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Absolva's Chris Appleton: "… you are in control of your own destiny. No matter what obstacles are thrown in front of you. It may be a struggle sometimes, but you will prevail in the end"

Interview with Chris Appleton from Absolva
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 07 March 2022, 10:15 PM

It is good that even when push comes to shove, and things aren't looking bright, but rather dark and grim, there is a hope after all. To make the best out of hope, that is psychology rather than skill. It starts with determination rather than ability. The British Metal band Absolva, has always been a beast on the road, and it means a lot on the road. Whether as Absolva, or as a touring band for Blaze Bayley. The pandemic didn't really scratch the band's spirit in any way, they made the best of it, piled up their motivation and were able to make two records. The new one in question, "Fire In The Sky", was just out the door. Steinmetal had a great talk with the band's vocalist / guitarist, Chris Appleton, about the experience of the pandemic, the album and general feeling of being out there again

Hello Chris, it is a sheer pleasure to have you for this conversation with Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing mate?

Hello there, yes I have been very well, thank you very much. It has been an incredible start for ‘Absolva’ in the new year of 2022 and we hope for it to continue like this.

Slow and easy, we are nearly out of the crosshairs of yet another Covid-19 variant, with hopes that there is an actual end in sight, or at least that we learned how to live with this virus. How do you summarize these last two years? How were you able to cope with the hardships of that time period?

To summarize the last two years in one word….’Challenging’. I think the biggest thing that hit me the most was the pure ‘uncertainty’ of what will happen next and when that would happen. We coped very well in the end. Myself and Absolva, we kept as busy as possible, searching new ways of doing things. Creating new music and releases. Forgetting for a time about playing live and focused on being creative and active in other ways.

One of the shortcomings of this pandemic, which actually provided a few opportunities here and there, is the live performance. Whether with Absolva, or with Blaze Bayley, you guys have always been an active bunch. Were there doubts about Absolva as a group while this shutdown took over the cultural life in the UK? Were there considerations to take a break from it all, just to let this turmoil pass?

Well speaking from my own behalf, the break was the lockdown… I don’t understand why some bands have decided to go on hiatus when we have all just had a 2-year hiatus from live shows… For me there was no considerations at all to take a break from it all. We are primarily a live band but we create new music all the time. We are celebrating our 10-year anniversary this year with our new release ‘Fire in The Sky’. Which means we have released 6 studio albums and 2 live albums in 10 years. I think this is a great achievement to have success with all of these albums and to have had the hectic touring schedule that we normally have. So, to have 2 years of not much touring? That’s ok, we can deal with it. 2022 is looking like a very impressive year.

Other than the Covid-19, which apparently fled somewhere down below, there is the wretched war in Ukraine. As if the world hasn’t suffered enough, and now this. As a band that always looked towards the light within the individual, how does this war meet your perceptions, your beliefs?

I’ll keep this simple. The situation in Ukraine is terrible. I do not condone war or killing of any kind anywhere. And it is astonishing that this is happening in the year 2022…

Following the pandemic, you had a chance to write new material for the recently released album, “Fire In The Sky”. To be honest, it actually comes rather suitable with the war going on, yet I believe that it focuses on a different time table, more like how you saw everything in the last two years. What can you tell about the title? What does it mean to you personally?

“Fire In The Sky’ is a strong title for a song and for an album. The title song which was also released as our first music video, sends out a positive message. The message is you are in control of your own destiny. No matter what obstacles are thrown in front of you. It may be a struggle sometimes, but you will prevail in the end. This is also the message of the entire album.

With positivity, which has been part of the Absovla state of mind, you turn the other cheek, you are angry in a way, disappointed, probably fearful to an extent. How do the narratives within “Fire In The Sky” meet the darkness that went through you?

Some of the content of this album is a little darker than our usual stuff, ‘Fire in the Sky’ & ‘Refuse to Die’ being the exceptions. And all have different subjects and stories behind them. ‘Addiction’ is about someone / people who are recovered alcoholics / drug addicts who still battle their addictions every day in their mind. ‘Galloglaigh’ - is a very Thin Lizzy influenced song. About the Irish Warriors from the 1500s who were known as being kind of the Irish Samurais. ‘Historic Year’ - was our take on the beginning of the pandemic. Telling the story of our tour of Brazil in January 2020, then the last show of the year in London in March. Before we got locked down… So I am singing about darker subjects with some meaning!

Since it was hard to find anything comforting in the last two years, with uncertainty looming, where does “Fire In The Sky” the edge, a note of hope, in your opinion?

Over the past 2 years we have had HUGE love and support from our fans. During the pandemic we released our previous album ‘Side By Side’ and a Live album ‘Live in Europe’. They have kept us on the righteous path to success even though sometimes things seemed uncertain, we had massive support from our loyal fans from all over the world. ‘Fire In The Sky’ is almost a celebration of breaking out into the world once again. It’s been great to see the fans once more, to give them thanks for what they do for us.

I liked the touch of the artwork, quite comic I would say. To be honest, at first I thought that it was all about a live album, nor did I expect it to be a studio album. Is this a reflection of a craze or rather a burst of a release, a shout that enough is enough?

Our artist ‘Akirant’ from Spain, works for Iron Maiden & Star Wars. You cannot get much more credible than this guy for us. He did the artwork for our live album ‘Live In Europe’ and that was the first release to feature the band on the front cover. That went down great. So I decided to keep this theme. The brief to Akirant was I wanted something like a cross between our Live in Europe album, Queens Bohemian Rhapsody and Guns n Roses Appetite for Destruction.  Without faces screaming out. It’s more of a release of energy. Returning to the world :)

Throughout its career, Absovla brought to attention that NWOBHM is alive and well, yet not in the conventional way of playing it, similar to the old school bands or the new bands playing like the old days. Now with the aura surrounding “Fire In The Sky”, in your view, how did it reflect upon the written music?

I have always been a big fan of Iron Maiden, Saxon, Motorhead. But I’m also a big AC/DC fan, and believe it or not I like a lot of bluesy stuff. The songs take shape and they always get hacked to pieces. This album ‘Fire in the Sky’, we were constantly challenging ourselves. Is this the best the song can be? We wrote 18 songs I think for this album, but we chose the best 10 for the cut.

Other than the different spirit within the musical effort, what other game changing factors are screaming out of “Fire In The Sky”? How does this record in particular show Absolva’s special kind of face?

Visually and musically there is a twist, but it is for sure definitely still Absolva. It has the Absolva stamp all over it. What I’m particularly happy with on this album is the production. This album I recorded, engineered and produced everything from start to finish. Then Ade Emsley from Iron Maiden’s team took on the mastering.  It sounds killer!!

I have been following you guys for years, and I believe that the guitar work on “Fire In The Sky” is no less than mesmerizing, no doubt that you were able to perfect the riffs, and the general execution, to the top. What can you share about the riff and melodic compositions writing for this album? What were your prime influences?

The riffs just come out. It is hard to describe how something will come into your head whilst you’re doing something else, or just jamming through things. Influences for me, as well as the British Rock and Metal bands, I am heavily influenced by the German guys such as Accept, UDO & the Scorpions.

With every album there is a growth, it is hard to produce the same album over and over again, everything is a learning curve, something new to catch while in process. What can you tell that “Fire In The Sky” taught you, whether as a songwriter, vocalist and guitarist? What earlier notes were implemented on the album?

Everything is an improvement all the time. ‘Fire in the Sky’ is probably one of my prouder moments as a singer. Without sounding arrogant, I have always been a very confident and competent guitar player but what not many people know is I have had to really work over the years on my vocal skills. I was never a natural singer; I was always the singer because we couldn’t find a singer. But over the years I created my own style of singing. My vocal heroes are Ronnie James Dio, Glenn Hughes, David Coverdale. Bruce Dickinson. I’ve never had a singing lesson in my life, so I have had to do a lot trial and error to become the singer I am today. And a lot of people say I’m insane because they love my voice. Fire In The Sky is for sure one of my best vocal performances.

The first song that caught my ear, and tightly, was the questioning tune “What Does God Know”. Not really a ballad, but a buildup towards something that is painful. There is gloominess all over, and the powerful melodies emphasize that with finesse. What can you tell about the spiritual side of this track? How do you find its end result?

It is one of my favorites. And we have only performed it twice live so far, but it has been one of the show’s highlights. It tells the story of a father wanting his sons to do well in life. And they share a connection no matter what. But also tells the story of the struggles that each of them face in life. The end result of this song is fantastic and I’m very proud of it.

“Demon Tormentor” crossed to me as a sort of a release sort of track, a perfect opener, highly melodic, yet tough in the same breath. In a way, I found it to be the somewhat different tune in contrast to how I perceived the rest of the record. What is your opinion on that?

When I wrote this song we were looking at the possibility of doing a concept album, which we abandoned very early. But the early ‘story’ idea was going to be a kind of Lord Of The Rings type thing. And the ‘Demon Tormentor’ was based on Sauron, the main villain of the novels. The concept was abandoned but the song was just too good to abandon.

“Historic Year” could have been the continuance of the “What Does God Know”, it clearly shows your perspective of things that happened throughout the last two years. It is hard to ignore the emotive element, and alongside that, it ended up being one of the band’s deepest tunes. What can you tell about the creative process of this song?

‘Historic Year’ was one of those songs that started off as 3 minutes and ended up as 6 minutes. Luke had the early ideas on demos, then I sang all over these bits. Then we elaborated. I had an idea for the instrumental and middle 8 section. It was great to sing the story of 2020 from Absolva’s point of view. Haunting slow and clean sections. Very happy. :)

Following the opening of the world, hopefully sooner than ever, you are bound to support “Fire In The Sky”. What is your schedule? What can people catch Absolva tear the shit out of places?

We are touring all the time. We have very busy schedule lined up for 2022 in the UK & Europe and a very healthy festival season. We are keeping positive and optimistic. And we have a very good feeling. :)

Chris, I wish to thank you for your time and effort for this interview. Convey my appreciation to the guys, I enjoyed the record. All the best, cheers

Thanks Very much mate


 



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