Sometimes we discover new music in the most casual way, discovering Allegaeon was one of those times for us. We were on Spotify jumping from recommended to recommended until we found this amazing band from Colorado, United States. A band that, despite its 11 years of existence, unfortunately in Europe is still not well known... although we hope that it will change soon with their first European tour this year together with Ne Obliviscaris and Virvum. Allegaeon is a Modern Melodic Death Metal Band, which has hooked us with their latest album Proponent for Sentience via Metal Blade Records, but also with their great sense of humor. We were lucky enough to score some interview time with guitarist Greg Burgess. Here is how the conversation went... you really, really should take a look into it and listen to the tunes, especially for their particular sound and the unique touch of adding classic Spanish flamenco guitars... generating parts of Flametal.
OBNUBIL: Hey Greg, how are you!? Could you please introduce yourself a little to our readers?
GREG: Sure. Hey everyone my name is Greg Burgess, I play guitar in the Modern Melodic Death Metal Band Allegaeon.
OBNUBIL: How was Allegaeon born?
GREG: Allegaeon started as a band modeled after Arch Enemy and Nevermore back around 2006 called Allegiance. I joined the band in 2007, and we changed our name to Allegaeon at that point. Our lineup was vastly different than it is today. Myself being the only remaining original member.
OBNUBIL: Back in August 2008 Allegaeon independently released a self-titled EP. Soon after, you signed with Metal Blade Records. How did it come? Did they contact you or have you contacted them through sending your music?
GREG: No we sent that EP to a lot of different companies. Relapse was the only one that was interested at the time, but said they couldn't afford to sign us. We kept on gigging and filmed 2 music videos ("Cower Before Me" and "Nex Of Terra") and that lead to Metal Blade interest. I guess seeing a band invest in themselves is huge. Signing a band is a gamble and if the band is willing to spend their own money, it goes to further a labels investment.
OBNUBIL: In September 2016, Allegaeon released the fourth album called Proponent for Sentience, your finest work to date. It has received not only unanimous praise, but has been critically noted as having great importance in modern metal. It features Bjorn Strid of Soilwork on vocals and Benjamin Ellis of Scar Symmetry. Is it a coincidence that both come from Swedish bands or do you maybe especially like the music scene in that country? How was it to work with them?
GREG: Subconsciously I think we identify more with European bands than with US bands. There was a time in the US where the metal scene seemed to have died out, and we looked to Europe to lead the pack. Finding bands like In Flames, Soilwork, Scar Symmetry, and Hypocrisy really struck a chord with me on how I wanted to write. Even after the US started to get good bands again, the US kind of perverted Melodic Death Metal into Metalcore, and that was something I couldn't get behind. It just lacked the diverseness of what I liked about it. So in the end, yeah we really love Swedish bands.
OBNUBIL: We read that the album actually was based on a Stephen Hawking interview. Is this right? Can you tell us about it?
GREG: Yeah It was based on a few interviews that Stephen did, one with the BBC and one with John Oliver. He discusses his views on artificial intelligence. In his view artificial intelligence would be able to evolve exponentially at a faster rate that human kind and would at some point eradicate us.
OBNUBIL: What about the creation process for Proponent for Sentience?
GREG: It was much like every other record we have done. I write half the record and Mike writes the other. One difference is the amount of touring we were doing during the "Elements Of The Infinite" cycle. We had very little time to write, so we were panicked. It all got done in the end though.
OBNUBIL: You closed it with a Rush cover… why Rush?
GREG: We are huge prog rock fans. I guess we feel it was kinda the predecessor of tech death in a way. We were originally gonna cover Deicide for a bonus track for Japan. When Riley came in we knew he had some great pipes so we changed our direction. We recorded 2 Rush songs, "Subdivisions" and "Animate". Both were supposed to be just bonus tracks. One for Japan and one for Europe, however Metal Blade loved them so wanted to include "Subdivisions" on the actual album. I still feel its a bonus track because it doesn't really sound like the rest of the album but I think we did it well. We finally released "Animate" just last month. We were in Boston on tour with Ne Obliviscarus, and a friend of the band came up to me and asked what is the band going to do to celebrate Jan 6, 2018, a play on our most famous single "1.618". It just seemed like the perfect time to release it.
OBNUBIL: What about the artwork of the album? Who did it and who came up with the graphical idea? We don’t get to read anything about it.
GREG: Well originally we had someone else doing the art work. It was turned in late and it was bad. Metal Blade basically said no way is this going out and the band was in agreement. We tried to give direction to the artist but there was a no compromise attitude from him so we had to go elsewhere. Sam Nelson was hired at the last minuet to complete the artwork. His attitude was one of a simple mission statement cover. This was the first painting art we've ever had. We had always used photo-realism before that.
OBNUBIL: Lyrically, you deal with scientific themes, exploring things like the theory of evolution and biology, physics, cryonics, dyson spheres, the probability of alien life in the universe, stem cell research, and artificial intelligence. Are any of you specialized in these subjects or have you studied anything related? We are sure you get a lot of inspiration from movies or books. Is there any science fiction movie or book that has inspired you especially?
GREG: We just really love science to be honest. Its a constantly shifting field where there's always something new and interesting being discovered or proven/disproven. I really enjoy the not knowing aspect and the research that we have to do to write the songs, it makes my brain feel alive. Science Fiction really hasn't played much of a role in our writing, its all more theoretical science at this point, that sounds like Science Fiction. But all science fact was science fiction at one point.
OBNUBIL: The band is often referred to as technical melodic death metal. You play death metal and incorporate melody and technicality without losing heaviness. There is an influence from classical music, progressive metal and thrash metal as well. Allegaeon is also noted for your technicality - In fact, the earlier work was criticized for being almost too technical, but by the time Elements of the Infinite was released, critics noted a near-perfect balance of technicality and catchy songs. When and how did you start playing the guitar? Are you self-taught or have you had any training? And, what is your current gear?
GREG: The first two albums with Allegaeon we had a different writing team. When our other guitarist Ryan Glisan left, I was left to my own devices which means more of my influences could emerge unhindered. More of my thrash and prog rock background could come forth, which still had tech elements but put song writing into the forefront, I hold a bachelors degree from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in Classical Guitar Performance. While in residence I studied classical of course, as well as jazz and flamenco. As for gear I just left Jackson Guitars after many years and signed with a company I cant announce yet out of the UK. Jackson was awesome however I wanted more attention from my endorser. With this new guitar company, D'Addario/Planet Waves, and EMG pickups are part of our sound. Our live rigs consist of Axefx II's and powered monitors for the front row.
OBNUBIL: As of November of 2016, you are the only original member left in the band, there have been plenty of changes in members. What is the current stability of the group in terms of members?
GREG: HA! yeah I'm the only one not smart enough to get out! In all honesty I've never been this excited about our lineup, which might be the usual go to statement, however the fact is every time someone leaves or is asked to leave, we use it as an opportunity to get someone who is not only a better musician, but also who really loves the music and wants the job. With that combination everyone just works harder and its way more fun.
OBNUBIL: Because of some financial stress, the band launched a fan club through the Patreon platform and have since been focused on continuing to tour and write the next album. How has the people responded to it? We hope it was a positive response and we would love to take the opportunity to encourage more people to participate!
GREG: It was our fans that pushed us to start the Patreon, I think because they saw how frustrated we were. There comes a point where you really don't know what to do, you wanna keep working but reality presents you with so many obstacles. So when we launched it our fans were very supportive.
OBNUBIL: Live performances often feature the band mascot Myles in a crab outfit, mocking the crabcore trend of the late 2000s. We have noticed that some people on youtube think that your style of music is incompatible with making the clown and like most bands you should show seriousness, what do you think about it? At least we like that great sense of humor you have. Life without humor and only show facade would be too boring, right?!
GREG: Honestly I think we're grown men yelling at people. There's something inherently comical about metal going all the way back to dudes like Man O War, dressing in furs and singing about fast cars, to Cannibal Corpse screaming about firing up the Chainsaw, to kill zombies. Ultimately music is there to entertain people. Look at Steel Panther, not only are those dudes amazing musicians, but they bring such a comedic side to the table their shows are very encompassing. Metal in general lends itself to not taking itself seriously. Not that all bands mean to but I find a lot of bands funny and that's why I think they're amazing.
OBNUBIL: So far you have been playing plenty of gigs in the United States, including at some major festivals like Ozzfest meets Knotfest. How about Europe? We are looking forward to seeing you!
GREG: Yes finally after 11 years we are coming to Europe. We start on March 25th in Dublin Ireland, and will be going strong through May, with our friends Ne Obliviscaris and Virvum. Very excited to play, and the set we have planned might be one of my favorites we've ever done.
OBNUBIL: You also post a lot of funny memes on Facebook, and some of these have gone viral. The band has numerous inside jokes that are posted, and always maintain a lighthearted aesthetic outside of your music. Trump certainly is the best character for the ridiculous. Have you, as Americans, been surprised that someone like him became president? His decisions taken out of caprice certainly affect the entire planet.
GREG: Its hard to say. I mean I very much believe anyone that wants power over another human being is not to be trusted. That pretty much sums up all politicians. Generally as people I'd like to believe that anyone from different walks of life, can sit down and have an adult conversation, and reach compromises that best suit the majority of people. I don't like Trump, but then again as I said, I don't particularly like anyone who wants power. There's something to be said of, the best leaders don't want power, they have power thrust onto them. Those individuals don't have agendas, they just want whats best for their people. I think that Americans in general, maybe due to how large our country is, have a very closed mind when it comes to the rest of the world. They don't think globally. When you're in a touring band Id like to think you're a little more aware of the world around you because you want to travel to these places, you want to make friends and fans all over the world, so you embrace other cultures. Europe is where our history comes from but yet it's like our people in general have blinders on to the rest of the planet. I really don't like Trump, and was shocked he won. I vehemently oppose him pulling the US out of the climate change talks. I think it's incredibly short sighted, and a huge mistake. However I can't speak for the rest of my band. Everyone may agree or we may not, but that's not for us to force our opinions on people. We just want to play music. Governments come and go, but music will remain.
OBNUBIL: It has been a pleasure getting all this information! Thank you so much for taking your time answering our questions! Is there anything that you would like to say to the readers and to your fans?
GREG: Yeah, thank you so much for all your support. Hopefully we'll come see you guys soon!!
Interview done February 2018. Photo taken by Matthewknowsphotos.
Which of our t-shirts is he wearing in the picture? Do you like it? It is... THIS ONE