Ever wanted to find out what inspired a particular song?
Was it based on personal experience or simply passive observation?
What happened in the recording studio or on stage to make one song sound different from the rest?
These are just some of the question bands and musicians attempt to answer in Line 'em Up - the newest page of The Power Of Metal.Dk.
This is where your favourite bands comment on their albums, track by track, because as someone once said, “Ideas are the building blocks of ideas”.
Here's a chance for you to tell our readers about your new album "Enigma". But could you please start off by introducing the readers to Aeon Zen & yourself?
Sure! My name is Rich Hinks, and I’m the founder, multi-instrumentalist, song-writer, and producer of the UK progressive metal band Aeon Zen. Prior to our new album “Enigma”, we released 2 albums, “A Mind’s Portrait” in 2009 and “The Face of the Unknown” in 2010, and have toured and gigged with the likes of the Devin Townsend Project, Focus, and Curved Air.
And now onto “Enigma”… track-by-track, what inspired you, what topics are you dealing with, what do you want to express with this song etc.
01. Enter The Enigma
This track was mostly inspired by my desire to create an etherial, grandiose introduction to the album. Being a concept album, I think it’s very important to establish themes and a musical direction right from the word go, so I built this track around 2 melodies in a symphonic style, while also using some interesting instrumentation, that also return later in the album in different contexts.
02. Artificial Soul
After the bombastic introduction, I wanted a piece that sets the atmosphere for the story element of the album, while of course still giving a strong musical foundation. This song’s lyrics deal with issues of self-confidence, and troubled upbringings, so I felt it was very important for the music to reflect that. So we have plenty of eerie and haunting synth parts, intertwined with contrasting heavy and light guitars that show the rollercoaster of the concept. It ends with one of my favourite sections on the album, a huge 5 vocalist choir, providing a great climax to the song.
So Artificial Soul flows directly into Divinity with a fast change of pace into what is surely the heaviest track on the album. This song is slightly different territory for Aeon Zen, having more of a melodic death metal vibe, but I think it works perfectly in context of the album and the story. Unlike the majority of the album which was written and recorded simultaneously, this song was actually originally conceived a couple of years ago without the intention of becoming an Aeon Zen song. When writing and recorded ”Enigma” I felt that the album needed a hole filling inbetween the atmospheric Artificial Soul and the lighter Seven Hills, and breaking it up with something this powerful seemed like a no brainer!
04. Seven Hills
This song was the only other preconceived song on the album. It was originally just piano and vocals, but after the inclusion of a saxophone solo I decided to add further orchestration, which I think really helped it flow and also sound a lot more graceful. It also provides some nice respite after Divinity!
Warning is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the album, especially to play live. It has a great rock feel to it, with a nice bouncy riff that’s great fun to play and adds some nice contrast to the preceding sections. I was also especially pleased with the instrumental opening section that I think has this kind of ”gates of heavens opening” feel to it. It also features an awesome keyboard solo by Shaz that shows off more of the technical side of the album.
06. Turned To Ash
This track is based on an ostinato pattern in 7/8 which repeats for the verses of the song, along with alternating bass notes that I think provide quite a hypnotic feel, which also helps convey the sense of self-reflection in the lyrics. A lot of the songwriting on this album, if not all, is about how each section fits in with the grand scheme of the album, and while being a good standalone track, Turned To Ash really shines when listened to in context of the album. It’s also an interesting one to play live, as the recorded guitar tracks feature 2 guitars tuned differently, allowing us to create some interesting key changes.
07. Still Human
Still Human is one of the more experimental tracks on the album. It features instrumental acrobatics, haunting keyboards, grooving basslines, and catchy melodies all flowing seamlessly into one another. It also features some challenging rhythms in the latter half of the song that were really fun to write, as I think the writing of this song came about through some pretty out of the box thinking, especially in terms of structure and texture.
08. Eternal Snow
This track is also quite an interesting and contrasting one, compositionally speaking. It transitions from a laid back piano rock type ballad, into an almost death metal style finish. As I was writing and recording this track, it just kept growing and growing, and I knew that I really had to go for it and see how much the track could handle... It turns out it handled it pretty damn well, and it makes for great progression on the album. It’s also pretty interesting vocally, as lots of the verse vocal takes are scratch vocals that I recorded in the spur of the moment, but thought that they fit so well with the vibe that I just had to keep them on the album. It also helps keep the track sounding alive, as what you’re hearing in those vocals is literally an improvisation down on tape!
I really wanted to end the album with a bang and go out on a high note, and that’s how Downfall was conceived. Although it was written before a few of its preceding tracks, it was always the perfect closer to the album. It ranges from heavy verses, a really progressive middle section, and a bookend reprise to Enter The Enigma to close the album in a memorable way.
Could you please tell us a bit about the artwork – who made it etc. and how important do you feel it is to have a cool artwork?
The artwork was created by Mattias Norén, as with our last 2 albums, and I think he really did a great job in capturing the essence of the album and its concept. The title “Enigma” leaves quite a lot to the imagination, and I think the artwork really allows the listener to come to their own conclusions, while still fitting with the concept of the album and looking cool too. Having cool artwork is certainly important, especially with how music is marketed online now. With the amount of eye catching graphics out there on every single web page, it’s a great thing to be able to have an album cover that stands out as something that will pique someone’s interest.
Who and what has inspired you musically on this album?
I don’t usually like to go on too much about my musical inspirations, because I think it can lead to some misconceptions about how we sound, but also because if you listen to the album then you can make your own mind up. Other than that, I’ve mostly been influenced by life and the people around me, both the positive and negatives, to lead to a well-rounded album.
Is there any track that means something special for you on the album?
It’s always really difficult to choose any particular stand out track that has any more personal meaning than another, especially on a concept album like this, but in terms of a track that has a lot of personal meaning to me, possibly the track Survival, which is a CD only bonus track. Once you hear the lyrics, you can probably figure out why!
What’s the biggest difference between your latest craftsmanship and the first two releases ”A Mind’s Portrait” and “The Face of the Unknown"?
I think “Enigma” is really a step up in every way. Not that I’m not proud of what I achieved with the previous albums, but this new album has a much more mature sound, and a flow that I’m especially pleased with.
In my review of you latest creation “Enigma” I described your music as being a mixture of bands like Devin Townsend, Opeth, Circus Maximus, Fates Warning, Dream Theater and Symphony X can you live with that?
That sounds perfectly acceptable to me! It’s always great to be mentioned in the same breath as such fantastic musicians.
Your singing style reminded me of Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth, especially on the track “Divinity”, is that a coincidence?
Mikael has always been one of my favourite growlers, so thanks! I guess it’s a combination of the brutal growls along with a softer singing voice that draws the comparison.
I know you have been tearing up many stages in Europe during 2011 with the Devin Townsend Project. How was that? Did it inspire you on your latest musical journey into the “Enigma”?
It was certainly a great experience for us and we had a fantastic time playing for everyone out there, it’s just hard to believe it was in 2011 now! Haha “Enigma” was actually mostly conceived before that tour started, so I don’t think touring with Devin influenced the album too much, but it certainly helped us step up our game on the live side of things.
What’s next on your list, any tours planned outside of UK again, maybe say hello to little Denmark?
We would love to come back to Denmark, hopefully soon! We’re working on some cool gig opportunities, so stay tuned to our website, www.aeonzen.com, for updates!
With your new relationship with Nightmare Records & Lance King, can we expect another release in 2014?
It’s probably too early to tell for the moment. I’ve been working on quite a lot of new Aeon Zen music, so there’s always the possibility, we’ll just have to see how it goes!
Thank you very much for answering my questions. Do you have any last rants for our fellow readers?
My pleasure, thank you for talking to me, and of course thank you to everyone that took the time to read this and check out the album. If you haven’t heard the album yet, then please do! Check us out on our website www.aeonzen.com or facebook page www.facebook.com/aeonzen and I’m sure you’ll find all the info and links you need!
Tommy Skøtt, February 2013