Summon in Thunder
CoC chats with Nick Florence of Knights of the Abyss
by: Jackie Smit
Not quite an underground commodity nor a MySpace sensation, Glendale, Arizona's Knights of the Abyss could comfortably have carved their niche in the densely overpopulated deathcore scene. That is, until they decided that they'd had their fill of sporting skintight Suffocation T-shirts and chugging their way through every song they wrote. Subsequently their sophomore effort, _Shades_, is an entirely different and surprising beast -- awash with enough melody to keep the old-school happy, while no less heavy than their debut. I sat down with Nick Florence, one half of the band's impressive guitar tag team, to discuss the past, present and future.

CoC: _Shades_ came out against the backdrop of a lot of change and upheaval in the band. Now that it's confined to the history books and you've had the opportunity to take it out on the road and test the fans' reaction to it, how do you feel about the album?

Nick Florence: I'm really happy with it, man. We definitely did have a lot of things going on in the band while we were doing the album, but the product that came about as a result is something that we're really happy with. We're all definitely really proud of it, and we feel that we're doing the right thing musically. There's a direction we wanted to go into with this album, and we had decided on that beforehand so when we actually went into the studio, we were really focused and on top of what we wanted to achieve.

CoC: This album is definitely a fairly bold step away from the more traditional deathcore that you were making on _Juggernaut_. Why make such a big change after that record had helped to establish your fanbase?

NF: Well, we had never set out to be associated with the subgenre of deathcore, and I think that progressively we felt that everything we were hearing out of that scene was becoming really mediocre. So we felt that we needed to do something drastic -- not too drastic -- to get out of the shadow of that tag. I mean, there's no point in writing music unless you're doing something to progress, and I think that if we ended up revisiting too many ideas from _Juggernaut_, we'd have stagnated. You can't release the same album over and over again. It's got to go somewhere. We take a lot of influence from a lot of other styles of music and we wanted to bring some of those into what we were doing.

CoC: Considering the changes you made, the deathcore genre has been coming in for a lot of flack in the last twelve months, particularly from the older fans. As a band who've evolved out of that scene, why do you think it's become stale so quickly?

NF: The only thing that I can think of is oversaturation. I think that when record labels catch wind of something good coming out, or something that the fans are getting on board with, they have the tendency to just throw all their marbles at it right away. Also, I think that a lot of bands in the scene became complacent really quickly and they were happy to just stick to a formula. I mean, I'm not writing off the entire genre, because there are a lot of bands like Despised Icon who do it really well. But there are too many bands in the scene who I think are just in it for the sake of being in a band. I don't really have too much respect for that and I don't think that anyone who puts a lot of time into playing, writing and even listening to music would care for that attitude.

CoC: Did Knights of the Abyss' change in direction precipate the change in personnel you've undergone recently as well?

NF: That was more an issue of specific members having their own agendas and various things that took them out of the band. I mean, our bass player [John Seabury] wanted to go out and start up his own project, which has done really well for him so far and we're really happy for him. Our vocalist [Mike Manheimer] literally had to go because of vocal chord problems. The genre shift didn't have much to do with the line-up change.

CoC: How did the line-up changes influence you creatively, and how did it affect the dynamics in the studio?

NF: Well, Aaron [our bass player] was totally new to the band, but Dustin [Hadlock, vocals] had sang for us before so he kind of knew what the band was about and there was no period of waiting for him fit in or anything like that. Again, I think the fact that every one of us had similar ideas about what we wanted out of the album meant that the studio experience was really comfortable and easy. This being the second time in the studio for us, you expect to take a slight jump because of your past experience. What threw us slightly is that we came in with a slightly smaller budget than we thought we'd have, but we managed to get our settings down and track our parts really quickly. We probably didn't get to experiment and try as many things as I'd have liked to, just for the sake of getting the album recorded, but the album overall came out more or less the way we wanted. For the next record though, we'll take our time and really make a "this is who we are" statement.

CoC: So you'll spend more time writing, recording or both?

NF: Both, definitely. I think in our experience, what we've found is that a lot of our fans spend a huge amount of time on MySpace and so putting a song or a demo on there is a real easy way to help us gauge what the reaction is to something we're doing.

CoC: Do you pay a lot of attention to fan input and opinion?

NF: Up until recently, a lot. We based what we did on how much our friends liked it and what our fans thought. With _Shades_ we were a little more confident and we knew that because of the changes we were going to make, we'd probably lose some fans along the way, but we were okay with that too.

CoC: How have you experienced the response so far?

NF: We've had a lot of people come up to us and say that they love where we've taken the band. But at the same time, you've got to take the good with the band, and there's a lot of people who were upset that we'd made the changes. It's silly, because if you don't like it, then you can go listen to something else. We did this album the way we did, because it's the way we were feeling at the time and it's what we were inspired to do.

CoC: So, what's in the works for the band after you've finished with the touring cycle for _Shades_?

NF: Well, I feel like we're going to be getting into writing the next album really fast, actually. We want to do a concept album, and it's going to be pretty complex, so we're all really excited to get started on it as soon as possible. With the previous album, as I mentioned, there were some aspects that we didn't get to spend as much time on -- mainly the dynamics -- and we'll definitely pay it more attention next time round. I feel like our riffs are good, but we can definitely improve on making the heavy parts really heavy and the soft parts really soft.

CoC: Nick, thanks for your time. Is there anything you want to add?

NF: Thanks to you for talking to us and to all the fans -- we can't wait to start on the next record.

(article submitted 12/1/2009)

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