Rise and Fall Frontman Discusses Working With Converge’s Kurt Ballou
The folks at Deathwish Inc. have just released ‘Our Circle Is Vicious,’ the newest album from Rise and Fall. The Belgian band is one of Europe’s biggest hardcore acts, but their newer material crosses more into the metal side of their sound. Produced by Converge‘s Kurt Ballou at his God City studio in Massachusetts, the album is a study in tension, anger and self-reflection. Noisecreep spoke with singer Bjorn Dossche and asked him about the album’s creation and what it was like working with Ballou.
It’s been four years since your sophomore album came out. How do you feel about ‘Into Oblivion’ now when you listen to it?
Listening to our own records isn’t something I do on a regular basis, but I’m still into ‘Into Oblivion’ as a record whenever I hear it. Of course there are things that we could have done better. The writing for that album was a little rushed, and not every song got the attention it needed to be a totally killer track. The guitars are also a little too dominant in the mix. But then again, it’s exactly the record we wanted to make at the time. We just wanted an album that was loud, raw, heavy and full of unbridled rage — and that’s exactly what it is. Only a few of those songs offered a little room to breathe, and that’s one of the things we wanted to explore further on ‘Our Circle Is Vicious.’
The reason I ask is because ‘Our Circle Is Vicious’ seems like you’ve reached another level of intensity.
It’s definitely another level, which is normal since it’s been four years since that record came out, and it’s been close to five years since we started writing songs for ‘Into Oblivion.’ In that time we’ve evolved as people and as musicians and lyricists. We wanted it to be different and challenging, while still being a Rise and Fall record. That energy and that heaviness is something we wanted to retain, while digging deeper musically and lyrically to create an altogether more intense and “heavier” record. I hope we have succeeded in doing that.
The vocals sound like they might have been physically taxing to record. After a day of tracking them, does it take a toll on you?
Recording vocals is never fun and never easy, but I have to say that I have never been more comfortable singing in a studio than with Kurt at God City. He really made me feel at ease, and it also helped knowing that Kurt knows what he’s doing and that he’s recorded plenty of dudes even weirder than me. For ‘Our Circle Is Vicious,’ we actually spread out recording the vocals over four or five days during the second week. I would go in the late afternoon, after Cedric had finished putting down the guitars for a couple of songs, and then I would sing on those songs that he’d finished. Some days I’d do two songs, some days four depending on how much work there was to be done. This way I never really had to strain myself too much or overdo anything, and it seemed to work out fine.
The new album has plenty of the energized stuff, but you also have songs like ‘Knowing’ on there which is slower paced yet still heavy. How do those kinds of songs translate when you play them in front of an audience?
As far as ‘Knowing’ goes, we’ll have to wait and see I guess, because we haven’t played that one live yet. Same goes for ‘To the Bottom.’ We have been playing ‘In Circles’ live since this summer and people really seem to like it a lot, and so do we because it adds a different vibe to the set.
Sonically speaking, how much of your guitar and bass tones are already dialed-in by the time you hit the studio? Did Ballou help shape that aspect of your sound?
Well Cedric (our guitarist) and Vince (our bassist) are both quite obsessed with their sound and their gear, so they had a pretty good idea of what kind of sound they wanted. So putting them together with Kurt, who is a total sonic wizard, resulted in an extensive search for the right amps and tones and sounds. So yeah, Kurt helped out a lot, but we knew what we were going for. He definitely was the right man for the job, ’cause I can honestly say that I think the album sounds great. Without any intention to brag or anything, it just sounds awesome.