Los Angeles-based Event Horizon was founded by guitarist Max Sindermann with the mission to “bridge the gap between classical guitar and modern death metal.” In 2013 Event Horizon put out a debut EP ‘The Emancipation of Dissonance,’ and back in February this year the band released their sophomore EP release ‘A Nightmare of Symmetry.’
Event Horizon is one of the bands in Prog Sphere Android app’s playlist for March 2017. You can download the app and vote for their song “The Light That Carries Me.” In the interview below, Sindermann tells us about the writing and recording processes of the new EP, its message, and more.
Tell me about the creative process that informed your second EP A Nightmare of Symmetry, released in February, and the themes it captures.
I started developing my creative musical approach when I was 19-20 years old. I was in a local death metal band here in LA called Norazzah. We had been getting some positive feedback in the local scene, but eventually things fell apart due to personal and financial reasons. I didn’t really have the self-confidence at the time to think I was capable of writing solid progressive music. I was in music school at the time and doing a lot of theory homework. I got this idea to try and take the classical approach of creating harmonic structure within music and using that in a metal context. The first song I wrote was “A Lapse of Sanity,” which was on our first EP, The Emancipation of Dissonance. The whole thing just exploded from there. I started writing more music while taking this approach, and eventually my classical guitar playing started taking a front-row seat, to the point where I had to stop playing with a pick entirely.
A Nightmare of Symmetry is a further exploration on that compositional approach. I was really trying to push the bounds of where I could go, and I also wanted to show that even with the strong classical influence, the music could still be really heavy and punishing. I wanted this to be a pure expression of my love for all these different styles of music, and I think as a full band, we were really able to accomplish that.
What is the message you are trying to give with A Nightmare of Symmetry?
I’m not sure where the message really lies in our music. Much of the music I write is very personal. More often than not, I take an approach that’s pretty introspective. Lyrically speaking, I’m usually dealing with subjects like mental illness, existentialism, fear of the unknown, etc. Musically speaking, I’m always about creating something that stirs deep emotions within the listener. I guess that’s what the message is all about in the end, reaching out to my audience and handing over a piece of myself to them. Sometimes all you need your music to do is create a small bond with a stranger you might never meet.
How did you document the music while it was being formulated?
I’m definitely a pen-and-paper kind of dude when it comes to writing music. Since the music is all grounded in complex harmonic structures, I always need to see it all laid out in front of me. I don’t really like recording riffs or jamming it out. I need to have it in the form of blueprints in front of me, where I’m able to see all the moving parts within the music.
Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?
I like to think of my approach to writing music as a storytelling process. The music is all about taking the listener on a rollercoaster ride of different emotions. So in that sense, the dynamic flow has to be carefully articulated in order to make that process work. I spend a lot of time making sure the music is carefully transitioning so that the listener is being guided through the experience. I think sometimes prog bands get a little out of hand and let the music become a sporadic mix of jumbled-up parts. I look at Event Horizon songs as having an exposition, development, climax, and resolution. Those all need to be firmly connected together in order for the piece to work as a whole.
Describe the approach to recording the EP.
We had a pretty simple approach. I handled the guitars, bass, and vocals much like the first EP, right out of my apartment. The difference this time was everyone got to contribute. Jacob wrote some amazing drum parts that almost sound like Neil Peart meets death metal. Vincent Medina, our bass player, got to lay down his own tracks, as well as a few bass leads. There’s an excellent improvised bass solo at the end of “First World Phenomenon” which is a great display of his virtuosic abilities. Our other guitarist, David Cortes, handled all the orchestrations on the intro track “Asymmetrical.” David’s background in classical composition really helped set the mood for the whole EP. The big difference in our recording process this time was around is that we were now functioning like a full unit, and not just a solo project. It really feels like a complete product this time around.
Actually quite a while! I started working on the songs shortly after I released The Emancipation of Dissonance in 2013. At the time it was all just a bedroom project. I had been handling all the compositions and instrumentals myself, and then working with a Belgian-based vocalist named Brandon Polaris. He did an excellent job on the first EP, and had this really booming, powerful voice. When I started working on new music, it became hard for us to coordinate it. For a while it felt like it was never going to happen.
Fast forward a bit, I’m hanging out at a dive bar in K-town wearing a Dying Fetus shirt. I get approached by a drummer who wants to jam. I had nearly given up on getting new music released at that point, and I met so many flakey musicians that I didn’t expect much to come of it. Next thing I know, I’m getting hit up constantly to get into a rehearsal room and play some music. And of course, that ended up being our drummer, Jacob Alves. He really helped push things forward. We started putting together a live band, and with everyone’s input and hard work, we were finally able to get new music rolling out.
Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?
On the metal side, I can say my two biggest influences have been Opeth and Cynic. There’s a lot more than that obviously, but those two really inspired me to get into creative progressive music. Each of them has such a unique approach to metal, and they each use different sounds and flavors to create something unique, not to mention how deeply emotional and layered their music can be. A lot of my other influences though come from the classical side. I’m really into Romantic and Twentieth Century era composers like Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Debussy, Tarrega, etc. Those are the composers that had a lasting impact on me, and really helped me to shape the sound for Event Horizon.
What is your view on technology in music?
Ha, that’s never an easy question to answer. I think when we start talking about the merits of the analog versus digital ages, the conversation gets really convoluted. Since a lot of our music is rooted on metal and classical music, most people would probably assume we’re grounded firmly in an analog approach to our creative process. But personally, I don’t fear technology at all. In fact, I love it. I think people have this big fear of new technologies coming in and stepping over everything, when that’s not totally a grounded way of thinking. I oftentimes joke that when the remote control was invented, there were a bunch of old people sitting around going, “I hate these new fangled television remotes, I really just like the feeling of getting out of my comfortable chair and feeling those knobs between my fingers!”
I guess it’s a touchy subject in the music world because technology really grants people without the talent or skill the ability to come in and create. I can see the fear in that. When technology makes things easier, there’s less incentive to want to learn or put in the time to become good at something. But on the flip-side of that, there’s opportunities for skilled, talented people to use that technology to their advantage and create things that are wholly new. Not to mention technology gives artists like us the ability to record and distribute our music without the need of expensive equipment and a fancy studio.
I think as the world changes, there’s valuable relics from the past that can get lost if we aren’t willing to preserve them. However, sometimes there’s things that don’t serve a purpose anymore that we need to learn to let go of. It’s hard to tell which is which sometimes. The world is changing so fast for us that we’re all so overwhelmed with it to really figure it out. We have to strike a balance in there somewhere. I think as long as there’s passionate, dedicated musicians who genuinely care about their craft, we’ll end up being fine in the end of the day.
Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?
I think all art really serves a similar purpose, and that’s trying to communicate to the audience. It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to communicate, it could be a thought, feeling, joke, idea, or whatever it is you want to get across. It’s kind of easy in prog to sort of nerd out and make it all about making the music more complex. But sometimes if you do that you forget the real purpose at the center of it all, which is to make a connection with the audience. So I guess I feel like music should always really be serving a purpose beyond just being music.
What are your plans for the future?
Right now our plan is to keep putting ourselves out here and hopefully put out more music. Our plans aren’t full concrete yet. We’ve definitely learned through our experiences that life throws a lot of curveballs and we make a lot of mistakes we need to learn from as we push forward, but we always have plans to keep creating. Personally, I am really into the idea of going back to The Emancipation of Dissonance and re-recording it from scratch. I feel like things have changed so much since I pulled that little EP together in my bedroom, and taking another stab at it with a full band could really show how the whole group has evolved. Whatever we end up doing next though, I have high hopes for it!