The King is Blind are one of the UK’s most interesting groups emerging from the UK underground. Their ferocious mix of death, black, sludge, doom and groove has won them a legion of fans and impressed many across the various festivals they have graced in their short but interesting history, including Bloodstock, Hammerfest, Temples and Damnation Festival. Speaking for the third time with the lovely Steve Tovey, vocalist (and former bassist), we talked about how 2015 turned out for them as a band, the upcoming album titled Our Father, becoming a five piece and the future in another insightful chat.
Jack: Hi Steve, how are you doing at the moment?
Steve Tovey: Hi Jack, good to hear from you again! All is very good, thank you. We’re excitedly waiting for the release of our debut album, ‘Our Father’, on 29th January. We are also preparing to shoot our first video for ‘…And All The Daemons Are Here’, which will vomit forth onto your screens in the new year and rehearsing to play an ambitious gig at our album launch show on 31st January at The Black Heart in Camden, where we will play ‘Our Father’ in full, unleashing the full, ugly concept in its monstrous, monolithic entirety.
Jack: How will the album be different from its predecessor?
Steve: ‘The Deficiencies of Man’ EP was a great success for us, not least because it established a base point from which we could develop and grow – and I don’t mean development along a linear path, I mean expansion in every direction from that central point. We knew from very early in the writing process we were going to make a concept album, and the concept was going to be integral to the journey the music was going to take – the music had to represent the intentions, emotions and actions being told by the concept, and vice versa. We set our stall on writing dark, aggressive HEAVY metal, but within that, there was no other confine.
Hooks are vital in the music we play – moments that draw you in and catch you in the instant. Whether it’s a riff, a lyric, a groove, a melody, a vocal pattern, a build, a dynamic… Our song writing is stronger, we’re even more comfortable working together, and we’re writing with focus. As a result we have managed to incorporate more hooks, while maintaining an energy and a fury. ‘Our Father’ is definitely more diverse than ‘…Deficiencies…’, while still retaining a cohesive sound. And all the better for it.
Jack: What was behind making “Our Father” a concept album? What is behind the album title ‘Our Father’?
Steve: We were meticulous in the planning and writing of ‘Our Father’ and we talked at length about what type of concept we wanted it to be. There had been a thread that tied three of the songs on ‘The Deficiencies Of Man’ together, and thematically, they linked with the story we were looking to tell on ‘Our Father’. We knew it had to consist of songs that would make sense as stand-alone tracks, so it felt right for it to follow the lines of a ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’ – my first metal album, and still my favourite album there’s been – something truly epic in scope, that wasn’t constrained by any barriers that would stop either the music or lyrics telling a complex and compelling story. This isn’t a fantasy story, neither is it just a narrative… Each line of each lyric had to work on at least three levels – to further the concept around man being fundamentally flawed, to further the overarching story and also to carry a separate stand-alone message in each song. Neither is it actually about Satan vs God, or taking sides – everything is grey, there is no black or white. Let’s be clear, too, it is not anti-Christian. It is not anti-religion. It is definitely not anti-faith.
The lyrics highlight the deficiencies of man; that despite thousands of years of existence, we still can’t tolerate difference. As a race we have lived in constant conflict, over land barriers, or over which God is “Better”, over whose scripture is “right”, over interpretations and misinterpretations of ancient teachings, with pride, ego and greed fuelling constant unnecessary conflict. Meanwhile on an individual level, each of us is drawn to one, or more, of the types of behaviour that have become represented by the “seven deadly sins” – we each have intrinsic internal flaws.
The starting point for the concept for the album was the song ‘A Thousand Burning Temples’ from ‘The Deficiencies Of Man’, which on one hand is about purging clean the human race of people who sin in the name of religion, and starting again. But in examining where those lyrics took things, there was a realization that even if we did, humanity is so fundamentally fucked that we wouldn’t learn. We haven’t done so far from our mistakes. We don’t teach our next generations, we don’t learn from history.
‘Our Father’… It’s an allegoric tale based in the telling of the story of Satan. It’s developing him as a literary character from a variety of sources, but predominantly Paradise Lost and the Book of Revelation, and his story from his genesis through the genesis of man to resurrection, to highlight that in us all is the instinct to commit the seven “sins”; that, despite the incredible potential in each of us, apathy and pride, mis-teachings, and this horrific, selfish world, take over. The true creator of mankind is not God, but “Our Father” is Satan, and in us all, from his creation of Adam as a gift to God, through to his seed implanted in Eve at the point of the Fall of Man, are these seven failings.
It isn’t our fault, our core is flawed, but it is our responsibility and yet we still haven’t learned how to learn – how to evolve. The failing comes, but not from the child. The failing comes from the Father.
Jack: Before you played Temples you became a five piece with yourself deciding to focus on vocals and drummer Barney Monger’s brother, Ceri Monger, joining in on bass. What was behind this decision? How did the new line-up change the band’s relationship in and out of the studio and does it feel strange playing as a five piece?
Steve: There were several things we wanted to do with the album, and one of them was to fully immerse in the concept and, in deference to King Diamond, to utilize different vocal styles for different characters. And that is why we have a couple of guest performances, where we were blessed with the maniacal artistry of Natalia Francesca (from Lips) playing the role of Eve in the centre-piece track, ‘Mourning Light’, and the savage and distinctive throat brutality of Christopher Naughton of Winterfylleth as Milton himself, and the reborn Satan in the dramatic denouement of the album. In pre-production it became clear that, in order to replicate the power and intensity of the vocals that were essential to match the venom and energy of the instrumental parts of the album, I would need to concentrate wholly on the vocals.
The chemistry between us all is such a pleasing element. From day one we’ve sparked off each other – in our first rehearsal together we wrote ‘A Thousand Burning Temples’, and the addition of Ceri has been so smooth it’s like he’s been there from day one. Ceri is an excellent musician and a chilled, cool guy whose addition has only made us better. In terms of live, Ceri has a great onstage presence and exudes the same positive energy the rest of us do, which is such a bonus to have a fifth element pulling the same way. It’s also freed me up to stalk the stage and be a true frontman. Each of these developments has served to further improve us.
Jack: The album is being released on the reborn Cacophonous Records. What was behind swapping from Mordgrimm to Cacophonus?
Steve: It’s a serendipitous full circle. Paul Ryan (guitar) co-wrote The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh (Cradle of Filth‘s debut album), which was an important statement by 6 guys from our town, which meant a lot to us. It stands as one of the greatest British metal debuts of all time, and it was released on Cacophonous, one of several seminal releases they had.
Cacophonous has always had a reputation for uncovering some truly remarkable new talent and we’re delighted to continue the legacy not just of Cacophonous, but of British metal. Bands like Napalm Death, Cathedral, Paradise Lost, and My Dying Bride et al exploded out of the UK closely followed by that Cradle of Filth debut. That is the full intention of The King Is Blind, for ‘Our Father’ to be an album that enhances the heritage of British metal.
Jack: What were the biggest challenges of the project?
Steve: A concept album isn’t an easy proposition. Neither is setting out to produce the album of our lives, an album that will make a musical statement, that will be more than just “an album”. But we were relentless and uncompromising in our vision and we think we achieved that. We took our time because this album will define us.
Jack: You played a lot of amazing shows this year, you supported Desecration in Colchester in February, played Hammerfest, Temples Fest and Damnation Fest and toured with Winterfylleth. How has this year in terms of gigging and festivals gone for you?
Steve: Every time we go out on stage, we go out with the intent to give an excellent, energetic performance, to win people over and to showcase our songs in the best possible light. We’re very aware that in the live arena we can showcase a bit more of that “heavy metal” side of us, and that, while it is essential to give an aggressive high quality performance, we also need to enjoy it and then transmit that positive energy and sheer enjoyment of what we’re doing out to the audience. Every show we’ve done we’ve won people over and with every gig we are further establishing ourselves a reputation as a band that delivers and impresses. Which isn’t a bad place to be.
The UK festival scene is in a very healthy place these days, and we’ve been honoured to have the opportunity to play some important shows, including three excellent festivals this year that all cater to different audiences. We’re also grateful to our friends in Winterfylleth and Voices for taking us out with them for some very successful and enjoyable shows earlier in the year. We’ve been delighted to see that at each and every show we’ve played we were welcomed with open arms, and horns in the air!
Jack: Your track ‘Fragility Becomes Wrath,’ was premièred on Radio 1. Did you ever imagine your music would be played on national radio?
Steve: It didn’t really hit in until the show started and we were sat there listening, waiting to hear our track. We’re really grateful to Daniel P. Carter (Krokodil) that he thinks enough of our album to play ‘Fragility…’ on his show and say some very cool things about us.
It’s very surreal, cos I remember sitting up late, taping the old Friday Rock Show with Tommy Vance and it was huge in helping discover new bands. Lee (guitar) and I both discovered Paradise Lost through the Radio 1 Rock Show, with an old session they did on the Shades of God album, and Paradise Lost were such a big part of our teens.
Jack: What plans do you have coming up?
Steve: We get to do something really cool and present the concept of ‘Our Father’ live and in full at Camden, Black Heart on 31st January, with the twisted death metal of Obscene Entity and the progressive pummelling of Shrines in support. All at the very appropriate price of £6.66 a ticket.
As the monolith of epic proportions that is ‘Our Father’ was coming together, it became a burning desire to reproduce it live, in its horrid entirety, and we can’t wait to do that. It’s a harder thing than people realize to reproduce a whole album live, in order, but we’re up for disintegrating the minds and rubberising the necks of any hardy or unwary souls that wander into the Black Heart that night.
Jack: What new and emerging bands do you recommend for readers to check out?
Steve: There are absolutely too many to mention. There seems to be a groundswell of really strong, innovative British talent at the moment in a variety of styles. Open your ears, open your minds, be curious and use the tools available to you to uncover it. And if you do stumble across someone you care about, support them – if you find the music for free, maybe buy a shirt, go see a show and/or turn your friends onto them.
Jack: Finally, what do you think of the new Iron Maiden album and how does it compare with their discography?
Steve: Iron Maiden are the greatest heavy metal band of all time. That’s all that needs to be said.
The Our Father album launch show is taking place on 31 January 2016 at The Black Heart in London. Tickets can be purchased here.