CONNECT THE CIRCLE: Out of Comfort Zone

Connect the Circle

Norwegian metallers Connect the Circle are on the verge of launching their sophomore studio album entitled “Mother of Evil.” Singer Arild Fevang and guitarist Kenneth Brastad talk for Prog Sphere about the new release, the creative challenges, and more.

Describe the musical frameworks your upcoming album “Mother of Evil” explores.

Arild: I would say it’s a crossover between hard rock, heavy metal, and prog metal. That being said, we don’t limit ourselves when it comes to the framework, so you can find classical influences, Spanish flamenco guitar, Norwegian traditional instrument hardingfele, and even accordion in there as well!

Kenneth: The first word that comes to mind is “Tragedy”. More than 50% of the lyrics on this album is about real-life tragedies. And I believe that the frustration, anger, madness and sorrow is reflected in our music combined with the main story.

Musically there is no “frame”. We are a band where we write what we want and use whatever we like. We got something for almost everyone on this album. No boundaries, just Connect The Circle.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and lessons learned during the creative process for the new release?

Arild: We wanted this album to be better than our debut album This Is Madness in every way, and that was a big challenge considering how well received that album was by the press. So, we worked hard with the pre-production, improved our sound, pushed ourselves musically, moved out of our comfort zone, added some great keyboards, and overlooked the mixing and mastering process like mad dogs! In my humble opinion we reached our goal.

A lesson we learned though is the fact that to avoid struggles within it’s very important to be sure that we all want the same thing before we start recording. So next time it will be only blood and sweat, and hopefully no tears.

Kenneth: Our debut album “This Is Madness” received great reviews, way beyond what I expected. And suddenly people talked about our songs and music all over the world…

I believe all that positive feedback probably became one of my biggest challenges, cause suddenly I was comparing the new songs with what I wrote for “TIM” thinking: “Oh…is this idea good enough? Is this part of the song too cheesy? Will people like this solo or this riff?”. When I wrote stuff for “TIM” I was like: “Hey, this is cool…I`ll use this”, and that was it.

So, I guess I spend some time getting back to the reason why I do this… and that reason is to have fun. So, when me and Arild wrote something and both felt: “Yeah, that kicked ass!”, why change it?

And that was also probably one of my biggest lessons during the writing process this time around. To get back to the basic idea/feeling of why I want to write music. And that is to write something I can listen to and be proud of myself no matter what people say, like ex-”The King Is Dead” or “The Jester” from “This Is Madness”.

Mother of Evil

What do you try to specifically tell with the title track?

Arild: Mother Of Evil is a song about a tragic event that has happened in real life. Back in 1955 there was an American guy called Jack Graham who became a mass murderer by blowing up a plane to kill his own mother. He planted a bomb in her suitcase and even collected the insurance money but was later caught and sentenced to death. His mother early on sent him to an orphanage due to poverty, but even though she a few years later became a wealthy woman she never did collect him back from the orphanage. So, this is a story of lost mother’s love and the worst possible consequences. What I’m trying to tell, and what you always should remember, is that what you give is what you get. So, the song could have easily been called All You Need Is Love instead, but hey, we are a heavy band.

Kenneth: The music, riffs etc. is usually written before the lyrics, but I tried to add something that could connect music & words during the pre-production. Something that could underline the story or bring some extra color or emotion to the lyrics.

To someone who hasn’t heard the album, what can he or she expect from “Mother of Evil”?

Arild: He or she can expect to hear a band that are hungry and not afraid to be different. This is a complex album that invites you to listen and listen again, and if you do you will hear new things for each listen. Wait a minute, is that a Russian Men Choir? Yes, it is. It’s also melodic, beautiful, heavy, heartbreaking, progressive and unique.

Kenneth: A musical journey! If you listen carefully, you can find elements from all kinds of different genres. I always try to use whatever comes natural during the writing process. I also intentionally try to incorporate something that is truly inspired by my favorite bands/artists. It’s my kind of a “tribute”, hidden somewhere inside the song. And so far, most people have nailed it regarding our first single from the album “34 Million-Mile-Mission”.

How has your perspective on the possibilities of song arrangement expanded over the years?

Kenneth: Yes, absolutely. We used to be a band spending 3 months writing 1 new song at our rehearsal room. And that is what I`ve been used to in my previous bands too. Maybe I had some kind of “blueprint” or demo, but we spent several rehearsals trying to put one song together.
But then I started writing and recording the basics of the idea/song at home and just mailed the mp3 file to Arild when I was done. He wrote the lyrics in a day or two and shipped me all the vocal tracks with ideas regarding harmonies etc. too.

So, here’s the fun part (to me at least): When I started writing music with Arild a whole new world opened. The main reason is because we are totally different when it comes to melodies and vocal arrangements. And I love that challenge, and I love to be surprised and inspired during the writing process. I never even try to write any melodies or lyrics anymore, that’s his job hehe. So, when I get the vocal-tracks I always get some new inspiration to “polish” the song. Like incorporating the vocal melody with the music or solos etc.

Then we present the demo to the rest of the guys, they go home and practice, arrange and incorporate their style into everything. No need for hours, days or weeks of rehearsals just to write/learn just one song anymore.

What evolution as musicians do you see across your recorded works?

Arild: If I’m to speak for myself I would say that you can hear that I’m pushing myself harder now than ever before. I work more detailed and make sure to put in small variations as often as possible, so that you won’t get the feeling that I’m repeating myself too much. If you listen to the song 1519 you will hear that it has three verses, and in fact the vocal melodies on all those verses are different to each other. That’s me pushing myself further than before.

Kenneth: Well, this is only our second album, but I believe we have found “our sound” this time around. Our music has matured too. We dared to experiment with different instruments and sounds to create something new and special, and that was something we really loved to do and will probably be a part of our evolution as a band in the future.

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

Kenneth: I`m not sure… hopefully, we can show people that you don’t have to be a glam metal band to play glam metal or a prog-metal band to play prog-metal. A genre is just keeping you “behind bars” and prevents you from being truly creative.

Arild: Hopefully, it will get some people who aren’t into prog or heavy in the first place to discover that world. Our music is very melodic, and song oriented so maybe we can be a door opener for some, based on that.

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

Arild: No. Blank sheets.

Kenneth: No. Me and Arild always try to challenge each other in how we are going to write a new song. One example is when Arild told me: “Write something epic and melodic, something equal to “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” by Iron Maiden.

I accepted the challenge… but it ended up nothing like Iron Maiden at all! It became “1519″, maybe our darkest and most heavy song so far. And this is how we end up with songs I could never have written/composed just by myself…

Arild always inspires me to try something new and at the same time I also want to surprise him with something unique.

None of our songs would have existed without our kind of collaboration.

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

Arild: Art, literature, news, history, streaming and beer.

Kenneth: History, movies, my wife’s art, my kids, sounds from nature etc. I also love playing around with melodies and scales that give everyone a certain image of a place or a country. Arabic, northern, or Asian phrases are my favorites. Those kinds of phrases combined with my classical training often appear in my solos or melodies in general.

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?

Arild: It’s a cliché but be true to yourself. Do what you like the most and hope that others will like it too. And be patient. Very patient.

Kenneth: Let creativity & fun live side by side, and at the same time challenge yourselves as often as possible. And as a musician you should always practice as often as possible! There is always something new and exciting out there waiting for you that might become the foundation to your next song.

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