God Forbid- 19/02/2009

GOD FORBID is an American heavy metal band that was formed in 1996 in East Brunswick, New Jersey. They haven’t had a single line-up change since the band was founded. Building up a following in the late 1990s by touring with bands such as Gwar, Nile and Cradle of Filth, their first full album ‘Reject the Sickness’ was released by 9 Volt Records in 1999. This album received heavy rotation in the New York City area and the band was subsequently signed to Century Media Records, releasing the album ‘Determination’ in 2001. They played on the MTV2 Headbanger's Ball tour with Shadows Fall and Lamb of God. In 2004, they released ‘Gone Forever’, which increased their profile considerably and earned them a spot on Ozzfest. The next year, they released ‘IV: Constitution of Treason’, a concept album about the end of the world. In 2006, God Forbid's "To the Fallen Hero," won the Independent Music Award for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Song. They made a DVD which was released on June 10, 2008 and spent the remainder of 2008 recording their new album, entitled ‘Earthsblood’.

 

The apocalyptic and grandiose musical landscape of the new GOD FORBID album proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this New Jersey based group have paved a new path out from the stagnant US metal scene and the future looks to be a very bright one. Their stunning new effort, ‘Earthsblood’, blends together a perfect amount of brutality, melodies and utter catchiness against a wall of sonic excess and pummelling groove-laden riffs. ‘Earthsblood’ was produced by Eric Rachel (Atreyu) with Christian Olde Wolbers (Fear Factory, Threat Signal) handling all vocal tracking. The mixing was done by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Soilwork, Amon Amarth).

 

Furthermore, European fans can look forward to seeing GOD FORBID on tour with New Jersey buddies Ill Nino in February / March 2009 as well as on summer festivals like Flamefest (Italy), Graspop (Belgium), With Full Force (Germany), Vainstream (Germany), Hellfest (France), Kobetasonik (Spain) and more.

 

 

So it seems there is much to talk about and lead guitarist Doc Coyle was available to answer some questions. Here you can read what he had to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com

 

Congratulations on your new album ‘Earthsblood’ which will be released in a couple of weeks! Of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about it.

 

It’s been a couple of years since ‘IV: Constitution of Treason’ came out, so it seems you took your time for the new record. How did you launch into writing material for ‘Earthsblood’ and how much time did you spend on the songs?

 

Doc : We got into the writing sessions in a very relaxed, exploratory fashion. We didn’t put any pressure on ourselves to complete the writing too quickly. We wanted to have ample time to gauge and analyze the songs. I feel like ‘Constitution’ was a little rushed, and maybe if we would have had a little more time to live with the songs, it would’ve been that much better. I’m a big fan of Rick Rubin and his theories about song writing. He believes that bands write their best songs near the end of the writing process. We started writing in June-July 2007 through Feb 2008, but we did a couple tours in the middle of that, so it was around 5 months writing if you put it all together.

 

Did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?

 

Doc : Every album, I feel like ideas come more difficult at first because it usually takes some time for you to get your head back in that creative mode, but each time I feel like I write more and more high quality material. I’m getting better at writing personally. The most difficult thing for us generally was figuring which direction we wanted to go in. We knew that we wanted to do something that was special and potentially ground breaking for our genre. That required thinking outside the box and taking chances. There was careful composition, but a good deal of it was a process of trial and error. ‘Earthsblood’ is more musical than anything we’ve done. It required being more in touch with the moods of each song, and trying to feel where the song could go. It was adventurous. 

 

What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘Earthsblood’, any elements you definitely wanted to have on the album?

 

Doc : I think it’s important to say that we didn’t know what the album would be when it  was done. We didn’t even have most of the vocals finished. We thought we had some special and interesting material, but you don’t have a complete idea of what you’re creating until it’s pretty much done. Our goals weren’t drastically different from our other recordings. We want to always make a great album. I think we wanted this album to have a bit more natural feel, less layering and over-production techniques, especially with the vocals. We wanted to get everything done on time, but that didn’t work out at all. 

 

Was it a conscious decision to do it this way?

 

Doc : Yes and no. Sometimes things present themselves in a natural way during recording. These songs dictated a certain finesse because of how dynamic they were and the varied influences. I think as you become a more experienced band, your standards become higher, and you have a more refined vision of how you want your songs to turn out. More attention is paid to detail and performance.

 

 

In song writing, what is the utmost important ingredient for a song according to you?

 

Doc : It’s a combination of a song being catchy and grabbing you, and also an intangible element of a song just making you feel something. If it makes you want to punch somebody, or headbang, or just makes you happy. I think that’s why we try to write diverse material. Because the human range of emotions is diverse. Most heavy bands just explore aggression and anger. Often it can be stiff and lack soul. A lot of extreme and technical bands strike me that way. Insecure, and afraid to let people in for fear of being rejected for being weak. It’s unfortunate.

 

About song writing, how can we imagine you work on new songs, what's the typical writing process like for God Forbid? For example, is it a group process or did some people write more than others?

 

Doc : Usually Dallas or I will come up with 1, 2 or a series of riffs or sometimes most of a song already arranged on our own time. We’ll then get together as a band to rehearse and go over the parts and just jam on it to see if it feels natural. We’ll usually have ideas about drum beats, but sometimes Corey will come up with something different or better than we thought. We’ll record it, and than listen back. You have to listen to the tracks as if you were just a normal person, and try to be objective. If it’s worthy, usually I or someone else will come up with ideas for where the song should go. We often argue about this. When we first started, we used to write everything in the rehearsal room in a much more collaborative way. That led to some very unique stuff, but our writing now is more focused, although our ability to collaborate and jam is still there and comes out in songs like “War of Attrition” and “Gaia”. Those songs were more “on the spot” and spontaneous. The vocals are always added later, and sometimes not until we actually get in the studio.  

 

What would you say are the main themes in your lyrics, where do you get your inspiration from?

 

Doc : I usually try not to explain too much of the lyrical content because I don’t write most of the lyrics. Dallas and Byron do. I just fill in the blanks when we need something. They are both free and easy when it comes to writing lyrics, and they tend to write a decent amount. Byron really uses the band as a cathartic vehicle to vent his personal feelings. Dallas is more abstract and more of a storyteller, and even a little spiritual in his own way. I’m not even aware of all of the themes for the album.

 

What comes first, lyrics or melodies? Is it like you sit down and write a new song because you need more material now or do you wait until you get an idea?

 

Doc : When I write melodic vocals, I usually have a melody and phrasing, and I will try to write words that make sense and feel good. I know Byron writes the words first almost in poetry form, and I think Dallas does both, but he has the ability to kind of come up with stuff very quickly, almost stream of consciousness. Knowing you have an album certainly motivates you to write, but I try to always write. I haven’t really stopped writing since the album sessions ended. When I’m in the creative mindset, I try to ride it like a wave. Ideally, I would like to be in a constant state of creation and inspiration. It’s the most powerful and fulfilling state of being in my opinion. It is difficult to be in this state on tour. Tour is way too busy, distracting, and loud. I like solitude and searching.

 


Could you please describe the implications of the title ‘Earthsblood’
what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?

 

Doc : It was inspired by the film “There Will Be Blood”. After watching the movie, I had the phrase, “Blood of the Earth” stuck in my head. I couldn’t shake it. The story involves a man who is pushed from the human nature of connectivity by pain and greed. For every gallon of oil drilled and dollar earned, there is a human cost or collateral damage. Human blood for Earths blood. It made me think about how we are connected to the organic elements of our natural environment. It seemed relevant to the modern geopolitical landscape. Almost every large global conflict is centered around energy or consumption. Climate change seems to be one of the most imminent issues challenging our generation. It seemed like the right title for the right time.

 

Is the music written independently of the lyrics or do you try to reflect lyrical ideas through the music?

 

Doc : They are definitely separate endeavors, but our lyrical imagery does fit the music. It would be weird if we sang about rainbows and picking flowers. Dark music certainly calls for darker lyrics and wordplay.

 

How important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?

 

Doc : I don’t see us as a band with a message that has an overwhelming agenda. Like I said, I don’t write most of the lyrics, so I’m sure that a song’s significance might have added meaning to the writer. When we did the ‘Gone Forever’ album, we made a collective decision to write lyrics that we felt had a more universal message, and that could connect to listeners more easily. I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t feel the need to pressure anyone to take anything from our music that they don’t want to. It’s metal. I should be fun first and foremost. This is a genre that has bands that write lyrics about everything from raping zombies to dragons, to Lord of the Rings. I think fans tend to take metal lyrics with a grain of salt. 

 

Do you have any favorites on ‘Earthsblood’, songs that you think are somehow above the others?

 

Doc : It tends to change. The songs are so different that I like different things about different tracks. Right now, I think my favorite tracks are “The New Clear”, “War of Attrition” “Walk Alone”, and “Bat the Angels”. Playing the songs live for a long period of time always makes you get sick of hearing songs over and over again. I always tend to appreciate the songs we don’t get to play live.

 

Did you guys spend a fair amount of time working on the record before heading over to record the album? How much time did you spend in the studio for ‘Earthsblood’?

 

Doc : Like I said before, we probably spent about 5-6 months writing. The recording process including mixing and mastering took approximately 3 and ½ months, but the process stretched from March ’08 to November ’08. We had a 2 month tour in the middle of all that, and then there was about 6 weeks where we were figuring out who was going to mix the album by having an assortment of producers do test mixes.

 

 

The album was produced by Eric Rachel and Christian Olde Wolbers, what made them the perfect team for God Forbid? 

 

Doc : We’ve been working with Eric since 2000 with ‘Determination’. He’s worked on every album with us since then either co-producing or mixing or both. His studio, Trax East is really like home for us. We feel very comfortable there, and Eric always puts us at ease. It’s a joy tracking with him. He’s very encouraging when tracking, but he also has a keen ear, and won’t let up until he feels he has the right performance. He also has a great work ethic. Always in the studio early, and he stays late.  We intended to record the whole album with Eric, but we didn’t book enough time, and maybe we just weren’t prepared enough. We were friends with Christian, and we also shared the same manager. I liked the Threat Signal and Mnemic records he’d done, and being with Fear Factory, I knew that he was well versed in dealing with a band that had both harsh and melodic vocals. Although we never worked with him previously, his creative input, willingness to experiment, and general feedback funneled what became the final product. He had to mediate a lot of the tension and disagreements between Dallas, Byron and myself, which is a difficult task.

 

In which things/songs on the new album can one clearly hear their vision and ideas?

 

Doc : I think Eric’s biggest mark is in the overall sound of the record. Although Jens Bogren did a masterful job of mixing, the tones did not change drastically which is a credit to Eric’s ability to get incredible tones. I loved the raw sounds that he got. In a sense I feel like he made the mixing fairly easy for whomever would have to mix it in a sonic sense. He’s a true professional. Christian’s biggest mark was in the fact that he told us that we could spend as long as it took to make the vocals incredible for the album. That’s exactly what an artist needs to hear. Nothing stifles creativity like limitations. When you’re doing vocals, especially with a lot of melody, it’s almost like writing another song on top of the music. It’s challenging, but can take the whole project to a new level because vocals are what resonate with normal, non-musicians the most. By making the vocals prominent, you give the album a chance of being successful on a different level.

 

What do you think are the main differences between your previous album ‘IV: Constitution of Treason’ and ‘Earthsblood’?

 

Doc : Time and definitive goals. I think ‘Constitution’ was a transitional album. We didn’t talk about what we wanted it to be. It was just the next logical step from ‘Gone Forever’. It was a step away from the metalcore formulas, but not different enough to really sway people either way. We only had 2 months to write it and 2 months to record it. There wasn’t time to reflect on the material. I don’t think ‘Earthsblood’ could have been as adventurous if we didn’t lay some of the ground on ‘Constitution’. Now we can pretty much do anything in a song and it won’t be completely unexpected. There’s more freedom, and I don’t think we have to bend to fit a genre anymore. We also wanted to do something musically that was different and special, and would knock people over, and reinvent the band in a way. Hopefully make a classic album.


Have you received any feedback on the album yet?

 

Doc : So far, the feedback has been incredible. There have only been a handful of reviews, but they’ve all been glowing reviews with scores between 8/10 to even some perfect scores. Most have been German metal websites, which is encouraging because Germany and mainland Europe is still a region where we are trying to break out in a big way. I know the German metal press isn’t afraid to be honest, so I feel like we’re gaining more credibility. We’ve also gotten some great feedback from close friends, and some of our band friends as well. Many people think it’s our best album yet.

 

Are third party opinions (press, fans, etc.) on your music important to you? Or are your music and band the only things that matter?

 

Doc : To be honest, I don’t choose to do music in a vacuum. I do want people to like it, but I trust my taste. If I like it, then I trust that others will be into it. But to be clear, I don’t write just to please others. The act of creation is probably the most important thing to me. The fact is that the more people that enjoy what we do, the more time and energy we can put into the band. Success can buy you more freedom to work on your art at your leisure.

 

Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of the songs or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective?
 

Doc : As of right now, I am completely satisfied with the album. There is nothing I would change from the songs, to the production, to the performances. I really like our album right now, but I’m sure I will get sick of it, and think it sucks by the time we want to do something new.

 

 

What do you think is the difference between God Forbid and other bands in the melodic thrash / metalcore scene?

 

Doc : I think when we started out,, we were much different than the rest of the scene. The styles we mixed together were really odd at the time. Death metal, mixed with Megadeth melodies, crazy structures, and even some spastic Dillinger Escape Plan type frantic energy. Then, we tried to learn how to write more normal songs. We learned how to hold a groove. We added melodic vocals. I think it made us fit in more and maybe not seem as unique although the songs were catchier, more well written, and with more focus. ‘Earthsblood’ ties our whole career together in a sense because we maintained and improved our ability to write more traditional metal songs, but regained some of the fearlessness of our older records. We are mixing genres that a lot of bands in our scene don’t. Black Metal, Rock, Prog, and I think we play with more soul than most of our peers. We’re becoming ok with being ourselves, and that took a long time. 

 

What is your opinion on the ‘metalcore’ scene these days, what do you think about the overload of bands at the moment and is there anything missing in the scene?

 

Doc : Is there even such a thing as a metalcore scene anymore? I guess the deathcore scene is kind of the new extension of that. It’s weird because in my opinion half the bands that are characterized as metalcore don’t even apply like us, Shadows Fall, Killswitch. The other half of bands that are called metalcore, I don’t feel like we have a great deal of things in common with, so who knows? One day we’re melodic thrash, the next day we’re new wave of American heavy metal, the day after that we’re metalcore. We can’t really control how we’re labeled, so as long as people don’t use labels to diminish our accomplishments, I am ok with the metalcore tag. I think the thing that has always been missing from metalcore is inventiveness. But just like hardcore, once you become too inventive, you cease to be that genre. The genres are limiting by their definition.

 

Who are your greatest influences?

 

Doc : My personal influences are a varied range. from Metallica, Muse, Opeth, Dimmu Borgir, Gojira, Strapping Young Lad, In Flames, Alice In Chains, Portishead, Nevermore, Arch Enemy, the Beatles, Guns N Roses, Megadeth, and plenty more. Too much to name.

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics? What are you personally into?

 

Doc : Like I said before, I don’t really write a lot of lyrics. The lyrics I do write are generally words that I think go together in a way that’s hopefully a little clever and meaningful. Sometimes it’s social commentary motivated, but sometimes I’m just completing one of the other guys’ thoughts or adding to some material they’ve already written. Sometimes I will feel compelled to write when I’m depressed, but it’s difficult to get it out. I don’t pour my feelings out like I think some really good writers do. I’m closed in that way I think. Introverted.

 

With all the touring and several albums under your belt, how far has God Forbid surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the band?

 

Doc : When we started this band, I never had any realistic thoughts of doing it as a career or touring the world. We always set small goals. Make an album, get a record deal, do some touring, go to Europe. I don’t think we ever thought the style of music we did would ever become popular on any mainstream level. I remember going to Ozzfest in 2002, and it was bands like Glassjaw, Chevelle, Lost Prophets. The only really heavy bands were Meshuggah and Hatebreed. That was the exception to the rule. I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me that we would be on Ozzfest only 2 years later. The most rewarding thing though about being in the band is the recognition from normal people who kind of envy the position we are in. The fact that we get to kind of exist outside of the everyday monotony of the 9 to 5 working class. Sometimes we take that for granted because we struggle financially to keep doing this. Lately it’s dawned on me that this might not last forever, so if we don’t capitalize on our opportunities, than we’ll be back at our 9 to 5 jobs permanently. 

 

 

What were the highlights and low points throughout your career until now?

 

Doc : I think the Ozzfest tour I mentioned was a big highlight, because it was the first time we really envisioned our band being able to exist at the highest level with the best and biggest metal bands in the world. It gave us big confidence. We got to do arena shows with Slayer and Slipknot and felt respected. The lowest point for us was probably the year before ‘Gone Forever’ came out, when we almost broke up. There was a lot of uncertainty about the future. We didn’t get along very well, and didn’t appreciate our successes like we should’ve. There have been a lot of rough times recently though too. I never know if we’re going to make it. Real life gets in the way of your heavy metal dreams all of the time. People change, and your relationships change over time. Nothing is certain.

 

Which album has been your biggest musical influence, one that made you think “this is what I want to do!”?

 

Doc : I don’t know if I can name 1 album that influenced me more than any other. It was really several albums over a several year period.

 

What can we expect from God Forbid in the future and where do you see the band going within the next couple of years? Where do you see the band’s musical direction going for the next album?

 

Doc : We will definitely be promoting and touring in support of ‘Earthsblood’ as long as it makes sense. I think this is a landmark album for us, and it deserves the full push and effort. It’s difficult to say after that. I hate to tie the band’s future to its success, but it’s a fact that we have to be able to subsist at a certain level to be a full time band. Dallas and I are into a bunch of other things as well. We’d like to do some other side project stuff and business ventures. Dallas is also into film, so he will be working on that as well. Hopefully, we can do everything we want, and not have to hurt the band. As far as musical direction, I’m still in a good writing vibe, and could probably start working on a new album right now. At the same time, I don’t want to rush an album. I want it to be special. I think if there is another GF album, it will be even more out there and experimental, but with that continued focus on writing catchy songs. We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but we might put some spinning rims on that bitch!

 

Any last statement?

 

Doc : Thank you for the interview. Those were a lot of questions. I hope to see everyone on our tours with Ill Nino, and for the festivals during summertime. I also want to give props to D-Lux Jeans! Take care.

 
Thanks for your time!

Eugene Straver

 

 

Albums:
Out of Misery EP (1998)

Reject the Sickness (1999)

Determination (2001)
Better Days EP (2003)

Gone Forever (2004)

IV: Constitution of Treason (2005)
Beneath the Scars of Glory and Progression (DVD, 2008)

Earthsblood (2009)

 

Members :

Byron Davis – Lead Vocals

Dallas Coyle – Rhythm Guitar, Vocals

Doc Coyle – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals

John Outcalt – Bass

Corey Pierce – Drums