Spellcaster’s third album Night Hides the World is a release that I’ve found so very easy to get on with. The high energy delivery, the sterling, soaring melodies, the insanely catchy songs…it all makes for an album that’s got high-repeat value and is just really, really good. Guitarist Bryce VanHoosen gave me a bit more background to the band and what makes them tick…
Tell us a bit about the background of Spellcaster
SPELLCASTER was started in 2009 as a fairly traditional speed metal band and released their debut, Under The Spell, in 2010. I joined in early 2013 after there was a fairly severe lineup shift. Tyler, our vocalist, originally played guitar, but moved to vocals after we parted ways with the original singer. I jumped on second guitar, and Colin took over on drums after the first drummer quit. We released our second album, SPELLCASTER, in 2014 and started a touring cycle for that album. We caught the attention of Prosthetic Records and signed a deal with them for our newest album, Night Hides The World, and are starting a touring cycle for that album now.
What are your influences?
They vary quite a bit from member to member, but we obviously all listen to bands like IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, BLACK SABBATH, etc. Guitar-wise, I’m influenced by guys like Yngwie Malmsteen, Ritchie Blackmore, Jason Becker, Randy Rhoads, John Sykes, and George Lynch. Fairly old school sounding guitar heroes I guess!
Name five things you’ve listened to recently that you’d recommend
In no particular order –
- BADLANDS – Voodoo Highway
- Gary Moore – Still Got the Blues
- ANIMALS AS LEADERS – S/T
- George Benson – Breezin’
- LYNCH MOB – Wicked Sensation
That’s a lot of stylistic material to cover! I like a lot of different stuff.
Tell us about Night Hides the World
Night Hides The World is our third album, and our debut for Prosthetic Records. We’re extremely excited to work with Prosthetic for the release of this one. They’re a great label, and everyone there has been extremely helpful and supportive toward us. It is, in my humble opinion, our best material to date. We’re finally finding our own sound and are exploring compelling melodies. As a band, we were more locked in as a cohesive unit with a solid vision of what we wanted on this one, and with the help of producers and engineers Zack Ohren and Gabe Johnston, I definitely think we achieved it. We maybe alienated some of our fans when we transitioned from the debut to the S/T album, but I certainly think we’re gaining them back with Night Hides The World.
How did you choose the cover artwork?
We’ve had a lot of trouble finding an art direction in the past, and we’ve had some really great artists completely miss the mark when working with us. So when my fiance showed me Portland artist Adam Burke’s work, I knew he was exactly who we were looking for. I showed the rest of the guys in SPELLCASTER his stuff, and they agreed. So we put together a loose concept of the themes we wanted, something that showed a transition from day to night, and told Adam to go to town with it. We’re all really happy with how it turned out! If you haven’t gotten a chance to look at the back cover art he did, you really need to pick up a CD or LP, because it is amazing! It gives me a really strong nostalgic feeling and reminds me of watching sunsets in the woods.
How important do you think album artwork is in this increasingly digital age?
I think it’s still just as important as before. Most smart phones have retina displays, so people obviously still want a strong visual in the overall package. Sometimes the physical layout, and things like the vibe of the back cover, the booklet, inserts, or what-have-you, aren’t communicated, which is a bit of a shame. But overall the cover still has to give the music an extra atmosphere. Just because the format is digital doesn’t mean your audience wants a garbage cover.
With music becoming increasingly digital in nature, what’s your take on the digital/physical debate and the current state of the music industry?
I don’t really know if it’s a debate anymore, as in 2016 digital and streaming is growing and is stronger than ever. So there’s really no point in fighting against it. I obviously support people buying the physical copies, and you get the full experience of the art and layout that way. But I’m personally completely addicted to Apple Music. If your music isn’t on Apple Music or Spotify at this point, it may as well not exist. No offence to anyone who is vehemently against digital streaming, but that’s just how I’ve personally began to think these days. Whats most important is that the music is accessible to our audience.
What’s it like working with Prosthetic Records?
I touched on this a little bit, but I can’t stress how cool it is to work with them. They’re all super fans of music, and they live and breath this stuff. Definitely not the type of people in it to just make a quick buck (good luck with that anyway, right?) They’ve been very supportive of us artistically, and have been really helpful in getting our name out there so far. So we’re all very excited to see where our relationship goes. It doesn’t hurt that they all enjoyed our new album either. 🙂
How were the songs on Night Hides the World written?
They were written using our now standard writing process – someone brings in a riff or an idea, and we all hash it out, beat it up, tear it down, and otherwise jam on it until it becomes a song. All the songs are really a group effort. There might be one central ‘writer’ on a particular tune, but we all add our own spin to every riff that comes out of SPELLCASTER. There isn’t one central architect that devises everyone’s parts. So we’re more like DEEP PURPLE in that way, and less like RAINBOW, if you get my drift.
What’s your favourite song on the album and why?
My favorite song is The Moon Doors. That was a incredibly fun and frustrating song to work on, but overall I think it turned out great. I took riffs from Tyler, our singer, and myself and arranged it into it’s current incarnation. Gabe added the cool riff transitions, Cory added his own characteristic and catch flair, and Colin made the drums as driving and fill heavy as he could. I spent a lot of time working on the bridge section as well. I wanted a bridge section similar to DEEP PURPLE’s song Burn, something that just went on and on, and got progressively more and more over the top. The Burn vibe runs pretty thick throughout the entire song as well, I think.
How do you think your music will progress in the future?
It’s honestly really hard to tell. We’ll likely start writing songs in the same vein, and then end up in a completely different direction. That’s just sort of how it works when writing for us – the songs all feel like they end up writing themselves, and we never set out to write this or that kind of song. Even if we did, say we started a song and planned on making it a ‘ripper’ or something, it might not turn out like that. But I definitely think we’ll start trying new things and experimenting a bit. Not in a random experimentation for it’s own sake kind of thing, but experimenting to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.
Playing live – essential or pointless?
Essential! If you don’t play live, you’re not really a band. A ‘project’ sure, but not a band. You have to get out of your bedroom, basement, or studio and get in front of people to really grab them. That’s where we’ve made the biggest name or ourselves so far – by touring. It isn’t pretty, and sometimes it isn’t fun, but it’s essential and there isn’t much of another way around it. Plus it’s fun and one of the best highs out there. Forget the drugs, play a show! I’ve been addicted to that since I was a teenager, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.
What are Spellcaster up to for the rest of 2016?
Touring and playing live! We’re extremely happy that Night Hides The World is now out, and are gearing up to put in the leg work to make people hear it. We’re heading our on The Fellowship of The Strings tour with HOLY GRAIL and EXMORTUS now, have Frost & Fire II Fest in October, and will be doing other shows around that and may be planning some stuff in the States for November. Either way, it’s going to be a busy year, and hopefully we can ride that momentum well into 2017 as well.
Thanks for the interview and check out Night Hides The World out NOW on Prosthetic Records!
– Bryce R. VanHoosen