Despite the band members being in other projects alongside the standard day job, Codex Alimentarius are an active act who seem to constantly be on the road. To find out about their music, work ethic, recent tours and being involved with the Rock Band franchise, I chatted to frontman Ray.
Jack: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you doing?
Ray Arrell (Vocals): How’s it going – yeah we’re good – thanks for the opportunity to chat here!
Jack: How did you guys form?
Ray: Codex originally formed as a four piece with former vocalist Steve, Stan and Tim on guitars and D on bass. Steve sadly passed away earlier this year, he will be hugely missed by us all, but will always be with us. The guys started to jam and began to write and mould some heavy, shred-fuelled and politically charged music, writing the material that would feature on the debut Codex EP The Infinite Growth Paradigm vs Finite Resources and Codex began to gig as a 4 piece in 2010.
Elliott joined as third guitarist and Frank stepped in on drums in 2011 to complete the line-up and the band’s live sound. I joined the band on vocals in early 2013 and we have been jamming, rehearsing, writing and gigging with this line up ever since.
Jack: What’s the scene like in Exeter?
Ray: The metal scene in Exeter has surprisingly active support for a city that is fairly small compared to a lot of other live music hubs around the UK. The support for heavy music, like anywhere really, has seen some coming and going for sure, but local shows and fans of heavier music do show themselves when there is a show in town.
That being said, it can also sometimes be a struggle for underground bands to get strong turnouts at shows and there aren’t a huge amount of venues that put on regular metal (especially extreme metal) gigs. We are however pretty lucky to have places like The Cavern, which is a local hive for underground music and bands of all types of genres, as well as larger venues like The Phoenix Arts Centre and the venue attached to Exeter University – The Lemon Grove, that have seen the likes of Skindred, Gojira and Coal Chamber in the past! There are other venues, local rock and metal radio shows and promoters that deserve a lot of kudos for the scene in the South West, but there are too many to mention here!
Jack: How would you describe your sound?
Ray: Well we like to say that the sound we’re going for is ‘big’. The music we write and sound we have is largely a blend of the members of the band and our respective influences. Our sound definitely has a foundation in melodic death metal, but we also have power metal and symphonic influences, to tech and groove elements, as well as flat out heavy metal parts! We really like the sound we have developed, as we have songs that are flat out death metal and other tracks that are packed full of shred and 3 part guitar harmonies, so we like to vary our sound in our live set lists.
Jack: Your last EP The Hand of Apophis came out a few years ago, are you happy with the response it got?
Ray: Yeah, we were pleased with what it did for us and how it helped us move forward with songwriting as a band really. It was a fundamentally different beast to Infinite Growth.., but also an evolution of the song writing and recording process for us as a six piece. It was also the first recording that we did with Ray on vocals, so it was a chance for us to consolidate his vocals, lyrics and sound into the band.
I think it also stands as us at some of our heaviest moments recorded (so far anyway!) and we’ve had some great reviews, comments and feedback since it came out at shows live and from people who have listened to it on CD. So I guess it stands as a few different things for us and we are proud of it – but with the material we are working on now, I would also say that we’ve got a lot more music to unleash on the metal world!
Jack: Is there a theme to the EP?
Ray: Apophis is the greek name for Apep – a demon from ancient Egyptian mythology. It’s also the name that was given to the asteroid (99942-Apophis) that was classified as the biggest threat of potentially impacting Earth in 2029. So the EP, a three-part concept piece, is themed around this, with the asteroid itself forming and developing a consciousness, lining its sights on planet Earth and humankind. The theme touches on mankind’s treatment of the planet around us and the impact is seen as the ultimate outcome for us and what we’ve done to our world. It was a chance to explore a more conceptual theme, mould some lyrics around how heavy the material was sounding, as well as link to the politically challenging drive, that Codex was forged from.
Jack: What was the recording process like?
Ray: It was entirely a home-grown recording, with Elliott taking on the lion share of the recording, mixing and mastering process. We recorded the drums in our practice space out at D’s farm and the guitars and vocals at Elliott’s recording space at the time. It was good to see it evolve and grow as more and more of the parts were recorded and added in, from the lyrical theme, to bolting together guitar solos and harmonies, right through to the addition of the orchestra and creation of the sounds in the intro. The recording sessions were fun!
Jack: Have you thought about a follow up and how it will be different?
Ray: Oh yeah! We are a way in to the writing process for our debut full length album right now. We can’t say a lot about it just yet, but we are really excited about the songs and how they are sounding. It will be a different release again to either Infinite Growth or Apophis, both in the theme, style and composition. The essence of Codex’s sound is definitely there though and it nods probably more to Infinite Growth in terms of its themes and melodic death metal basis, but the heaviness and ideas we incorporated into Apophis are definitely showing their faces on these songs!
Jack: You went on a short tour with Bull-Riff Stampede last month, how did it go?
Ray: The Late Summer Roadkill was an absolute blast! We played five dates, playing Bristol, Brighton, London, Coventry and Cambridge and we have to say that it was one of the best run of shows we’ve done for a while. The Bull-Riff guys are incredibly sound, complete pro’s and were a pleasure to share the stage, gear and beer with. The turnout was great across the tour, returning to some venues we’ve played before and seeing some new places and new faces on other nights. We enjoyed playing all of the shows and hanging out and chatting to some of the crowd after the show, as well as getting to know the Bull Riff guys and having a few drinks and laughs. We’d love to tour with them again.
Jack: What do you like about Bull-Riff’s music?
Ray: Well what’s not to like?! Their front man Dave, said during one of their sets on tour “in Bull Riff, we are all thrashers to the core”, and I think that kind of sums them up as people and a band really. Their name pretty much gives you an idea of what you’ll get when you listen to them live or on CD – it’s like a stampede of sound coming at you! Unrelentingly heavy, fast and rammed with groove, they are a thrash band with death metal tinges and a whole barrel of energy. What we liked about the tour was the contrast between us and them, as you got big-ass melodic sections, guitar harmonies and death metal thunder from us, then a thrash pummelling machine bursting out from them.
Jack: Did any show stand out?
Ray: We really enjoyed pretty much all of the shows on the tour to be honest, but we would say for the atmosphere and general craziness, the show we played on the Saturday in The Dev (aka The Devonshire Arms) in Camden Town, London was a distinct highlight. A venue that’s been around for years, slap bang in the heart of Camden and full of metal heads listening to music and drinking beers before we even carried a single guitar cab in the building, we knew it was going to be a fun night, and it did not disappoint! The crowd was frantic from the outset for the support bands, us and for Bull Riff. We’d definitely love to go back and play another show there again sometime.
Jack: You also did a few dates with One Machine, how did they go?
Ray: Yeah we played a couple of shows with One Machine last weekend, again a great bunch of dudes and completely professional musicians and people, we played Bridgwater and Bournemouth with them and were totally impressed by their musicianship and overall enthusiasm on stage. Getting crowd participation going in fairly intimate venues is hard sometimes, but they made it look easy! Again, we’d love to do some more shows with One Machine – go check them out if you haven’t already.
Jack: Codex are a very active band, especially with members in other bands like Cambion, is finding time for the band hard?
Ray: Yeah we like to get shows in the diary whenever we can really. It can be tricky to balance playing one off shows, weekenders or longer tours with work (as we all have full time jobs too), but we always try and play as many shows that we are offered as we possibly can. With the added dynamic of Elliott and Frank in Cambion, who are also very busy and hardworking band, there might be the occasion where opportunities for shows may clash. But it’s not really been an issue for us, as we’ve always respected their role in both bands and we find a way to balance shows offered and the commitments we make.
It also helps that both bands are now working with Rachael Harrison of Enso Music Management, who helps coordinate availability, tour offers and plans for shows for both Cambion and Codex. There have actually been a couple of occasions where both bands have played the same show! Which is a lot of fun, but possibly a little unfair on Elliott and Frank – Frank especially if he drums for us first!
Jack: A lot of metal bands these days don’t have a band manager, as a band that has a manager, how does having a manager help?
Well as we mentioned on the previous question, working with Rachael/Enso has enabled us to balance the show opportunities with the guys who are in Cambion as well. The term manager can cover a whole number of things for a band I think, and this reflects what Rachael does for us really. Ranging from managing show bookings as well as acting as a conduit for show/tour offers and media contacts – such as your good selves! There are other things she helps us with too, from keeping us in the loop with discussions with venues/promoters, as well as acting as a central point of contact for us if we want to approach another party (whether it be another band, photographer, merchandise company or similar). We as the band are involved and at the forefront of everything going on, and there are obviously things that we look into and sort out ourselves, but we leave a wedge of the details and the coordination of a lot of arrangements to Rachael, so we can focus on the music and the shows! It works well for us and we’re really pleased to see Enso taking on more great bands and getting some cool recognition.
Jack: One of your songs appeared on Rock Band, how did this happen?
Ray: Basically it was something we talked about as a band as most of us love gaming and the whole Rock Band and Guitar Hero trend was big back then so we decided to look into it and they came back and offered us the chance to be on Rock Band 3. Which we jumped at! Its probably fair to admit that still none of us can 100% our own parts yet! Also it’s great seeing people put up YouTube videos from around the globe and also being rated almost as difficult as ‘Bleed’ by Meshuggah (which was on the same Rock Band release) was quite baffling but awesome to see.
Jack: Do you think game or other games like Guitar Hero and Rocksmith got a lot of people into playing instruments and starting bands?
Ray: I think maybe so yeah! It not only changed the physical interaction with gaming to morph away from the standard controllers into things that resembled musical instruments, it also introduces people so songs and bands that they may never had heard of before – which is a great thing in itself.
Jack: What else is coming up for the band?
Ray: We are already looking into some more mini tour action for the early part of 2017! We’re also right near the end of the recording and production process for a re-release of our debut EP, Infinite Growth…, which is again a project that we have recorded in-house with Elliott taking the helm on the recording, mixing and mastering process. We’re hoping to have it finalised and released really soon! Watch this space on that front.
A main focus for us right now is the material for our debut album! We have a good amount of songs that are well on their way to being ready to record, so a break from gigging in winter will be a chance to really knuckle down and throw everything at those tracks, the overall theme and drive behind the album. We are pretty delighted with the tracks we have so far, so we can’t wait to get them out and on people’s sound systems and into venues in 2017!
Jack: Finally, what is the best metal album of all time?
Ray: Wow – that’s a barnstormer of a question to finish with for sure! It’s almost impossible for me to put my finger on one album that is easy to label as the “best” to be honest. Metal as a genre is an enormous tapestry of variety, with uplifting and soulful stories at one side, powerful battering rams in the middle and muddy, uncomfortable horror at the other end. That is why I (and probably so many other people) love it so much, because you can be in a place where you want to listen to something melancholy or melodic one day, then you can crave the sound of a thunderous hammer drill or a lumbering machine the next! If I had to come up with some albums, I’d go with the following for different reasons:
The album that made me wake up to metal was Master of Puppets by Metallica. I was introduced to Metallica at college by a friend and it was a bit of a musical kickstart for me. The guitar work and general heaviness of the sound really struck me and it still does now. The album that I think is a sheer heavy music masterpiece start to finish is From Mars to Sirius by Gojira, nobody makes music that sounds like Gojira and I think they’re one of the heaviest bands I’ve ever heard recorded – this album particularly. The album I’ve gone back to time and time again for sheer atmosphere is Above The Weeping World by Insomnium. I’ve been a huge fan of Insomnium for years and they have released some uplifting, melodic, catchy and yet dark music – everyone should listen to Insomnium!