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God Forbid | IV A Constitution of Treason | interview | Byron Davis | metal | Lollipop
IV: A Constitution of Treason (Century Media)
An interview with vocalist Byron Davis
by Rick Florino
photos by Vivianne J Odisho
This is an age of fallen heroes. The metal world still mourns the tragic murder of Dimebag Darrell. The genre has yet to recover from this loss in many ways. Not one style of metal prevails. Not one band has claimed the vacant throne atop heavy music's heap. Rather, different sub-genres flash everything from the most dissonant death metal to the whiniest emo in an attempt to cater to small, niche audiences. Few bands beckon a huge, die-hard fanbase these days. Where are the new metal gods who can slay arenas around the world? Can they even exist within today's fickle culture?
God Forbid has climbed from the chaos of a fragmented scene with a valiant effort that could very well save the genre. Their latest concept album, IV: A Constitution of Treason, possesses a classic metal sound with soaring solos, pummeling grooves, and vocals laden with fury. God Forbid vocalist Byron Davis breaks down the record and the genre.
Let me start off by saying that your new record, IV: A Constitution of Treason, is the best thing I've heard in a long time. Every aspect of the record supports its overall concept. Did you initially want to create this type of concept, or did it come naturally?
We had the idea for the title of the record, and the idea for one song, a tribute song to Dimebag Darrell. We wrote the music first and then the lyrics began to have these natural, recurring themes. After writing the last three or four songs, we realized there was a total concept behind the album. At first, we were going to make a concept album, but we weren't going to explicitly tell anyone. However, things just came together, and it made more sense to tell the story outright. It was supposed to be more subliminal, but from the way we were writing and the way things started sounding, it just came out to be a concept record.
That's the most poignant element of it, though. The concept isn't overbearing, forcing one theme. Instead, it's natural.
Writing the record was definitely natural. In the past, we were all working jobs and writing at the same time, but this time we sat in the studio for two months and wrote five days a week, ten hours a day. It was a stressful situation at first, but everything came together.
What are you guys going to do live?
The cool thing about the record is we can play every song live. The question then becomes, can we play this all live, because we aren't headlining? It'd be cool one day if we have "Evening with God Forbid" and we could do two sets. One set of the whole record, and another with the other songs that people expect. Doc and I were speaking about it, and we'd like to play the record from beginning to end, but we'll see if time permits.
The record certainly holds up a mirror to social ills.
We're concerned about what's going on in the world, because these are the times that we're living in and things aren't getting any better, they're getting worse.
This is a lot darker than our previous records, and it's definitely more thought-provoking than most mainstream records coming out now. For some, it might be too much for them to stomach. We're living in a society where a lot of people want to be blind and not really see what's going on. So this is definitely an awakening for certain people. Also, it's a concept that really doesn't exist in the genre.
What is it about the East Coast that's fueling the current American metal resurgence?
We've come to a point where our Eastern seaboard is just ridiculously packed. There's a lot of frustration here. People are living on top of each other in these states, and the population is just ridiculous. The East Coast vibe is that everybody on this coast is hungry. Not that the West Coast isn't hungry, but right now, people over here are starving and we're going to make ourselves known. There weren't really too many East Coast metal bands back in the day, other than Anthrax. We had a couple other bands that almost made it, but they never really got the golden ring. However, we're just holding it down and showing people that we have great musicians out here and great music. We're proud to be where we're from, and it's all about the music.
Where do you see God Forbid's position in this rising metal scene?
I'd like to think that we're at the front of it. There are a lot of great bands out there, like Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, and Chimaira. At this point, each one of these bands, along with us, does their own thing, but we can still be together in this.
All of you are supportive of each other, but you each have your own distinct sound.
It's all about the metal community. We have to look out for each other, especially when there are outside influences trying to tear it down and make it seem worse than it really is.
Given the strength of this community, where do you see the genre going?
The genre is going to get saturated with third, fourth, and fifth generation bands, and people are going to get tired of metal, and then it's going to go back underground. So right now, it's all about being one of those bands that rises to the top and can exist through the trends. Even when the genre's not popular anymore, we're still going to be doing it!
You initially dedicated "To The Fallen Hero" to Dimebag Darrell, did you get to meet him?
Dime actually heard "Gone Forever" before it came out. Doc and Dallas were in New York for the mastering session, and he happened to be there with Damageplan. When Dime heard the metal, he came in, while they were mixing "Judge the Blood." He was a really cool, honest, and down to Earth, even with the status that he had. He was a guitar hero who loved the metal scene and music. We were in Macedonia when we found out what had happened, and after that, we came up with the idea of writing a tribute song. Dallas came up with the chorus, and I was thinking about the song. For all those people who didn't get to experience meeting Dimebag, it would be kind of hard for them to relate to. So I made it more universal, dedicating it to the troops that are fighting for our country, and anyone else who's been involved in your life that has had a positive influence on you. In that regard, we just made it a song that everyone could understand and get into.
Your voice has a range to draw a wide range of people in, and your vocal style has evolved: Did you take any vocal lessons before recording?
I took some vocal lessons with Melissa Cross. She has the DVD out "The Zen of Screaming." I could always sing, but it was just a matter of approaching it in the right way, so it wouldn't sound cliché. Since the music changes and goes through so many valleys, it's only right that my voice does as well. We aim to keep it interesting and as powerful and brutal as possible.
What's the power behind metal?
Metal is one of the last places where the music is honest and the bands are giving it their all, night after night. Bands are definitely blowing up and becoming huge, but they still have that same feeling about the music that they had when they started. I think that's the best thing you can say about this genre: It's still natural, untouched, and pure.