The Faceless: No Preconceived Notions

If you don't like melodic singing, you're closing yourself out of, oh I don't know, 99% of music!

The Faceless; described as Technical death metal, hailed as Progressive death metal, yet whatever the case or genre you choose, this Encino five piece cracked the world of metal in 2004 with an impressive feat; touring with bands such as Decapitated, Nile & The Black Dahlia Murder in their inaugural years. Metal As Fuck caught up with Guitarist Michael Keene for a chat about the bands ambition, yet another lineup change and all things Faceless.

So, you're fresh off the 2012 Summer Slaughter tour, how did it all wind down? “It was fantastic. What a great tour. Everyone was a pleasure to share the stage with, the shows were awesome and our new record came out about half way through, so we got to see people's reactions to the material after having heard the songs on record. It's definitely nice to be home. I'm pretty much ready to start working on more things Faceless related immediately though”.

The band; ‘rupturing’ onto the scene in 2006 is a gross understatement, the band really fractured it. What created this momentum for The Faceless’ triumph? “Well I think we were extremely ambitious and going after something that we'd all been wanting to do for a long time. Plain and simple, we worked hard. Really hard. There was no viral explosion for The Faceless. We worked hard to present something that we were proud of from day one and we've seen a consistent organic growth by taking that approach”.

The latest album Autotheism; what was the initial direction the band wanted to head in with this album? “Well frankly, the writing of this record was very much a personal experience for me. As people know, we had some lineup changes and I wrote the vast majority of Autotheism at a point when the band was in a transitional period. Having said that, I took that as an opportunity to make a record that was an expression of who I am and the things that influence me more than ever before. I think that's the main difference. I was writing without any preconceived notions of what a Faceless record is supposed to sound like”.

What improves the album from Planetary Duality in your opinion? “I would have to say that Autotheism is more of a reflection of all of the expansive influences and colours of the people involved. Also, there was more time to sit back and listen to the material and production. Planetary Duality was recorded in quite a rush. The extra time for reflection with Autotheism definitely paid off in my opinion”.

New guitarist (Wes Hauch) has added a change in the ranks; what pressures did this create for the new album? I mean bands seldom have contingency plans for these sorts of things, how much chaos did it create with the regulation of the band and the new album? “Wes came into The Faceless at the tail end of the making of Autotheism. I'd already known and played with Wes, so I knew he'd work out perfectly and he was able to contribute a song to the record, which we collaborated on and ended up becoming the track "Ten Billion Years". I couldn't be happier with how things have worked out with Wes and he's going to add a great writing and playing element to the future of The Faceless”.

It’s stated that the new lineup of the band has eased some responsibility off you; what changes have come in to Camp Faceless? “Well, one key thing is that the new guys are very motivated to help with whatever they can. The brunt of lyric writing always fell on me, which is something I wasn't always particularly thrilled about. Geoff (Ficco, vocals) is very proactive in that area and has helped immensely in the lyric writing process. I definitely see the future of The Faceless being more collaborative and everyone will have very valid and awesome things to contribute”.

Talking about vocalists, and singing... there is actual singing on the album… How much backlash has been received by the new vocals if any? “With any amount of change (especially in a world as closed minded as death metal) there will be people who aren't happy and I've certainly seen things, but ultimately the response has been overwhelmingly (almost shockingly, in fact) positive”. 

What made the band change or add to the original vocal style? “We all listen to music with singing. Melodic singing is one of the most expressive and awesome instruments that exists. If you don't like melodic singing, you're closing yourself out of, oh I don't know, 99% of music? The majority of people in fact, probably don't like being yelled at. Obviously, we metal heads love it, but we also all listen to mostly music with singing. I personally grew up listening to music that is very vocal heavy. Guys like Mike Patton, Chris Cornell”.

What challenges were faced with the latest album? “The Faceless members are scattered across all ends of the US these days, so one challenge for me was writing material, sending it around to everyone and preparing for recording. We didn't do any rehearsals prior to tracking, so everyone came in and I spent time with them and the material one on one and worked up the parts one at a time. It's kind of an exhausting way to make a record! Over all it worked out really well though”.

What is the meaning of the title Autotheism? “It literally means the worship of yourself. The record is about abandoning antiquated beliefs and evolving with a changing world. We're not in the dark ages anymore and we don't need a make believe figure to tell us to be good or we'll be spanked for all eternity. There's no magic to whom or what we are. The power to change and take control is solely ours”.

There's some very new, unanticipated music this time around: The record is a lot less death metal at times, very diverse and a lot darker than previous releases. What inspired this change?  “To be honest, I was in a pretty dark place in my head when I was writing the music for this record. I was dealing with some heavy stuff and I tried to harness that and use it to fuel something positive. All of that sentiment definitely shines through in the music”. How is the new material being received live? “Very well, thankfully. Especially after the record came out and we started to see people yelling the lyrics as loud as they could back at us. It's a great feeling”.

The music of Autotheism has allowed for more expression in many formats; is this fundamental to you? Had you previously felt limited with the style of The Faceless? “I feel that the extreme sub-dividing of genres is getting out of control in metal. The parameters of genres are so narrow that everyone's songs have to sound the same otherwise they don't fit into that specific genre. I want that to go away and I hope this record makes some sort of a statement about that. Like I said before, I went into writing this record with no preconceived notions of how a Faceless record should sound. I plan to keep that going and hopefully more bands will as well”.

Does this new direction of Autotheism open up a new door that previously didn’t exist? “Definitely. It's a gateway to more experimentation and exploration. Even with the record being darker and more out there than ever before, I also think it still opens us up to new potential fans and a more diverse variety of bands that we could potentially tour with”. Are you still describing yourselves a Technical death metal? “Sure. I would probably say progressive death metal is equally suitable. Like I said before, the sub-genre game can get way too crazy. We're a metal band. Beyond that, I don't think it's all that important”.

What tours can we expect from The Faceless for the remainder of 2012 and into 2013? “We'll be touring the US later in 2012 and I certainly hope we make our way back to Australia as soon as possible”. What are your plans for the future in general? “We're talking about recording an EP of cover songs, we'll be writing new material, and possibly putting together a live DVD amongst other things….”

This article is dedicated to JJ Lodding