Chris Caffery Discusses New Spirits Of Fire Album, Recruiting Rhapsody's Fabio Lione And Progress On New Savatage Music
The term "supergroup" can be a bit of a poison chalice at times. They always look like they'll be great on paper but when it comes to the finished product, it can at times be a little lacking. However, that doesn't mean they're always set up to fail. Just take Cream, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Down, Brujeria or Avantasia for some highly successful examples. As you may have guessed, one rising group which certainly belongs in the latter category would be Spirits Of Fire.
Formed by Chris Caffery, guitarist of Trans-Siberian Orchestra & Savatage, bass extraordinaire Steve DiGiorgio (of Testament, Death, Iced Earth among many others) and drummer Mark Zonder (Fates Warning and Warlord,) alongside former Judas Priest and Iced Earth singer Tim "Ripper" Owens, the band unleashed their eponymous debut album in early 2020 and now, two years later and Rhapsody's Fabio Lione behind the mic stand, the quartet have let loose their fearsome sophomore effort, "Embrace The Unknown."
To find out more about this record, its history, circumstances which created it and much more, we caught up with Chris Caffery, who explained everything a fan of this emerging powerhouse could want to know, including why Lione sounds different on this album than he ever has before, the origin of their mascot and even an update on new material from Savatage. You can watch it in full below, while an excerpt reads as follows:
Diamond Oz: The album, "Embrace The Unknown" is out now...
Chris Caffery: Yeah, I'm really excited for people to hear this whole record. Not that I have a particular favourite song, I think the record as a whole is just something that I'm really happy about. Sometimes when you release the first couples of singles, that could be a lot of the highlights and people might not get more, but I think when people hear the rest of this album, they're going to be even more excited, which is what I'm really happy about. Especially the metal fans around the world, I think they're going to be happy when they hear this as a piece.
Oz: Absolutely. The first album was magnificent. Where does the title, "Embrace The Unknown" come from?
Chris: Actually that came from the song title. Fabio had written the lyrics for this record, which is something I wanted to happen because the first four songs on the first album, I'd written them pretty much myself. When we were coming to this and we found out that Ripper was not going to be doing this record, I'd asked that whoever was going to be doing the vocals, I wanted them to write the lyrics and the melodies because if I'm writing this kind of music and then I have to finish everything, to me it starts to feel too much like I'm making a solo record.
So I was happy to have them do this and as far as the meaning behind this record or the lyrics, it's funny because I'll read the title or the lyrics and be able to get my own idea, the same way that you will, but the only person who's really able to answer exactly what these are is Fabio. Which is kind of cool because when I look at these titles I find meanings in them, like "A Second Chance" is kind of like our second chance and "Embrace The Unknown," people who had no idea who was singing on this record were embracing an unknown when it came out.
When I got Fabio's first finalised versions of this record and had some finished mixes, I sent it to friends, some of whom have listened to thousands of singers, nobody could guess it was him when they heard this and that's the thing that I think was really awesome because you know, as far as I'm concerned, this style and what he's doing on this record is really not something that people have heard him do before and he did it so well. He got into the character of being the singer for Spirits Of Fire and the voice of this band in such a cool way. I'm so happy with his performance and overall this record, to me, is just a really fun listen, front to back. I'll listen to this a lot more than I'll listen to other records that I've been on. A lot of times I'll finish an album and I might listen to it once or twice, or there might be a song I like but this one I listen to start to finish and it's always a really fun listen for me, especially when I'm driving. It's a good driving album!
Oz: What makes this a different album than the debut? Obviously there's the change in vocalist, but musically, what's changed since "Spirits Of Fire"?
Chris: Well, a few things have changed for this actually. The way that I did my tracks in particular. Obviously for this one we were all separated but on the first record we were separated that way too. Everybody was in their own part of the world doing their tracks and I kind of think that the pandemic has played into the advantage and given bands a little more time, but I think for me, when I did the first record I was sending my tracks to Roy Z along with the basic tempo loops or programmed drum ideas that I had and that was it and then Mark Zonder recorded his drums after that.
When I listened to a lot of the songs back when I got the final copies of the record, with the final versions of the drums, I was like, "I would have liked to have changed the guitar a little bit to accent that beat," because Mark hears things a certain way and so do I, everybody hears a straight 4 in their heads basically and Mark being a progressive drummer, sometimes he'll throw that 4 to a 3.8, so sometimes you get those little swings. With this record, I said that I want his drums, so with this one I co-wrote some songs. I did one with Joel Hoekstra and one with my friend who did the piano for the "Out In The Rain" song and that was really beautiful but I really wanted to focus myself on finding a musical direction for this, but then I said, "I want the drums finished to the basic demos."
Then I was getting Mark's drum stuff, sometimes once a week, other times two songs a week but I had a tremendously large amount of time to sit there and kind of practice with him, so this record really has more of a band feel to it. I was able to sit there and practice along with the finished drums and I re-wrote a lot of my guitar parts to tie with his feel and even some of his fills and then when Steve was getting the tracks, he was getting the completed tracks of my guitars to those drums and he was able to put his part in and just fill the wall up. His bass is so amazing on this record, not that it wasn't on the last one but as a whole, I think this one sounds more like a band than the last one, I really do.
It really has a distinct sound and feel to it and I think all round, for me, that makes this a better record all round because I think we just really nailed something with this and then Fabio is a very very very good writer and he just puts some really great lyrics and melodies and things on top of this, so as a whole, this record just goes to a very different place. It's very consistent though. It not only fits together but everything has got its own personality and I don't really think there's one single song that I can say falls into something that people won't like. I think every song has got a really good personality to it. A lot of times you'll listen to a record and be like, "I like these seven songs and these other three I could care less..." I think this record has a strong feel from top to bottom.
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.
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