Perth power merchants Silent Knight are just about to unleash arguably their finest work yet in the shape of the soon-com full lengther Full Force; Albums as good as this should, of course, be celebrated to the full so we grabbed the chance to speak to the band’s guitarist Stu McGill about the album with both hands – here’s what went down over the trans-continental telesommunications system…

The album’s still a little way away – but are you pleased with the reactions to it you’ve seen so far? “Oh, definitely. We’ve had a lot of really great reviews, some saying it’s the album of the year already! So we’re stoked to see those”.

Is it  still a nervous time for you, when those promos get sent out? You’ve been doing this for a while now. “I’ve never been worried about it. It just comes with the territory. You have to take the hits whether they are good or bad. If you’re going to put out an album, and invest in it, you’ve got to be willing to back it yourself, and know that it’s good enough. There will always be people who don’t like it. I know I can’t please everyone, but when you see the reviews you know you’re also going to make a lot of people happy”.

As an outsider to the band, but equally as someone who has listened to all your albums down the years, Full Force sounds to me like the first album that really shows off all your facets in their best light – would you agree with that? “I think so. The songwriting… even though the material sounds like stuff that we’ve done before – the vibe, et cetera… I think it’s a little bit more mature. The writing is better. Which obviously comes with time and experience. I think that you’ll find that with a lot of bands that their best work comes with their third and fourth albums. Even though I love our first two albums – there are a lot of great songs on those – this one is definitely a step up. But it still sounds like Silent Knight at the same time. So if anybody ha been a fan of the previous ones, they should really enjoy the new one”.

In saying that – that the songwriting is more mature – did you approach the writing on this album differently to the way you did, say, on the first album? “Not really. All the influences are more or less the same. Our lead guitarist Cam (Nicholas) and I do the majority of the writing. I think all of the albums have had eight songs on them. I’ll write four or five and he’ll write four or five at the demo stage; Once we’ve got our ideas down we’ll meet up and start sharing ideas and building the songs from there. And that’s kind of the way we’ve always done it. Use a drum machine, get the melodies and lyrics together and sing them really badly! (laughs). We then pass the demos to the singer. Sometimes the songs change here as the vocalist might have different ideas o how the song will fit the voice more comfortably; it’s the same with the drums, the drum machine comes out here and our drummer will use ninety per cent of the drum patterns but he wants to put his own ideas and his own flair on the song too. This method seems to have worked for us so we’ve just sort of stuck with it”.

Power metal is quite a rigid format – there are quite a few fan expectations as to what a ‘power metal’ album should sound like. Within that framework do you find you have to reject much material because it sounds like other bands working within the same framework? Or do you think you’ve established you own sound to such an extent that whatever you do will sound like Silent Knight? “We’re not to worried about it. There’ll always be reviews that say ‘this isn’t very original’, but as you say there is quite a lot of power metal that isn’t very original! You put your own spin on it, but we’re not trying to reinvent anything here. I love to go and see bands that sound like us – that’s my favourite style of music. I guess we do try and stay on the more aggressive side of power metal. If you say the term to some people they might think of the more floppy, keyboardy style. But there are quite a few styles on the power metal spectrum. I’m a big fan of bands like Megadeth, so there’s a bit of a harsher edge – I like Iced Earth too, that mixture of thrash, power and heavy metal”.

There’s plenty of ‘chug’ on this album. “It’s probably one of the more aggressive power metal albums I’ve heard”.

You mention giving a guide vocal on your demos – you’ve got a new vocalist now (Dan Brittain) who proves on this record he can pretty much sing anything. This, as you say, i a more aggressive style of album. When you know you’ve got a vocalist who can handle anything, does that give you added confidence as a songwriter to go harder, faster, higher? “It was really great actually. We actually finished writing one of the songs for this album just before our previous vocalist Jesse quit the band. We wrote it with his voice in mind, but it translates to Dan fine, there were no worries. The first song we wrote with Dan in mind was the title track of the album; it’s pretty much the most insane vocal song we’ve ever done, I think – The high screams,especially towards the end of the song. We’d never jammed with Dan but we knew him before he joined. When he came down to rehearsals and showed us what he could do we were pretty happy! It was like let’s write the most insane and ridiculous stuff we can! And the good thing about it is he can do it all live as well. Some of the old songs, like Strike of the Sword, with it’s really high middle section, or Ravens Return – a fast tempo, high song – he just smashes through them. He’s actually happier in his higher registers than he is in the lower ones, which is really awesome”.

When did Dan join the band? Pre COVID or during the pandemic? “He actually joined us in 2019. We’d just done a show with Rhapsody in Melbourne, in October. Jesse quit after that show. He’d had enough. We had a couple of shows booked – a festival in Indonesia and a show with Ross The Boss of Manowar, and Jesse offered to do those shows if need be but I made it pretty clear that he was done; Me and our drummer Dan (Grainger) were picking our brains thinking about a replacement. We knew Dan from his other band, Electrik Dynamite, knew he was a good dude so thought we would reach out to him, to see if maybe he would just do the two shows we were committed to. So  that’s what we did, we did the shows and then officially announced him as a member of Silent Knight in 2020″.

So his joining wasn’t affected by COVID – but was the writing of the album slowed at all? Would we have been enjoying Full Force for a while now had circumstances not intervened? “Well, the album was recorded, mixed and mastered by June last year. We started recording at the back end of 2020. We did a couple of cover songs first to see how working together would go and just to keep the wheels moving. Then a couple of the guys actually had babies around this time last year, so the question was always there – do we release now, do we wait. We couldn’t play anywhere because all the venues were shut down. But to answer your question yes, if it wasn’t for COVD things would have looked a little different. I guess the urgency just lessened because we knew we couldn’t do anything. Also our first two albums ended up being a bit rushed because of schedules, touring coming up – opportunities were coming up and we felt we needed an album out for this or that reason. So it was nice, but also frustrating at the time”.

Let’s go back to those two cover songs – how did they come about. Were they your choices or was it a communal decision? “The funny one was Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. My daughter was five or six at the time. Kids that age often do ‘performances’ at their schools; my daughter’s teacher was talking about the kids doing Bad Romance but changing the lyrics for some reason, and they were going to do it heavy metal style. One of the kids was going to do a solo. And my daughter piped up ‘my dad’s in a heavy metal band!’ and the teacher said ‘well maybe your dad could help write the solo’. I hadn’t really heard the song, although I know how big a hit it was. I listened to it once or twice, and was driving over to Cam’s house to demo the solo section for the kids, but I was thinking how well The Final Countdown had gone for us as a cover version – maybe this one would be suitable too? So we did the demo but ended up doing the whole song. It’s quite simple, it only took around an hour. After we’d done it we thought it sounded great so we took it to the rest of the band and they agreed so we did the video. With the Van Halen song (Dreams), Eddie had passed away not long prior; We were due to play a festival show soon after and our drummer Dan floated the idea of doing a Van Halen cover. So we thought bugger it, let’s demo it up and we released it at the same time”.

I thought the Van Halen video was inspired. When Edward died, most of the post-death nostalgia was for the David Lee Roth era, so it was a nice difference to do a Hagar song. Cam and I kind of prefer the Hagar stuff”-

So do I! “5150 is a classic album. It took them to stadiums, basically. I’m not the most knowledgeable person on Van Halen, but I really enjoy the songs they did with Sammy, so it was easy for me to say yes! It was a tricky song for us to do though, as we’re a two guitar band with no synths. But I think it turned out pretty good”.

It really did. Your are launching the album in Perth at the Stormrider Festival, and you’re doing a show on the upcoming Alestorm tour – any chance of a tour to support the new record at this point? “It’s been hard to pull anything together. Three or four things got pulled because of COVID, or lack of venues, and now there’s just a massive backlog of shows built up.  What I hear is that lot’s of venues are currently hard to book into because of the amount of rescheduled dates, plus new tours joining in, so we haven’t booked anything for this year. In a few months, in the new year, hopefully some schedules will align and we’ll be able to announce something. We haven’t played in the East of Australia since that Melbourne show in 2019, and some of the other cities not since 2017. It’s been ages”.

Is that dependent on a decent international support slot or would you be happy to head out on your own? “We’ve always kind of done it on our own, but if we get a good offer as a support act, that would be ideal”.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers that we haven’t touched on so far? “I’d just like them to know that Full Force is probably going to be one of their favourite albums of the year (Laughs), and thanks for everybody’s patience and support waiting for the new album”.

Full Force releases on September 23rd. Read Ferry Templeton’s review of the album HERE