Ghost Iris distinguished themselves from the rest of the djent pack with 2019’s Apple of Discord, adding a healthy dose of songwriting chops, newly soaring riffs as well as musical variety.
This year’s Comatose took that progression to new heights, with some reviewers noting that they have created that most unusual of things in modern metal – an album that’s consistently excellent throughout.
We caught up with Sebastian and Nicklas about leaving djent behind, their socially distanced tour with Jinjer, and having Mark Hunter of Chimaira guest on their new album.
Congrats on the release of Comatose! How has the reception been so far? For a band that’s spent so much time on tour over the years, you must be itching to get out and play these songs live?
Sebastian: Thank you very much! The reception has been fantastic. It seems like people are really on board with the direction the band is headed. We absolutely can’t wait to tour properly again – we are ready for things to be normal again.
Comatose is the band’s fourth album – what do you feel you did differently on this record that sets it apart from Anecdotes Of Science & Soul, Blind World and Apple Of Discord?
Sebastian: With every record we have abandoned the djenty stuff more and more. With Comatose we left it behind (almost) completely, took a more “metal” approach and put more focus on huge riffs instead of syncopated top-strong rhythms. The record is definitely more straight up and in your face than our previous works.
Did you have any specific concepts or themes going into the record, either lyrically or musically?
Sebastian: Lyrically it’s very much about mankind and their impact on our world. Coincidentally this was written before Covid, but that is a prime example. Musically the concept was to turn the riff-knob to 11 and going more back to our musical roots.
Mark Hunter from Chimaira made an appearance on the record – how did that come about?
Sebastian: Chimaira is one of our all-time favorite bands, and to this day they are still of our biggest inspirations. Comatose was a lot about going back to our roots and finding inspiration in those bands that inspired us to pick up an instrument back in the day. So when we came to discussing features, it had to be Mark or no one. We reached out to him and he responded with great excitement. Crazy to know that one of our childhood heroes sings on of our songs.
How did the band deal with the lockdowns in 2020?
Sebastian: We all have day jobs, most of which were still open due to the nature of those jobs. Half of the band works with taking care of people that can’t take care of themselves (children and elderly). So to be honest, we went to work every day like we used to. Other than night we tried to make the best of a terrible situation. It wasn’t far into the lockdown before we started to not complain anymore. It was what is was and now it is what it is. The situation sucks but there’s not much to do about it. Brighter times are ahead fortunately.
You took part in one of the only tours to happen last year, Jinjer’s socially distanced “Macro World Tour” – how was that? Seems like something of a surreal experience?
Sebastian: This was a highlight of our career, definitely. Totally surreal. It was amazing being on stage again and help fill that gap that people have been missing through live music. It was very evident that people were genuinely happy to go to a concert again. We are still euphoric on this experience. It definitely brought back that flame of knowing that people connect with our music and what we do has a lot of meaning to a lot of people. Jinjer are an amazing band as well and it was a true pleasure touring with them too.
So guitars! What did you guys use on the new record in terms of guitars/amps/pedals?
Nicklas: All guitars are recorded with the Ibanez Multiscale Axion Label RGD71ALMS-BAM directly through a Kemper Profiler. We are a very digital band in that sense. Everything is recorded DI and then re-amped later in the mix.
Did you have any reference records going into the studio in terms of how you wanted the finished product to sound?
Nicklas: Not per se. We knew who was going to mix the album, so we the final product was going to end up sounding phenomenal.
Are you a gear head at all? Any pieces of gear you’ve played recently that were a pleasant surprise? Anything you got to play that was disappointing?
Nicklas: I definitely am, but I don’t own a lot of gear to be honest. I spend hours and hours tweaking my tone to perfection though. We played a show in Chengdu, China a few years back and were given a Roland Vox to borrow for that show. It ended up sounding not too shabby. A little tweaking and a good set of ears goes a long way!
Is there any one piece of gear that you couldn’t do without? Anything that’s integral to your sound?
Nicklas: Not really. I believe in using your ears properly and then you can get pretty much anything to sound good.
A lot of guitarists are embracing modelling and profiling amps these days, especially due to making fly in gigs much easier. What’s your take on digital amps and effects?
Nicklas: We use Kemper and Mooer amp sims exclusively and run directly through them, so we are all for it! Makes for easy travelling and faster set up. What’s not to love?
For someone who’s just discovering your band and wants to hear more music that sounds like you, what bands would you suggest they start with?
Sebastian: That’s a good question. I guess as an artist you never really want to say you sound like someone else but I’d go with Chimaira, Make Them Suffer, Fit For A King, and probably also the entire Australian ‘core scene probably.
If someone maybe wasn’t familiar with you guys but wanted to learn to play one of your songs, where would you suggest they start? Any riffs/licks/passages in particular that are fun to play, or maybe challenging but rewarding for more advanced players?
Nicklas: Anything from Comatose is pure riffing and tons of fun to play. The song Coda is a riff monster and has a lot of different stuff going on throughout.
What’s up next for the band? Any post-rona plans?
Sebastian: We are touring through Europe and UK (fingers crossed) from November 17 to December 19. Looking forward to hitting the road again!