A Few Good Men

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I’ve seen God Forbid in a variety of venues on several different tours, beginning with their opening spot on a tour in 2001 supporting Determination that featured Nevermore, Opeth, and Angel Dust in front of 30 people in Topeka, KS, and then most recently on the 2012 Overkill tour stop in Kansas City. Musically, the band has come a long way between Determination and new album Equilibrium. It was 2004’s Gone Forever that established God Forbid as a melodic sort of metalcore act on par with the likes of Killswitch Engage, yet never reaching that same level of popularity even with an output since that has been far more ambitious. Concept album IV: Constitution of Treason saw the band expanding musically, but it was Earthsblood on which God Forbid took things to a whole new level, one on which soaring melodies met rich, progressive arrangements. After that the band’s contractual relationship with long-time label Century Media came to an end and the search for a new label began, ultimately ending with God Forbid’s signing to Victory Records. New album Equilibrium sees God Forbid reining in some of the over-the-top dynamics of Earthsblood without abandoning its progressive flair and throwing in some new twists (as they always do), but more than anything else writing several quintessential God Forbid modern melodic thrash metal anthems for a new generation to enjoy.

God Forbid has always stuck to its guns, soldiering on through the trends, and concerning itself only with making the best albums they could possibly make. And up until the departure of guitarist Dallas Coyle some time after the Earthsblood release did it with a lineup that had remained stable since the beginning, one that also features guitarist Doc Coyle (Dallas’ brother), bassist John Outcault, vocalist Byron Davis, and drummer Corey Pierce. Ex-Himsa guitarist Matt Wiklund is the new guy and God Forbid hasn’t missed a step with his presence in the lineup. In fact, the Equilibrium benefits from the new injection of new blood. God Forbid is one tough, hard working unit and the quality of the music speaks for itself. They’re also one of the fiercest live acts on the planet. This 2012 update comes via Doc Coyle who phoned while driving to band practice (of course).

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How was the Overkill tour?

It was a good tour, man. I don’t think it was our exact audience, but I think there was enough common ground with where we come from and what they’re about to make it work. So we had a really good time. We hadn’t toured in a while, so it was getting our road legs back and kind of getting back in a groove. Anyone can play for people that already like them, but a live band that is really worth their salt can go into a room of people that don’t know them and really take the room. That really takes some time, so it took about half the tour to really tighten it up and hone in. It was a solid tour to kick off the album. Overkill is a great band!

You’re both Jersey acts too.

Yeah and any time you put a couple of bands from the East coast on tour together they’re going to get along. We share that certain type of attitude and way of speaking. We all got along great; there was a lot of mutual respect. And the opening bands I think they were really professional, talented, and just a lot of potential. Suidakra from Germany were great; the style they play is doing well right well so they can make a lot of headway there. And Diamond Plate is good too.

It was also the first time that you had a new member on stage that wasn’t part of the original lineup, guitarist Matt Wicklund (ex-Himsa, ex-Warrel Dane). That’s crazy; you just don’t see that kind of lineup stability in bands that have been around as long as God Forbid.

Yeah, we’ve been together for such a long time and we’ve just developed that certain sound over a long period of time. It’s unfortunate that Dallas had to leave, but I think it made sense for both parties. He was ready to move on and we were ready to move on. Matt brought a lot of energy and music to the table. His skill level as a guitar player is really high. He really made the lead guitar playing dynamic on this album and he brought a different flavor musically. I really like what he’s brought to the band. Anything that keeps it fresh is always a good thing.

He was in Himsa, a great band, but the God Forbid material is quite a bit more varied, even with the thrash foundation present in both acts.

It was pretty aggressive all the way through and he’s a good songwriter and could kind of blend in. But I think the God Forbid stuff is more in line with his instincts and he brought a couple of songs to the table and I at first I didn’t know if it was really right for God Forbid. It was a little bit more chord-oriented, the pace was a little bit slower, but it ended up working up, so we said let’s try it and it ended up working out. We’ve never been too rigid about what the parameters of the band should be.

I thought what you did on Earthsblood was brilliant, a great piece of progressive, melodic metal. Equilibrium is unmistakably God Forbid. It’s a little rawer maybe and somewhat less complex, but that’s only because Earthsblood was so over the top, progressively speaking. I think you got a great mix of the dynamics from the last album, some nods to the earlier releases, and just enough newer elements to keep it fresh. That opening cut, “Don’t Tell me What to Dream,”kind of threw me because it’s so different from anything else you’ve done and even from the rest of the album.

We worked the longest on this album than any other album. The main reason was because we didn’t have a record deal, so there were a lot of demos being made. So we really got a chance to do pre-production on everything and got a chance to really hone in on all the details. And specifically with the vocal kinds of things and the lyrics; really getting into the words and the meanings behind them and tinkering with it. We got to work with [producer] Jason Suecof who is really brilliant with melodies and harmonies. He gets great tones and gets great work out of Byron; that was really important. We talked about every detail this time. A lot of thought even went into things like the order of the songs. It’s a catchy, accessible metal album. We didn’t make an extreme record, but it’s heavy and it’s still got that adrenaline factor and that was important. Starting off with “Don’t Tell me what to Dream” I think was counterintuitive to the way we started off our other records. If it was like one of our other records we probably would have started off a thrash song like maybe “Cornered,” which would have been fine and had people going “Fuck yeah, this is awesome” or whatever, but we said let’s do the opposite of what we’d done on our other albums. Let’s start out with a song that sets a different kind of tone so it gets a reaction of “oh, this is something different.” That was the idea. And “Don’t Tell me What to Dream” is a killer live song and a great one to start the set with too. And then ending the album with “Where we come from” is also something we never do. That song could have been like the second track if we did it like we did on previous album.

Yes! You rarely hear an album on which the last track is one of the standouts.

Yeah and that was purposeful too. Let’s bookend the album. That kind of put a stamp on it. We did that instead of ending with something that was a little more proggy or with an outro or whatever. Even putting “My Rebirth” second, a very melodic song, was a way to let people know what this album was about; it s going to be heavy, it’s going to be melodic, and it’s going to be everything in between. And you kind of get that right from the first three songs and everything after that was a mix of everything else. We could have ordered it so that we just kind of lured people into it, but we didn’t want to do that. This is what the album is and you either like it or you don’t, and that’s cool. It’s interesting to be in a position to make an album that you personally would like to listen to. I don’t listen to a whole lot of extreme stuff that much anymore. I listen to The Black Dahlia Murder or The Acacia Strain or whatever if I’m kind of vibin’ on something extreme at a particular time, but it’s definitely not something I’m spending a great deal of time with or garnering influence from.

And regardless of the actual track sequence, the fact of that matter is that God Forbid has always been an “album band” anyway, so to me it didn’t really matter what song was chosen as an opener.

And I’m an album guy. I want to hear whole albums from a band. I don’t want to hear just one song or a couple of songs. I guess it’s possible that the craft of making albums like that might be kind of lost in the future; we’ll see how it develops. But I still like the long-play record [laughs].

The two definitive God Forbid songs, or at least two highlights, on this album are “Rebirth” and the title track.

Ironically, musically “Equilibrium” was one that Matt wrote. In terms of the melodic nature of the song it’s a bit of a departure and us stretching out, but to us the real success of that song is that the hook is really, really strong. That was something that we really wanted to do better on this album. I felt like “To the Fallen Hero” [from IV: Constitution of Treason] was our most popular kind of melodic song that really struck a chord with certain people; that had an impact. But I felt like we were kind of hit and miss as a melodic kind of band with the choruses. I think it was really important to realize that people don’t really mind singing in heavy metal or extreme music; they just want you to do it well. No one gets pissed off at Opeth for singing because they do it well. No one gets pissed off at Killswitch Engage for it because they do it well. As long as you do it well, then people are pretty cool with it. That was something we spent a lot of time on and I think we did do a good job.

Talk about the transition from Century Media, the label you were on for something like a decade, to Victory Records.

We had about a year when we didn’t have a label. After the first six months or so there wasn’t really much going on with the label and Century Media really wasn’t going to expend much resources on the band, so we were really kind of on the outside even before our contact expired. The difficult part of the transition was during that period when we didn’t have a record label because you’re on your own, you have to foot the bill, you have to self-motivate and set your own schedule… And that was a difficult time. Luckily, our live sound guy ended up producing a demo for us that we shopped to labels and that was a lot of work. But once we started shopping Victory was head and shoulders above everyone else and the most enthusiastic about working with us. Their offer was strong. Once we signed up and booked the studio time it’s been great. They’re a highly mobilized group of people. The way they work is quick and energetic and they have a really young staff, which is cool. [Head honcho] Tony [Brummel] is older and has a dynamic personality and has that energy, which was really refreshing. And not that Century Media didn’t have any of that. It’s just that when you’re on a label for a long time it’s hard to maintain that enthusiasm. They’ve had so much staff turnover over there, so most of the people that were there when we got signed and were part of the initial push are gone. New bands come along and they become the priorities. To me it’s just part of the business. Century Media did a lot of great things for us and that era was an important part of our career and our lives. But it was time for us to make a new start; so far so good.

What does the remainder of the year hold for God Forbid?

We are starting the Trespass America Festival in July and that’s with Five Finger Death Punch, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, and Pop Evil, Emmure, and Battlecross. It’s a huge arena tour and one of the biggest tours we’ve ever done. It’s really the perfect tour for this album. It was the tour that we wanted more than any other tour for the summer. We’re really good friends with the Five Finger Death Punch guys and they really pulled for us. And obviously we go way back with Killswitch Engage and Trivium. It’s a long tour, about seven weeks and it covers a lot of ground. It’s really exciting and I think it’s going to open a lot of doors. From there we’re looking at some European touring for the end of the year and we’re weighing our options for the fall. Our bass player John is getting married in the fall, so that kind of upsets our touring plans. This whole kind of album cycle is exploratory in a lot of ways, trying to figure out where God Forbid fits in this world. It’s about searching and also building. There is a whole new group of people that don’t know the band, so it’s an opportunity. Hopefully, people that dig the album will tell their friends to get it. That’s what we’re hoping for.

 

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