Greetings – Welcome to Sentinel Daily and thanks for taking part in our end of year festivities! First off – please identify yourself and your role in Greyhawk for the benefit of our readers! “Hi, I’m Rev, and I’m the lead vocalist and lyricist for Greyhawk”.
It’s a pleasure to welcome you aboard! How would you say 2018 has been for you and the band, overall? “Well, this is our first year as a full band, so it’s been an exciting one! I joined in February, we found a drummer in March, we picked a name in April, recorded our EP in August, and played our first gig in September. Less than a year into this ride, I’d say we haven’t even reached our cruising altitude yet. The “fasten seat belt” sign is still turned on!”
But you’re gaining momentum nicely! You released a superb EP, Ride Out, in October – what has the reception for the record been like amongst fans and critics? “From what we’ve seen, the reception has been very positive! We’ve been really pleased with the reviews and comments we’ve received so far. Honestly I think we’ve been a little surprised by how enthusiastic some folks have been, especially considering how new we are on the scene”.
The EP is resolutely traditional in style – it really could have been released at any time in the last thirty five years (which we at SD would regard as a massive compliment). Genres in metal sub divide then divide again at an alarming rate – Just why is it do you think that traditional metal manages to transcend these changes and retain its popularity, even after five decades? “Thanks for the compliment! I’m glad you like it! I suppose I’d say traditional heavy metal stays alive because it is the spring from which all the various molten rivers of metal flow. The traditional style contains the seeds of the other metal styles, so it’s still a “big tent” under which most metalheads can gather. We’ve already had good responses from death, thrash, stoner, and old-school metal audiences, as well as from people who don’t usually listen to metal. If we were playing ambient black metal based on the works of Schopenhauer or something like that, our appeal might not be as broad. Isolation is often the price of innovation. For the time being, we’ve chosen a more straightforward path, in hopes of welcoming all the tribes of metal to one big rockin’ party!”
Well, it’s certainly looking like you made the right choice from here! Moving away from Greyhawk’s debut, what other metal or hard rock releases have impressed you this year? “The first thing that springs to mind is Conqueror’s Oath by Visigoth. I’m really impressed by how they’ve managed to sound so traditional and so modern at the same time. Vocalist Jake Rogers has a lot of beauty in his sound, and he maintains an evenness and warmth of tone while still sounding metal and badass. I’ve had difficulty striking that balance, so I find that record inspiring on a purely vocal level as well. Satan’s Cruel Magic is another standout. It’s so cool to hear a band that’s been around for ages putting out a record that sounds so fresh and vital. The songwriting is really interesting, the production is raw and organic, there’s very some unusual, almost surf-esque guitar work. Highly recommended! Also, we recently played with a Canadian group called Gross Misconduct for the release of their new album Equinox, and I haven’t been able to stop spinning it since. It’s really artful progressive death/thrash in the vein of later Death or earlier Gojira. There’s undeniably some serious Chuck-worship on the album, but in a very classy way. It’s worth listening to the whole thing stem-to-stern, because it has a great flow to it”.
Thanks for the tip! Again more broadly, how do you think 2018 has treated humanity in general? “Well, I can’t speak for all humanity, because obviously there are quite a few of us here on Earth and we’re all different. In general, though, this is quite a challenging time, especially for those of us in the industrial/colonial societies of the Western world. The big picture is that our societies are overshooting the limits of an economic system that demands infinite exponential growth on a finite planet. From this we get spiralling debt, resource scarcity, and cultural conflict. Many of the stories and myths that used to provide us with meaning now appear to have reached their expiration date, or in some cases, to have been nonsense all along. The old ways aren’t working anymore, and the struggle for meaning and stability has put many people severely on edge. Over the past few years, there’s been an increasingly palpable sense of fear in the air. Here in America we have this thing where people just freak out and gun strangers down for seemingly no reason. That sort of thing continued to happen frequently in 2018, and I think that’s a symptom of how lost, lonely, and angry many people are these days. It’s times like these that we all need to discover and draw on our inner strength, because it’s increasingly clear that no external system can be relied on to take care of us. And that’s where heavy metal comes in. Heavy music can be a very effective tool to help us face our demons and find inner strength and freedom, whether we listen religiously or just cut loose in a mosh pit every now and then. So I suppose 2018 may have been tough for some people, and for all we know 2019 may contain some even tougher lessons, but the good news is that humanity can bite back by making rad music and authentically rocking the fuck out!”
Virgin Steele‘s Jack Starr used to have a sticker on his guitar that said ‘World Peace Thro’ Heavy Metal’ – maybe you and he should get together! And now to 2019 – what plans for Greyhawk next year? “We’ve already started experimenting with new material, and 2019 will see us writing new music and working to refine a distinctive Greyhawk sound. We’ll surely be doing at least some recording, and I’m hopeful that by this time next year the world will have heard our debut full-length! We’ll also be looking to play as many good gigs as we can, at home in the Cascadia region and farther afield if possible! We already have plans to play some regional festivals on both sides of the US/Canada border!”
That’s good news, and in part brings me to my next question – Is heavy touring in support of the EP viable for the band? Is it important for a band at your level to be out in front of the public as much as possible, or do platforms like Bandcamp do a lot of the legwork for you? “I think our live show is the most important part of what we do, so it’s absolutely crucial for us to get out in front of people and interact with them directly. There are musical and theatrical aspects to our work that may be difficult to pick up on from the album alone. That said, internet streaming definitely has its uses. I mean, we’re having this conversation, and people in Australia are hearing our music! How cool is that? Just this week we’ve had reviews pop up in Polish and Brazilian Portuguese. As yet, we don’t have the resources to go very far beyond the Pacific Northwest of North America, but of course we’d ideally be able to bring our live show to the whole world! For now, we’re grateful that online platforms like Bandcamp give us the opportunity to share our work globally and recoup some of our costs in the process”.
A personal question now – who would you say is the biggest influence on your own art? Who inspired you to take up the cudgels for heavy metal? “I owe a lot to Opeth. I was a young teenager when the Blackwater Park album opened my mind to a whole new world of heavy music and made me want to take up the hammer of metal myself. Aside from being a talented composer, guitarist, and singer, Mikael Akerfeldt is also a consummate musical archivist, and whenever I wanted to listen to something interesting I’d never heard before, I’d just read an interview with him and check out whatever he mentioned, which always proves interesting. I wasn’t really into classic metal until Opeth’s much-maligned Heritage came out in 2011. On that album, there was a song called Slither, which was a tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio. I’d never listened to Dio before that, but now he’s another of my biggest inspirations. I really admire the the care and respect with which he treated his fans, and the deep sense of purpose he brought to his craft. Watching footage of Dio performing, it’s clear that that he’s really trying to connect personally with his audience in order to inspire and uplift them, in part through acknowledging the darker and more intense aspects of life that each of us has to face. I guess that’s what I’m aiming to do too, in my own way”.
Anything else you’d like the readers of Sentinel Daily to know? “If anyone out there is having a tough time, you’re not alone! Being alive is challenging for pretty much everyone, especially in an era as intense and chaotic as this one, and it’s normal to have some difficulties coping with it all. Remember that, whoever you are, there is power inside you that you have yet to discover, and it’s never too late to open up and find new courage. Greyhawk’s message to you is this: When your demons come knocking – RIDE OUT AND MEET THEM!”
Wise words! Thanks for taking part! “You’re very welcome! Thanks for thinking of us and have a rippin’ new year!”