brand new year is upon us and it should all feel like a blank slate, but the Pennsylvania-based metal band CORNERS OF SANCTUARY are still on our radar. A few weeks ago, we gave the band coverage for their Yuletide release A MERRY METAL CHRISTMAS VI and gave us at ROCKWIRED something to listen to that ws both headbanging and festive all in one shot as our tiny little publication returned a bit early from its 2019 hiatus. Historically, we could always rely on CORNERS OF SANCTUARY to fill our previous editorial calendars with content whether it be a lone single, an EP or a full length album. In the week before the end of 2019, the band released their new EP WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND, a collection of overlooked songs from the band's vault of songs that have been dusted off and and brought to life with blistering new arrangements. If that wasn't enough to kick off a new year, the band will soon be putting the finishing touches on a brand new LP titled HEROES NEVER DIE which according to gutiarist MICK MICHAELS won't see the light of day until much later in 2020. ROCKWIRED had the chance to speak with MICK MICHAELS regarding the release of WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND and the band's plans for the new year. Here is how the interview went.
I've got you on the phone on the eve of the release of your new EP WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND. This is just a few weeks after the release of your annual Christmas album. What's all going through your head with regard to anticiptation of the EP's release?
We're excited about it for sure and it's something that we've been working on throughout 2019. It should've been out in August but one thing led to another and this is where we're at. It's not our normal stuff. It's our music of course but these are songs that never got the chance they should've gotten on a previous release or they just didn't see the light of day for whatever reason. When we do EPs we love to experiment. We experiment with sound and songwriting and different effects and things like that because we have that freedom. We look at it differently from a full length album which should have a complete theme to it. At least that's our opnion, but with an EP we try to go for more experimentation. We want to push the boundaries of our songwriting and where the band is going. One thing that is tough and difficult with bands is that you get locked into something and you repeat it over and over again. For some bands that works. AC/DC was one of those bands and you expected that from them and you enjoy it and you like it. We're not that kind of band. We try to push our own boundaries just to see where we can go. Some people like it and some people don't but as an artist, you've got to challenge yourself and I think EPs allow you to do that. Especially in today's market as you're trying to fill the gap in between albums. Soemtimes they are longer than you hope for but singles and EPs can provide that opportunity for you to connect with different groups of people who may not normally listen to your music.
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With this EP being a collection of overlooked songs from the past, how far back do some of these songs go?
One of them is definitely from early on from about 2011 or 2012. Everything on this album is a total redo so it is all new stuff with different arrangements and some new lyrics. Some of the songs on this EP just got a complete makeover. If there was something that we were unsure about, we made a change to it. We're true to the music but not so much that we're anchored to it and can't make changes within ourelves. Sometimes that can be an issue with artists. Soemtimes you think something is perfect that it doesn't need anymore changes. For us, it's okay to go back and fix something if it isn't right. Some of our earlier releases because of finances and timeframes and stuff like that, some if it could've been rushed and we didn't get to do what we wanted to do because of a lack of finances or because we didn't have the right engineer. Back then we just worked with what we had and we got it out there. But now we've been fortunate enough over the past several years that we've been able to put ourselves in a situation where we've been able to pick and choose a little better.
From this EP, what songs off of it went through the most changes from demo version to what we hear on the EP?
There is a song called AQUA LUMINOS. That song definitely has a whole new vibe to it. With MAD T on drums we've created some more air for the song to breathe. There is more to the song now than there has ever been. We've added some breaks to it which were really cool and we recorded the vocals differently. That song just has a completely different feel to it all together. It was a song that I really liked but in the beginning it was one of those songs that got put aside and that was why it never really got its chance but this time around it will. The song is a little darker. It's definitely not a pop mainstream type song but it's got a cool groove to it.
With the release of this EP coming up fast, I also understand that CORNERS OF SANCTUARY has a new album in the works. How soon can people expect that to be released?
All of the music has been recorded and we have all of the scratch vocals done. When we get into the studio in the new year, we'll be working on the main vocal parts to get he properly recorded and go from there. Unfortunately, depending on how the record label has their schedule set, it doesn't look like it's going to get released until the third or fourth quarter of next year. Part of that is our fault. We had plans to have it out earlier in 2020 but in this past year we took on some shows that we didn't have planned to do. They were presented to us at the last minute and sometimes that is how it goes in this business. It changes from day to day and you have to go with the flow otherwise you are taking punches on the chin all of the time.
You've talked about full length albums have a theme. What will be the theme of this forthcoming LP?
The title of it is HEROES NEVER DIE and we are working around that idea. We do write a lot about war and battles, some historical and some are more rooted in fantasy, but the underlying theme is about overcoming challenges and self-empowerment. That is kind of the focus with a lot of our writing. We don't necessarily write about love and breaking up and all of that kind of stuff. When I say 'theme' I'm just speaking in terms of lyrics. There is a musical theme to it as well. When we released the album THE GALLOPING HORDES, one of our thoughts was that we wanted to have this driving, galloping sound. We wanted to have that feel throughout the album. So for us there is a always a musical theme that connects all of the songs. So the theme of an album encompasses both the lyrics and music. Going all the way back to our first album, the songs on that album came about more by picking a choosing and we did our best to keep the songs uniform. As you get better and better at songwriting and putting togetheryour albums and packages, I think that you try to be more conscientious of how it is presented. If you go back to the seventies and early eighties when you had all of this great album packaging with a side a and a side b and printed lyrics and artwork, it was a complete package. So I think having a theme run through an album is key.
With the EP WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND, what do you think is the big takeaway?
For me personally, it's the idea that music never dies. It is always new to someone. Music evolves. If you've released an album and you've been playing songs from it live for a couple of years, those songs that you've been playing aren't the same songs any more. It evolves. It grows and it changes. You may add parts to a song and take parts away. This EP demonstrates that we can do this as artists. It's okay to go back and retool some stuff. Someone is always hearing it for the first time. So even though someone may have heard a demo or the previous version of a song, they are going to be blown away when they hear the new version and realize that it is something totally different. There are a couple of songs on the EP that we have been playing live for a couple of years and that was the starting point for us to make the EP that we've made. Music never dies. It's there and it grows and it takes on a life of its own. The music will definitely outlive me.
In January we start to do some dates in our home state of Pennsylvania. We've been off the road for the past few months so we're going to have to knock off some of the rust and then we'll start branching off. We are scheduled as of now unless something changes to be in the UK from March 13 to March 20. We'll be doing five shows over there. So we're definitely excited about that.
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