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Joe Kurland (Armory)

Interview with Joe Kurland from Armory
by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos at 09 April 2008, 12:42 AM

ARMORY have released their debut The Dawn Of Enlightenment and Metal Temple after listening and actually liked it thought that it would be a good chance to meet this band in depth. So, let's see what Joe has to say about this album and more!

Hail from the METAL TEMPLE! Please take some time to introduce yourselves to our readers.

Greetings! ARMORY is a power metal band from Massachusetts, USA. We formed in the summer of 2001 and so far have released two versions of our debut album. The lineup is Chad Fisher on rhythm, lead, and acoustic guitars, me (Joe Kurland) on rhythm, lead, and acoustic guitars, and also session drums, my brother Adam Kurland on vocals, Thomas Preziosi on bass, Peter Rutcho on keyboards, and Tom Vieira on live drums.

 So The Dawn Of Enlightenment has been out for quite a while; what is the feedback so far? Are you satisfied?

The re-recorded version of The Dawn Of Enlightenment has only been out for three months but all of the feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive. We are very satisfied with the response from metal fans and album reviewers.

Do you actually read all the reviews? How do you react to a negative one?

Well I know that Adam, Chad, and I read all of the reviews. We even translate the ones in foreign languages using Altavista’s Babelfish and read them. We organize them all and post the links on our official site and myspace page along with a few highlighted quotes from each review if it’s in English. So far we have received no overall negative reviews. Out of seventy reviews we have not been given a score less than the equivalent of a 6 out of 10. The average seems to be about an 8.5 out of 10. We’ve even gotten 4 perfect scores and 2 Album of the Month’s.

By the time I was doing the album review you were still in search of a record label; are there any news regarding this one?

Right now we are focusing on creating a buzz for this album by sending it to as many review sites, radio stations, magazines, and distributors as possible. We are also trying to play local shows with some of the major power metal acts in the business when they come this way. Doing everything ourselves so far has been a lot of hard work and is very time consuming. I believe that it is worth it though. We are finding out a lot about the promotional and business side of the power metal industry. We will start contacting labels directly when the time is right.

This album was initially released in 2004 but you decided that it should sound better and thus you re-released it after 3 years. Can you give us more details on this?

The Dawn Of Enlightenment was indeed released in 2004. Although we were satisfied with the song writing and playing at the time, we were very unsatisfied with the sound quality and packaging. We did everything ourselves using very poor equipment. The final product was only a CD-R with a paper cut-out of the track list and a Photoshop-ed album cover. We believed that in order for us to be taken seriously in the metal community we would have to improve those two elements. The opportunity arose for us to re-record the whole album in 2005 with local sound engineer Peter Rutcho and so we began the long recording process once again. This time we got much better sound quality and packaging and even revised many things in the music. The album cover was painted by professional artist Steve Goad and the CDs were professionally pressed and packaged. Peter also ended up joining the band full-time as our keyboardist. The re-recording of The Dawn Of Enlightenment was released in late December, 2007.

Did you also add any new songs?

 It is the same album and the same songs with much better sound quality and packaging. We also revised the songs here and there, totally reworked the vocal melodies, and changed all of the keyboard solos while adding a few more too. In addition, we included two bonus cover songs this time just for fun. Flight Of Icarus by IROM MAIDEN and the theme music from Dr. Wily’s 1st stage in the Nintendo game Mega Man 2. Basically in school terms, if the demo version of The Dawn Of Enlightenment was equivalent to a ‘C’ paper then the re-recording is an ‘A’ paper. Even though it is still the same paper, all of the grammatical errors have been fixed, some of the sentences are written better, and the cover page is way better.

What are the lyrics about and how important are for you?

The lyrics are mostly about empowering the human spirit and deep philosophical reflection. They are written often in an epic context using many metaphors. Adam wrote about 55% of the lyrics, our brother Jason wrote about 30% of the lyrics, and I wrote about 15% of the lyrics. Let us just clarify that we believe lyrics are not music. They are mere symbols which the human mind ascribes meaning to. Music on the other hand involves vibrations of some sort which can create a subconscious feeling without any interpretation required. As far as we are concerned, the vocal melody and vocal performance is music and also is much more important to us than the meaning of the lyrics. Lyrics can help to enhance the listening experience and people can sometimes relate to their meaning. Lyrics to us comprise no more than 5% of the importance of the listening experience. To us, the album cover is just as important as the lyrics.

Let me demonstrate this by using four types of examples. Take opera. One can enjoy listening to an opera even though the lyrics are in a language unfamiliar to the listener. Take classical or other instrumental music. Quite plainly there are no lyrics and the music can still be enjoyed fully. Take JUDAS PRIEST; a lot of their lyrics are about homosexuality and yet fans of this band will tell you that the meaning of the lyrics in no way hinders the listening experience. Finally, take the example of opposites using the song Wasted Years by IRON MAIDEN. If you find that you can really connect with lyrics, let’s consider what would happen if the chorus was sung Waste your time always searching for those wasted years as opposed to Don’t waste your time…. The point is that nothing should change. Bruce would still sing the line with the same melody and passion and thus the person would still experience the song the exact same way even though the lyrical message is now the complete opposite of what it was! I hope this clarifies our logic here.

How did you decide to do a cover on IRON MAIDEN’s Flight Of Icarus?

We did not have a significant reason for choosing Flight Of Icarus or Dr. Wily for that matter. We could have chosen any of one hundred other metal songs to cover by dozens of other bands. Flight Of Icarus is just one that we have a lot of fun doing and so that is why we did it. At the time we were not sure if we were even going to include it on the album.

What is the story behind the track Dr. Wily that I liked since I found some RUNNING WILD influences there?

Dr. Wily is the theme music for Dr. Wily’s 1st stage in the Nintendo game Mega Man 2. We did write the last measure ourselves but other than that it is a cover. We changed the drums to make it more metal-sounding. I actually happen to like the music from Nintendo games just as much as I like heavy metal. I guess it does sound a little like classic RUNNING WILD. It would have even more if we had added rhythm guitars.

In your myspace page you say that the Power Metal label can be deceiving when it comes to ARMORY. Can you explain this a little more?

Well we are just as much influenced by traditional metal as we are by power metal. Some of our favourite bands are IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, KING DIAMOND, SAVATAGE, RIOT, CRIMSON GLORY, MANOWAR, and the like. I think our songs fit into the traditional metal genre almost as much as the power metal genre. There are plenty of straight forward power metal bands out there, such as SONATA ARCTICA, INSANIA, and DRAGONFORCEe. Our instrumental Forged In Dragon Flames was mostly influenced by MEGADETH’s Rust In Peace and parts in the middle are influenced by DEATH. The heavier middle parts in the title track are influenced by ICED EARTH, SLAYER, and RUNNING WILD. Overall, I just feel that our songs are much more varied in genre classification than most other bands that are strictly power metal.

What is working process in the studio? Is it a team work or are you working separately and then mix your ideas?

The recording studio in this case was actually my parents’ basement. There we recorded everything except the keyboards, which were done at Peter’s house about an hour away. It was mostly a team effort. Peter Rutcho was there every recording session to engineer the whole album. I was also there every recording session (except for the keyboards) basically as a director when I wasn’t the one recording. Chad made most of the recording sessions too as another director when he wasn’t the one recording. Adam was in and out during the recording when he wasn’t singing. Actually, more like up and down since he and I live in the same house as the studio! Thomas only stopped by occasionally to see how things were going when he wasn’t recording. Because of our busy schedules with other jobs we were restricted to only recording for a few hours at a time a few times a month. The mixing and editing was done by me and Peter at our jam space, which is at another location.

Do you think that ARMORY can stand in the American Metal scene that is flooded by Nu metal bands and albums?

Well we all hate Nu-Metal, which we like to call Un-Metal. I don’t thing anyone will confuse us with or categorize us with any Nu-Metal bands. I think we can stand proudly in the American Metal scene knowing that current trends have no affect whatsoever on us. We play True-Metal and that will never change. True-Metal for us includes traditional, classic, NWOBHM, Thrash, Speed, Power, Progressive, Symphonic, Neoclassical, Instrumental, and all derivatives there of. True-Metal for us does not include Un-Metal or anything with the word Grind or Core in it.

Expanding the above question why do you think Nu Metal has that appealing in the US audience?

I really don’t think that Nu-Metal is more popular than True-Metal here in the States. The only reason it is popular at all is because it combines metal with more radio-friendly music and vocals. Anything that is radio-friendly will appeal to the brainwashed masses. I’m not worried though. In the end, truth will always be revealed!

How difficult is from a band to survive without a record deal?

In a certain sense it isn’t difficult at all to survive. We are in ARMORY because we love making metal music. It wouldn’t matter if no one ever bought our album or we never made any money. In another sense, it is very difficult to thrive without a record deal. We are doing everything ourselves; writing, recording, mixing, mastering, designing the album booklet, designing and running our websites, playing shows, contacting fans, reviewers, webzines, magazines, radio stations, distributors, and clubs, running our online merchandise store, sending out albums packages for promotion, along with keeping track of everything and paying for everything. It has been very difficult and time consuming indeed just trying to let the metal community know that we exist. Bottom-line is that it takes an insane amount of dedication to keep it all together and keep it going but we are more than up for the challenge.

What are the latest news from ARMORY? Do you have any tour plans ahead? When will you return to the studio to put up another ARMORY album?

We will continue to play local shows only unless or until we get some outside support. We are trying to become an opening band for the local EDGUY/KAMELOT show and the GAMMA RAY /  HELLOWEEN show this fall. We will return to the studio (aka my parents’ basement) hopefully in late May, 2008 to record the drums for our second album, which is almost completely written right now. Recording the rest might take a while so I will not give any timeframes for that.

What are the differences between the US and the European Metal fans?

Since we have never been to Europe and only know our European fans through the internet, I don’t think we can make a fair assessment. From talking online and my gut feeling is that there is no difference between a US and a European metal fan. The great thing about heavy metal is that is transcends race, culture, and nationality. Love of heavy metal is what unites all fans on common ground.

Thanks for you time the METAL TEMPLE crew wishes to you the best of luck! We will definitely check your next album. Feel free to add anything you like.

I want to thank you Dimitris for the interview and METAL TEMPLE for supporting us. Thanks to all of our fans as well. You are the truest metal fans in the world!


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