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Prototype - Interview, August 2012

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    Posted: 22 Aug 2012 at 4:14pm

US prog metallers Prototype's third album Catalyst is slated for release on September 11, 2012, and, already now, their unique blend of progressive metal and technical melodic thrash has received a lot of praise from critics and reviewers. We had a chat with vocalist and guitarist Vince Levalois about the forthcoming album. Levalois discusses, among other things, the challenges and rewards of doing the kind of progressive metal that Prototype do, and he gives us an insight into the writing and recording process. We are also introduced to some of the epic lyrical concept upon which Catalyst is based. Fans of progressive metal and melodic thrash metal should not miss out on this interview.

Firstly, I want to congratulate you on Catalyst. Already the first time I heard it, I thought it was awesome, and subsequent listens have made me appreciate it even more. How do you guys feel about the album now that it is done and about to be released?

Thank you and we're happy to hear that you�re enjoying the CD!  We think this album is a huge accomplishment seeing how long it took to get it completed and the amount of work that went into it.  We're anxious to have as many people as possible check it out.  We're very proud of it and we hope that's reflected within.

How would you describe the style of music in the album in your own words?

I think overall it's certainly a PROTOTYPE sounding album.  However, being that it's based on a concept, the structure of the songs is widely varied. This album is an expansion of our melding of different styles including Thrash and more progressive influences.  Using seven string guitars for this release introduced a heavier, deeper sound.  This influenced us to produce a somewhat darker and more driving cadence. 

Catalyst features elements from the genres of thrash metal, power metal, and progressive metal and strikes me as being quite eclectic. Was this eclecticism something you consciously aimed at when you composed the music for the album?

We don't really set out to do anything in particular.  To us, it's whatever sounds good.  We like to paint pictures with sounds to the point where the story is illustrated in the sound.  It's not a particularly easy thing to grasp, and many won't, but in the end the passages and contrasts between light and dark are what we're going for, all the while trying to keep things interesting, melodic and memorable.

The album features both melodic and aggressive elements. How important are aggression and melody to the Prototype sound?

They are both equally important and it's what has made us sound the way we do from the beginning.  It's back to that light/dark methodology, taking you to a chasm and then uplifting you out with melody of dare I say, 'hope.'


Especially the choruses are catchy and melodic, with 'Cynic Dreams' being a good example. Is this a conscious move?

Since the music is written first in most cases, lyrics along with the vocal melody don't come until after.  These melodies just instinctively come to mind, I don't really have to think too hard about it. Still, in the end we try to make sure that they sound good and have a good hook to them.

One thing that is really striking about the album is the way that you have inserted mellow and calm, but melancholic, passages into the otherwise thrashy and heavy songs, and some of the intros are also quite in the calm and melancholic department, as in 'The Chosen Ones'. The intro of 'The Chosen Ones' really resonates with me - I really like it. What is the story behind this intro?

For 'The Chosen Ones', which was one of the earlier written songs for the album, I think we wanted to build it up from the beginning, slowly taking it to a more tense state and culminating into the verse.  It's the kind of thing we like to do, to think about layering parts or modifying them as they go along to create that tension that builds and describes a feeling.


Also, the guitar leads are pretty amazing - melodic and technical enough to be more than impressive, but without ever being overly shreddy. Is this on purpose?

That's always been Kragen's style. He's very thoughtful about his leads and works hard at making sure that they complement what's going on in the song.  It's not really about showcasing or shredding, which is the obvious thing to do for many guitar players out there. Instead it's a more mature and considerate approach to the song's needs.  Surely there are moments where the feel of the riffs begs for speed and 'shreddiness' but overall it's more about feel and enhancing the experience of the song versus soloing for the sake of soloing.  For Catalyst we incorporated some themes that repeat on a couple of occasions across songs. As for my so-called-leads, I'm more of a plain melodic player. I don�t shred and I�m not technical haha!

How important are the melodic guitar leads, would you say, to the Prototype sound?

Very important as they are part of the fabric that's woven into each song. If you listen back to prior albums, you�ll find this to be true. I can't think of a lead in any of our songs that wasn't really thought out to feel right.  Even when Kragen is composing his solos, he always asks for opinions about how it�s sounding and how it fits to the riff or melody.


I know this is an unfair question, but are there any particular tracks on the album that you would highlight as your favorites or as being especially important to you?

Catalyst is a whole of a project.  With that said, there are more 'dramatic' moments to it, like there would be in a movie.  For me, I'd say that 'Illuminatum/My Own Deception', 'Gravity Well' and 'Communion' are some of those moments. But again, all songs complement each other since they each form part of the story.


The cover art explained..The cover artwork of Catalyst strikes me as being fascinating and enigmatic. What is the story behind the cover artwork?

We debated heavily about the cover and we worked closely with Travis Smith (Seempieces). In the end, it was about choosing something that was relevant to the story and depicted what was going on even if in a metaphorical sense.  The 'Catalyst' is the event that takes place at the very beginning, which is to spawn life on our planet.  It comes in the form of probes that penetrate the Earth and embed themselves, then lay dormant for millions of years. When we were thinking about concepts for the cover, it came to mind to use our band symbol, which happens to be a center circle/dot surrounded by four triangle/arrows. It fit nicely to have the planet be the center and the arrows be the 'probes,' penetrating the brittle planet and exposing a hollow center, yet bleeding. It's a surreal rendering which Travis depicted perfectly.


Is there a connection between the cover art and the lyrics or music on the album?

The arrows are that 'Catalyst,' so yes, it is connected to the first full song on the album of the same name Smile.


Returning to 'The Chosen Ones', what is the song about lyrically?

'The Chosen Ones' is what a subset of an alien race calls itself (generally called Unfamiliars), to describe that they are chosen to find a permanent resting place for their kind.  The probes that penetrated the planet come from these aliens and utilize technologies far beyond what we can comprehend. The Unfamiliars are a highly political society so they form clans and parties, etc. The Chosen Ones are one of those subsets that believe that their kind has been prophesized about being the ones to save their race.

'Gravity Well' is another amazing track, which features some nice melodic bits as well as some powerful riffage. What are your own thoughts on that song?

I love this track.  It has a really gloomy yet aggressive tone to it and features some of our finest work in painting that contrast.


What is that song about lyrically?

It's about what happens after a huge battle between humans and Unfamiliars.  Both sides reflect upon their destruction and feelings of anger rise against themselves for letting things get that far. It's an introspective song that deals in desperation.


Both 'Gravity Well' and 'My Own deception' are fairly long tracks, clocking in at around 7 minutes and 8 minutes respectively, and 'Cynic Dreams' is also around 7 minutes long. What is it like to work with long songs as opposed to short songs?

We don't set out to write a long or short song, so that just happens organically.  The longer songs are a journey as opposed to a more structured approach.  If you really pick things apart, some of the longer songs really are 'songs within a song.'  There are verses and choruses, but then there are tangents that carry you to another place to elaborate on a theme or turn a corner to a new place that relates to the rest of the tune.  In some cases we'll return to the original structure, other times we won't and let it play out on its own.


Are there any particular advantages and challenges to the long song format?

The challenge as a songwriter, at least for me, is to persevere without seeing a clear finish line.  The road is there, but the path's end is never visible.  As Neil Peart (Rush) once said, 'The point of a journey is not to arrive.'  The advantage, or reward, is what results from this process.


There are also two shorter instrumentals on the album - namely, 'Illuminatum' and 'Impetus'. What are your thoughts on those two tracks?

These pieces were spawned from jamming ideas out and were developed as connective tissue for parts of the story.  We wanted to create ambiance and an ominous tone.


The music on Catalyst is undeniably complex and dynamic, but never so technical that it becomes inaccessible to the average rock and metal fan. Is this something you took into consideration when you wrote the music for the album?

We like to write songs and melodies that are memorable. At the same time, we're fans of technical music, progressive music, and we're Thrash heads!  When you put all of that in a mixing bowl you get some weird stuff.  It's a constant push and pull of ideas that does become difficult at times, but in the end we create a tapestry of sounds and styles that we're happy with. We can't help working with our musicianship and at the same time creating a melodically awesome line.


What was the writing and recording process like?

In a word and to put it mildly, challenging. It took a long time to finish writing and recording this album. Not only because of what we set off to do, but also because of all of the things that can plague a band. Member changes, lack of budget, lack of time or scheduling conflicts, personalities, other projects, etc. We're an indie band on an indie label and receive little to no support.  It's not so much a complaint as a statement, to illustrate that we are somewhat bound by this. In the end we're very happy to have completed it and we think we've learned a lot about what we're capable of doing and what to do and not do for the next one.


Were there any particular bands or artists the served as inspiration when you wrote the album?

I think we poured all of our influences on this one. You can also say that we were inspired to progress beyond our own past sound and songs to do something more.


Are you planning to go on tour in support of Catalyst?

It is something that we aspire to be able to do someday.  It takes the right opportunity for us to get out on the road.  Hopefully it's something we'll get to do to support this release.


Where can the album be purchased?

Currently you can pre-order the CD along with a T-Shirt for a bundled price at Nightmare Records� website: The CD on its own is also available there. If all you want is the CATALYST T-Shirt or other PROTOTYPE releases and merch, you can visit our own store at Catalyst is also available for pre-order on Amazon, Best Buy and other online outlets.

And where can those of our readers who want to follow Prototype or learn more about the band go for more information?

We recommend you Like us on Facebook at Alternatively, visit our website at and/or check out our ReverbNation page at


Thank you for doing this interview, and, once again, congratulations on a brilliant album.

Thank you for the interview and for your support!

Edited by Time Signature - 06 May 2014 at 6:48am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Colt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Sep 2012 at 2:02pm
Another new album added to my purchase list LOL

Nice interview Kim.
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