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”.
Pythia (pronounced pie-thee-ya) were formed in London in 2007 and in a short space of time earned support slots with bands such as Arch Enemy, Scorpions, Ministry, Tarja Turunen, Fields Of The Nephelim, Threshold and, most recently, Sonata Arctica.
The band’s music is an electrifying convergence of Nightwish, Children Of Bodom, Iron Maiden and Paradise Lost, amongst others. “Beneath The Veiled Embrace” was the title of their debut album, released in 2009. Then, in 2011, the band released their second album which was received enthusiastically by critics and fans of the genre. Its title: “The Serpent’s Curse”.
(PYTHIA is: Emily Alice Ovenden: vocals; Marc Dyos: drums; Ross White: guitar; Richard Holland: keyboards; Tim Neale: guitar; Mark Harrington: bass.)
Here’s a chance for you to tell our readers about your sophomore album “The Serpent’s Curse”. But first, how do you think the album is different from Pythia’s debut “Beneath The Veiled Embrace”?
We tried not to stray too far from the sound we created with BTVE, but musically as a band and as individuals we had evolved, so TSC was never going to be an exact replica of BTVE, and nor would we want it to be.
TSC is more riff-based, with guitars and drums brought up more in the mix, and given an overall heavier and punchier sound than BTVE. We worked with Jacob Hansen to mix and master both albums. He understood what we were trying to achieve with TSC, and helped us to create the sound that we wanted for that album.
We ‘pushed’ some of the tempos a bit further with TSC – taking us closer to our thrash roots – the music we grew up listening to (Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer, Testament), but with the aim of not comprising the musicality or melody which is an important element of the Pythia ‘sound’.
What is the meaning of the band moniker?
Pythia was the priestess at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. I forget how the name came about for us, but it just seemed to ‘fit’ with what we do, especially as we have a female singer, and it gives us a sort of historical, mystical factor.
And now onto “The Serpent’s Curse”… track-by-track, what inspired you, what topics are you dealing with, what do you want to express within the songs, etc..
01. Cry Of Our Nation
This song started really as an intro idea Tim came up with, but evolved into a complete song, with the chorus riffs based on the intro melody. At the time I was listening to a lot of 80s Iron Maiden and Gary Moore, and classic Thin Lizzy, so the idea of a long epic intro certainly appealed to me! A real ‘call-to-arms’ power metal song.
02. Betray My Heart
This song was one of the first tracks written at demo stage, but due to structural and song-writing issues, it became the last song to be completed for TSC, after numerous structural and lyrical changes along the way. However once it was completed, it quickly became apparent that this should be the first single to be released from TSC.
03. Kissing The Knife
This song offered something a little different to the album, but still within the established Pythia sound. The ‘shanty’ tracks are a big part of what we do, I suppose a ‘nod’ to influences such as Amorphis and Opeth. Along the same lines as Tristan and No Compromise from BTVE, but pushing the boundaries a little further.
04. Just A Lie
A high energy, thrashy power metal song, with gallopy riffs and a big chorus!
The keyboard synth patch was an idea suggested by Rich when the song was originally demo’d, but then changed to a more string-based sound to stay more within the tried and tested sounds we had used on BTVE. However when it came to the actual recording sessions I was keen for it to return to the synth sound as it added another dimension to the song, and again pushed the boundaries of our sound.
05. Dark Star
A song that really takes you on a journey, lyrically and musically, from the clean, almost spoken-word intro, to the full-on thrashy, double-kick drum laden sections. Dark Star sits really well in the middle of the album, as it breaks up some of the faster, more relentless songs on the album, without having to resort to ballads!
06. Long Live The King
A cocktail of thrashy guitars, Thin-Lizzy-esque hooks, and keyboard synth patches… A relatively short, catchy song. I suppose quite mid-paced and upbeat in comparison to many of the songs on the album, but we can’t be miserable bastards all the time (try as we might).
07. The Circle
The lyrical subject for this song, the circle of life and evolution, was the inspiration for the album title and the artwork.
The Circle was the 2nd single from TSC (double A-side with Just a Lie), and was accompanied by a stunning music video by Graham Trott.
Another ‘shanty’ type song, but a bit more progressive in structure and feel. The middle section especially takes us musically somewhere we had not ventured into before.
08. My Perfect Enemy
As much as we love to play fast songs in Pythia, we also have a love for the slower and heavier work of bands such as Paradise Lost. Due to the key/scales used in this song, it sounds quite middle-eastern in some ways, and lends itself well to the full-on epic guitar solo.
It was towards the end of the writing process for TSC, and I mentioned to Ross that I’d like to do a full-on thrashy song, relentless and pushing the tempos beyond what we would have normally considered with Pythia. The end result was a song that is a favourite for fans and the band alike.
10. Our Forgotten Land
From memory this was the last song to be written/demo’d for the album. Sometimes I feel that this song is overlooked and overshadowed by the preceding songs, but one of the ten had to be the last song!
A big epic closer to the album though, especially the last few bars of the song… it was the dramatic keyboard outro that led me to have this as the album closer, and it leaves the listener with an uneasy feel, unsure as to what will come next. Ross described the way the album ends as “it’s our Empire Strikes Back…” I guess that sums it up.
The album’s artwork is excellent – before commissioning it what did you hope to achieve with it and what does this artwork actually represent?
We were extremely pleased and proud that Brian Froud agreed to work with us to create the artwork for TSC. His work on Star Wars, Dark Crystal etc is legendary.
To be honest, we didn’t need to give him much direction (just as well really, as I don’t think we knew what we wanted!) but I’d come up with the album title ‘The Serpent’s Curse’ which reflected some of the lyrical themes that Emily had touched upon, such as evolution, the circle of life, fate/destiny etc. Froud was able to reflect the themes behind the album title and the lyrical themes in a fantastic and unique piece of artwork.
The artwork and general layout was then completed by Gurdish Haugsdal, which as a complete package, both musically and visually, we are very proud of. The 12” picture disc vinyl looks amazing, and sits nicely alongside my Iron Maiden picture disc vinyl collection!
A video-clip was produced for ‘Betray My Heart’ – please tell me about that experience. For example, where was it filmed?
It was a lonnnnggg… day in an old church in London. A great venue to shoot a video in though. The video was shot by a guy called Pepper (the same Pepper who created the ‘One Little Kiss’ remix of Betray My Heart).
The acoustics were great in there. Once we’d finished shooting the video I had some time just playing drums on my own in there. The drums sounded huge.
Shooting the video for BMH was one of Mark’s (Harrington) first tasks after joining the Pythia ranks a month or so before.
Your concluding thoughts...
We are currently working on the follow-up to The Serpent’s Curse… watch this space!
PYTHIA “The Serpent’s Curse”
Label & Distribution: (Graviton (mainland Europe), Spinning (Japan), Golden Axe (UK and rest of world)
Chris Galea, April 2013