The press release that accompanies your new album (The Overview Effect, out this Friday) mentions that Sanction ‘incorporate elements idiomatic of nineties progressive death metal with modern progressive metal’. Were there particular artists that you felt best represented those two styles and time periods? And would you say that they influenced the writing and construction of this record? “Definitely! As far as the nineties stuff goes, Death’s Human is the gold standard for progressive death metal as far as I’m concerned. The brutality of the riffs, the sudden shifts in tempo, and the highly finessed drumming on that album is something that drew me in the first time I heard it, and still appeals to me greatly today. Atheist’s Unquestionable Presence is another great example, but with a bit more frantic riffing and lead work strewn throughout their music, as well as their willingness to experiment texturally also. For the modern stuff I’m a massive fan of The Contortionist and think that Language quite firmly has the spot for my favourite album of all time. It’s a perfect album in my opinion and didn’t leave my car’s CD player for at least two years after its release. I’m a big fan of Tesseract, Skyharbor, and quite enjoy the whole djent thing in general too.
Those bands all definitely played their part in influencing the writing of The Overview Effect but given that a lot of the material on the album was written prior to 2014 (which is roughly when I got into the modern prog bands I mentioned) their influence would be much less than the nineties death metal stuff. Learning a lot of Death’s material changed the way I approach writing riffs and music as a whole, and also explains why Sanction’s material is also written a step down in D standard. I was learning their material and beginning to write my own for Sanction when I only had one guitar at the time, so I had to choose between swapping back and forth between tunings or sticking with one…tuning down won that coin-toss. At the end of the day, I set out to write music that I thought sounded heavy and appealed to me as a listener, and the death metal influences were more prevalent than anything else at the time. I think it’s working out okay”.
As an adjunct to that, was the makeup of the band that recorded the record dictated by shared enthusiasm – how did you put Sanction together for the making of The Overview Effect? “Absolutely, we were so stoked to be finally in the studio recording the album that we had been working on for over ten years! The rhythm guitars were done at home over the course of a couple of weeks, and we managed to get the drums done relatively quickly, but the rest of the process was a little less enthusiastic. Once the drums were recorded and edited, I tracked and edited the bass guitar as well as all the other post-production that needed to be done. Lyrics weren’t written at the time of recording, so I had to write them as well as record guide vocals for Douglas Skene of Ploughman Studios to use when laying the final vocals on top of everything. The several mix/master revisions we went through were also difficult, but entirely worth it in the end. It’s almost as though the hard work started when we finished recording. I can’t wait to do it again, though! Ultimately Sanction is myself and my drummer Brendan Berkeley, who I met in high school. I write the entirety of the music/lyrics and he puts drums to it, spending at least an equal amount of time doing so. We enlisted the help of Douglas Skene to handle the main vocals, as well as the final mixing and mastering of the album. I can’t put into words how well he did singing so far out of his comfort zone! He did very well for someone who sings in a typical power metal style, check out his band Hemina!”
Prog/death is becoming quite a busy, not to mention competitive arena of musical operations – how hard is it to provide the listener with something that makes you stand out from similar bands currently doing the rounds? “It must be incredibly difficult. All genres are crowded, and with the ability to record quality audio literally at our fingertips everyone who can write/record and release music is currently doing so. That is such an amazing thing, and I wholly welcome the era of the DIY musician but it makes it very difficult to get your music heard while everyone is trying to do the same thing. With that said, it seems to me that the best option is to remain completely true to your artistic vision and hope that the inherent authenticity in doing so will stand out to (and be appreciated by) the listener. If that doesn’t work, then at least you still have the satisfaction of seeing a project through to the end with zero compromises”.
Live concerts are starting up again across Australia – do you have any plans to launch the album ‘in the flesh’ – and if so will the lineup that recorded be the lineup that plays live? “Thank god for that! As someone who has regularly attended live music shows for the past fifteen years I’ve found the lack of live music particularly difficult to deal with. We would love to launch the album with a run of live shows, but that would be very difficult without a singer and bass guitar player. I recorded the bass guitar on the album, and although Douglas Skene is a very good friend of mine, he was only a hired gun for the recording of the album and not a full-time member. Neither Brendan nor I myself are capable of doing the vocals justice in a live setting so we would need to wait for the live line-up of the band to be complete before we play live, so let me know if there’s anyone you know who would be keen to fill either role! With that said, I can live with the bass guitar stems from the album being included in the backing tracks that we would use live, but I can’t say the same for the vocals”.
The album sounds absolutely huge – one of the best sounding self-released albums we’ve heard at Sentinel Daily this year. Do you think it is as important in these days when DIY releases are more prevalent than ever that bands spend a lot of time working on the physical nuts and bolts of making a record? Or is the actual art involved in the creation still the most important part of the process? “Thank you, first of all, we really appreciate you saying so! If you’re going to be a completely DIY musician then yes, I think it’s imperative that you be spend a lot of time on the nuts and bolts of making a record if you want to put your best foot forward, so to speak. I’d still recommend it even if you want to hand the project off to a professional during the final stages of post-production like I did. Paying attention to detail by having your sessions laid out in a logical manner with your tracks labelled clearly and recorded at good levels with correct gain staging will pay off big-time in the end. With that said, I want to refer back to what I said earlier about staying true to your artistic vision. Ultimately, it’s your vision and your art, so feel free to experiment in any ways you feel you need to. There’s a million ways you can learn how to write and record music yourself so dive in and give it a go, you don’t necessarily need formal music education or production tuition to achieve quality results”.
Which track on the album do you think best represents Sanction overall? “While Between the Increments was the first single from the album, and Monolith; The Ebon Form
is a short, fast, and straight to the point, I think the title track The Overview Effect best represents Sanction as a whole. It wastes no time before the brutal main riff kicks in and displays in a very short amount of time the technicality, aggression, and thought-provoking lyrics that feature widely on the album and subsequent material”.
Anything else you’d like our readers to know about the band, the album, or both? “The journey has been very long, but we’re very keen to finally have our debut album out and to play
live as soon as possible. I would really encourage people to take the time and read the lyrics while listening to the album, I think most people would find a lot of value in the themes and ideas covered therein. In addition to that we’re very pleased with how well the artwork represents those themes and would love for people to also spend some time to take in the entire release, including the artwork”.
The Overview Effect releases on April 23rd.