Before we have the chance to miss them, The Pinheads will return from the studio …
California (by trade) tech-death outfit Aenimus want you to feel sympathy for some of the most maligned characters on celluloid – the murderers, the fanatics, the irredeemable slashers.
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Inspired by the gory rivers of blood in The Shining, Halloween, and the twisted mind of Stephen King, Aenimus aren’t a typical death metal band. Instead of describing Hammer Smashed Faces in intricate, stomach-churning detail, they set the inner workings of these craven killers to music. Aenimus ask: can we have sympathy for Michael Myers as he stalks his prey and cuts them into filet mignon? Seth Stone, bassist and linchpin of the fresh Nuclear Blast signings, says we can. We can, and we can love it just as much as the visuals, too. We lift the lid on Dreamcatcher, their second album and debut for their new label.
Dreamcatcher is your second album, your first for new label Nuclear Blast. It seems like your band is spread out all across the United States.
We’re all spread out between California, Oregon, and Nebraska. The vocalist and I live kind of close to each other. We’re about an hour and a half apart. Everyone else is like a seven hour drive to a four hour plane ride.
Would you describe yourself as the leader of the band?
I don’t like say leader. I’m kind of the behind-the-scenes guy, is what I kind of like to say, when it comes to like business stuff and social media. But when it comes to the band itself, like everyone’s a really important person. But I am the founder and the only original member. Sean’s been in the band since like late 2012, but I started the band in 2011.
How did you recruit for the band, seeing as everyone’s in all corners of the country?
So, let’s see here. With Sean, he was in a band called Smashed Face with Chris Storey from All Shall Perish. It’s how I found out about Sean, and we just simply, back in the day, hit him up on Facebook. We were like, “Hey man, we’re looking for another guitarist.” And he was interested in it and it ended up just working out really well. But the other guys I found from touring.
Alex, our vocalist, his local band we actually took out on a tour, on our first tour ever. We had played with them one time and we’re like, “Hey, man.” These guys were really nice. Let’s see if they want to do this tour with us. They seem like a cool band to go for our first tour. That’s how we met Alex, was that way, and I just kind of kept track, and he’s an amazing vocalist. With Cody and Jordan, both their old local bands they were in back in like 2014, 2013, opened up for us when we came through on tour. I just kept track of them because they both really impressed me. I was like adding them on Facebook. They were fans of the band. And so, when I needed members, I hit them up. And it just kind of worked out.
As for the recording of this album, you said in a mini-doco you recorded demos before hitting the studio proper. Is that the normal thing to do these days?
I don’t know if it’s normal. That’s just how we did it I guess. Yeah, it seemed normal to us. Maybe the difference is that we pretty much wrote everything on Guitar Pro. So, if we didn’t really demo it out before, I wouldn’t really have like a realistic idea of how it came together. So, once we had the songs demoed out, like all the guitars bass and drums and vocals demoed out. Jordan went through and added a synth track that has like orchestral parts throughout the whole entire album, and the idea behind that was to make it sound more like a movie soundtrack or movie score. If we didn’t demo it out, if we would have just went straight into a recording studio and tried to whip it out, we wouldn’t have had any of that. But then, it’s also I guess other bands are maybe doing this on other people’s dime, where it was it was our budget. We did album before we were signing Nuclear Blast. We recorded it all ourselves and then we paid to have it mixed and mastered by Jamie King. So, yeah, I don’t know if it’s normal.
Watch some of these movies again or some of your favourites, and really try and get into these characters’ minds of why they’re doing this. Why they’re feeling this way. It can be kind of crazy, especially like the Hannibal; the psychology of all that is just incredible.
You also mentioned in the doco you were inspired by horror films, horror literature, and composed music to that. It has a feel of a film score…even though what you’re playing is death metal.
So, musically the approach we took was trying to capture the characters emotions. How did this person feel in this part of the movie? Because like we were retelling it essentially. We took the album, we made movements for each movie or story, right? And within that movement, there’s maybe two or three songs and we’re like, okay, this song, we want to do a movement about The Shining and we wanted it to be about Jack’s struggles. So, like in his perspective, how he was feeling throughout that story, and what he was thinking. And so, we try to grasp that with the music as well, like thinking, okay, so it’s going to start out. He just lost his job, so it’s going to start off kind dark and fast and sporadic, but it’s going to get better because he gets this new job where he gets to be with his family and write his new book.
So, it kind of leads into a happy field. And this the song, Caretaker, and then he kind of starts losing his mind and starts drinking and whatever. And so, it gets kind of crazy and sporadic and then super dark. So, we took that approach when we were writing and it gave a very dynamic album. If you’ve listened to it, you’ll know it goes some big ups and some big downs, some moments that have a more positive sound to them, and some songs that are just really like melancholy. That’s kind of the way we went about it.
Since you’re writing about established characters, did that put a limit on what you could do? And did that limit actually help your creativity?
It totally did create a template for each song. We wrote the lyrics after. We kind of just followed that same template for the lyrics. Like this part is definitely where we were thinking “oh, it’d be a little more hopeful sounding.” The kids are defeating IT, you know? So lyrically, we followed that same template. It definitely created a template, which like you could think like, “oh, that kind of limits you.” But the thing is with these templates being about movies or stories, there’s so many different emotions throughout a story, throughout these stories, and specifically that need to be portrayed to where, yeah, I guess it could be called a limitation on it. But also opened us up to so many new things that aren’t in every tech death album.
As a horror fan, just like every metal fan on Planet Earth, horror is more about experiencing thrills or anxiety. We don’t care why Jason Voorhees is murdering kids or Freddy Kruger is invading people’s dreams. They’re bloodthirsty, they’re crazy, end of discussion. It’s interesting you take a peek behind the mask of insanity of these characters. Now there’s a soundtrack to their psychology, it’s a bit easier to understand their motivations.
What we did to try and understand these characters and what they were feeling is we went back and re-read or listened to these books, and watched all the movies again, and it was a long process doing that. But it was so much fun because we chose four of our favourite stories from classic horror movies or books. It’s kind of a unique thing to do if you go back, and with that mindset, watch some of these movies again or some of your favourites, and really try and get into these characters’ minds of why they’re doing this. Why they’re feeling this way. It can be kind of crazy, especially like the Hannibal; the psychology of all that is just incredible.
What does 2019 have in store for you and the band?
The year is filling up with tours, which is our ultimate goal. Our goal is now that the records going to be out, is to be performing this record for people. I feel like it’s a really good way for us to make new fans. Social media is fantastic, but we make a lot of fans when they see us performing it, because it’s an experience. It really is. We’re going out in a couple weeks. We’re doing a headliner with our friends Interloper, and their vocalist Mike Semesky, who is featured on our song My Becoming is going to be doing his guest part live every night, which will be awesome.