TRACK-BY-TRACK: Godsticks – Inescapable
Godsticks are fast becoming one of the most talked about names in the underground progressive circuit. Having honed their explosive live performance through extensive touring with The Pineapple Thief, The Aristocrats, and Mike Keneally, the South Wales four-piece have now been focusing their energy on their fifth full-length Inescapable. Here we sit down with vocalist/guitarist Darran Charles to delve deeper and find out more about the new record…
We’re very happy with how heavy this track turned out considering there aren’t even any overdriven guitars in the verses! We’d had the song in demo format for a while but didn’t feel that the chorus had the necessary impact, and we deduced this to be the fact that harmonies were sung falsetto (due to them being in an impossibly high register). We started to think about bringing a guest vocalist in to give the harmonies the power and aggression we wanted, but in all honesty, we couldn’t think of anyone capable of singing that high, that powerfully. It was then that I had the idea of asking TesseracT’s Daniel Tompkins if he would help us out. Fortunately, TesseracT are on the same label as us so getting in touch with him wasn’t a problem. He really made a vital contribution to the song; his ability to reach some of those notes is inhuman!
The lyrical theme of this song is my struggle with perfectionism, which I’ve always viewed as an anchor rather than a badge of honour. The struggle will always continue but it’s getting easier as I get older and apparently wiser. I suppose by the time I’m on my deathbed it will be cured.
This seems to be everyone’s favourite song on the album including the other band members, but I actually remember being quite concerned when submitting the demo to the rest of the band – I thought it would be unanimously rejected! Clean chorus guitars and strange synth sound effects don’t exactly scream prog-metal.
Even though I don’t view this song as staunchly ‘prog’ there is a definite progression from a light mood to a very dark and angsty vibe which, from a compositional standpoint, was extremely challenging to achieve (but eventually very rewarding).
I had the outro and intro riff hanging around for a while but couldn’t seem to take it anywhere. As so often happens, inspiration strikes when you least expect or want it. In this case, it was late at night and I was on my descent into deep sleep when a guitar idea for the verses struck. I crawled into the studio with one eye open and in my half-awaken state was able to roughly record my idea. However, the next morning I had no fucking idea what rubbish I had tried to record but fortunately that god-awful idea led me towards something good, and from that point the song wrote itself. Phew!
This track is representational of the approach we took on this album. Those familiar with our music and indeed this album will probably laugh at my describing this as a stripped-down song, but by our standards it really is! From the outset of writing this album we wanted the melodies and riffs to be strong enough to hold their own without the comforting support of overdubs. That’s not a disparaging remark about overdubbing by the way – ours have always been used as a textural effect rather than simply not having the compliment of musicians required – but we sought a simpler and purer type of sound for this album, one that forced us to concentrate on producing strong and memorable melodies.
When the first demo of this track was completed it featured strings, a prominent Rhodes piano, and lots of other instruments. We liked it but we reminded ourselves of our initial objective and then stripped the song back to its core components: vocals, guitar, bass and drums. It was disconcerting at first and it took a while for our ears to acclimatise, but we thought it was worth pursuing this approach and we’re glad we did.
I always think this song would work great as a film soundtrack and that’s the way I imagined it when writing it: so much so that I don’t see us performing it live unless it was accompanied by a visual backdrop. Lyrically it’s a commentary on how, over the years, I came to terms with life ultimately being purposeless. That sounds nihilistic, as do my many references to death in our songs, but for me accepting that life is without purpose is quite liberating because it comes without the pressure that some people feel – often artists – to leave some sort of legacy. For me, being concerned with a legacy is an exercise in pure vanity: why would you care about how you’re perceived when you’re dead?
This song sounds a lot different to anything we’ve done in the past, in my opinion. There’s a gothic vibe to the first half of this track that I would probably say was subconsciously influenced by Radiohead. They have a knack for creating these eerily dark moods: not with overdriven electric guitars of course, but with a textural electronica approach.
Even though we set out to create this enveloping gothic feel, we didn’t want the listener to become too settled, which is why it’s punctuated with heavy riffs (which bring back memories of Metallica’s Blackened for me!) every so often. The overall objective was to create an unsettled mood that gradually become more and more unsettled until exploding into the energetic and distinctively more metal second section.
When writing this I always imagined this as the opening live song with a lavish accompanying light show. The dream is one day to have the budget to do this!
I’d had the main idea behind this song for quite some time, and I was so cocky that the idea would work that I left this song until last to finish. I’m pleased to say that it did in fact come together easily but it took longer than expected to finish, because the original plan was to feature a guest pianist to perform the parts that I had written. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out, so I had to go back to the woodshed and work on my piano chops in order to perform the part I’d written a year earlier. I used to spend a lot of time playing piano but hadn’t been playing for about a year and I was a little rusty. It felt good to become acquainted with the instrument again, so in retrospect I’m pleased that the original plan failed!
We spent a very long time on this song, and it went through countless re-writes. It starts with a guitar riff in an odd-time signature that originally continued into and through the verse. However, the guitar line just emphasised the oddness of the meter and lacked that all important groove which is important to us. It’s always been my opinion that if you’re drawing the listener’s attention to the fact that you’re playing in odd times, then you’re doing something wrong.
Anyway, no sooner had we solved the guitar groove crisis, then we discovered the drum part no longer flowed as we wanted so we had to work on that. It went on like this for various sections of the song. For instance, we spent countless hours on the instrumental break because we couldn’t get that to sound as urgent as we would have liked, but in the end a bit of studio trickery gave the part that elusive vibe we were looking for.
All the work was worth it in the end though, and we pride ourselves on being able to bring any flogged horse back to life!
This is the heaviest song we’ve ever written. That guitar riff is pure aggression for me: I think I even clenched my teeth when recording it! There’s a two-part harmony that supports the main vocal line, which means this will test the vocal abilities of both Gavin and Dan when it’s played live. Looking forward to watching them sweat! Lyrically, the song serves as a reminder that my battle with the obsessive parts of my personality is never over. My entire self-worth has always been wrapped up in guitar and music and it’s been a constant battle over the years to extricate myself from these bonds.
Godsticks‘ new album Inescapable is out on 7th February via Kscope, available to stream or purchase HERE.
See Godsticks live at one of the following dates:
Thu 2nd – CARDIFF – Fuel Rock Club
Fri 3rd – LONDON – Black Heart
Sat 4th – MANCHESTER – Gullivers
Sun 5th – EDINBURGH – Opium