There are many words which can be used to describe listening to an old heavy metal tape, but the one which strikes me the most is classic. Heavy metal is about being classic, reclaiming the days of old and deifying the genre’s triumphs through worship and tribute; cutting one’s teeth on the riffs which made heavy metal great and presenting them in a new light. On their debut cassette, new U.S. power metal duo Ceres capitalizes on classic, “true” metal’s catchy and infectious nature, feeding upon the powerful character which the genre forerunners defined in the ’70s and ’80s and bringing it to the new decade.
On Tyrants Rise, the duo of Jesse Balgley and Leo Kabat’s Ceres debut, the band positions itself among the classics. Written with hook after hook and incredibly (incredibly) powerful vocals, Ceres’ smooth as silk and sledgehammer-heavy riffing is a trip to the days of old, a tape which could very well have been traded and left in a closet for eons, now suddenly unearthed as a pristine relic. Stream Tyrants Rise in full and read an interview with both Balgley and Kabat below.
Your artist bio declares the vast majority of modern heavy metal to be mediocre. What about it is mediocre to you and how does Ceres overcome these obstacles?
Jesse Balgley: Mediocrity is more easily felt than explained. There are lots of bands who dress the part or have all the right gear but lack the ability to craft memorable songs, which is ultimately what matters most. When a song doesn’t grip you or leave you with a hook stuck in your head, that’s mediocrity, no matter how “cool” the band looks. Ceres is concerned with songwriting before anything else and we let all other aspects of the band follow from the music we create. To avoid mediocrity, we look to our influences, not simply emulating musical styles of old school bands, but more so paying attention to how albums were written and sequenced in the golden era of heavy metal, striving for diversity in sound that will keep listeners engaged and excited.
Leo Kabat: That’s a blurb that someone else wrote – but nonetheless I would have to agree. It’s plain enough to see this trend of bands rehashing old ideas without adding any spark of their own–and that doesn’t do it for me. You can name-drop all the classics you want, but it’s not going to do your band any favors when it’s lacking in authenticity. Let the music do the talking!
What did you learn in your search for fellow “unpolished” heavy metal and why do you feel it is a struggle?
JB: The most glaring realization (though maybe the least surprising) is that truly compelling metal comes from real diehards: people for whom metal made an impact at an early age and who stuck with it against ridicule and being misunderstood, whether it was popular or not. The “struggle” we’re highlighting isn’t necessarily the adversities we face individually, but instead the difficulty of finding like minded people who aren’t just jumping on the bandwagon when metal is trending.
LK: Well, firstly it’s not about whether a band plays “polish or unpolish” heavy metal–there are certainly some great bands from Poland! Probably it was more difficult for those eastern block bands of the 80’s–but for us, it is not so much of a struggle. Information and equipment is readily available nowadays and you just have to know where to look, and more importantly where (and when) NOT to look!
What about being unpolished and genuine appeals to you? What did you do in your songwriting process to achieve this?
JB: Seems obvious, haha, who would want to be disingenuous? And yet many are! Authenticity doesn’t necessarily imply unpolished-ness, and certainly doesn’t mean “lo-fi or die”. On the contrary, a genuine band doesn’t care if they have the most old-school sound, the right outfits or vintage t-shirts, or the most perfectly curated social media presence. That’s the kind of polish we’re against. We stayed true to the music we love and didn’t pay attention to whatever is making waves this month. We made sure our recording sounded good to us, taking cues from classic heavy metal albums of course but not just trying to sound like we recorded it in the ’80s.
LK: We recorded all instruments and vocals ourselves–something we’ve each done for quite some time with our other respective projects. We took care to get the sound as close to what WE want to hear. As for the writing process–it never stops, so it’s always handled roughly!
How do you feel Ceres continues the US power metal legacy? For the uninitiated, what makes US power metal special and different from EU power metal?
LK: We continue the legacy because we play Powerful metal and are from the US of course! Those who are uninitiated are not necessarily our target audience – but even they can listen to the demo and draw their own conclusions. It goes without saying that we enjoy the classics, as well as the lesser-known bands from both the US and Europe–however these categorizations are the last thing on my mind when writing my contributions for CERES, or any project for that matter. After all, this is not Research and Development… this is Heavy Metal. It all comes down to the FEELING. Nobody else can feel it for YOU…!
FEEL THE REIGNS ON YOUR SKIN…!
JB: I see early US power metal as much more rugged than its European counterpart, and is more characteristically anthemic and mid-tempo than fast ‘n’ loose. Lyrical themes often deal with battle, conquest, honor, and death; it can be both dark and flashy, which appeals to me. One of the biggest distinguishing factors is the “kingly” vocal style/delivery championed by legends like Mark Shelton, JD Kimball, Harry Conklin, and Eric Adams. While I was raised on equal portions of European and US metal and don’t favor one over the other, I felt that not enough bands today draw from the US style and often lack aggression and bravado. We decided to hone in on these traits to show that US power metal lives on.
Though Ceres is rooted in the “old ways,” how do you feel it will further U.S. power metal (if that’s your intent)?
JB: US power has already been perfected and its heyday is long past, so we can only strive to make more memorable songs that make listeners feel empowered themselves and give people something to bang their head and raise their fist to.
LK: We will continue to make music that we believe in–with the conviction and feeling that WE would want to hear in ‘modern’ music ourselves.
Tyrants Rise releases July 2nd on Electric Assault Records.