FORMED IN 2005, IN THIS MOMENT SURGED to prominence two years later with the release of their debut album, Beautiful Tragedy. The band performed constantly throughout 2007, including accompanying Devildriver on their European tour, playing the main stage at Ozzfest, supporting Megadeath’s fall shows, and finally opening for Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Zombie on a three-month arena tour (not to mention an early write up in GP).
“It’s mind-blowing, a term I use a lot these days,” enthuses lead guitarist c. “I never thought we’d be able to do so much with our first record, but we finally moved up from being crammed into a van to having our own bus! And at that point, we wanted to make another record without delay.”
Clearly the band’s vision of writing songs that were heavy enough to satisfy diehard metal heads while still being accessible to fans of all types of music was working. Blending metal riffs with pop melodies, and screaming vocals with sweet ones—courtesy of singer c—the alt-metal hybrid filled a vacuum in the music scene.
The band’s follow up album, The Dream [Century Media], was released in September 2008. Howorth and fellow guitarist Blake Bunzel wanted to expand on the concept of metal for everyone by even further refining the band’s song craft. “Watching Ozzy play every night, we saw how everyone from all age groups and walks of life sang along to each of his songs, including us,” says Howorth. “It inspired us to focus even more on writing good songs like that— songs that everyone knows the words to.”
What was going on during recording that makes the new record different?
Howorth: On the last record, we were all in the same room, hammering our heads against each other and trying to write. Maria and I, in particular, were clashing constantly over how much heavy versus melodic stuff we were going to go with. She always wanted more melody, and I guess that’s what helped make Beautiful Tragedy what it is. This time, bassist Jesse Landry and I were in California writing music on the computer, using a click track, and just putting song ideas together the best we could. Then, we’d email the audio files to Jeff Fabb in Long Island, who laid down the drum parts before sending them on to Maria in New York City, where she worked out the vocal ideas— and that’s how the skeletal demo versions of the songs flowed out.We didn’t make an official decision to change our sound or songwriting process, things just went that way out of necessity. At the same time, we held on to our ideal of creating the heaviest songs possible while retaining the melodic aspect, so I think we met our goal of a high standard of songwriting.
Bunzel:We played through a Line 6 POD and recorded to Steinberg Cubase. We weren’t sure how emailing files around was going to work at first, but it couldn’t have gone any better, and when we finally got back together in Las Vegas to record a few months later, we had grown closer as a band. We were able to target and overcome our weak points, though we nitpicked each other a little. We were also lucky to have Kevin Churko as our producer, which was awesome.
Howorth:Our manager, Blasko [bassist with Ozzy Osbourne], suggested Churko because he had worked with him on Black Rain, Ozzy’s last record. But beyond that, he had done so many huge records—with people like Shania Twain and Celine Dion—that we were excited about his diverse background. We didn’t want to approach it like a metal record—even though it is—and he was great in getting us to play better and harder. He’s an honorary part of the band now, I think.
Bunzel: It’s so valuable to have a great producer. With his guidance it went from a scattered project to a rough demo to an amazing record. We’d write ideas that we thought were pretty good, and then he would say, “well great, but what else have you got?” He was also good about letting us try different things. For example, there’s a part on “The Great Divide” where you hear an operator talking. The back-story is that the air conditioning wasn’t working one day, and when Kevin was on the speakerphone with the repair guys, we recorded it for whatever reason. Later, we decided to randomly throw the recording in there to see how it sounded. It was cool to be able to try that out and not have the producer think we were stupid and tell us no, because that sort of thing doesn’t work with this type of music. I’m also happy that I was able to do so many solos this time, including my slow ode to David Gilmour on “All For You.” And it feels great to play that every night because I try to put the same amount of feeling into it as he would.
Have you had to change your setup to accommodate a new sound for this record?
Howorth: On the record, I’m mostly playing through a Krank Rev Plus, which is a really versatile amp, with a hot rhythm channel and a perfect clean channel. My duties cover rhythm and lead, plus some layered clean channel stuff, and it does it all. I also use a Dunlop CryBaby for leads, an MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay on the clean channel, and an MXR Smart Gate to keep the noise down when I’m playing rhythm. I play Dunlop strings, which are pretty good because I can play them for two weeks straight and they don’t break. I get a lot of questions about my rig, but even though I love what I’m playing through now, my gear doesn’t define me as a player.
Are you both still playing Schecter Guitars exclusively?
Bunzel: Onstage, yes, because Schecters are great road guitars. Nothing ever goes wrong with those things. I’m playing both the C-7 Blackjack and the T-1 Tempest. Chris still likes to use the C-7 7-strings because he knows where his hand fits, but I’m back and forth between the two. In the studio, we also used a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top for about 60 percent of the tones, and also a Fender Telecaster, which we used to get heavy tones with less dirt, and frequencies that really punch through. We also used the Schecters, and dropped them down an additional half step to C# .
What about your amp and effects setup? It seems a little more complicated than Chris’.
Bunzel: I’m a gear nerd. I was using a Mesa/Boogie Stiletto, but now I’m using the Dual Rectifier Roadster, and I’ve been blown away by the great sounds it makes and the different functions that it has. When touring, I started out with a big pedalboard, but I got tired of all the tap dancing I was doing with the stompboxes, so I decided that I need something that would let me change a lot of things by pressing a single button. I’m proud to say that I built my first MIDI rack, and took the time to learn how MIDI really worked. It’s really one of those things where once you get it, you realize it’s so simple that a dead man could figure it out—and if something goes wrong, it’s usually user error. I have a TC Electronic G Major effects processor that I use for choruses, reverbs, and other effects, along with Boss DD-20 Giga Delay and DD-6 Digital Delay pedals. I control everything with an RJM RG-16 switching system, which is well built and does everything I could hope for. It really saved my life, and my wallet.