ANURYZM: World of Soundscapes

Anuryzm

International progressive metal outfit Anuryzm has been putting out music for almost ten years. Their newest release is a single entitled ‘Etheride’ which was featured on our recently released Progotronics compilation. Guitarist John Bakhos and keyboardist Jay Jahed spoke for Prog Sphere about their beginnings as Anuryzm, the new single, future plans, and more.

How did you come to do what you do?

John: I had a passion for music and guitar playing from a young age. It took off from there, and I started to build up my playing skills and musical interests over time. Then I went through different stages of styles and bands before starting Anuryzm. And even though the idea behind Anuryzm came about in 2003, it really took off after 2010 when I put a foothold in the UAE. From that point, everything just came into place and evolved nicely.

Jay: I started playing keys from a very young age, when my parents realized I had a musical ear since I was 4 years old. My interest in synths and keys started growing, and even when I went into piano school for a while, I was always drawn to the synth side of music. In my college teen years, when rock and metal heavily influenced me, I joined a metal band and did some shows in my hometown. After having met John during our college years when our bands used to share the stage a few times, I re-united with him in 2010 when I moved to the UAE, and joined Anuryzm, as I was always passionate about this style of Prog. Working with John and sharing influences made a huge mark on my style and music play.

The song “Etheride,” which we featured on Progotronics 18, is your newest single and is taken from the upcoming album. What can you tell about the next release?

John: Well, it is my humble opinion that the record will feature elements of great musicianship. We are working with highly seasoned and excellent sounding guest musicians, and I feel like this new line-up is the strongest we’ve ever had to date. We have the brilliant Simen Sandnes on drums; you might recognize him from his playing on Arkentype and from his highly-entertaining online videos. We also got our friend and incredible fusion bass player Rami Lakkis back into the fold. And we’ve recently invited close friend & ex-band mate Will Patterson on vocals; he happens to be an excellent singer & vocal coach, and a great match to our style of music.

Jay: Just to clarify, our next release will likely be another single with this new line-up. On ‘Etheride’, the vocals were sung by our long-time singer Nadeem Bibby, who unfortunately could not make the cut for the rest of the album and had to exit the band. ‘Etheride’ was our way of giving the fans one final farewell before we move forward, and we thought the fans deserved to have something special. That being said, we are working on the full album with Will covering vocal duties. We’ll also be releasing singles gradually along the way so our listeners can get accustomed to his voice, and also so they don’t have to wait too long to hear new material.

What can we expect from the album?

John: Stylistically, we are exploring and venturing into some new territory. The album will still have the Anuryzm vibe but with a more modern edge mixed in with a retro-synth cosmic feel.

Jay: You know ‘Etheride’ is actually one of our heavier tracks, and our listeners shouldn’t expect that the rest of the songs will sound like that. We like to add some variety on a record so it doesn’t sound stale. The new album will also showcase a lot of new experimental sounds.

What are the biggest challenges you faced so far when working on the release?

John: Well it doesn’t help that we are all spread between the UAE, Canada, Sweden, and the UK. So getting stuff done takes a lot longer than it normally would if you compare us to bands working locally together on a regular basis.

Jay: More to John’s point, finding competent and dedicated musicians in our part of the world has been very challenging. I also want to add the fact that we all have our daily lives and routines constantly pulling us away from working on music. I wish it were different but that’s just the reality of it all.

Which bands or artist influence your work on the album?

John: Bands like Devin Townsend, Leprous, and Voyager have really helped in broadening my musical sights a lot more. But my influences on the album material came from places that are non-musical. I took most of my inspiration from books and lectures on astronomy, astrophysics, and future tech.

Jay: I was drawn to classical & electronic elements in music. So I enjoyed music from Elgar, Wagner, Beethoven, and Jean Michel Jarre. But I also get my main inspiration from bands like Dream Theater, Symphony X, Stratovarius, and Devin Townsend. And currently, new bands like Haken, Leprous, Tesseract, and Voyager are also heavily shaping my new style, along with other different electronic and synth wave influences.

Anuryzm

Tell me about the complexities of creating this album.

Jay: As we experiment with new sounds, we made a conscious effort to add more presence on synths, and electronic themes. We are trying to bring listeners closer into our world of soundscapes and this has challenged us to pivot away from our usual comfort zones. This is also challenging for me, as I have to shift from my usual analog way of doing music into a more digital oriented approach. And even after going through those hurdles, I must somehow translate those complex sounds and soundscapes into a record whilst keeping in mind that we must somehow be able to showcase this music in a live setting.

What types of change do you feel this music can initiate?

John: Well with our previous records, we tried to create dreamy cinematic vibes and always let things end with resounding messages of hope. With this record, we want to continue down that path and turn all that hope into action. Hope can only take us so far and now it’s time to act, especially during our testing times with climate change, nuclear threats, economic unrest, mass immigration, etc. The new record will be riddled with ideas and concepts heavily related to science, to our cosmos, and more. And we truly hope that it will help open our listeners’ eyes and ears to the challenges we will face as a planet in the coming decades and help motivate them into more public discourse and debate on the issues at hand.

Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?

John: We don’t really adhere to any strict layout. We’ll start off with a guitar riff or a synth part and build up the rest of the song around it. Having good hooks are central to our songs, so we try and make sure that we work obsessively to make them the best that they can be. In the past, we didn’t really care much about track lengths, but this time around, we are more conscious about that and try to create songs that are more impactful without losing our listeners’ focus.

What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?

John: Anything related to astrophysics, astronomy, future tech, and AI. We are incorporating a lot of those elements and ideas into our music, stylistically and lyrically. We’ve even rebranded our style to Astro-prog metal. Not sure if that’s a thing, but it’s our thing now.

Jay: I’m like John and I am also a big geek when it comes to technology, gadgets, and gaming. You can maybe get a sense of that in our music and it heavily impacts how I produce the sounds and soundscapes for the new record.

What kind of gear do you use for recording your music?

John: I use PRS electrics and Seagull acoustics. I run my Kemper profiling amp for most of my effects. On my pedal board I also use a Digitech whammy, a Morley wah, and a TC Electronic Polytune.

Jay: Coming from a more analog way of producing, I rely a lot on my Korg Kronos, as well as my very old trusty Korg N5 EX. Of course with the direction we’re taking, I am embracing a lot of sounds from digital libraries for Logic Pro, even Garage Band and Mainstage, and a few DAWs here and there.

What is your view on technology in music?

John: In terms of music production & recording, I think it’s great. The internet and affordable home-recording tools have made all the difference in getting Anuryzm off the ground. I don’t think we’d even be here without it. When I think about music distribution over the long run, I see a transition in a big way into online & digital outlets. Digital quality is constantly improving with better technology, and with that hurdle out of the way, it is now merely a question of supply & demand. So unless you’re a passionate audiophile that enjoys the touch & feel of a physical product, the majority of people will eventually gravitate to buying and selling exclusively digitally online. And I support going in that direction because it’s more sustainable and practical, especially in our times with the worsening crisis of climate change and plastic pollution.

Jay: Basically John said it all, in terms of production, recording, and reachability. And yes, we wouldn’t be here without the technological advancements in producing and sharing music, especially that our members are scattered all over the place, where digital production helped us to work together almost seamlessly, but definitely with its challenges. I would like to add that the aspect of technology heavily affects the way our music and other bands’ music are produced. The way how digital production tools and the huge array of software is currently out there, helps a lot in easily finding, fine tuning, and producing the sounds that almost exactly fit with someone’s imagination and creativity. And it makes it much easier for musicians to travel light and work from anywhere, without the bulkiness of all the studio equipment.

What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in forms of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it, or anything else?

John: Dare to be different musically, even if it means going against the norm. It’s obviously not easy to do, but that’s mostly what separates successful bands from the herd. In terms of technicality, I like to write songs using a 3-criteria approach: simplicity, groove, and feeling. Once I have those elements, I can then maybe add a little flair of technicality to make it fun, but I am against writing songs that are constantly technical because I find it quite boring. In terms of the business side of it, you have to always remember that hundreds of thousands of musicians are constantly searching for their big break, so the odds that it will be you are something like one over a million. Both Jay and I are business-savvy people that don’t wager our livelihoods against those odds. So unless you have labels, promoters, and managers knocking at your door, it may be best that you keep your day job and do music as a passionate, albeit expensive, hobby. That’s exactly what we do, and we have come to be very happy with that arrangement.

Jay: I would also like to add that being commercial as a music producer or a band doesn’t mean that you have to leave your style behind and change it up. The more passionate you are about the music you’re writing, the better it will sound, in its own genre or category. But to commercialize your music, it is quite a delicate approach where you need to find the bridge of how to deliver your music to a wider audience without losing your essence and your passion. Music and tastes keep evolving, so don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone while keeping your principles in mind as a guideline. Also, don’t be afraid to embrace new technologies and new techniques.

What are your plans for the future?

John: Well for starters, we plan on finishing the album and releasing singles along the way. After that, we’ll have to gauge our listeners’ responses and see if we can arrange to perform in select places of interest to us. Logistically speaking, the band is now spread between Canada, UAE, Norway, and the UK. So getting us together in one room will need major planning and financing. But, if the right opportunity comes about, then I don’t see why not.

Jay: We’re also in the works for releasing new music videos for a few tracks off the new album. This has been a tediously long process as we are exploring new creative outlets for making those videos, and somewhat stepping away from the traditional methods that metal bands use. And we’re very excited about sharing this new vision with our listeners. And with our international band mates, we’re also exploring and testing new tools that will enable us to work together more seamlessly, by trying to bridge our gaps in geographical distance.

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