Pick Your Rock and Metal

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Forged in fire, tempered by tragedy

"GOOD music is something to fall back on in tough times." The words of Bakken's Simon Pickett, when we caught up with the lead singer and guitarist of Northern Ireland outfit Bakken as they prepare to launch their début album 'Death of a a Hero' in just over a month's time.

And Bakken are a band that knows how much it means to have music pull you through. Simon contracted a serious illness and another band member lost a close relative in tragic circumstances. But as a result of this Bakken have pulled through, are a tighter unit and make what statements they need through their music.

Simon spoke to us about the process of recording the album enabled them to move on, grow and develop - reflecting as many readers of this blog know, metal isn't always about darkness.

"It's fair to say that some of the band has had a horrible last few years," he said. "But as I'm sure most metal fans do, I always feel that good music is something to fall back on in tough times.

"When we started the band I was still quite sick and was obviously quite depressed, but I found that airing some of the negative emotions and frustrations I felt through music was a really cathartic process and helped me through it.

And that catharis has produced an inner strength; "For me, heavy metal (or at least the bands I like) always have a positive vibe or an element of strength and hope in the music and this was the same for me when I was writing the songs.

"I like to think that this really stands out in our music too and that other people listening to it can find the positive messages in there and be inspired themselves.."

That musical inspiration can be something apparent as musicians step on to the stage, when a mixture of nerves, angst and excitement bubble into the best of sets. Getting ready for the studio is a different matter.

Simon explained that Bakken were prepared for the challenge: "We actually had the songs very well mapped out as demos and practiced them hard before we gigged them, so that made things a lot easier in the studio.

"Having said that, the pro level studio experience was new adventure for all of us and it took us a bit longer than originally planned to record the whole album, mostly due to the complex nature of some of the songs."

They also had - like many taking to a professional studio for the first time - the challenge of making sure that the live vibe was not lost in the studio.

"Capturing the live feel was quite difficult but was important for us," said Simon. "Specifically we wanted to avoid using a constant unchangeable click track beat wherever possible as this can make some sections sound dull and monotonous.

"We also stayed true to the equipment we use live and tried to resist the temptation of layering the instruments too much. Most of the time there are only two rhythm guitars playing which retains the percusive raw edge to the sound; the vocals also have a raw live feel about them too."

So what can the listener expect from Bakken? The one-sheet explains that they are a mix of classic metal, NWOBHM and thrash. It's a heady mix on Death of a Hero [Review to come later] with early Bruce era-Maiden, Diamond Head, and Thin Lizzy caught up in structures and styles fans of the likes of In Flames, and the better Trivium songs will recognise. They are all clear influences, but they are not slavishly followed.

"The influences are quite obvious to those versed in classic metal," explained Simon. "As the main song writer my main influences come from my love of 70s and 80s rock and metal, Thin Lizzy, Queen, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Helloween, etc.            

"Niall is a hard hitting drummer who is a fan of very heavy contemporary bands and is very skilled at fast “double kick” drums, something we used a lot in the album; also Mark-Anthony (the second guitarist) is also a huge thrash metal fan (as I am too), so combined with these harder influences I like to think we have created a fairly unique sound that doesn't compromise on either melody or heaviness."

But it's not just metal that Simon draws his influences from - he has a musical reference point in common with the late Cliff Burton.

"In terms of finding unique inspiration, I often listen to classical music (composers like Mozart and Bach) [Burton was a skilled classical musician who cited Bach frequently] which has definitely opened up my mind to incorporating innovative approaches to composition.

"For instance, a lot of the time, the two guitars and the bass are playing different things, which when added together give a full, more complex sound. You mentioned contemporary influences like Trivium; some people often comment that we sound a bit like them, although I wouldn't say this would be a result of a direct influence but more probably from a shared set of classic metal influences. That's not to say there aren't any modern bands that influence our style; personally I am a huge fan of melodic death metal bands like Children Of Bodom and In Flames, these influences often creep in to our music too, so its a real mixing pot I think."

Death of a Hero is the soundtrack of a band that has emerged from dark times, who have feen forged in fires of misfortune, but used tragedy to temper their attitude into an honest reflection of how metal can birth hope, and, as epitomised by the words of Simon brings hope and strength.

Review to come later... 

No comments: