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pre-Anacrusis

I believe the first songs written were "Sound the Alarm", "Release", "Grateful", and a slightly re-vamped version of "Tools of Separation". We then began tossing around ideas at rehearsal that would later become "Driven", "Too Many Prophets", "My Soul's Affliction", Screams Band Shotand "A Screaming Breath". In usual fashion, I later took tapes containing riffs we were working on and began arranging them into finished songs. One significant difference in the arrangements on "Screams and Whispers" is the use of "orchestral" keyboard parts in a few of the songs. This was something that I had wanted to try for quite a while. "Into the Pandemonium" by Celtic Frost had been one of my favorite Metal albums ever, and one of the things that I loved most was the combination of very heavy riffs and orchestral instruments. There was something about it that made the music appear huge and ominous. People had often described our music as pseudo-classical, due to the fact that the songs often contained multi-layered arrangement where each instrument was given a very different place in the musical "picture" which resulted in more interplay than was usually found within our genre. Our goal was to combine elements used by CELTIC FROST on "Pandemonium" with more of an emphasis on melody. The first thing I did was an arrangement of a piece of music I had been playing around with since I was about fourteen or fifteen. It was a fairly typical sounding little piece of "clean" guitar that was basically just a couple of minor chords with individually picked notes running up their relative scale. But when played on the keyboard, along with pulsing, underlying quarter notes, it was given completely new life. I quickly added a few transitional sections and what would later become "Brotherhood?" was born. Then next thing I did was program a few patterns on the drum machine and run it through tons of compression. The combination of this simple chord progression and straight-time drumming created what I thought was something very unique. I knew it was something we could use to broaden the sound of the band, and although this particular demo would not be used for some months, it was what inspired "Grateful" and "Too Many Prophets". Kenn Nardi John EmeryIt was during this time that tensions began to grow between the members of the band mostly due to a universal dissatisfaction with our record label and what we perceived as a lackluster approach in their support of the previous albums. The biggest division was between our drummer, Chad and the other three members. Chad was increasingly unhappy with our inability to earn money from either record sales or touring. He was married and, with a young daughter as well, he was finding it more and more difficult to support his family while devoting all his time to a band which was not generating any money. He had always been quite capable of earning a living playing the local bar scene and though I believe he truly respected what we were trying to accomplish musically, he began to criticize our timid approach to dealing with the business side of the industry. When he began to hint about joining a local cover-band to earn a few bucks, we were insulted and began to question the stability of the band, including a drummer who we felt might "jump ship" at any moment. We had spent several years trying to build the following we had, and were concerned that Chad's more hard-nosed approach to dealing with our label might have resulted in us throwing the relationship we had built with them right out the window. Remember, we were in St. Louis, and in St. Louis record contract definitely did not grow on trees. So after much deliberation, Kevin, John, and I decided Chad would probably be happier somewhere else and we would be happier with a drummer more committed to ANACRUSIS. Sadly, we informed Chad that we were going to begin looking for a new drummer. By this time we had written most of the songs for the next album, and had set up a couple of local shows to try out some of the new material. Chad agreed to stay with us long enough to do these last two shows. The remainder of the album was written over the next couple of months using mostly ideas the four of us had worked on together, so even though Chad did not appear on the album, his contribution to the drum arrangements was very significant.

 

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Next came the not-too-fun task of replacing Chad. This position would eventually be filled by a local drummer named Paul Miles. Paul had been playing in bands around the St. Louis area for a number of years and we had actually seen him perform a couple of times. It was Chad himself who recommended that we get in touch with him. So, after contacting him and asking him to learn a couple of songs from "Manic", we had him over for an audition. After running through "Paint A Picture" and "Something Real"Screams Live , it was clear that Paul definitely had the musical ability we were looking for. One thing we liked about him was that besides possessing the musicianship needed to play the newer material, he also had more of the "looseness" and "rawness" that had been lacking since Mike Owen's departure. By the time Paul joined the band, practically all of the new material was already written, and with studio time already booked, he pretty much just learned the songs as they appeared on demos recorded using a drum machine and drum parts arranged by either Chad or myself. Although Paul added a fewthings here and there, I sure he was more than a little disappointed by his level of input. Regardless, he understood the amount oftime we had put into making this album our strongest yet. So after rehearing with Paul for a couple of months we prepared to enter the studio again. The one thing that we were all in agreement about was that we felt it would be a more relaxed environment if we recorded in St. Louis this time. We figured this would make it more convenient for band members to continue working at their respective jobs while the album was being recorded. The other thing we agreed on was to hire Dave "Fuzzy" Dvirnak to engineer the recording. "Fuzzy" had been an engineer at Royal Recorders during the recording of "Manic" and although not officially an engineer on the album, he had lent much of his time to try and help salvage the album. During the time since then he had become a friend of the band and his easy-going personality made him enjoyable to work with. Kevin Heidbreder We decided to use a 24-track studio built in the basement of a sound engineer we had worked with a few times at earlier local shows. The studio seemed to have everything we would need to do the initial recording and the price was definitely right. For about the amount we paid for two weeks at Royal Recorders we were able to block out two months this time. Of course, the equipment was not of the same caliber, but we felt that much of what Royal had to offer was unnecessary for our purposes. We also wanted to take our time and make sure we could feel more relaxed during the recording. We began with the initial drum tracks, this time with John and me accompanying Paul. We thought this approach would give the songs more of a "loose" feel, as opposed to what many people had described as the "mechanical" feel of "Manic". In many ways, at the time, I think we knew that this album was what would either make or break the band. We new that if we didn't receive the much needed support of our label there might not be another ANACRUSIS album. With this in mind we set out to make an album that would fully define our sound by incorporating all of the elements used on our previous efforts along with the broadened sound of songs like "Grateful" and "Brotherhood?". It didn't take long to feel a degree of tension between our new drummer and the rest of the band. Kevin, John and myself had been together since the beginning of ANACRUSIS and felt a strong sense of family. We also felt as though ANACRUSIS was our creation and were very protective of it when it came to any outside input. In retrospect, Paul was in a very difficult position, whereas even though Chad had not been with us from the beginning, his relationship with me and the band was a long one. Paul, though familiar with ANACRUSIS when he joined, had Kenn Nardi never even heard our first two albums and didn't seem to have much appreciation or respect for what we had accomplished up to this point. Paul often felt like an outsider, which is very common for a new member in any band with a few years behind it. We had a lot of work ahead of us and the last thing we wanted to deal with at this point was personality problems. So, without too many problems we carried on with the recording. Another problem was the relatively short time Paul had to learn the material. There was one song in particular that we had written with Chad that featured several very intricate double bass drum patterns that Paul had a really tough time with. Before entering the studio we had expressed a concern that Paul may have some difficulty playing it and offered to change a few parts if it would make the song more comfortable for him. He insisted that he just needed to practice it and it would not be a problem. This is not to cut down Paul's ability but it was just one of those things that may feel natural to one player and extremely difficult to another player of equal ability. Another concern was the song contained many pieces contributed by Kevin and we didn't want the song to be cut from the finished album, thus greatly diminishing Kevin's input to the songwriting. Well, as things often go, when the time came to record it, and only a couple of attempts at the first few bars it was put on hold until later in the session and eventually dropped all together. The only other incident involved the song "Brotherhood?".Paul Miles As I said before the bulk of the instrumental sections were written months before and the heavier sections containing the verses were actually taken from an old song from our first demo called "Vultures Prey". This was another HEAVEN'S FLAME leftover that we had never recorded. I had always liked the melody and chord progression and since it had a similar tempo and feel as the other new pieces I had come up with, I decided to combine them into one song. I completely re-wrote the lyrics and recorded a demo of it for the guys to hear. I'm not sure how popular it was with Kevin and John but I insisted that it was important that it was included on the album in order to "round out" the new element of orchestral sounds on several of the songs. I decided to place it as the last song on the album, this way if it was hated by the listener it was easy to just stop at the track before it rather than having to skip over a seven-minute song featuring "stupid keyboards". For some reason Paul seemed to keep putting off learning this song, and in the studio, ended up playing along to the demo tape one section at a time, figuring out the parts as we went along.

 

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The rhythm guitar was the next obstacle we had to face. We seemed to have no problem getting a decent guitar sound in the basement or on stage, Sound the Alarm Videobut for whatever reason as soon as we went into a studio it became a major challenge. As with "Manic" this time was no exception. One problem was due to the fact that we tuned extremely low, which always presented intonation and tuning problems. After struggling through most of the original tracks we actually went back and completely re-recorded all of the guitar parts. The bass tracks went the smoothest with John feeling much less rushed than the albums before. On "Manic" Kevin and John were constantly teasing each other about who would finish their parts the in the shorter amount of time. John had always suffered from "red-light" syndrome. This is a common condition in which a musician can play a song flawlessly, fifty times in a row, and then as soon as the record light comes on, he suddenly and completely forgets how to play his instrument. This time Kevin was ordered to remain outside the control room while John was tracking. Another difference this time was that we were ably to commit more time to guitar solos. We put a little less emphasis on speed and a little more on melody and phrasing. We all particularly liked how Kevin's solo turned out on "Driven", as I usually did the more melodic solos. Another nice thing about having so much time was when I came to doing vocals. Paul MilesI was used to recording demos at home, where I am controlling the recorder and can quickly shuttle back and forth between sections in order to listen to or re-do parts that aren't quite right. In a studio situation you are usually stuck in a booth outside the control room with the engineer working the control. This makes communication difficult and if you are off-key you have to wait for the tape to roll back to the right part and instead of jumping right back in and fixing it, you often stand there for a minute or two waiting for the song to come back to the right part. This was another big problem on "Manic", with each line usually taking approximately five million takes. This time I usually went into the studio alone and with a microphone set up right in front of the mixing console, I could record just as I usually did at home. It made things much easier for me and boring enough for anyone else who happened to be there that they would usually go away before too long. People love to make fun of the vocalist in the studio because the is nothing that sounds worse than your dry, unprocessed voice when they can't hear the music you are singing to. This is of course known as "walkman-sing-along" syndrome. I think we spent about five weeks recording everything and the last few mixing. We had been concerned about the fact that the studio had no automation for mixing (this allows you to "write" volume changes or mute and un-mute channels or effects and then "save" those changes to a computer which them performs those tasks each time you play back the tape). Where the board at Royal Recorders was fully automated, this time we had a dozen arms reaching in each direction trying to remember when to turn Kevin Heidbrederthings up or down or when to mute something, etc. This is always a big restriction in mixing, mainly because if one person forgets to do something at the right time, you have to go back and do the whole thing over again or live with the mistake, depending on whether it's the third or four-hundredth time you have tried to get it right. Needless to say, with the amount of different guitar layers, and especially on the songs containing "orchestration", the final result was less than fabulous. After we had completed mixing everything with less-than-satisfying results, we were convinced that the biggest problem was that we didn't have the right equipment to get the most out of what we considered our best recordings. After a couple of weeks we convinced the record label that we should go back to Royal Recorders and remix everything. They suggested that we hire Bill Metoyer to help out. Bill was well known for his work with SLAYER, TROUBLE, and C.O.C. to name just a few. What we ended up with was an album that we were very happy with. No recording is without its flaws, but I think we were finally able to present our music as we had imagined it to sound. This is still the only one of our four albums that I personally like the sound of. For the most part it was very well received by those who were familiar with ANACRUSIS. Some said the keyboard parts were a little pretentious, but this was to be expected. If there had been a fifth album I can almost guarantee it would have been in the vein of the more "orchestral" songs. There will always be those who prefer the raw speed of "Suffering Hour", the dark moodiness of "Reason" or the technical iciness of "Manic Impressions". It is always a matter of taste. I think as our swan song I am very proud of "Screams and Whispers" as I think it succeeded in summing up all aspects of what we were trying to say both lyrically and musically up to that time. It contains some of my favorite ANACRUSIS songs ("Driven", "Sound The Alarm", and "Release") and, I feel, was a natural progression from where "Manic" left off. And with the number of bands in recent years who have incorporated "orchestral" elements in their recordings and performances (METALLICA's "S & M" to name a very recent one), I'd like to think that, though we were certainly not the first, we were nonetheless at least a little ahead of the pack.

 

Suffering Hour
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