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Blazon Rite's James Kirn: "...people are blindly following along with ideals and dogma and getting trapped in echo chambers and social bubbles. We all can fall victim and I just wanted to slyly address that"

Interview with James Kirn from Blazon Rite
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 01 June 2021, 1:43 PM

It is not just tales of might and magic, it has more to it. Far beyond the immagination, there are journeys, special kind of characters and challenges to face, all running through a burning mind that never stops visioning and thinking. The US Heavy Metal, Blazon Rite, clinging to the old school merits of the genre, surge through a wave of fantasy into realms that are to be discovered. Following their debut album, "Endless Halls of Golden Totem", released by Gates Of Hell Records, Steinmetal had a talk with James Kirn about the new album, the experience, the overall concept of the album's world. 

Hello James, it is a sheer pleasure having you for this conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

I’ve been doing pretty good! Staying very busy. Thanks for reaching out for the interview! Really appreciate it.

This past year has been difficult for everyone, the pandemic touched industries, and of course the people. With Blazon Rite being a fairly new band, which I am sure that it still develops its inner chemistry, how did the pandemic affect the band’s efforts?

It definitely slowed down the rehearsal / recording process. Things were postponed as you can imagine but ultimately it gave us time to really hone these songs which made the recording process easier when it actually happened. We couldn’t really develop as a live band because of the shutdowns, but we're hoping to play one or two before the year ends!

Were there any contemplations along the way to simply take a hiatus to think things through? I am asking this since there have been numerous bands that didn’t see the point continuing forward, and simply let go. Was Blazon Rite at that crossroads?

It never really entered our mind to stop being a band. I think the pandemic gave people a chance to sit down and discover new music in all their free time, so people were listening to the E.P. and buying the vinyl. Our label, Gates of Hell Records, were excited to push forward so we just ran with it.  While we couldn’t play as a band for a while, I never stopped writing songs and getting ready to deliver the new full-length album.

“Dulce Bellum Inexpertis E.P.”, your debut EP, which was released shortly after everything began closing down, left a measure of hope that there might be something worth fighting for. Therefore, I guess that it was taking the momentum and starting to work on the full length debut?

Yeah, I definitely was excited to get the full-length going once we got such a good response from the E.P.. I had already been writing material for the full-length even before the E.P. was released haha I never stop writing riffs so I’m always excited to keep going. I think we play a style of music people are excited for and I think it offers a nice distraction.

Eventually the process ended up with standalone stories, portrayed through a selection of songs, that converged into "Endless Halls of Golden Totem". You stated that this release is not a concept, similar to the EP. Was it set as a reality right from the get go or did you contemplate on the matter once wrapping the songwriting process?

The concept for the E.P. came so organically and with ease that once I started, it just snowballed. With this album I didn’t want to limit myself to the confines of one story. I wanted to explore different worlds, moods, landscapes and characters. The E.P. was a cool adventure, but I wanted to offer the listener a bunch of stuff on this album. Mystical forests, crazy nature, brutish creatures, betrayal, battle and love.

Through the depths of "Endless Halls of Golden Totem" you attended to fantasy, yet with a versatile vision between savagery and conflict to romanticism. Other than the overall Fantasy driven theme, in your view, what unites the songs of the album, even if it is not a concept?

I would say the level of detail and depth I put into the lyrics. They’re all different concepts but I feel like ultimately all the songs could take place in the same fantasy world. The same kingdom, if you will. Different stories from different aspects of the same world.  I will say musically, there is a lot of variety and different types of riffs but at no point is it random or out of place. I think we did a good job of making these songs just feel right together.

Other than being as if it was an 80s Metal relic of an artwork, I really enjoy looking at the artwork. The imagery is quite special. What can you tell in regards to the vision behind this artwork? How did it align with the lyrics and music?

Once I had finished writing the title track “Endless Halls of Golden Totem”, I decided to take the visual concepts of this song and put them on the cover. They were striking in my mind with endless halls, golden statues, a lush forest outside and cultish figures. After I conceptualized the idea for the cover, I sent it to the master, Matt Stikker, and he absolutely nailed it and took it beyond what I ever expected. I wanted it hand painted like old-school fantasy art so it worked out perfectly. Hopefully, the music can match the ultimate lore of the cover! haha

How do you see "Endless Halls of Golden Totem" contributing to the band’s image?

I feel like this album will show people we are serious about crafting songs and sounding professional without losing our sense of fun and adventure. We definitely don’t take ourselves too seriously but we want to be respected for what we bring to the genre. I hope people just respect our songwriting.

Usually Fantasy related material is an often means of escape from a harsher reality, and not merely due to being a fan of the kind’s books and games. Would you say that there is a parallel line between the stories told on "Endless Halls of Golden Totem" to our current reality that we endure?

I don’t think so. I definitely try not to incorporate anything that parallels what is going on in the real world. I do this type of content for the purpose keeping it separate from what's going on in the world around me. The closest thing I would say would be the lyrics for Endless Halls of Golden Totem where I speak about the things we all go through. In a metaphorical way I address that people are blindly following along with ideals and dogma and getting trapped in echo chambers and social bubbles. We all can fall victim and I just wanted to slyly address that.

Who are the chief characters that play part within the halls of "Endless Halls of Golden Totem"?

Haha Mainly the cultish figures that roam its halls and travelers being lured in by promises of bliss and happiness. The Endless Halls of Golden Totem really stand for anything we blindly go into or follow without knowing the consequences or thinking about other perspectives.

"Endless Halls of Golden Totem", and Blazon Rite’s music in general, is a celebrating of the old, as if paying tribute to the glory days of proto-Metal of the mid to late 70s and early 80s, but with a treading in obscure fields in the process. What would you say were your prime influences that helped set the record’s outline musical vision?

That's a really hard question to answer because I feel like every song is influenced by a different band. I’ll state the more important ones. Judas Priest, Helloween, Slough Feg, Pagan Altar, Rush, Iron Maiden, Blind Guardian, Witchfynde

How did the work on "Endless Halls of Golden Totem" contribute to your skills as a songwriter? How do you think that the entire songwriting, and recording, process of the album, helped the band’s acting as a single file?

It pushed me to write different styles to create different moods on the album because I wanted to make a point of offering a lot with this album. I wanted to push myself to not just write a bunch of crazy riffs in row, but to make it all have a purpose and really make sense together. I feel like each song is its own world you're stepping into. It definitely helped us realize we work together really well on taking the songs to the next level and bringing each of our own touches to things which tend to always make the songs I write much better.

What lessons that you learned earlier from the process of the EP, did come to life on this record?

I just wanted the album to sound more professional. The E.P. was awesome but it was very raw and lacked overall great tone. We spent a lot of time on guitar tones and then our producer Will Mellor took the tracks to another level with his mixing and mastering prowess. We think we achieved a proper balance on this record.

There has been a revival of the old school qualities of traditional Metal for the past decade or so, and it appears that it has found a stable niche. However, most of the Metal world nowadays is modern based, as an old school by blood band, do you settle for that niche or rather wish to make an impact on the younger generation as well?

I think we just want as many people to hear our music as possible because we think there is something in our new album for everyone. Ultimately, we can accept that we are a niche band and we’re definitely fine with that! We are niche music lovers and that is fine with us. So many legendary bands started out as niche and rose to giant cult status.

With that said, what do you think that makes "Endless Halls of Golden Totem" as an uncanny record musically? Sure that you have your influences, and those are felt, yet what is that extra mile that you are letting everyone listen to on this record?

I think you can tell we tried to take things to a new place with our riffs on this one. I think people like us for our weird and interesting riffs and I think we delivered. I believe we offer a unique sound within the subgenre. I think we bring out some unexpected vibes that conjure some different feelings.

The album’s epic track, and believe me it wasn’t that easy to choose but it won me over, is “The Night Watchmen of Starfall Tower”. This is a textbook made 80s oriented Epic Metal tune, serving a tasty flavor of riffs. What can you tell about this track and its process of creation?

I definitely wanted to go heavy Judas Priest banger vibes on this one but then quickly switch it up with some Lizzy dueling guitars. Once I had the driving and hard main riff I knew I wanted to soften it up and take it to left field with the leads in the middle to just mix it up a bit. I think it worked. I’m glad you did too. I also went out of my way to make it simple and fist pumping. I wanted the chorus to be memorable and something you could yell at a show. All very influences by Priest foot stomper!

As I was saying, selecting another track or two to talk about was a bit of a hard task for me. Therefore, I am leaving it to you. Which track do you wish to talk about that you believe has a special story to tell? Perhaps on a personal note?

Put Down Your Steel ( Only for the Night) was a song I didn’t expect to turn out as one of my favorites. I wrote it as a slower, more groovy and playful song and once we recorded it became clear it was gonna stack up with the rest. Once Pierson laid his leads and solo’s down, it made me laugh cause it turned into one of my favorite songs. Its catchy and just straight forward and rock and roll. It has that 80’s vibe and I love how it came out. The lyrics are over the top and just fit it perfectly.

It seems that the entire recording experience of  "Endless Halls of Golden Totem" was quite eventful, considering the situation going on. What can you tell about the experience?

It was great. We did most of it in my basement, so we got a chance to take our time and just really flush it all out. It was definitely different,  but very fun, personal and relaxing. I think in the end it worked out for best that we had the time to just relax and get it all down the way we wanted without the studio pressure.

The end result of the sound, which its raw nature really shined, delivered the music with an appetite for me. What were your influences for this particular sound production? What is your appreciation of the result?

I love the way it came out. I knew I just wanted it to be cleaner and more punchy with a very distinct and clear distortion sound. The drums sounded huge and heavy and the leads cut through and pierce the soul. I didn’t have a specific sound in mind, I just wanted to try and have it sound as professional as new bands like Megaton Sword or Gatekeeper.

James, I wish to thank you for your time and effort on this record, certainly you brought in a piece of music that sounded as if it missed its golden period. Nonetheless, it is a token that should be welcomed nowadays. Cheers

Thanks so much Lior!


 



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