I recently got a chance to sit down with Alex Snape (guitarist) and Nick Lennox (drummer) from local metal band Unbowed, to talk about their recent EP and future plans. Though I would’ve preferred a Viking ship as the location to conduct our interview, they’re a little hard to come by, so me and the guys settled into the Red Brick Café for our chat.
Unbowed was birthed in 2011 when Alex and lead singer Ioan Tetlow started working on the project in their basement. A lot of lineup changes ensued over the next few years as the band went through some growing pains. But as of January 2013, they finally have the lineup they feel will be successful in moving them forward.
Self-described as “epic melodic metal,” Unbowed touches on a few other sub-genres, including viking, folk, black, and death metal. Where many of the local heavier bands tend to fall into the core and progressive sub-genres of metal, Unbowed definitely stand apart. But the guys don’t seem to mind, as the music community here is tight knit. “We’re aware that we’re pretty different. We know there’s no other band like us in Guelph … but all the [core] shows are so fun, and people receive us well.” says Alex. The guys credit local bands such as Mandroid Echostar, Arkham Awaits, and Wakeless with re-awakening the metal scene in Guelph within the last couple of years.
A few months ago Unbowed released their first self-titled EP to much success, and the recording was well-received by metal heads across the country. The EP is a powerful, heavy, and beautiful set of cohesive songs. Most of the work was done by Alex, Nick, and Ioan, and was started when they were all in their early teens – which is an incredible accomplishment, because the EP sounds amazing. Upon first listen, the riffs are immediately catchy. After a few listens, you’re a solid new Unbowed fan. The music is big, and full, and exciting. Get ready to don your armor, because you’ll want to suit up for battle after you hear this.
One of the elements that often sets melodic metal apart from other sub-genres is the inclusion of keyboards, and Unbowed say they always intended to include the instrument in their mix. “It opens up what you can do, you can have guitars playing the usual heavy stuff and then bring in a whole other atmosphere and bring in other layers of music” says Alex. Nick chimes in “Adding keyboards in gives it that grandiose kind of feeling.” And I completely agree – listen to the EP and you’ll see how well the keyboards compliment and don’t distract from the composition.
Another great element of Unbowed‘s first EP that can’t be ignored is the artwork. The band came up with the concept, and then reached out to Polish artist Marta Sokolowska to put their vision to work. The idea behind the image of the man with the burning city in the background was about moving on – personally and professionally – having been through an exhausting couple of years with the lineup changes and getting the project off the ground. “Burn it and move on” was the general idea according to Alex.
And the band is doing just that – they’re booking shows and working on recording a new album later this summer. According to the guys, it’s shaping up to be 13 tracks of all new music. When asked what the new album will sound like, Nick says “You can tell it’s Unbowed, but it’s a different vibe. The EP was a lot of Alex, but now that we’ve got six people in on this writing process, it’s just a different blend of sounds.” Impressively, the guys plan to record the new album themselves. I was curious why they would take the tougher DIY route, when today, many bands find success in crowd-funding projects through sites like Kickstarter and Indigogo. Their response was not that it was a money issue, but that they wanted control over the music and recording process. They prefer the recording process to be more casual, rather than having to be pressured by studio time constraints. And because sometimes creativity strikes at 3 a.m.
After chatting with Alex and Nick for a while, their commitment to the band is clear. From booking, to promotion, to recording – Unbowed is doing a lot of the heavy lifting themselves. And after a few years of struggling, the guys are happy to have all band members on the same page and be able to take the projects to new heights. “We all want to do other things in our life, but we have the drive to keep at this, and we’re not going to put other things in front of the band. We all want to be a touring, professional band; record and play live – for a long time.” says Alex.
Unbowed is a talented and hardworking young metal band. They’re important to the local metal scene because they offer something different – and they’re very good at it. I expect to see great things from these guys in the future as they play more shows, release their first full-length album, and continue to expand their fan base. And just in case you needed another reason to support them, they’re really nice guys too.
Be sure to catch their next show this Friday, May 17 at Red Papaya in Guelph.