High anxiety is normal when I have a new album coming out. No matter how confident I feel about what I’ve done, until my fans have heard it, and say either its good, or at the very least, it’s not hideous, I’m nervous about the reaction it will get.
War Within Me, is my new album. We were scheduled to write and record it in 2020 between a bit of touring and some very cool festivals. The touring got postponed or cancelled and so did the festivals. It was sad and disappointing for every one of us that loves live metal and the festival vibe but there was an unexpected upside for me. All the cancellations meant I had a lot more time to work on my new songs and the recording of my album.
It is difficult sometimes to be objective about new ideas for songs and the arrangements, when there is no time to step away from them and take a break because of trying to meet a deadline. Coming back after a few days and hearing the latest versions with a fresh perspective feels good. Some parts feel better than we remembered but the biggest benefit is to hear the other parts that are unremarkable and average, or worse still, they are just boring. All the extra time meant we could work to eliminate those boring and average parts and come up with more interesting or powerful solutions. That was a luxury we do not normally have.
Passionate, powerful, and positive. Those were the 3 things we were aiming for. We didn’t care if we used every heavy metal trick from the book of musical metal tricks that was high on a shelf in the darkness of a lonely heavy metal fortress. If it made me feel 14 again and joyous, and reminded me why I love metal and how it seduced me, it was ok, we allowed ourselves to use it. So yes, some bits are cheesy but it’s a very strong metal cheese, and that is my favourite kind of cheese.
Knowing where we wanted to go musically and lyrically, and having extra time to get there should have made it easier, but it didn’t. Each step became more important. Things that are often under the musical microscope of recording were looked at even more closely. Every decision about every note, and every word, seemed more significant. Deadly details of potentially song softening destruction were examined over and over again. Lyrics and melodies checked, and checked again, and again. I thought about my fans going through the lockdowns, and isolation, and disappointments, and problems of the pandemic. That made it even more important for me to try to create something that was fierce, uplifting, and consoling.
Whenever we start work on a new album, and make demos and work on new ideas, it seems impossible that this jumble of rough bits and pieces, and fragments and old things we thought we would never use, will ever turn into something good enough to be a song on an album. But detail by detail, helped by a few flashes of inspiration and a bit of luck, the ideas turn into songs and the songs turn into an album. Then mix after agonising, self-doubting mix, the album starts to sound good to me. Then it is sent to Ade, the evil technical genius that makes the final master. It is done. It is finished. But I don’t know, for a couple of months, what any of my fans will think about it. There is no celebration or wrap party. There is just waiting. I will be in my fan’s head when they put on headphones. I will be in their car as they drive to work and back. I will be in their lounge at home, in their kitchen, and often they will take me to their bedroom to be alone with me. Will they be underwhelmed or empowered? Will they be reassured that I’m worthy of their support? Will they have a huge sigh of relief and whisper to themselves,
“Yes! Its good. It’s just what I need.”
At first it’s easy to put to the back of my mind but as the release day ticks closer my nerves start to jangle and anxiety builds. The conventional music industry wisdom is, ‘you are only as good as your last album.’
So, it follows that a bad album can be the last album you ever make because no one will be interested in you after that. They will say ‘He just doesn’t have it any more.’
The title song, War Within Me, came out as a single on Spotify and iTunes in mid-February and the reaction was good! Phew! It’s a huge relief!
We all know it will be a while before we get to a new normal and we are able to see and perform live shows. My tour will probably start months after the full release of my album on April 9th. I won’t see my fans for a long time. I miss them but there will be a day, a magnificent heavy metal day, when I will stand before them once again. We will have survived all this. We will be together again at last. On that glorious metal day, without fear or anxiety, and metal in my heart, I will sing for them the songs I wrote for them.