Black Crown Initiate have recently released their brand new album Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape via Century Media records. The first record in 4 years and first with new guitarist Ethan, the album heralds a new era in the band. Prior to the release, our we caught up with vocalist James to discuss the release and a range of other topics.
How do you feel the response has been to the songs you’ve released so far?
So far, so good, man. We put a heck of a lot of effort into this record and we felt that the material was very strong and diverse. We felt like the response would be good without really looking at it and so far it’s lived up to our expectations. We just released our latest single “Holy Silence” today with an animated video done by David Broski which looks absolutely killer. But yeah, it’s been great so far and I’m pretty happy.
How was the process behind this album compared to the previous one?
The setting was pretty different. We weren’t sure if we were going to be a band after 2016 due to some inter-personal issues and feeling burnt out from years of touring. The mindset we had coming back into this album was different and we had the luxury of time. In the past we were bounded by both studio and touring constraints that limited the time we had to create. By not having those, it allowed us to make a better album and one which, I personally, think is the best we’ve ever made.
What would you say were the main sources of inspiration behind this album?
I think having Ethan back in the band helped. He was a member in the earliest incarnation of this band when we didn’t have this name. The song we put out today was actually written back in those times so it was kind of our mission statement. We took the band back and made it happen after a period of uncertainty and reformed it with a guy from way back when. That was a good foundation for writing this album and he is such a good guitarist. He was a catalyst for writing this record.
Do you think that metal music should challenge the listener?
Yeah, I think it should. The genre is the most diverse that I can personally think of and I think that’s one of the challenges that the creator has. To try and break into the listener’s head with something that is unique and truly inspired is difficult, which I think results in so many different approaches. I think that basically every genre has been blended with metal since it came about, so because of that it’s harder. It’s very easy for anyone to pick up an instrument and make a record these days, but it’s tougher to break to the front with the sheer quantity of material that’s out there and still challenge the listener. I think that should be the mission for the artist as that will help them stand out in a market that is very saturated. It’s good to challenge yourself with anything in life as I think that encourages growth. So, long and short, yes for sure.
Would you say that some of the best stuff coming into the genre are the artists bringing outside elements in?
Some of the bands that I like are ones that do that. Sometimes it can be done not so well and come across as a gimmick, but bands like Imperial Triumphant and Batushka have been doing it really well. However, there’s something to be said for the bands that do the meat and potatoes stuff really well. I think if the music is inspired, no matter what it is, it will translate to the listener and come across really well. A band like that is Baest who are doing it really well.
What’s something you want to see less of in the music industry?
That’s a tough one as I don’t like to tell people what to do and see things manifest naturally. I do like the industry when people are honest, have integrity and treat each other well, which I think doesn’t happen as much as it should. Especially now, given how things are. I think if you are sincere, open, honest and do things that make people feel good instead of being cut-throat, things will be better. Things do evolve naturally, which is neither good nor bad, it’s just a thing that happens.
You guys have toured with some of the industry heavyweights such as Napalm Death, Deicide and Behemoth to name a few. When touring with those bands, was there ever a feeling of having to deliver/prove to the crowds that you belonged on the lineup?
I think it might have been a combination of both that and also knowing that we belonged. Our first ever tour was with Behemoth and we weren’t even signed and just had a 4-track EP out. So, there were some people who maybe thought that we hadn’t paid our dues and bought onto the tour, but we didn’t as we were broke working stiffs. We had been trying to make bands work since we were kids and it’s something that I wish would have happened sooner. I’ve been playing in bands since 1996 and have been grinding continually. Black Crown Initiate was very young and we’d only played one show before touring with Behemoth, but we’d all put in the man hours in other bands prior to making this band. We decided to make the best thing we could do and put the money on the EP and put it on bandcamp. And it took off from there.
We were still kind of green with regard to real touring, but we learnt the ropes really quickly and made smart choices to land where we were. The music spoke for itself and while it may have seemed premature to some people to be on those tours, we felt as though we belong.
What was it that inspired you to start performing in metal?
I feel like I’ve told people in the past that the reason I wanted to be a metal singer is because I wanted to be like Godzilla. I loved Godzilla when I was a kid and pretended to be like that stomping around my yard. After I first heard death metal, Morbid Angel in particular, I loved it and was drawn to the vocals immediately. By the time I was out of high school, I had a full-fledged progressive metal album under my belt from the band Scarred Horizon with tracks that were like 12 to 16 minutes in length. But yeah, ever since I first heard death metal I decided to make it my hobby and the rest, as they say, is history.
What do you enjoy doing outside of music?
I’m kind of amateur bodybuilder and I play in two other bands as well as BCI. The guitar player of one of my other bands is my trainer as he’s a professional bodybuilder. I like to play video games and I enjoy playing Smash Brothers and Skyrim. I also do voiceovers and was part of the heavy metal choir in the latest Doom game. I did some of the throat singing which was really cool. I’ve done some voiceovers for mods for Oblivion as well which is really cool. I try and be well rounded as an individual.
If you had to put together an ice cream sundae, what flavours and toppings would you pick?
I would probably heat up peanut butter and melt it on top of chocolate ice cream with some banana chunks and cookie dough. I diet a lot and when I do something like that, I go crazy and just grab lots of different things. It’s irrational, but really tasty and fun.