SALVATION’s END: Critical Points

Exclusive: Michigan Prog Metal Band SALVATION's END Present "The Divine Wrath of Existence"

We have recently premiered the debut album by Michigan progressive metallers Salvation’s End, entitled ‘The Divine Wrath of Existence.’ In a new interview guitarist TJ Richardson and bassist Kane Bochatyn spoke for Prog Sphere and let us know more about the album, its message, influences, and more.

Define the mission of Salvation’s End.

TJ: To write strong music and connect with people, that’s what is most important to us. We want to play this music live around the world for people to enjoy.

Kane: To reach out and tell our story. We want to offer commentary on our world and interact with the people in it, and we want to have fun doing it.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your debut album The Divine Wrath of Existence and the themes it captures.

TJ: The creative process was pretty simple I had some songs written without bass and some very rough drum ideas. I brought in Jeremy Stimpert, who programmed the drums for the album. After that, Kane jumped in and we started to flesh out the songs and get them to a point where we were happy with them. We wrote some lyrics after deciding which direction to go in, and brought in vocalist Rob Lundgren, who really tied everything together.

The lyrical content covers a lot of different themes like addiction, suicide, religion, politics, depression, and we even have a song based on a certain video game character. It’s a concept album about a being who has lived for centuries, called the Traveler, and the downfall of humanity. His journey begins with the “Death of Reason,” in which he can see the world around him as a black hole while others around him are oblivious to it. The line “I’ll bleed into the soil of envy” is indicative of the Traveler feeling envious of the others’ ignorance.

Kane: When I joined the band, TJ had already had most of the guitars done. I’d heard of his work from a mutual friend and he ended up sending me a few of his songs through Guitar Pro for me to learn. I sent them back with my own bass additions and we ended up filling the rest out and recording together. We ended up writing the lyrics as well while we looked around for someone who could sing it before we found Rob. Most of the vocal harmonies and melodies on the final album were Rob’s flair to it, but the actual lyrics were written by TJ and me.

The album follows an entity known as the Traveler, someone who has lived for millennia and watched humanity grow. Having lived countless lifetimes, he has seen how cycles and social structures repeat themselves across time – in a sense, everything stays. The songs on the album explore critical points in the past that stick out to the Traveler and help to emphasize the grievances he has over these tendencies for humans to repeat mistakes of the past. The album opens with a kind of introduction to this theme and it is expanded in detail as it progresses.

Salvation's End - The Divine Wrath of Existence

What is the message you are trying to give with The Divine Wrath of Existence?

TJ: The message is that if we keep going in the direction in which we’re heading and have been heading for years, that it’s not going to be a divine being that ends all of existence, but existence itself. The Traveler, in a sense, is the listener going through the journey and maybe they have also gone through one of the song topics that we covered in one way or another. We really wanted to have others connect with these songs because we have gone through some of these things before.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

TJ: We used a program called Guitar Pro. I would send full song ideas to Kane and he would add his parts to them, and once we had solid ideas, we would make little tweaks here and there during the actual recording process. All of the guitar and bass solos were written during the recording process.

Kane: We pretty much did everything with Guitar Pro. We had to plan around our schedules so it was much easier to be able to send the files back and forth online, work some ideas out and write them down, then throw it back. Once it was all in place we ended up getting together and recorded my bass parts.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

TJ: Absolutely. The songs are based off of certain emotions that I was feeling at the time of writing them. When it came time to write the lyrics and come up with song topics, I had to put myself back into the same mindset that I had when I first wrote the music.

Kane: There was definitely a conscious placement for what order the tracks are listed, as well as how some of the songs were structured. The first track is sort of an opener and most songs thereafter expand on the Traveler’s view and experiences through what he has seen or experienced. At some points riffs or a bit of one of TJ’s solos might resemble another in the roster; that kind of works as another thread to help tie it together. Many of the lyrics use words in different contexts to reflect this as well.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

TJ: The drums were programmed at Studio D Productions in Cleveland, Ohio by Jeremy Stimpert. Great guy and awesome writer. The guitars and bass were recorded in my home studio in Michigan. We used BIAS from Positive Grid for the guitars, and for the bass, we used a Darkglass preamp pedal while going DI. We were able to get some really awesome tones this way. The vocals were recorded in Rob’s own home studio in Sweden, where he lives. He actually sent me the raw files and some killer presets to try out while I was mixing the album.

How long The Divine Wrath of Existence was in the making?

TJ: I started writing for what would become “The Divine Wrath of Existence” back in 2012 after coming back from a European tour with the Detroit heavy metal band Halloween. It started out pretty slowly; I was working on it whenever I could, but at that time, I was in two different bands who played out often. It was around 2016 that I decided to put other things on the back burner to really focus on Salvation’s End and the debut.

Kane: I’d been working with TJ for about two years before the album came out, though I think he spent a more time with it. He played with Halloween for a while and had some of it written down back then, I think. When I came in most of the song structure was nailed down, he had the basis for most of the album even back then.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

TJ: I’m a huge fan of Jeff Loomis, Chris Broderick, Christian Muenzner, Stéphan Forté, and Michael Romeo. The three bands that influenced our sound the most are Nevermore, Symphony X, and Adagio. There’s also a lot of other influences from bands such as Death, Control Denied, Arch Enemy, Dream Theater, Hypocrisy, and Nocturnal Rites throughout the album.

Kane: Nevermore is a big influence, of course. Dream Theater and Symphony X were big, too, as was Adagio. My influences tend to be eclectic, but Dream Theater especially has been a big influence for me. I guess Rush, Yes, Pantera, a bit of Death in there – it’s hard to name any one group.

What is your view on technology in music?

TJ: It’s incredible. I was able to mix and master a record that sounds professional in the comfort of my own home. A lot of independent musicians have the tools to do it nowadays. I was previously in bands where we spent thousands of dollars on pro-level studios and walked out unhappy with the final product. With this, if you have the dedication and passion to learn audio engineering, you can get better results, or at the very least what you truly want out of your recordings. A lot of fantastic plug-ins are available, and the best part is that you can focus on your performance without feeling pressured about being on someone else’s time (and on the clock).

Kane: It’s definitely made the process a lot easier. From writing music down and practicing to recording and mixing it down, things are a lot more accessible now compared to the past. Even if we can’t physically get together to jam out ideas, we can still try and piece together something to continue working. TJ is also heavy into audio engineering so he can take the reins and we are able to finesse our way to the kind of recording we want.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

TJ: Definitely. Even though it’s a concept album, the lyrics are about real human issues that we all go through in one way or another. “Crimson Sunrise” was inspired by people telling me I’m not going to go anywhere with my dream of being a musician, so I wrote it in a way that is very uplifting, telling the listener to follow their dreams no matter what. There are other songs, like the title track, that tell the back story of the Traveler. Thousands of years prior to the start of the album was the beginning of Christianity and the Traveler thought that it would somehow explain his existence, going through different emotions as the song plays out such as depression, denial, self-doubt, and anger, then finally, self-realization that his existence is that of an unknown phenomenon that not even a god could answer to. The “fading away” in the song is him finally letting go as the truth is revealed. When the heretic “takes the throne,” the original prophet has long since passed and a new false prophet has taken his place, repeating the cycle once again. It’s told as a very interesting story, but there are a lot of personal feelings involved about religion as a whole. I used to work at a church, and I saw and heard things that really made me question a lot. I felt as if I could never find true answers. Who knows, I’m sure that there are a lot of people out there who have felt something similar.

Kane: It always does. While the album follows a deeper story, it’s also presented in a way that you can pull out a song here or there and it can speak on its own. There are songs about addiction, suicide, pain and loss, inspiration; everyone can find something in it. Humanity itself is explored in the tracks in a variety of ways that are relatable or reflect concerns in the here and now.

What are your plans for the future?

TJ: Now that we have a full lineup, which includes Shane Baker on drums and Lee Renaud on vocals, we have plans to play out as often as possible and record new music. We have the next two releases in the works, as well as a cool cover song we did with Rob that’ll be hitting Youtube soon.

Kane: We are currently setting out to play shows while we start work on new material. We have a follow-up and another album after framed out and looking forward to writing new songs. We also have a collaboration and some other cool stuff coming up very soon.

The Divine Wrath of Existence is available as digital download and CD from Bandcamp. Stay in touch with Salvation’s End via Facebook.

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