In the past couple of decades hard rock and heavy metal took a dive into depression, and what music was offered by radio station play lists set on repeat, often featured the same artists playing the same chords with not much more than a timing change and different lyrics. If that wasn’t the case, it sure as hell has been hard to decipher one band from the next.
Fortunately it looks like that is changing across the metal landscape as a new crop and breed of musicians take back the Heavy Metal banner and are raising it to new levels at last.
A Sound of Thunder is one of those bands. With vocalist Nina Osegueda’s powerful voice ripping away the facade of all the cookie-cutter A&R trash thrown at us and guitarist Josh Schwartz blazing riff work and solo attack that brings back memories of why rocker bands have the best guitarists; A Sound of Thunder has been placed onto the front-lines of the war to save metal. The band put this up on their bio and it may give you a better idea on just what I am rambling about:
“A Sound of Thunder is a Washington DC based, female fronted heavy metal band. Their four piece band consists of Josh Schwartz on guitar, Nina Osegueda on vocals, Jesse Keen on bass, and Chris Haren on drums. A Sound of Thunder conquers metal realms ranging from ’70s blues-based proto-metal a la Black Sabbath and early Judas Priest, to triumphant modern power metal a la Hammerfall and Primal Fear. Soaring vocals, incendiary instrumentals, and classic songs combine to form an unrelenting, unapologetic slab of metal to stand the test of time.”
The bands new album Times Arrow is just about ready to drop (June 4th) and it shows how much they have grown musically with fresh sounding rock, guitar driven with pounding bass and drum lines, and soaring vocals as slowly but surely the women in metal are being heard. The band has guest appearances by Blaze Bayley formerly of Iron Maiden singing with Nina on My Disease and also has Nik Turner co-founder of the band Hawkwind on the track Reign of the Hawklords; an homage to the band.
Those are just the obvious goodies inside this one, but make no mistake; the entire album more than holds its own and should push this band to new heights (hint to radio-PLAY THIS BAND!) This 11-track album features insanely good writing penned by drummer Chris Haren with songs influenced by The Walking Dead television show titled I’ll Walk With You , Queen of Hell which will rip your skull open, and the title track which runs an almost unheard of (these days) 10-minutes. Go get the box set and you will also be getting a short story written by Haren that expands even further on the songs lyrics.
Go check them out and order at:
A Sound of Thunder is:
Nina Osegueda – Vocals
Josh Schwartz – Guitar
Chris Haren – Drums
Jesse Keen – Bass
The album drops June 4th so look for it, listen, share, and call your local radio everyday and let’s get our music back on the airwaves!
Interview with Nina and Josh of A Sound of Thunder
-Tell me first about the bands beginnings; pretty sure I saw some early versions with a different name, etc. Tell me about the history of you all and how you came to be A Sound of Thunder as we know it now?
Josh: I had been trying my hardest to live a boring and normal life up until about 5 years ago. I had a regular boring office job, and hadn’t played in a band for quite a few years. And the longer I tried to live the “Leave it to Beaver” life, the more musical ideas started popping into my head uninvited. I literally couldn’t perform my job because I was constantly distracted by musical ideas. So within about 2 short years that turned from playing my acoustic guitar at night, to speeding home early from work every day to stay up all night working on songs on my computer. Eventually I decided I wanted to play with other people again, so I joined a hard rock cover band. ASoT’s drummer Chris Haren was the drummer in that cover band. We quickly discovered that we both had a passion for original music, so we dissolved that band and started a new band to do our own material, and we eventually named that band A Sound of Thunder. (Little known fact: when we were choosing the band name, “Time’s Arrow” was the only other serious contender and almost became our band name!) It was just the two of us for a couple of years, jamming on our own, with Chris writing lyrics to my demos. We struggled to find other committed members, and did have one vocalist briefly before Nina, and several bassists before Jesse. Thankfully we eventually found Nina and Jesse, and the rest is history!
-Nina, you have a rangy voice with a lot of power no matter where you go; tell me about your singing background and what do you do keep the pipes in shape?
Nina: I have a varied background. I grew up just singing in church and school choirs, but I was in all of the county honors choirs until high school. My mom took me to auditions as early as middle school for random things, and in high school I wound up in the Washington Opera. I did a few productions until college, when I focused on school for a little.
To keep my voice in shape, I have to baby it a little. Specifically, on days when I’ve got a show, I speak as little as possible the day of. If I have a series of shows day after day, that means no talking in between, which means I have to bring a lot of reading material on the road.
-Gotta ask three things; how tall are you, what’s up with the goggles, and what’s with the banana? (see slideshow)
Nina: I’m 5’ tall (or 5’1” on good days). I’ve been wearing the goggles since I was 18. I bought my first pair at an anime convention back in 2002, and I’ve collected them ever since. I just like how they look on me! As for the banana, that was a little joke we had during April Fool’s Day. The idea was to make light of the symphonic female fronted metal movement, but to do it in a way so ridiculous as not to be insulting. We came up with the idea for a banana because I noticed a few of the female fronted metal ladies were posing in pretty outfits with fruit.
-Your new album Time’s Arrow is just about ready to drop, how stoked is the band and what are the release date plans?
Josh: We’re extremely excited about the release and really just anxious for people to hear the album! The initial reviews have been fantastic, so we think people will find it worth the wait! Though the music itself came together just as easily as on the last album, everything else about Time’s Arrow has been a huge endeavor, from the Kickstarter campaign, to creating the box set, our first vinyl releases, struggling to find a record company, and eventually creating our own label Mad Neptune Records. So finally putting the album out is just going to be a huge relief. We’ll be throwing a huge album release show to celebrate, and then we’ll be heading off to play around the country and hopefully around the world. I can’t announce any tour plans yet, but we’ll be out and about quite a bit this year! We’ll also be shooting the first full production video from the album shortly, and there will be some other projects announced soon.
-Both of you can answer here; who does the writing and how long did this album take to come together?
Nina: Josh does a lot of the preliminary writing. Sometimes he’ll arrange an entire song and let Chris and I fight over the lyrics. Sometimes I’ll come up with lyrics and a melody and we’ll write the whole thing together. It depends on the song.
Josh: Most of the songs for this album were written before our last album Out of the Darkness was even released. So many bands don’t jam these days. A Sound of Thunder has always made a point of starting every rehearsal with a long jam session, just improvising and going wherever the mood strikes us. I think that comes a lot from Chris and I, and our appreciation of bands that could jam and stretch out. I have to credit bands like Deep Purple and Black Sabbath for helping me develop that improvisational sense. So after several years of jamming at every rehearsal, we’ve just fallen into this songwriting groove. We come up with some or most of a song every time we jam, whether we want to or not! We’re five days from the release of Time’s Arrow as I type this, and at this moment we have 9 or 10 songs written specifically for the next album, and a bunch of others that have been earmarked for the next album after that, or other projects.
-Josh, I’ll start with the first track Power Play; dude the entire song just comes out rocking across the board from note one of the bass and the drums, you join in on a chorus riff and bam! Off you go; you totally had me thinking early Tesla with the riffs, the solo runs, and the overall tempo. Awesome stuff; what are your influences as a guitarist and how long have you been playing?
Josh: I certainly appreciate Tesla and have seen the Frank Hannon band live once, but I can’t say I’ve ever owned any of their stuff, so that must be a coincidence! My favorite guitarists are Tony Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore, Buck Dharma, so you can see I’m a ’70s guy. Can’t leave out Tommy Bolin either! I do also love Smith & Murray, Downing & Tipton, and I have to give a shout to Graham Oliver from Saxon who is vastly underrated and has a terrific style. I think being influenced so much by the ’70s bands but using that influence in a modern metal band with modern production has given us a bit of unique sound. I started out listening to Ozzy, Sabbath, Purple, and Blue Oyster Cult. I’m not that old, this was in the ’90s, so I was just horribly out of synch with the times! I started playing the guitar when I was 17 and am 33 now. I did take a lot of years off from playing in the middle there, and didn’t have any serious bands before ASoT, so I really haven’t been playing for 16 years, maybe more like 8-10 good years of playing at this point.
-So not wanting to back you into a corner on anyone’s mind; track two is the title track and it has a sort of haunted houses kids playroom vibe at first and then you go all aggressive, power prog in a way, such a cool change. What’s the tune about and was this a riff before the words or riffs to the words during the writing process?
Josh: This was a complete instrumental demo that I did way back before Nina even joined the band, and it’s had the title “Time’s Arrow” since then as well. I think it was done in 2008 or 2009. It’s about time travel AND it has a gallop, so it’s a safe bet I was listening to “Somewhere In Time” when I wrote it! My original concept for the song was that it was about a scientist obsessed with discovering the secret of time travel, but at the same time he had a family that he was completely ignoring, so in essence he was losing time in his effort to gain time. However, Chris wrote the lyrics for the song and ran in a different direction. The song as it stands now is about a scientist who has lost his family and is obsessed with mastering time travel so he can go back in time and save them.
-All of the music on here really is just great rock, a great rock album! Let’s Start A Fire is just one of those rock anthem tunes with a good up-tempo, chord progressions that could come straight from anyone from Angus Young, Tesla, early Def Leppard,; really impressive guitar work and that goes for the entire band!
Josh: Thank you! “Let’s Start a Fire” was written basically on a bet. Our producer Kevin Gutierrez was giving us a lot of crap because all the songs we brought in for this album were really long. So I challenged myself to write a 3 minute song! The first attempt failed miserably and came in at 7 minutes! “Let’s Start a Fire” was the second attempt, and I think it came out pretty good! We had kind of an ’80s poppier side of Priest vibe in mind when we wrote that one.
-Nina, you got to sing with the one and only Blaze Bayley (Wolfsbane, Iron Maiden) on My Disease which is another of those epic sounding tracks; how did that come about and how was the experience?
Nina: Well Josh is a huge Blaze fanboy, and having him sing on a track was a dream of his. I wrote “My Disease” because I remember there being a time when I was just absolutely sick of love songs on the radio, and I figured if I was going to write one, it would be on my terms. I believe that the deepest love you can feel is absolutely repulsive, so I compared it to a disease and it seemed to click! Making it a duet was a no-brainer.
-And you have a guest in the form of Hawkwind co-founder Nik Turner on the track Reign of the Hawklords, awesome tune as well, can you talk about him, the song, and all that good stuff?
Josh: “Reign of the Hawklords” was originally intended to be a b-side on the Queen of Hell EP. It was going to be on the EP, and “Hello Nurse” was going to be on the album. I have been a huge Hawkwind fanatic for a long time, and had always wanted to do something in their classic ’70s style, which usually has that particular drum beat with the snare on every beat, and is just very driving. And of course I wanted the spacey effects and harmonized vocals all the way through. I assumed it would stick out like a sore thumb, so we never considered it for the album. But once it was done, we all fell in love with it, had the chorus stuck in our heads, and just completely changed our minds about it. It became one of our favorites, so we made the switch and put it on the album and “Hello Nurse” on the EP. Nik Turner was the original vocalist, flute & saxophone player, and songwriter in Hawkwind’s classic period, so getting him on the track was a dream come true. He plays flute on the track and did it all in one improvised pass, in true Hawkwind fashion! And he was extremely nice…and didn’t charge us a cent for his guest appearance! He just really still has a passion for music and lets that passion guide him. Now his tracks did come in a bit late and missed the CD mastering, so take note that his version only appears on the vinyl release of Time’s Arrow!
-What are your plans as the album drops, where can fans catch you all play this summer?
Nina: We’ve got a light schedule for the summer, because we have a huge tour schedule for the fall. In June we’ll be doing our album release show at Empire in Springfield, VA, and then we’ll be going down to North Carolina. I think we’re all taking a much-needed break during July (unless Josh strong-arms us back into the studio for album 4), and then come August, it starts all over again!
-Anyway, Nina this is one I ask just about every aspiring female musician; what advice would you give to someone trying to get started in music?
Nina: Focus on your craft and what it is that you want to do. My dream was to be in a metal band that was known worldwide, to perform in front of happy fans, and to write music I loved. I’ve accomplished that so at this point, anything more is a huge plus.
-Josh, what should fans know about A Sound of Thunder that they don’t? Give me one interesting hidden thing.
Josh: We are all amateur foodies. When A Sound of Thunder hits the road, it’s a culinary tour! We eat something either amazing or terrifying in pretty much every city!
-Okay, here is the standard end; what do you want to say to the fans, listeners, and readers out there?
Josh: Thank you! When we say “we couldn’t do it without you”, we literally mean YOU, whoever is reading this, and we literally mean “COULD. NOT. DO. IT.” because we are basically operating completely outside of the mainstream music industry. For every Butcher Babies press release you see, there was probably an A Sound of Thunder press release that got thrown in the trash. So spread the word and show your support for your favorite bands (not just us), because if you don’t, you’re pretty much going to be stuck with the Butcher Babies! ;0)
Nina: Thanks for listening and supporting us. Without our fans, we wouldn’t have a leg to stand on!
This band kicks ass so get off your ass and get it!