360°Sound recently had the opportunity to speak with Alex Aubochon, drummer for Detroit-based metal group Asylence. The band are releasing their latest recording, Endanger Us All, on Friday 24 February. Drawing from a wide range of hard rock and metal influences, Asylence have established themselves as local favorites, and they’re on the rise in the metalhead subculture. Compared to bands I’ve never heard of such as Arch Enemy, DevilDriver, and Amon Amarth, they’ve opened for such acts as Archspire, Belphegor, and Sea of Treachery. The new album was produced by their guitarist Aaron Lumsden, and sounds bad-ass to these fragile, untrained metal ears. They also have some outstanding videos to check out on YouTube.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Ok, full disclosure. I’m not a metalhead, but I am metal-curious. Would Asylence be considered death metal?
As we’re rolling out the album, we’re getting the labels put on us, which is actually helpful because we all kind of have our own opinion on what it is. We’re landing on ‘melodic death metal’ and metalcore.
What are the distinguishing factors between melodic death metal and metalcore?
Melodic death metal is your standard death metal tropes, but with melody added.
We all take influences from completely different places. People ask if we have group influences, and no, we don’t. Nobody’s on the same page in that regard. The metalcore elements come much more from our string section [guitar & bass] than anyone else. I know of metalcore bands, but what defines the genre? I even have a tough time with that. It’s funny, even as guys who’re deep in the scene, even we get kind of confused on sub-genres.
Wikipedia is telling me metalcore fuses elements of extreme metal and hardcore punk.
Metal kind of absorbs different genres. And it’s one of the most polarizing genres I’ve dealt with. Besides maybe the hip-hop scene. You can have people who consider themselves metalheads that are on completely different spectrums, and wouldn’t associate with each other or have overlapping bands they like. It’s a little bit wacky and can get goofy and definitely debatable, but it’s also part of the fun.
You mentioned death metal tropes. Would Ryan Lang’s vocal style be considered a death metal trope?
Ryan’s low gutturals – those low ‘grrrrs’ [growls] – are typically what you think of for metal vocals. Those fall into death metal. The higher shrieking stuff, that falls more into black metal. That’s Ryan’s happy zone. But honestly, for a vocalist in metal, Ryan’s extremely versatile.
You come from more of a thrash thing, if I recall your previous projects.
The first band I played with when I was in high school was a blues/rock band. [chuckles] That’s what kind of got me started. I wasn’t into metal until late in my senior year of high school. Even then I kind of tiptoed in. What really got me going on metal was just the fun of playing metal drums. Metal and jazz lend themselves so well to drums. I chose metal cuz I don’t have the chops for jazz. [more chuckles] I’ve caught up to metal, but it took a long time to get decent at it. After the blues/rock band, my next band was much more thrash based. Asylence is more where I wanted to be back then. But if I didn’t have the [thrash] band, I wouldn’t be able to handle this. So I guess it all works out.
I really dig the machine-gun sound that you get going throughout a lot of the tunes.
In the industry, we call those blast beats. We use different styles of blast beats. Sub-genres have their typical style blast beats. Thrash metal stuff uses what they refer to as the ‘Bay Area polka.’ Which is like [scats] unt-sa, unt-sa, unt-sa – a real quick thing. For Asylence, I’m utilizing death-metal blasts, and black-metal blasts.
I deal with anxiety, so I’ve struggled with the heavy darkness and intensity, but I really want to get into metal.
I like to call metal the black dark-roast coffee of music. If you’re into it, if you like that crazy, in-your-face intensity, you’re gonna like it. But if you don’t like that, you’re not going to like it.
You said each member brings a different batch of influences. What are some of the different things that each guy brings to create your sound?
Vocals are bringing a wide range of stuff. Especially on this new album, we’ve really had Ryan open up to doing clean vocals, and him getting crazy on different voices. On his screeches and his gutturals – he is like a chameleon. I try to fit drums to whatever’s coming out of the guitar. My influences come more from prog-rock stuff, and black metal, and a little bit of Sabbath too. I like that groove. Guitarist and bass are doing a lot of metalcore stuff. So it’s a weird amalgamation of styles.
You mentioned groove. Sabbath is super groovy – heavy as hell, but super groovy. And that’s what I’m getting off of your stuff. I dig the groove, and I don’t get that with all metal. What’s your creative process like? Do you start with a groove?
It’s been just about every kind of writing process you can imagine. We’ve had a few songs that have come together from jams. Our bass player [Rick Olrich] creates the craziest ear-wormy bass riffs I’ve ever heard. On the title track, “Endanger Us All,” that beginning intro riff is bass. Some have confused it with guitar – just so catchy. That happened from Rick sitting in the basement at practice one day just goofing around noodling. We’re like, ‘We gotta do something with that.’ Aaron [guitarist & producer Aaron Lumsden] will sit at home and he’ll play around with some beats in Reaper [digital audio workstation] and put together a guitar riff and then send that over to me. And I’ll be like, ‘All right, here’s what I would do with drums instead of this,’ and I kind of work from there. Yeah, it’s a little bit of everything.
I like that you describe it as ‘melodic death metal.’ Like on “Endanger Us All,” it’s got some echoes of Chester Bennington and Linkin Park. Did you make a conscious attempt on some of the tracks to be accessible?
What we did on this record was open ourselves up to, not necessarily ‘going commercial,’ but embracing the ability to include stuff that might be considered commercial. We released an EP before this that was a pretty nice mix, but it was a little bit heavier. This one, we kept the same level of mixture of styles and genres, but opened it up to more ‘radio friendly,’ options. So yeah, there’s definitely a little bit more of that on there.
How’d you guys come together?
Ryan [vocalist] and I go way back. His old band and my old band used to do shows together all the time. So we’d be around each other. As soon as the old band broke up and this one started, immediately I’m like, ‘I need this guy.’ And he was available. So it was awesome, we got him right on board. At the beginning, we had my bass player from my old band, and he found Aaron [guitarist]. I don’t know how; I think through Facebook videos and stuff. Then the bass player left, and we were able to find Rick [Olrich] on Craigslist. The recipe worked, and we’ve been able to keep this thing together for seven years now. It’s been really good, man.
I’m very interested in the name – Asylence.
One of the downfalls of the internet is the ability to claim a name for a band. So when we started going through names that we liked, we’d go look it up… and it’s taken. I think Ryan was the one who came up with Asylence. He started to take words and mix them together. He was looking at a picture of Eloise Asylum [haunted attraction in Westland, MI]. He decided ‘asylum’ and ‘silence’ worked good together. By then, the criteria was, ‘Is this name taken? No? Perfect.’
Has the name informed the writing?
Definitely. Ryan [lyricist] will tell you a lot of his lyrics come from internal struggle. Dealing with friends who have had suicide issues, drug addiction issues, all kinds of stuff. That all goes in there. It’s a real thing for lyrical inspiration – finding the issues you’re dealing with in life and putting them on paper. It becomes an outlet.
How bout a little lightning round? I just saw the Rolling Stone list of Top 10 metal bands of all time. I’m going to read the list to you, and you tell me who might be an influence on Asylence.
2 Dream Theater
3 Black Sabbath
4 Iron Maiden
7 Judas Priest
8 Led Zeppelin
Wow. Slayer, for sure. Sabbath, from my perspective. When I list influences for drums, Dave Lombardo of Slayer and Bill Ward [Black Sabbath] are always on the list of guys that I’ve taken inspiration from. It’s hard to argue that Metallica isn’t part of the DNA, because it kind of is for everybody. I don’t consider Zeppelin metal; they’re a blues/rock band. Pantera is an interesting one, because we have a couple guys in the band that love Pantera and a couple guys in the band that don’t love Panthera. It’s a weird group of guys that influences don’t really blend so well.
So, why is Friday [Endanger Us All release show] a good date night?
Number one, it is in my hometown of Ferndale. I’m excited to play The Loving Touch – it’s a cool venue, an old massage parlor. And being able to do an album release party in our hometown – What better could you ask for?
Grab your main squeeze and check out the Asylence Endanger Us All release show on Friday 24 February at The Loving Touch, 22634 Woodward Avenue, Ferndale, Michigan. Scoop a copy of their CD for your collection.
You can hear Alex regularly on The CD Collector’s Podcast
Keep up with Asylence on the their web site at asylence.com