (getting down to the specific violin, viola, cello, oboe, etc. who is doing what and why) was done by me and the vocalists, mainly Vidi. To write music I need to see a picture in my mind. I need to tell a story. This is why I needed to find a concept before I can write music; this is why I need to find the lyrics before I can produce an album. I'm telling a story. I have a message. The entire thing is sending the same message, the lyrics work with the melodies that work with the instruments that work with the harmony and modus that work with the sound that works with the artwork. It's a lot of work. When we write music I always push myself and the musicians I work with to the truth. To that raw emotion, looking for the exposed nerve and let it scream for you. Letting each of us be honest, naked and exposed in front of the microphone. Some takes finished in tears, some in smiles, some with bleeding fingers and sore throats and without it, it's just not worth it.
xFiruath: How would you sum up the sound of the album to someone who hadn’t heard it yet?
Yuval: This is a difficult one. Even within the band we can't get to an understanding about how to "call our music." First of all, the current band, which is the actual ROTA, has very little to do with the guys that played on the album. We believe that every time we need to bring ourselves to the stages and in front of the microphones. We are musicians and we are moving with our lives. Our live shows are not just us playing the album; it's a creative process happening on stage. I'm really proud that today I'm not the person, hence the musician, I was yesterday. For me, the easiest answer will be – this is how I hear music, so this is music. But this is what everybody will say about their music and it has a gentle sent of a fart. "This is music man, if you don't get it, you don't deserve it" – you see… fart. Put your gas mask on - currently we are "progressive symphonic metal,” but we really want to leave this "label" behind us - you can take it off.
xFiruath: What studios were used for the recording and how was the full process?
Yuval: The album was mainly recorded and fully mixed at my studio. The only things that weren't recorded here are the bass players, Mike and Kyle, each recorded in his own home in the U.S. Jeff recorded his own vocals and sent me the files and so did Joost. Assaf's solos were recorded by both of us at his studio in Tel-Aviv Israel. Everything was mixed here. We did all sorts of things to get us to that "just right" feeling of a take, from running and jumping in the studio (under imaginary fire) while recording vocals to create that panic vibe in "Hopeless War," to recording at 4 AM in complete darkness to create the intimacy for "Different Heart." We moved from soccer stadium vibe to a thrash metal gang screams. It's all about the mood, vibe, and message. Weird things happened here, not all of them were fully clothed.
xFiruath: What are the themes of the album, and can you maybe give me a brief track-by-track breakdown of the release?
Yuval: Going song by song here is a little weird for me and it feels like going through a book, telling you what you'll read in each episode. I can tell you that the concept is dual layered, the obvious side starts with a love triangle: the Lad (aka "The Architect"), the girl, and their teacher. The Lad is in love with the girl, who turns down his advances, while the teacher longs for the love-stricken Lad. When her attempts at seduction are dismissed, the teacher turns to the girl and hints to her that the Lad has taken advantage of the girl. When the accusations start to fly, no one believes the clueless but innocent Lad. Frustrated, broken hearted and hurt, he runs away. During his outbreak, he encounters aliens who explain to him that they are the creators of the human race, and being disappointed with how it turned out, imbue him with the power to destroy humanity. He creates three “splints:" Ruin, Razor, and Rapture and together they set out to carry out the aliens’ command.
There is another layer, though; the storyline is only an allegory to the powers that rage inside the human soul, the inner conflict of the decrepit human psyche, the struggle between love and creation to hate and destruction. Whether the happenings really occurred in the story or were just a result of a fevered mind is unclear, and irrelevant. Like the guy with the cool voice says on our trailer, at the end, there are no winners, there’s not a happy ending - there are survivors, there’s an aftermath. Even if one side emerges the victorious or with the upper-hand, everyone lost, in a way, the battle wounds will burn long after the last sword is sheathed, the wreckage will remain long after the storm has passed. But, from these ruins, from this pain, we grow stronger, more durable, maybe hopeful that in time we will manage to conquer our nature and rise above it. Unlikely. Because of this duality we took the creative freedom to let the production follow the music and not vice versa. As a producer it is very easy for me to get a clean powerful sound, to use triggers, super compressors and to EQ every frequency so every note will shine and create a strong “wow factor.” But we wanted to allow the sound to be secondary to the emotion, we wanted to let things get messy and dirty from time to time, to allow the album to be a little human, sometimes cool and sometimes out of control.
xFiruath: Can you explain the artwork a bit? Who created it and what’s going on there?
Yuval: The guy that created it for us is Eliran Kantor. I don’t think there is any need to explain who he is, just type his name in Google or look at your CD collection and you'll see enough of him. We told him about the concept of the album, we gave him the music and some artistic references and he did that. Professional, attentive and precise, it was a pleasure to work with him. The artwork reflects the concept, the simple and the deep side of it. It represents the inner world that reflects and affects the outer world, the connection between who we are, and what we do and that we are all the same in the end… And that we have the power to do damage or to ask for help, to destroy and to create, but usually what we end up with, is a dead world. We are destructive. And it's pretty.
xFiruath: Will Reign of the Architect be performing any live shows in support of the release?
Yuval: Yes we will. We are checking our options for a tour somewhere around the globe and we will play some very special acoustic shows in Israel to support the album release. Yup, I said acoustic. The Israeli crowd has seen us a few times and we want to give them something else, something that they have never seen from us. We are working on a super cool and long set with two acoustic guitars (me and the most awesome guitar player I know, Mr. Hanan Avramovich of Amaseffer), piano, drums, Quartet and vocals. ROTA's lineup, as I referred to earlier, is a little different than what you hear on the album.
Just before our tour in Russia, Mauricio left the band and we brought our best friend and drummer – Yuval 'boolbool' Tamir – who learnt the entire set for the tour in two weeks and is rocking with us every show since. Denise Scorofitz joined to replace Adva on the female vocals just before the first Progstage festival (with Pain of Salvation, Flower Kings, Orphaned Land, Andromeda and Osada Vida). We're always evolving, always learning, always moving forward and slowly finding our perfect line-up. We try to build a family, not a band, a place where you can be who you are, all the time and bring 100% of you to the band. It takes time and effort, but currently I couldn't be more grateful for the people that surround me.
xFiruath: Other than your own album, what new releases would you recommend to our readers, and what’s coming out soon you want to hear?
Yuval: My last year was full of new understandings about how this world is working, about how there is no connection between the quality of a band to their success… It's a sad understanding that the scene that we are a part of is filled with people that consider themselves important\experienced and they love themselves so much that they forget that not too long ago they were young musicians and that we are all the same. Age is no more than a number and that kid opening for you tonight might be the best thing you've heard in the last decade, but if you won't leave the "back stage" and go listen you'll miss something that can change your life. It's like all your life you complain that people judge you because you have tattoos and long hair and you play metal and that they should give you a chance, but the first thing you do when you see someone younger than you is exactly the same. Some consider me young, some think I'm old (30), some think that I'm doing this for a long time (playing since '91, released first world-wide-big-label album in 2008) some think, like me, that I just started. I consider myself a student and I promised myself never to become one of "these guys."
Luckily for me, the last year gave me the best album I have ever heard in my life. Bunch of guys came to me to produce their album about three years ago. As time went by we became best friends and a band (they are Vidi and boolbool of ROTA) and that album, that in the beginning was very weird and difficult for me became my all-time favorite album. So if your heart is pure and mind is a little twisted – give a try to Of Marble's Black, it's not out yet, but follow them around, it is coming soon. Another band that I enjoyed this passing year was the uber-awesome Critical Sight that supported us in the Ukrainian part of the last tour. We saw them and our minds blew. They are so good that it's a shame that you'll read the rest of this interview before you heard them.
xFiruath: Have you been to any great live shows lately?
Yuval: Critical Sight's show was awesome. I recently saw Pain of Salvation and Leprous that were very good. Dark Serpent (Israeli thrash metal) kicked my ass lately as well… I try to see as many shows as possible, not only metal. Three weeks ago I saw an incredible jazz\fusion show by Assaf Levy (That recorded two guitar solos in our album and is my guitar teacher):
I love live shows, I love seeing musicians with their instruments and in the moment. I love to see music and to see sounds. I try to go to at least one show a week, it's my pleasure and education.
xFiruath: What’s going on in your local music scene?
Yuval: Israel in music, like in most aspects, is amazingly progressed. The amount of good musicians here is scary. From the heavy side of Dark Serpent, Prey for Nothing, Dukatalon, and Sonne Adam, to the progressive side of Project R&L, Key of the Moment, Distorted Harmony, and Systema Teleion, from the jazzy side of Oz Noy, Avishai Cohen, and Lior Milliger and all the way to Yasmin Levy and Amir Benayoun. Amazing musicians are walking around here. I love it!
xFiruath: Anything else you’d like to discuss?
Yuval: Support your local scene and your favorite artists. Go to see live shows, take photos and videos (so you'll sell them in the future if the band will become huge and meanwhile just upload them to the internet) and buy the albums\merch of bands you love. Artists are struggling, in all genres and in all places. We need you more than you imagine. That short message in the FB, a smile in the street or after a show, that YouTube comment or seeing someone with your band's t-shirt, these things can sometime be that so needed gas station in the middle of the desert. Lastly, if you are a musician go practice, if you're not go listen to music.
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