Interview: ENCELADUS


Texas-based progressive metallers Enceladus have launched their second album titled “Arrival” a few days ago. In the interview below they tell us about this new release, but also about the metal scene, favorite records, and more.

Hey guys. How are you doing?

Hey there, we’re doing fantastic, thanks for having us!

You have just launched a new album entitled “Arrival.” How do you feel about the release?

Pretty stoked! Releasing music is always fun. I think a sophomore album release is quite a milestone, showing the world that we have a lot more to offer! We added a few new elements to this album, so were excited to see how it’s received.

Enceladus - Arrival

How much of a challenge was to put these songs together?

There wasn’t much of a challenge putting the songs together. Some come together easier than others, however. For instance, Universal Century was written in about an hour. We record the songs in our own time, so we’ve had enough time to let the songs breathe a bit before recording them.

What other artists similar to your genre that are coming from Texas are you friends with?

There are a number of good bands in a similar style coming out of Texas. We know some of the guys in Immortal Guardian, Aeternal Requiem, and Jessikill. I met them all in San Antonio actually. Its good to know there are bands getting that style of metal out there.

What is your opinion about the current metal scene?

The metal scene is great because I always feel like I’m in good company at a show or just talking about music. I feel there should be a wider audience and it should just be bigger overall though. Lets see some shows where just as many people come out for live bands as people do for computers! The more metalheads the better. [laughs] Id like to see more melodic power/prog metal bands coming out of the states as well.

Can you tell me something about your influences?

Any artist that dares to be different and step outside the box is an influence. Innovators inspire more than emulators for sure.

Enceladus (band)

What are you listening to these days?

Quite a few things such as classical, Jrock, video game/cinema compositions, and prog bands. We’ve been jamming some Circus Maximus. In between that there’s some chill groovy stuff to get ‘down’ to as well. 😉

Your 5 favourite records of all the time?

Thats too hard for some of us, but here is a selection at the moment:

1) Angel of Salvation by Galneryus

2) The Divine Wings of Tragedy by Symphony X

3) Destiny by Stratovarius

4) Temple of Shadows by Angra

5) Blue Blood by X Japan

Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you use to record “Arrival”?

Sure. Its been a pretty simple process. We use Cubase 8 for our DAW / ESP LTD Bass/ ESP LTD and PRS S2 Guitars, then Focusrite Scarlett’s as the recording interfaces.

What can we expect from Enceladus in the near future?

Definitely keep on a lookout! You can expect a style that is constantly evolving and never stagnant. We have enough ideas in the works for a third album and beyond already. Some epic stuff, some chill stuff, and most of all more METAL!

“Arrival” is available from Bandcamp.

With the Coming of Friendship: Kevin McCormick’s First Album

with the coming

This month at Progarchy, in addition to writing and analyzing about many, many things, we’re having a bit of celebration of Kevin McCormick’s first album, With the Coming of Evening (1993).  It’s been 20 years since it first appeared, and, sadly, this masterpiece is still relatively forgotten.

This needs to change.

It’s nearly impossible to label in terms of styles.  McCormick, much influenced by every great composer, performer, and group from Andres Segovia and Viktor Villa-Lobos to Rush and Talk Talk, brings everything good to his music.

A nationally award-winning poet, published composer (for classical guitar as well as choir), and professional classical guitarist, he offers his very artful being and soul to his music.  Like many in the prog world, McCormick’s a perfectionist in everything he does.  But, it’s not completely fair to label this album “in the prog world,” though it comes as close to prog as any genre in the music world.

Had With the Coming of Evening been released now, in the days of internet sovereignty, many would label this album as post-rock or post-prog, akin to the Icelandic shoe-gazing of Sigur Ros.  No doubt, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock hover lovingly over this work, though McCormick is always his own man.

Very much so.

Nor, would he have it any other way.  As humble as he is talented, McCormick would gladly take blame for any fault, and, being Kevin, he would rarely take credit for anything brilliant he produces.  He would say he discovered what is already, simply having been the first to notice it or remember it.

Still it’s his name on the work, and he recognizes that this comes with a certain amount of responsibility and duty–to all who came before him and all who will come after him.  McCormick would even want his inspirations to be proud of him.  After all, what would Mark Hollis think of just some ghastly American cover band?

No, McCormick is his own man.

My bias

I should be upfront about my bias.  I’ve known Kevin since the fall of 1986, when we were each freshmen in college.  Though we’d talked off an on our first month and a half of the semester, it was on a plane ride from Chicago to Denver over fall break that really allowed us to get to know each other.  After that, we were as thick as thieves.  Well, as thieving as two would-be Catholic boys could be.

As with all meaningful college friendships, we talked late into the night, read and critiqued each other’s work, had deep (well, at the time, they seemed deep) philosophical debates, talked (of course) about girls, discussed which albums were the best ever, mocked the cafeteria food, and so on.

The following year, we traveled throughout southern Europe and also the UK together.  I spent the year in Innsbruck, Austria, and Kevin lived in Rome.

When traveling together for three weeks in England, we paid homage to all of the great recording studios, tried to find Mark Hollis at EMI headquarters, and even (oh so very obnoxiously) thought we’d tracked down Sting’s house.  Kevin rang the doorbell, but, thank the Good Lord, neither Mr. Sting nor Mrs. Sting answered.

We also, of course, visited Stonehenge.

If we’d had Facebook, then, we probably would’ve visited Greg Spawton, David Longdon, Matt Stevens (was he in kindergarten, then?), Robin Armstrong, Matt Cohen, and Giancarlo Erra, too.  “Who are these crazy Americans knocking on our door!  Go visit someone like Mr. and Mrs. Sting!”

Our loss.

Our dorm room in Zahm Hall, U. of Notre Dame, Fall 1988. Kevin and his future wife, Lisa. Notice the stereo system and cassettes behind Kevin and Lisa.

Our third year, back at our Catholic college in northern Indiana, we shared a dorm room.  That year, I also hosted a Friday night prog show (called, can you believe it, “Nocturnal Omissions”–I really thought I was clever) on our college radio station, and Kevin would often co-host with me.  He founded a band, St. Paul and the Martyrs, which became the most popular band on campus, covering everything from XTC to Yes to Blancmange.

Our final year, I helped produce an extremely elaborate charity concert, and St. Paul and the Martyrs performed–the entire Dark Side of the Moon, complete with a avant garde film and elaborate stage lighting, followed by a performance (less elaborate in terms of production) of side one of Spirit of Eden.

Kevin and Lisa’s wedding. Notice Kevin’s ponytail. This automatically makes him a cool artist.

When Kevin returned from several years in Japan and (truly) traveling the world, we spent a few years together in graduate school, Kevin in music, me in history.

Kevin is godfather to my oldest son, and I to his second daughter.  We remain as close as we ever were.

What about the music?

Come on, Birzer.  This is a music site, not a “here’s what I did in college” site.  True, true.  But, so much of my own thoughts regarding Kevin’s music are related to our friendship.  Every time I put on one of his albums, it’s as though I’ve just had one of the best conversations in my life.

So, I’ve asked others at Progarchy to review With the Coming of Evening.  You know my bias–so, now I’ll state what I believe as objectively as possible.

Kevin is brilliant, as a lyricist, as a composer, and as a person.  His first album, With the Coming of Evening, the first of a trilogy, is a stunning piece of work, and it deserves to be regarded not just as a post-rock classic, but as a rock and prog classic.

It’s not easy listening.  Kevin takes so many chances and weaves his music in so many unusual ways, that one has to immerse oneself in it.  It’s gorgeous.  It’s like reading a T.S. Eliot poem.  No one who wants to understand an Eliot poem reads it as a spectator.  You either become a part of it, or you misunderstand it.

If there’s a misstep on the album, it comes with the 9th track, “Looks Like Rain.”  Its blues structure and blue lamentations stick out a little too much.  A remix of this album would almost certainly leave this song out.  It’s still an excellent song.  It just doesn’t fit tightly with the rest of the album–which really must be taken as an organic and mesmeric whole.

Kevin took six years to write and record the follow-up album, Squall (1999), and he’s ready to record the conclusion to the trilogy.

More on Kevin to come. . . .

IMG_1096.JPG - Version 2_face0
Kevin and I revisit Notre Dame, 20 years later. Kevin has cut the ponytail, but, otherwise, he’s not aged.

But, for now, treat yourself to his backcatalogue.  I give it my highest recommendation.  And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that he one of the nicest guys in all of creation. . . .


To order With the Coming of Evening, go here.

To read more about McCormick, go here.

To read what thinks of McCormick, go here.

Serendipitous, Indeed


Coming to a music hall, church auditorium, Starbucks, or living room near you, Seryn (Denton, TX) packs a massive sound and stage presence for a folk group.  I say “folk” only to set the broadest parameters, for here’s another Texas band whose sweeping sound defies taxonomy.  They do it with the simplest tools in reach — ukulele, pump organ, accordion, violin, guitar, bass, trumpet, vibraphone, lots of drums (everyone in this band seems to have one), a $200 Goodtime resonator banjo and, above all, effectual vocal harmonies — rendering a gratifying achievement.  Let them dispel any skepticism with their summer 2011 Daytrotter session.   “River Song” and “Beach Song” seem better suited to the large concert hall than coffee house.  This music emanates from the same big space that yields Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You. Moving through fragile passages and tempo changes to big finales, Nathan Allen’s guitar can be as capacious as his massive red beard.  Paste was impressed enough to name Seryn the best act at the 2011 SXSW festival.

The band derives its name from serendipity — a series of uncanny accidents drew the core members together in 2009, e.g. multi-instrumentalist/lead vocalist Trenton Wheeler and dreadlocked violinist Chelsea Borher bumped into one another at an Explosions in the Sky concert and exchanged musical ideas, unaware that Allen wanted them both in his band.  Since then they have released one full length album, This Is Where We Are (2011), as well as a Christmas collection last year.

Seryn’s fluid line-up expands and contracts to accommodate additional strings and percussion as space allows. YouTube is flush with videos of the band’s iterations, but the most compelling of them feature the original quintet in cramped quarters with rapt listeners seated cross legged at their feet. Seryn have made two passes by my neck of the woods but conflicts have not permitted me to see them in person. But the opportunity would be well worth the time, as this band is too much their own muse for comparisons to be drawn.