Great Lakes Born, Ocean Bound

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“Terraphobic” from Lansing, MI’s Dagon is one of those albums I casually grabbed from my ever overflowing box of promos to check out. I’m not ever certain why I decided to grab it. Perhaps it was because I’d realized that I’d not reviewed any albums yet from Bombworks Records. Regardless, it was a fortuitous grab, as Terraphobic knocked me square on my ass with what is sure to end up one of my favorite albums of 2009. The band’s self-described “ocean metal” is a blistering slice of classic Swedish melodic death metal (In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Hypocrisy) with traditional metal (ala Iron Maiden) flourishes, thrashing riffs, white hot soloing, and a knack for writing memorable melodies. This one has got it all. Oh yeah, and the lyrical themes are entirely ocean-centric. Guitarists Chris Sharrock and Briant Daniel, bassist/vocalist Randall Ladiski, and drummer/vocalist Jordan Batterbee better be ready for the big leagues because metal this good won’t go unnoticed for long.

After being stunned at the quality of Terraphobic I was then surprised that I’d never heard of Dagon previously. Yet you’ve got an EP and a full-length that were released prior to it. And that’s a good starting point. Talk about the origins of the band. I understand there is a Summer Dying connection there too, a band whose CDs I’ve reviewed in the past, as well as interviewing a few years back.

Jordan Batterbee: The origins of the band really stem from the breakup of a band called Bestiary. Randy, Chris, and I were all in that band together and decided to pick up the pieces and keep playing together afterward. The connection to Summer Dying comes from Briant. He had played in that band for quite some time and touring with them during our Bestiary days was how we got to know him.

What about the choice of band name, Dagon?

Jordan Batterbee: When we decided that we wanted to have an ocean theme it just sort of came together. All of us love horror and we had just seen Stuart Gordon’s film of the same name. Also, Randy and I had both read and enjoyed the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, most famous for his Cthulhu mythos, who wrote the story that inspired the film. Of course, it also helps that the name is easy to say and remember.

When did Bombworks come into the picture? Were you actively seeking label support at the time?

Jordan Batterbee: When Bombworks approached us, they were actually interested in Bestiary. When they learned that the band was defunct and that we had a new project, they checked out our first EP and liked what they heard.

Are you happy with what Bombworks has done for you thus far? Will you be looking to move on for the next label? Based on the strength of Terraphobic I think a premier label would be foolish not to sign the band.

Jordan Batterbee/Chris Sharrock: We’re very happy with the way the album turned out. We couldn’t have done it without Bombworks. They’ve been good to us. If a larger label or another opportunity would come along they would be thrilled to see us progress.

But back to the music. Discuss how the band’s sound may have changed and/or progressed from the EP through Terraphobic.

Jordan Batterbee: The sound has become more focused since the EP. We’ve come a long way in creating songs with strong structure. Good riffs don’t mean much if they’re not arranged well.

To my ears the band’s sound is rooted in Swedish melodic death metal, yet it is infused with significant thrash and traditional metal influences. Would you agree?

Jordan Batterbee: We would absolutely agree. We draw very much on Iron Maiden and Slayer as influences.

Bands has diverse as In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Iron Maiden, The Black Dahlia Murder would all seem to be relative comparison points. Hypocrisy is thrown out quite often too. What do you think of the comparisons you’ve gotten in the press and who are your major influences?

Jordan Batterbee: Some of the comparisons puzzle us. We occasionally get compared to bands that we feel we have little in common with, but it just goes to show that different people will listen to our music in different ways. Everyone hears something different when they listen to a song. As far as our influences go, we usually cite: Iron Maiden, Slayer, Suffocation, Dark Tranquility, and Hypocrisy.

Along the same lines, what is the single most important part of writing a Dagon song? What makes makes a Dagon song go?

Jordan Batterbee: Dagon music is very guitar driven. If one of us walks into practice with a melody or a catchy hook, the rest comes together in a short time. Also, the atmosphere created by the guitar melodies is a huge influence on what the subject and tone of the lyrics will be.

What is impressive as well about Terraphobic is that the running time is 53 minutes, yet it never gets boring. The pace is relentless, the melodies are strong, and every section counts.

Jordan Batterbee: We set out to create an album that not only had strong individual songs, but also a strong presence as an entire collection.

Obviously, the “melodic” part of melodic death/thrash actually means something in the context for Terraphobic. These are choruses into which one can sink his/her teeth.

Jordan Batterbee: The chorus is the part of the song that gets repeated the most. If we believe a chorus is weak, or not catchy, our fans don’t deserve to hear it four times.

You’ve certainly got the dual growl-to-scream vocal thing down, but it’s not done in an overly predictable way. Talk about the dual vocals, including any challenges that may be present with a drummer sharing lead vocals.

Jordan Batterbee: All I can say is that it took a whole lot of practice to be able to play while doing vocals. You have to become very comfortable with the songs before you can divert any attention to vocals. As far as working together, we find it lets us create vocal layering on stage that a band with one singer can only do in the studio.

Why did you decide to re-record “Feeding Frenzy,” which originally appeared on the EP?

Jordan Batterbee: Our fans here in Michigan love the song. We recorded it because we knew they’d love to hear it with great production values.

There are tons of great songs, but “Ocean Metal” stands out because of your use of “Halford” vocals in parts and the way that you’ve incorporated traditional/speed metal (whether Judas Priest or 3 Inches of Blood) into the song.

Jordan Batterbee: We just couldn’t resist. Half the fun of metal is getting cheesy every once in a while.

Speaking of “Ocean Metal,” the lyrical themes throughout the band’s career thus far, I believe, have been exclusively about the ocean. Please discuss this choice of a theme, as well as some of the more intriguing stories told on Terraphobic.

Chris Sharrock: The choice of theme happened very quickly. We had all just watched Stuart Gordon adaptation’s of Dagon and several of us had read the short story; we decided on the band name and theme almost immediately. It’s a theme that we knew would leave us a lot of room to work with.  On this album we have songs about Viking raids, a sea creature that is the last of his kind, galley ships going to war and of course a ghost pirate captain who happens to be a heavy metal purist.

Tell me about the album title, Terraphobic.

Chris Sharrock: Essentially it’s someone who has a fear of land. The title track describes a girl was born and lived her life at sea. Eventually she becomes shipwrecked, is forced onto dry land and as a result she ends up going insane.

You got a great production at Random Awesome! Studios too.

Chris Sharrock: Josh from Random Awesome Studio in Bay City did an amazing job. When you are recording heavy music it’s so important to work with someone that understands heavy music and what it’s supposed to sound and feel like. We’ve paid a lot of money to engineers with enormous expensive studios and have come out shrugging our shoulders. Not the case with Josh.

Any touring plans?

Chris Sharrock: We are always playing shows. There is a good possibility we may be doing a short leg in Europe before this year is over.

What’s next for Dagon?

Chris Sharrock: We’ve already started work on the next record. We are a very active band and have some very big plans in the works. Our next release is going to be very unique. We have something planned that to my knowledge has never attempted before.  So be on the lookout for something big.

www.myspace.com/dagonmetal

www.bombworksrecords.com

www.myspace.com/bombworksrecords

Comments

  1. Commented by: ceno

    Thanks for the interview, Scott and guys. Terraphobia is a real metal gem with a huge potential for the top ten of the year status.


  2. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    I should have a review of Terraphobia done soon – im glad to see horribly under rated act Summer Dying lknda lives on in Dagon


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