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Acid Empire

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Conor Fynes View Drop Down
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    Posted: 17 Dec 2011 at 6:33pm
Acid Empire is a symphonic metal band from the UK, incorporating bombastic orchestrations into their progressive metal tapestry. I caught up to band mastermind Mike Bridge to answer some questions regarding the band and their promising future.

How did you first get interested in a symphonic brand of music? What inspired you to form Acid Empire?

I think I can safely say that the spark that set off my inspiration and interest in the symphonic and orchestral side of metal was the album 'Once' by Nightwish. I got this album after hearing 'Wishmaster' in 2004 and it literally blew me away from the first moment I played it, to me that album was such a masterpeice with tracks such as 'ghost love score' seamlessly blending metal riffage with thunderous orchestral passages.
 Ever since hearing that album I was inspired to write orchestral rock and metal music, and I was eventually given the opportunity to play with a live orchestra alongside Season's End, where I learned a lot about what works and what doesn't in that situation.

The question I ask everyone: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard your music?

A great description of my music came from a recent review from the review blog - 'Listening to Acid Empire is like sitting on the lawn of the Philadelphia Art Museum and listening to the Philadelphia Orchestra perform while fireworks explode in the sky above you.' 
 Of course if you wanted a more literal description of what our music sounds like in band terms I'd have to say it would be in (the heavier) parts quite similar to the music of bands such as Kamelot, Pagan's Mind, Edenbridge and Epica, but also there is a lot of progressive influence from bands such as Threshold, Dream Theater, Yes and Camel. Mix that up with some inspiration from classical composers such as Philip Glass, Gustav Holst, Vaughan Williams and Richard Wagner and you'd get something close!

How did you find the musicians for this? What's the creative/songwriting process for you and the rest of Acid Empire?

The majority of the album came before I was even thinking about musicians, the songwriting process generally started out with me scoring lots of themes and progressions for an orchestra, and then playing along with a guitar, coming up with riffs and melodies that would intertwine and compliment the orchestral parts. The lyrical content would come after the rest of the song was written (apart from Would You Do It Again in which I was singing the chorus before coming up with anything else!).
 I decided that during the recording process I wanted to use David Stanton for the guitars as, not only is he one of the most creative and technically proficient guitarists I know, but he has a knack of just coming up with some little extras that would have me wishing I had come up with them! We spent a long time recording all the parts, coming up with some great solos and harmony guitar parts, one of my favourite points is the dual sweep picking solo in the middle of 'Into The Void', I just HAD to try and get some sweep picking bass in there somewhere.
 Vocals were an easy choice, as I had never before recorded anything with my wife Hannah, even though she is a professional singer and vocal tutor, so I really wanted to get her amazing voice on the album, and I'd been working a lot with Jack Lipinski on his solo material as bassist for that. I'd always though he sounded just a bit like Roy Khan (ex-kamelot). He'd never sung with a Rock or Metal group before so we were all pleasantly surprised with the result!
Your self-titled debut dropped earlier this year. What are your thoughts and impressions regarding 'Acid Empire'?

I'm very happy with the result of this album, but I think of it as the very beginning of something great. I've learned a lot about songwriting and composing, and by the end of the album I felt like I was just getting going, just getting into coming up with some great compositions. And I'm already penning tracks for the next release which will hopefully take nowhere near as long to complete as 'Acid Empire' was. Back when I was first writing 'Only The Weak' It took me a day just to process one instrument with the software I use, and since some tracks have about 60 instruments in them it was no wonder it took so long to finish. I've really streamlined the process though now and I like to think that I now know what I'm doing!
 The album is very varied, probably too varied for some either really into metal or really into prog. I think it is in part because about halfway through writing the album I began to start listening to some more proggy bands, the tracks which were written last became more progressive and experimental, tracks like Would You Do It Again Reprise, The Return Prelude and Finale were written much after Only The Weak, Denial and Would You Do It Again, I think they still fit together very well though, as all the live instruments were recorded within a relatively short period, keeping everything coherent.
 Being self released and self marketed I'm sure it will take a long time to get around, but from the reviews I've had so far, people are finding the album enjoyable, original, and I guess that bodes pretty well for future listeners and reviews.

Your music is a well-balanced harmony of symphonic classical music and metal. Would you say that one aspect of your sound is more important than the other?

I'd say the balance is the most successful part of the album. One of the main things I noticed with past orchestral Symphonic styled albums was the orchestra and band instruments tended to be quite separated, and they would almost take it in turns to be at the forefront. One of my main missions with Acid Empire was to fully integrate all of the instruments together, so there would be a good balance say with violin lead lines and guitar solos, I tried to show off the orchestral melodies as much as I could while maintaining a strong rhythm section. Some of my favourite parts of the album are bits like the guitar solo in 'Would You Do It Again' immediately leading into a woodwind solo, showing a great contrast and balance between orchestra and metal band. 

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but 'Acid Empire' feels as if it is a concept album. If not, it at least feels like some sort of dramatic narrative is being told. Is that the case with the album?

 It didn't start out that way. The first 3 songs that had lyrics put to them fitted together pretty well but weren't really a concept. Only the weak had a kind of meaning to it, 'you have to let go of what you think you already know in order to make new discoveries'. Denial was similar, but more about the separation between good and bad, guilt and justification, and was also meant to represent mankind's separation from the godly entities that he worships (or chooses not to). 
 Would you do it again was essentially about the first atomic bomb being dropped, 'beauty ripped from the land' and 'deploy death on wings' were the clues for that one! I expanded this though to be a general question to all those tough decisions historical figures have faced in the past, weather it be in war, slavery or living in undue luxury.

 The latter 3 songs (1000 Days, Into The Void and The Return) became a narrative after the track 1000 days kind of reminded me of a storyline to an old PC computer game '7th Leigon'. Where mankind had to abandon the planet for 300 years (though I made it 3 years in this case). I decided to stick with this theme and write the next 2 tracks loosely based around abandoning a polluted planet, leaving loved ones behind. 
I knew at this point that I would take up Damian Wilson's kind offer on singing on one of the tracks, his great anguished vocal on 'Into The Void' represented the abandonment, escaping earth in search of something new. I thought that track was very successful in that respect.

Melodically, the album definitely follows a general theme, mainly highlighted in the tracks Prelude, Theme and Finale. I wanted to tie the album together using this chord progression and melody and develop it as the album went on, a bit akin to Yes' 'Tales Of Topographic Oceans'.

In recent years, the symphonic metal scene seems to have been in decline; for someone who is a relative outsider to the style, it seems like many bands calling themselves 'symphonic metal' are attempting to tap into the mainstream, and/or cash in with the sex appeal of a female 'diva' singer. What are your thoughts and theories on bands like that? Do you know any symphonic metal bands- besides yourselves- that break out of that formula, that you could recommend?

 I think symphonic metal has evolved rather than declined, technology has advanced dramatically since the early 90's so it would make sense that the sound of symphonic metal bands would change as a result. You only have to listen to a long running symphonic metal band such as Nightwish or Within Temptation to hear how their sound has changed from their early albums. Technology has helped these bands have a more polished sound, and as a result, some would say they sound more commercial.
 I think
 this 'diva' branding is more of a record company marketing technique than a fault of the band, if the lead singer is female then there is (nearly) always going to be some sort of sex appeal selling point, after all you wouldn't want the lead singer to look bad! It makes sense for a band to try and market itself any way it can, as it's competitive world out there, and if you've got a good looking lead singer, then it would make sense to use her as the lead image of the band. 
 There are lots of female fronted metal bands around Europe that have a very accessible sound to someone that wouldn't otherwise be into metal. It isn't a fault that they have lots in common with mainstream pop music, rather I see it as a bridge between commercial music and the more extreme metal bands, and that can only help broaden an otherwise 'commercial' listeners music tastes anyway. If bands like that would help introduce someone to Acid Empire then who am I to complain?

What bands have you been listening to lately, in metal or otherwise?

 My latest purchase was Opeth's Heritage, which I think is probably one of their best works to date, theres just so much to that album, and it was a brave move for a band whose fans are used to a much heavier style. Probably my favourite release of this year.
 Jethro Tull's 'Songs From The Wood' was also another recent one, a classic prog-folk album and I love the production from this era, I'd replicate it if I can but analogue equipment is expensive nowdays!
 Another new purchase was Uneven Structures' Februus. If you are into bands like periphery then I could really recommend this one.

What do you have planned for the future? New album? Live shows?

I'd love to start doing some shows with Acid Empire. The main problem with that is the band isn't yet sorted. The 4 members need to grow to at least 7 in order to get the sound right. I'm considering taking on 2 keys players to try and replicate the orchestral sound as dragging a live orchestra along to every gig would be extremely expensive as I found out at the Season's End show with the orchestra. I think we may well be gigging by the summer of 2012 though! 
 I've just finished sorting the album artwork for the debut album release so CD's will be for sale very soon! I'm very excited about getting the CD out there.
 There is a new album in the pipeline also, it's in it's early stages but it's coming along a lot quicker than the last album, although at the moment finishing the new Season's end release is taking priority!

Any final comments or questions?

Thanks to MMA for all your support! Hopefully you'll hear more from us in the new year!

Thank you Mike!

The band's MMA profile may be found here.

Edited by Conor Fynes - 17 Dec 2011 at 6:33pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Colt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Dec 2011 at 12:32pm
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