Ilium, hailing from Newcastle, NSW are not new to the scene. They’re an outfit who have flown the Australian metal flag for over twenty years and over their career they have released seven studio albums and two EPs. The band has had a number of line-up changes but the two original members, who have been relentless in keeping the band’s career alive and, in doing so, created some amazing melodic metal songs, are Jason Hodges (guitar) and Adam Smith (guitar, keyboards and bass). The other constant in the band’s line-up and production is Lord Tim, from Lord. Tim has sung on four of the band’s albums and has been instrumental in the production of Ilium’s music over their career.
So, now to 2020 and Ilium have released their latest album Carcinogeist (our review here) accompanied simultaneously by the release of an EP, Enviro-Metal. The band’s latest material is nothing short of brilliant – and I don’t say this lightly. However, when I reflect on Carcinogeist and weigh up the musicianship, melodies (both vocal and guitar) and the lyrics, it is sincerely hard to find another metal album of late that has more than this album. The album is heavily rooted within the European power metal genre, however, to call it just a power metal album does it a serious disservice. The album is multi-layered sound wise, reminiscent of traditional metal, prog metal and, at times, a speed metal album. The richness of the material, in it’s complexity and sincerity, sets it apart from so many other recent metal albums out there at present, and I challenge any metal fan to listen to this album and be disappointed in any way.
I was lucky to have a chat with both Jason and Adam and catch up on Carcinogeist.
How does it feel to have Carcinogeist released and what has the initial feedback been like?
Jason: It’s great to finally have it out. We took longer than we were planning to make sure we nailed it. The feedback so far has been very positive.
Adam: Any album release is both exciting and stressful, this one has been no different but it’s still a great feeling to finally unleash your Frankenstein on the world. Feedback has been amazing, nothing but praise so far. Feels fantastic.
How is the album to be distributed? Do you have any overseas deals, or is it solely through the band?
Jason: We got offered a couple of deals, but at the moment we’re just going via our bandcamp page.
Why did it take four years for the new studio album, knowing that you re-recorded Sirens of the Styx in 2017?
Jason: Well, the recording of Sirens of the Styx: Re-Styxed was part of that. The other thing is we’re an independent band, so we have to do things when time and money allows. It’s frustrating, but we were working hard.
Adam: If you include Re-Styxed, it’s still roughly a two year gap, Re-Styxed still took a lot of planning and those songs are quite daunting as is, let alone writing them, then there’s the new songs to write, learn, record, it all takes time (which doesn’t want to wait for us).
The songs on the album are so varied in so many ways, did the writing of this album take a different path to previous releases?
Adam: I think this is the least varied Ilium album to date, it’s very much a melodic metal album with only a couple of off shoots but the writing format hasn’t really changed. It’s always about what we want to hear above anything else with a dash of influence from outside sources.
Jason: We let the process be organic. Really, Lord Tim has become a world class producer and production is a major factor, as is his vocal approach. Otherwise, we just write what feels right for us at the time. We don’t have a specific way of writing, it’s just putting down ideas, sometimes the lyrics are first, sometimes the music and we build the songs from there.
Songs for me that really stand out are ‘Messiah for the Broken’ and ‘Harlequin Tree’, do you both reflect back positively on the album?
Jason: We definitely think it’s our best album. I have a hard time picking favourites, but those two definitely are great.
Adam: Most definitely with this one, I can’t really find a fault with it, every other album has had at least one aspect we’d have done differently but I reckon we nailed it this time around. Those two tracks seem to be quite popular with most people so far.
Can you talk us through the release of Enviro-Metal, and why the album and EP were released at the same time?
Adam: Jason can explain the details around the releases but the original plan was a project album using talents from across the metal community. A bit like Avantasia only less grandiose, bringing attention to the plight of endangered species. Most of the album was written musically but it seemed like it was not going to happen and we needed a new Ilium album so quite a lot of music on Carcinogeist was from that project with a few Enviro songs really working well. So we decided to do an EP but release it just ahead of the album to build a bit of presence instead of dropping an album from nowhere, this could be why we’re receiving more attention this time.
Jason: Originally we were going to do Enviro-Metal as an album and have a lot of guests to try and raise money for wildlife causes. Obviously with CD sales plummeting and a lack of time it didn’t seem realistic, so we thought we’d do an EP, which was a different sort of project, concurrently with our new album. It was a big task, which was another factor as to why it was time consuming.
The band’s working relationship with Tim has been a very long one, what do you see him as bringing to the project, obviously beyond his vocals and production skills?
Adam: I would say seeing as the bulk of an album is the album itself, 90% of Tim’s contribution are just that, vocal and production skills. But he has a wealth of industry knowledge, contacts and technical support in every area of recording/video production should we need help. We’re definitely blessed to have him around.
Jason: We have huge respect for Tim, and have seen him grow as a musician, producer and person over the years. I think a really important thing with Tim is that he communicates well, knows exactly what we’re after and puts in 110%. It definitely shows. He’s by far the most professional person I’ve ever worked with.
The band’s career has been a long one, and I am sure one that has been fraught with challenges, as all music careers are, but what keeps you both going?
Jason: Obsessive compulsive disorder! I think the idea of seeing music grow from ideas into a full realisation is kind of addictive and fulfilling. It’s certainly expensive and frustrating, but it’s really the love of the music that keeps us going. For me, working with Adam is a massive privilege. Just seeing his ideas come to fruition in combination with mine, and of course Tim’s input is a real impetus for me.
Adam: It’s that same old answer but it’s true, the music, it will always be why I personally keep going, I love it so much. It’s obviously not the fame or fortune, we have none of that, it’s genuinely about being able to create something and watch (or in this case, hear) it grow and develop until it’s complete, that’s the true reward.
What are the next moves for Ilium? Are there any plans to play live?
Adam: We’re still a studio project and unlikely to change, there are so many factors preventing us from going on stage.
Jason: We are working on a new EP and also writing for our new album. As for live, there are various issues which make that difficult to achieve. I certainly think about it from time to time but I think we’ll just stay a studio band. Never say never though.
Finally, thank you for your time, do you have any messages for the metal community and the Ilium fans out there?
Jason: Firstly, look after yourselves and each other in these strange times. To the people who have stood by us we are eternally grateful, and for those who are in a position to support musicians in these times, please buy music and merchandise, keep the music alive. Life for musicians has been increasingly tough and now it’s extremely important that the metal community stands together. And check us out on Facebook and Bandcamp. Thank you.
Adam: All I can say is thank you to everyone who supports us, to know someone out there feels the same about our music as we do is a special thing, especially as an underground artist, it’s hard to be heard.
Horns up and bang those heads!
Grab your copy of Carcinogeist here
Ilium – Carcinogeist tracklisting:
4. Haunted By The Ghost Of Me
5. Messiah For The Broken
6. Harlequin Tree
7. The Serpent Maligned
8. Uncle Rupert’s Puppet Show
9. Question Air
10. Vigilante Vagrant
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