Ilenkus are an ambitious and articulate unit, one with a widescreen vision of their music, message and artistic scope: “We have three alternating lead singers and guitar players, and all three of us write the lyrics, so the sound and atmosphere on each track can be completely different. But our lyrics definitely have a theme; an idea we touch on a lot is relinquishing the illusion of control, allowing the primal elements of human nature to come to the fore and to see where they guide the self.” Set for release on September 15th, and mixed by These Arms Are Snakes’ Chris Common (Chelsea Wolfe, Pelican), album ‘The Crossing’ is as crushing as it is complex, as serrated as it is subtle, the band’s three pronged vocal trident keeping the textures of Ilenkus’ sound in almost constant flux. Moments of sparkling downtime give way to rivers of crushing gloom; elsewhere, leviathan riffs wind their way in, out and around the quintet’s pulsing song structures like a complex network of roots in soil. Here Josh from the band talks us through what you can expect from the album, track by track…
“Devourer was I think the last song we finished writing for this record, so it was kind of a surprise that it ended up being the opening track. The first riff was something that had been floating around for ages in a kind of weird thrashy incarnation. We decided to attempt to transform it into something much heavier and that’s what ended up on the record. I do the vocals on that song and to me it really represents a transformation in myself and my approach to writing. Whereas before I had often focused my lyrics outward, with Devourer I made a choice to look more at myself and at the dark side of humanity. In particular I remember writing the first verse with Chris and Rob, and us drawing on this transcript from an old court case of some serial killer as a sort of loose concept to portray some of the darkness I was getting at. Ironically enough, a few weeks later I ended up watching a film based on the same crimes. Live that song is buckets of fun to perform. We often open our sets with it just because of it’s energy.
The Crossing is a completely different sort of song. The majority of it came from us jamming together, with the whole intro section pretty much writing itself. We spent a lot of time on the preproduction for it because we found that when we came to record the song – it required a really delicate and balanced touch in order for each musical part to have it’s desired effect.
In some ways it’s more like three songs combined into one. So in terms of the recording process, we used a lot of different recording techniques and styles of production (although that’s probably true for most of our songs). Seeing the vocals come together for that song was really interesting for me personally. Chris had been playing around with a few ideas that ended up being completely scrapped in favor of what ended up on the record. They were big changes but in the end I think he really knocked it out of the park.
As soon the song was finished and we started performing it – we realised that it was super fun to play live and now we end our sets with it a lot of the time.
The name is a reference to the journey made by Charon – the Greek ferryman of Hades, who ushers the newly dead souls to the underworld.
If I remember correctly, Be A Weapon was the first song written for this record. It was written as the first part of a two part piece that included Over The Fire, Under The Smoke as the second part. The two songs were originally called Aporia, the first being a question and the second the answer. So the concept behind Be A Weapon was to question the listener and the choices they make, with a personal slant on it aswell.
The lyrics were written by me with some contribution from Chris (as he was writing the second half of the piece). They really are about calling out the apathetic, lazy and hypocritical sides of myself and others. They’re very direct lyrics and the title ended up being a direct response to what the lyrics are saying – be a weapon. Don’t be static, use yourself as a tool to achieve something that you believe in.
In terms of sound, it’s probably the most simple song we wrote for this record. The recording process was fairly easy, with the only major change we made being adding some lead guitar parts, which I think brought a new dynamic to the song.
We don’t actually play it live that often for various reasons but when we do it can be a very enjoyable song to perform.
Over The Fire, Under The Smoke is in some ways one of the most diverse song on The Crossing. I hear lots of different influences in that track, more so than some of the other songs. Again a track with a few different styles and production methods, it was a fairly extensive recording process. We switch from rock sections, to blast beats, to mathy riffs and quiet sections aswell.
Lyrically it follows on directly from Be A Weapon, reacting to the questions posed in the previous song. This song is where the “call for action” becomes apparent. It’s a response of Chris’s(the vocalist for that song). It is telling the listener to take action and do something about whatever it is that they are frustrated about. Specifically this song is in relation to the recent financial collapse and Ireland’s response to that. It also questions capitalism in general and broadly states that “if we don’t like it it’s our responsibility to change it”.
The song has become a regular in our live set and is the one song in particular that I think audiences have become most familiar with. It’s not all that easy to play and has some riffs that I still have to practice regularly, but it has great energy and seems to always go down well with audiences.
The last song on the record is Goodbye Denial and it’s probably the most different from the other tracks. We took a different approach to writing this, purposely going for a more classic sound (particularly for the intro). The clean guitar riffs were all written on acoustic guitar and to be honest I had no intention of making them into an Ilenkus song! But when we got into the jam room and started playing them together, it was apparent that we could easily make a song out of them and use it as an opportunity to do something a bit different.
We used a different drum kit for the first section and incorporated a piano into our sound for the first time. That combined with some of our most ambitious vocal harmonies to date and more of an old school sound made it a really interesting process to record that song.
Sam does the vocals for Goodbye Denial so I can’t give a completely accurate analysis of what it’s about, but I can definitely say that one of the concepts is about leaving behind old patterns and moving forward with your life.
We played the song live on our last tour and it went down well. In ways it’s the hardest song to perform due to the delicacy required to pull off all the harmonies, etc. The song really builds momentum during the middle sections and the end is quite sonically big – so I think live it can be very effective sometimes.
Ilenkus release ‘The Crossing’ on 15th September
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