It’s been a long three years since Silver Talon‘s acclaimed debut EP “Becoming A Demon” – but listening to their newly released album “Decadence and Decay“, you can see it was three years well spent.
Combining metal hooks with some serious guitar virtuosity, the record is a treat to the fanbase the band garnered opening for bands such as Exmortus, Unleash The Archers, Striker, The Absence, Powerglove and Hatchet.
We caught up with guitarist Bryce R. VanHoosen to talk about releasing albums into the pandemic void, recording cover songs without actually playing them as a band, and the classic sound of a boosted JCM 800.
Congratulations on the release of the record! How are you feeling about the response?
Thank you! The response has been great – definitely getting it in front of more people, and that’s what you want to see.
We just cracked 100k streams on Spotify alone, and can’t seem to keep vinyl in stock. The press for Decadence and Decay has been very favorable as well – getting generally positive reviews from most places.
I can’t complain!
Was the record something you’ve been sitting on for some time or was it a pandemic baby?
We had it all written and started recording in 2019. If anything, the pandemic actually delayed the release!
I think we had something like 3 sessions left when the shit really hit the fan and everything closed for a number of months – that was sometime in early March 2020? It would have been out in fall, but we couldn’t get back into the studio until late June, then mixed in August and mastered in September.
Those 2 months of things being shut down really created a bottle neck for studio time once things sort of opened again. But I’m not complaining – I felt so bad for the artists that released albums during the pandemic. Almost like they just released it into the void.
How did the band deal with the lockdowns in 2020?
We kept working! Another benefit of the delay was that it gave us extra time to work on a couple cover songs – Savatage’s Power of the Night and Jag Panzer’s Viper. We basically worked on learning those songs, then recording those songs at home, just passing files back and forth. It was actually kind of convenient!
And I’m super proud of my band for being able to learn and record those two tracks without ever having played them together. That’s how you do a band pandemic style.
So guitars! What did you guys use on the new record in terms of guitars/amps/pedals?
We used Jackson guitars with EMG pickups, as is tradition. Most of the main rhythm sound was recorded with my Jackson Juggernaut with an EMG Hetfield in the bridge. Then Devon quad tracked to those with his Jackson Warrior with the passive Rev set pickups. So there’s at least 4 rhythm guitars going at any one time.
For the actual amp tone, we tried so many different things. Initially we tried 5150s, Kempers, the Fortin Cali VST, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t even remember – all with 2-3 different EQs. Everything sounded a little too harsh, or too smooth, or too blah.
In the end we went with a classic Marshall JCM 800 boosted with a digital VST pedal of some sort. I don’t even know what the pedal was, it was like a free trial or something.
But once we heard that it was like, ok – that’s it. That’s our sound. So of course I went out afterward and bought a 1978 Marshall JMP 2203 so I could have something that approximated that at home.
For solos I think we used a clone of a Marshall Silver Jubilee, which I think we’ve used on every record we’ve done at Sharkbite Studios since Spellcaster’s Night Hides the World in 2016. That thing just rules!
Did you have any reference records going into the studio in terms of how you wanted the finished product to sound?
I had recently heard an album by a black metal band from Sweden called Night Crowned called Impius Viam. That album was the closest thing I had to a reference record. The production is thick and atmospheric, and the guitar tone is super mean sounding.
But eventually you get to a point where you’re just dealing with your record, and your songs, and your production choices, so you have to just make that sound as good as possible.
Zack Ohren mixed it, so he could have very well had some other points of reference. He doesn’t let me in on those secrets, hahaha.
How does a three guitar band function in the studio as far as deciding who plays what? Does one person do all the rhythms while all three add their own flourishes, or does it change track by track?
That’s a good question! We got it down to a pretty good system in the end.
Basically I start it off by doing the first round of rhythms. This is what ends up being the main rhythm for the track. Then Devon comes in and does another round of rhythms, essentially just backing what I’m doing and adding in little harmonies. This adds a bit more girth and complexity to the overall timbre of the guitars.
Then, once we’re happy with rhythms, we divvy up solos. Most of that is not super planned, but I try to alternate between each of the 3 members. So if I do a solo, then Sebastian takes the next 8 bars, then Devon takes the 8 after that, and so on. We just keep them quick and interesting and try to change it up fairly often.
I think of it almost like MCs taking a verse on a Wu-Tang song or something. A little GZA, a little Ghostface, a little ODB, a little Methodman, and there you go.
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?
Yeah! I love gear, and I seem to keep adding more of it to the collection.
I recently got a Marshall Origin, and for a $500 amp or whatever, that little thing smokes! It has a super convincing Plexi sound at a really affordable price.
I’ve also really gotten into the whole load box IR thing. I’m using a Suhr Reactive Load with my amps now. That’s cool technology, and I can only imagine that it’ll get much better and more cab-like as time goes on.
As far as disappointment goes, I don’t know that there’s much that I’ve been disappointed with. I think everything is cool and serves a purpose. That purpose might not be something you need or can use, but that’s not the fault of the gear.
For instance, something I was not really able to use that I tried recently was the Friedman BE-OD. Great pedal, but it’s a distortion pedal and best used in front of a clean amp. Not really something I do a whole lot.
Is there any one piece of gear that you couldn’t do without? Anything that’s integral to your sound?
A Jackson or Charvel guitar with EMG pickups! Any other neck that isn’t a Jackon/Charvel feels kind of weird to me at this point. Any pickups that are not EMGs feel like they’re missing something. Without both of those key ingredients – I feel a bit like a fish out of water. So that’s step 1 for me.
Other than that, I’d rather not play a lead or solo without delay. Something either based off of a Echoplex or a Roland Space Echo.
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?
I like them! Especially for convenience, they can’t be beaten.
I actually just got a Kemper as well – only took me 10 years! It’s a really cool unit, and I’m constantly amazed at all of the stuff I can do with it and how well it integrates with my home studio setup.
That being said, I’m mainly interested in these for the utility, and readily admit a Kemper doesn’t have near the same mojo as a 1978 Marshall JMP.
For records, I’m hopelessly old school and love the whole process of finding a cool amp, a cool overdrive, cool mics and all of that. Then you can talk about it and it feels a little magical. There’s an art to it.
But, when setting up for a gig I kind of say “fuck art, just make it sound as good as possible as fast as possible!” For a band our size, that kind of preset mentality and pulling the human side of it out of the equation is quite valuable.
I plug in like 2 things, the sound guy gets a direct feed from the amp, and we’re off to the races. And Kempers sound really good too!
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?
Definitely check out bands like Sanctuary and Nevermore. We get compared to those guys a lot. Other bands to check out would be Symphony X, King Diamond, Savatage, Dissection, Queensryche, Crimson Glory, Apocrypha, Virgin Steele, Jag Panzer, Alice in Chains, and so many more. That’s a good list to get started with some classic metal and rock though.
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?
I’d say check out Devil Machine off of our Becoming A Demon EP. It’s not the hardest song, but it’s catchy and a fun one to play. And we have TAB packs available for purchase!
For challenging, I’d say learn the intro to Kill All Kings off of Decadence and Decay. That one has a lot of different arpeggio shapes that you don’t typically see too often. Hopefully we’ll have a TAB pack for the full length up soon!
What’s up next for the band? Any post-rona plans?
We have two festivals lined up for 2022 – Legions of Metal in Chicago and Hyperspace in Vancouver, BC. Other than that, we have a few irons in the fire insofar as touring goes.
With the pandemic though, it’s hard to put too much stock into scheduling a ton of dates. I’d hate to schedule a full tour, start promoting, then have to reschedule, rinse and repeat. I’m hopefully optimistic though!
Knocking on wood that we know more once we get into next year.