The Aquarian Weekly recently had an interview with Aaron Akin, the singer of St. Louis metal band Black Fast. It has been a three-year span of time since their last album, Terms of Surrender, came out, and the band has learned a lot through the many tours they would go out on since. We even spoke about some of the fonder parts of filming the video for “Cloak of Lies”.
Last year, Black Fast did a cover of the Thin Lizzy classic, “Thunder and Lightning”, which they recruited Reece Scruggs from Havok to do a guest solo on. We spoke about music from the album, such as “Scarecrow and Spectre”, and “Temple of Leviathan”. The band went back to Mana Studios in Florida to record their second album, Spectre of Ruin, which is to be released on July 13, available from eOne.
So it’s been three years since your last album. What has been some valuable firsthand knowledge that you took with you into this new release?
I would say getting the type of tour experience we have had on the Terms of Surrender touring cycle. We were on the road pretty heavily for almost two years doing a lot of tours. Sometimes we had something like five, six or seven tours in a year. We had never really done anything like that. It definitely sharpens everything and puts a lot of things in perspective. It is different than churning out EPs for fun at home when you are unsigned, like we were, for the first several years that we were a band. Then all of a sudden you are on the road for three, four, five weeks — it changes your mindset and sharpens you up. Going into this record we already had our feet in the water, so we knew what to expect from the touring cycle. We had worked with Erik [Rutan] before on the last record and knew we would be working with him again. In all aspects, we were more focused and a bit sharper.
How old is the majority of the song material on Spectre of Ruin?
It’s all over the joint. A few of the songs were done through arrangements that Trevor [Johanson] (guitarist) composed — “Silhouette Usurper” and “Temple of Leviathan” — shortly after 2015’s Terms of Surrender. He had those tunes for a while, and we had jammed them.
Whenever we are working on tunes we are working on two or three at a time. There were a few different batches that came out. We would have these two songs and they got picked up, and then two more songs. With “Scarecrow and Spectre” and “Famine Angel”, we were working on those pretty heavily while we were actively writing for the new record. A couple of songs, like “Cloak of Lies” and the album closer “Husk”, those came last like at the very end.
What did you like the most about recording the video for “Cloak of Lies”?
I was glad I didn’t have to perform anything particularly well. We just had fun. We didn’t save any of the audio. We just put it on forum and didn’t have to worry about how it sounds. My buddy Luke [Schlink], who shot the video, he was a roommate of ours many years ago. He lives in L.A. now. It was a fun time to fly him out and hang out for a few days.
I think I dig “Scarecrow and Spectre” the best. How was this song formed?
The music was done for a little while. I never really have any of my lyrics done beforehand. I pretty much wrote all the lyrics while we were there. I would write all the songs and go sing them a few days later — basically while we were recording. Trevor wrote a great guitar solo in the middle of that song. He wasn’t even expecting it to be as long as it was. He just wrote that really killer part we had. We hadn’t even talked about guitar solos because it’s always something we try to do organically. We just hit record and watch him go. I am really happy with how that whole part turned out.
When we go and do the record and have all the song structures arranged, we leave little spaces where it’s like, this will be a solo and we will figure it out. If you have some ideas, that’s cool, and other times it’s cool to scrap your ideas and let it rip. It was pleasant to hear in the finishing stages and stand back and see what he was coming up with. It was a surprise first time hearing it, being very happy and impressed with it. It’s an interesting tune, I think there are three verses in it that I had to write for it: a big middle part, a whole chorus part that repeats. I think it’s a bit unlike a lot of our other tunes.
What were some of your favorite songs on the album?
I think lyrically I was very happy with the way “Famine Angel” came out, for me personally. I think drumming wise, Track 5 – “Mist of Ruin”. Ross [Burnett] (drummer) did some killer shit on the drums. I think he might tell you that is his most fun song to play. “Cloak of Lies”, that was obviously going to end up being Track 1. [Laughs] It was just a no-brainer, and the same way with the last song “Husk”. That needed to be the album closer. Trevor really likes Track 8 – “Crescent Aberration”. That is just a fight song. It’s just short and to the point. We all have different favorites.
How did you come up with the title for “Temple of Leviathan”?
A lot of times I will have the lyrics finished and come up with the titles last. In this instance, I just pulled the title out of one of the lines in the song that summed up the track as best as I thought. That song was like a belly of the whale type of trope that I was playing with and that title sums it up.
Do you guys have any friendship or history with Reece Scruggs from Havok? What inspired you to have him do a guest solo on last year’s “Thunder and Lightning” cover of Thin Lizzy?
Reese is an old friend of ours. We have known him since way back when he was playing with Havok. Any time they would come to St. Louis, we would play with them or have them stay over. We have stayed in touch. I just texted him last night since the Washington Capitals had won the Cup, and that is who I was rooting for. When we did that “Thunder and Lightning” cover, we were just winging out solos. I had a solo, Trevor had a solo — I am not John Sykes. Let’s see if Reece wants to do one. He obliged and nailed it. It was just something fun to do.
Thinking back, was there anything you feel like you missed out on or should have done the first time you recorded with Erik, that made this go around a bit different?
Not so much like anything we missed out on. When you do a record, there are always things that you have to let go; and it always comes down to time. When you are in those finishing stages of doing a record, you can say, “Oh, I wish we had time to do this; I wish we had another day for vocals on this part or for solos.” You just start letting things like that go when you are in the finishing stages of a record.
This time we were more prepared than the last record. We had a lot of our preproduction agreed upon. The songs were pretty much unchanged once we went in there. We didn’t write anything on the fly last time either. We were able to squeeze in a few more days this time around and were able to do more tracks of guitars. I think it led to a more killer sound in general. We just had three or four more days this time around. I think we tracked it in about 20 days. I believe the last record we did in about 16 days. With those extra days we didn’t feel rushed. We did those nine songs and every bit of time went into those songs.
Tell me about some of the tour dates you have coming up with bands like Hatchet, Exmortus, and Cemetery Piss?
We are doing about four shows with Exmortus next month. We are going from Tampa to New Jersey. Then we have a couple days off in New York City. I think we will be doing some press up there, and then heading up to Buffalo to start with Ringworm and Cemetery Piss. Those Exmortus shows have different support, I think it’s their proper headlining tour and they have various bands on different legs of that tour. I don’t know if it will just be us on those four shows we are doing. That will be a cool two and a half week run that we are doing. I think the first Ringworm show is the day our record comes out. That will be nice being out on the road in the East Coast.
Check out Spectre of Ruin. It comes out July 13 — worldwide release on EOne. We really want to get overseas and do shows in Europe and beyond. If anyone out there is reading this get ahold of your local promoters and we can make it happen.
Check them out when they perform on July 9 at Dingbatz in Clifton, NJ, July 16 at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, NY, and July 17 at The Fire in Philadelphia.