Words by David C. Obenour
A pummeling rhythm section. Dueling vocals. Breakneck tempos. Guitars that weave cleanly between each other in melodic death/thrash harmony. It’s been eight years since GLACIER EATER released their eponymous debut but their progress has covered expanses. Tempest returns the Oakland quartet for a sophomore album that hits with an relevance, immediacy, and urgency that betrays the time between.
Off Shelf: Canonically, the press release talks about how Tempest is a prequel to your 2015 eponymous debut. Did you spend much time going back and listening to that record? Did you hear anything different listening to it over the last few years?
Ryan Hansen: Well to be a little more specific, it is a prequel to our self-titled song from that album. I’ll usually revisit my past releases quite a bit for some good guitar practice, and letting the old songs evolve for their live performances is a constant practice of ours, last thing I’d want to do live is imitate the record!
Keith Welch: We like to throw our favorite tracks from the self titled album into our set lists. When I listen to the first record, I hear how much we have matured in terms of song writing and improved on our individual instruments.
OS: Since 2015 the world has changed a lot and I have to imagine that you have as people, as well. How do you feel you’ve evolved as musicians and artists?
RH: I’ve absolutely changed quite a bit, the first Glacier Eater record I was still very much pushing myself to play some overly challenging solos – like Wreckage, Silence – and I’ve dialed that back a bit and focused more on writing than technicality. As far as lyrics go, I think our songs were very self-apparent, compared to this new album where we both channeled deeply personal writing into these characters and this story.
KW: Holy crap, I’m a way better vocalist and guitar player! Ryan’s guitar playing really pushed me not only to keep up, but to grow overall as a guitar player. My vocals are featured much more in the new album so I had to learn how to improve the tone of my voice while increasing my sustain. I am happy to say I have grown a lot in those areas since the last record!
OS: Sophomore albums are tricky regardless of when you put them out. You’re still fresh in defining yourself as a band, so do you double down on a sound? Do you explore new territory? Did you even think about that at all when you started writing the songs for Tempest?
RH: I’m always up for exploring new avenues of sound and song writing. For example, there’s only one song with a proper chorus on Tempest. I tried to steer away from the standard “verse-bridge-chorus-solo” song structure and let these songs unfold in the way that felt best for each of them.
OS: I know there are other acts, but am I right in assuming that Glacier Recordings is your own label? Did you consider going with a label? What do you like about retaining the control as a self-released album?
KW: Yes, this will be our second self-release on Glacier Recordings. We talked to a handful of labels when were looking to release the first record. After a handful of talks we decided it was better for us overall to self-release and retain control. Many of the discussions involved being locked in for 4-6 albums at a breakneck release and tour pace or just loans with unrealistic interest rates.
OS: There are a lot of amazing guitar solos and parts throughout Tempest. How were you looking to spotlight that in your new songs? Was it a new approach?
RH: Flashy guitar playing is fun and all but I’m very cautious to make sure it’s serving the song and not simply a “look what I can do” type of thing. For example the solo in Exodus is one of my favorites I’ve ever recorded, it just comes in does it’s thing and gets out so succinctly.
OS: You also have a new rhythm section for the album. How do you think drummer, Trey Derbes and bassist, Bret Fontaine have influenced the songs?
RH: Trey has decades of experience playing punk and hardcore, but was all single kick up until now. When he joined I had most of the drum parts written already and offered to rewrite some parts to be more in his wheelhouse. He said, to paraphrase, “nope, I’ve got this” and learned double kick and crushed it! Bret is such a smart bassist and musician and he took all the ideas I had for bass lines to another level and really helped define the new sound of our band.
KW: I have always admired Trey’s drumming while watching him play in other bands over the years – his playing adds so much confidence and power to our songs. I’ve never seen someone so determined to learn double kick as quickly as he did and could not be happier he joined! Bret’s musicianship and ability to write tasteful bass lines took our new songs to another level. He elevates the guitars and is always dialed in with Trey. Dude’s a pro!
OS: Speed is definitely front and center on the album too, which I have to imagine is a rush performing. Have you had many chances to perform together with the new lineup? How does the experience compare?
RH: Trey, Bret and I had already performed quite a bit together in Wilderness Dream, so when they came in to play with me and Keith, everything felt pretty solid immediately!
OS: Trey also did the album art. Did you know them first as a musician or artist? Did you always think you’d ask him to pull double duty for the band?
KW: We’ve known Trey as a musician first, but quickly learned about his art and photography. He is passionate about his work and gladly volunteered his services to do the album cover. It was never expected for him to work on art for the band, but it is a nice addition.
OS: What did you like about the art for Tempest? Were you all pretty involved in the creation or was that mostly Trey?
KW: I like that he captured the theme and some of the sentiments felt throughout the story that takes place in Tempest. This was all Trey!
OS: What’s next for Glacier Eater? Are you expecting another long gestation period for an album or is this a new chapter?
RH: Next for us I’d like to do something completely different than the first two albums, which musically were written by me then brought to the others. This next one I’d like to hammer out together in the room, all four of us for the writing process and see what comes out of that! These guys have three of my favorite musical minds I’ve ever worked with and I’m sure we’ll find something new and special together.