Just recently I was able to interview Hooded Eagle and ask them a few questions, and they were awesome enough to take the time and answer them for me. The entire interview can be seen below!
Can you tell a little bit about how Hooded Eagle came to be?
Lynn: Hooded Eagle was formed when the guitarist (Lee Christenson) and
drummer (Mark Appelt) from the band Sonant decided to continue playing
music together after their band broke up. I think it was initially
supposed to be an Isis-style post-metal band, but when they asked me
to join, I started writing music and immediately fucked that plan up.
Matt: Not long after the band’s inception I was given an opportunity
by Lee, Lynn, and Mark to hop on board as the second guitarist. Though
Hooded Eagle did not “come to be” as we are today for some time after,
in my opinion.
Bobby: Agreed. I used to play in numerous bands/projects with Lynn
when we were growing up together in Atlanta and we both played death
metal with Matt in 2007. I was a fan of the band and was asked to join
after they had a falling out with Lee.
When you were just starting out as Hooded Eagle, did you always
have this unique brand of doom or did the sound naturally progress
into what we hear now?
Lynn: We initially had two different guitarists, only one of whom
wrote music (Lee). I wrote one song (which appears in a rather
different form) with the original guitarist, and the current sound
immediately started to evolve. As Matt and Bobby joined, in 2010 and
2012, respectively, we became significantly darker and heavier with
Bobby: The post-metal vision of Hooded Eagle ultimately met its doom,
pun intended, when Matt came aboard. As I was a fan of and friends
with most of the band, I watched the progression towards what you hear
now unfold at their practices and shows over the years and always
thought ‘I really want to be in this band!’. And here we are now.
Matt: Progress happened little by little. With each new song, we broke
down little pieces of creative barriers that tried to keep the band
sounding a certain way. We will never stop progressing. I think the
material we are working on now is easily the most honest and
creatively uninhibited work thus far.
If there was a different sound than what we hear now, what made you
stick with the sound that you have currently?
Bobby: The band was being pushed in a different direction well before
I was asked to join. I helped them embrace the ideas they had already
been crafting more fully after my style of writing and vocals were
introduced into the fold.
Matt: Whoever said anything about sticking to a sound? The four of us
really get into exploring the seemingly countless avenues the world of
extreme metal offers. As I touched on earlier, we are more focused on
writing freely and honestly. While not entirely unrecognizable, our
newest material is in many ways a departure from the sound and feel of
‘Nightscapes from the Abyssal Plane’ is absolutely massive as it
sports lengthy run times and looms large over the listener. Was that a
conscious effort to create an album this massive or was it more
Bobby: As a band, we like to ‘feel out’ the structures of our songs.
Careful consideration is taken as to how and why we build into the
next part or where we should change the mood; creating atmosphere is
an integral part for sure. We eschew standard ‘rock’ songwriting in
favor of a classical approach, relying on movements instead of a
standard verse or refrain, even more so now than in the past. Though
we did want ‘Nightscapes’ to be massive and consume the listener, our
songwriting has never been rooted in writing epics for the sake of
epic. It needs to feel organic above all else. We have always been
willing to take anything we write to its utmost potential regardless
of song length.
Matt: While the ‘Nightscapes’ concept guides listeners on an epic(ly
long) journey brimming with terror, despair, and menacing darkness,
the album simultaneously takes listeners on a second, very real,
creative journey. The first and last tracks on the album were written
years apart from one another with a member change in the mix to boot.
We didn’t want to leave anything behind.
And can you tell a little bit about the writing and recording
process for Nightscapes?
Lynn: The album was written, both musically and lyrically, over a span
of years. I wrote really painful, personal lyrics that weren’t
connected outside of their lyrical mood. When it came time to make the
album, Bobby and I realized that, in changing the order of two songs
from where they were written, they essentially told a story of descent
into madness. After that was done, we wrote the last song on the
album, “The Sleeper…”, and realized that a Lovecraftian concept
would work really well, overlaying the personal tale that already
existed. At that point, we did small re-edits to make everything fit.
Bobby: Matt and I recorded guitars at the same time to give the
guitars a live-feel, and did this amidst candlelight in the middle of
the day, throwing sheets over the windows to block out the sun. We
spent a week in Monroe, NC, with the very talented Marshall Wieczorek
(Wretched), pulling twelve hour days and barely sleeping. The studio
is in almost utter isolation so it really made workhorses out of us.
Matt: We’d be lying to say we had all of the material for Nightscapes
studio ready for the week the band spent recording it. Marshall’s
wizardly command over the sessions and our determination to get it all
on record saw everything but the vocals completed. Being the Scott Ian
in the band certainly had its perks.
Lynn: Tracking was interesting. We spent six days tracking all of the
music, which left a single day to cut vocals. With the stylistic shift
presented on the album, the guys were really pushing me to take my
vocals to an entirely different place than I previously had. I just
got wasted on Jager bombs all day, trying different screams. When the
guys finally heard something they liked, it was on the one try I had
purposely screamed from my throat, rather than my diaphragm. I guess
it just had the right amount of pain or something, but they loved it,
so I kept going, and entirely blew my voice out. By the end of the
day, I could barely speak, much less scream. When we got the initial
mix back, the vocals sounded TERRIBLE. I drove up to the studio every
few weeks re-tracking vocal takes, but never being really happy with
the results. Finally, six months into this process, something just
clicked. I got the right sound, the right way, and re-cut the majority
of the vocals in two days.
Bobby: We were definitely unprepared to tackle seventy-eight minutes
worth of music in a week. In retrospect, crafting an album that long
without doing the necessary preproduction was ridiculous but, because
of this, you can hear the determination and stress we poured into it.
Vocals were the biggest obstacle because, not only did we not have
enough time to do them correctly, we made the assumption alcohol would
lead to the desired result and it really fucked everything up. It was,
accidentally, an act of good fortune because most of what you hear on
my side of the vocals didn’t exist until we received the initial mixes
and I realized we could push the concept further if I elaborated on
the story during parts that were originally instrumental. Despite it
being a pain in the ass having to drive back and forth from North
Carolina to recut/track new vocal takes over six months, it helped
push Lynn and I as vocalists/lyricists and I’d like to think it shows
on the album.
Not only is this album dark and sinister, at points, it seems to be
a little melancholic as well. What was at the forefront of your mind
when going into the writing and recording process?
Lynn: These songs are the first lyrics I’ve written since I was a
child, and I was at a TERRIBLE low in my life. All the songs started
off sad and heavy – it was Bobby’s influence that took them into a
more purely evil direction.
Bobby: I mean, it’s essentially doom with visceral black metal. If we
didn’t achieve a sense of emotional response then we weren’t doing it
right [laughs]. The melancholy was already present before I joined so
when I was given the task of writing the majority of the lead guitar I
wanted to take the music to a darker place and in doing so expounded
upon the already existing musical themes while adding a layer of dread
and sadness throughout.
Matt: Jamming a lot of Mournful Congregation, Evoken, Burning Witch,
Khanate and Cough during the writing of this record. Mournful
Congregation’s approach to doom is really appealing to me.
Horror, doom, and black metal all mix together very well as they
have on Nightscapes. What were/are some of the themes that you went
for when creating Nightscapes?
Bobby: Aforementioned, the only song fully written by the current
lineup on the record, ‘The Sleeper…’, served as the catalyst that
turned it into a concept album. Lynn and I wrote its lyrics around
H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, which was, seemingly, a departure
from the dominantly personal feel of the songs. But with Lovecraft’s
underlying theme of human despair in his writing and Lynn having
recently rewritten lyrics for a song basing it around the
supernatural, we found it appropriate to apply the subject matter
overall. I, vocally, took on the role of Cthulhu speaking to Lynn’s
character or as an extension of him that had been pushed past the
threshold of his own psyche.
Lynn: From the very beginning, entirely on accident, no matter what
the lyrical theme of a song, I would always, apparently, die at the
end. Whether it was a personal song about self-loathing or loneliness,
or a sci-fi horror song, the narrator/protagonist/I would
unquestionably have left this existence. I’ve always included both of
those elements – the personal and the supernatural. Bobby has always
had a very clinical take on his lyrical subjects – very objective-
whereas I have always written very subjectively. The interplay of the
two leads to an atmosphere that seems to cover all the every negative
feeling out there.
Matt: I’m not much of a lyrics guy. Are they metal as fuck? Yeah? Cool
with me! Musically, dark and heavy with some atmosphere was the
Nightscapes is undeniably heavy and abyssal and a lot of that
heaviness comes from the different genres-namely black metal- that you
inject into your music other than doom. Did you plan to have different
genres mix with the doom, or did it naturally happen?
Lynn: When I joined, the band (the original two guitarists and Mark)
had recently decided to cut a USBM style riff from the outro of “No
Goodness”; so when Matt, without that knowledge, proposed a black
metal riff to open ‘I Have Dreams…’, everyone was on board without
Matt: Incorporating a black metal movement in ‘I Have Dreams’ was an
experiment in a sense. I suppose it was planned though I don’t know
that “inject” is quite the right word for it. Each part or movement of
the song is inspired by the one before it. The way a song begins is
planned while the progression of the song is more natural and
Bobby: Back then Lynn wanted me to write lyrics and record guest
vocals for ‘I Have Dreams…’ because of my immense love for black
metal and the fact my vocals have always been rooted in that style.
Though they had already started incorporating black metal beforehand,
I helped push it further into the band’s sound by suggesting changes
in certain movements, to make them more evil-sounding, along with some
of my lead guitar parts. The sheer amount of music we all listen to,
extreme metal or otherwise, definitely plays a part in how we write so
I would say it is natural that we genre-hop.
As you have mentioned to me previously, you will be heading into
the studio to begin recording a follow-up album. What can we expect to
hear from your next full length?
Lynn: The new album is, like the first, a concept album. All of the
songs were written to work towards the same musical theme, whilst
moving about as far in every direction as is imaginable. While there
are unquestionably still the enormous, lumbering riffs that people
have come to expect from us, the new material removes the emphasis on
droning, and also removes much of the melancholia heard on the first
album. The atmosphere is unquestionably more evil. If the first record
could be described as “dreamy”, the new material would probably be
Bobby: The overtly melodic aspects are still present along with our
blackened doom aesthetic but neither are executed in quite the same
way. The change results from this being the first time we have written
an entire body of work together, considering ‘Nightscapes’ has riffs
written by the former guitarist across the album. Everyone pushed
themselves beyond their abilities, the band not only growing as
musicians but as songwriters in general.
Matt: We utilized the “fuck yeah!” litmus test when writing for the
new album. While never straying beyond the extreme metal realm our
collective influences are really diverse so as long as an idea got a
“fuck yeah!” it was fair game.
Nightscapes was an incredible jumping off point. What can you take
from that album and apply to the next, and what do you hope to expand
on with the next release?
Matt: That is a high compliment. It means a lot to us! Thanks! We
learned quite a lot from Nightscapes both as individuals and the band
as a whole. From songwriting to the recording process and beyond, the
next record will be a much more fluid and focused project.
Lynn: I think the first album taught us that we really shouldn’t be
afraid of exploring whatever we want to musically. You never know how
people are going to respond to heavy black metal, especially with as
droning as much of the material can be, but no matter what elements we
throw in, people who like the band seem receptive. So, there are
definitely all kinds of things that are hinted at (death metal,
hardcore, gothic metal, thrash, funeral doom) that get a lot more
attention, despite the shortened runtime.
Bobby: After we finished recording there was a strange period of time
where we had to rediscover Hooded Eagle’s sound. Most of the songs
presented on the album were years old by the time I joined, and
despite my proposal of a few new ideas, we had to learn how to write
together because all I had done beforehand was flesh out existing
material aside from two songs written by all of us. We definitely
trashed a few fully written songs because they were too much like one
genre or another. The end result was us creating metal that we wanted
to hear instead of adhering to a specific subgenre.
How will your approach to the next release be
different-if-at-all-from your approach when creating ‘Nightscapes’?
Lynn: Lyrically, I wrote the majority of the first album as the songs
were written. Once that was done, Bobby went through and filled in the
gaps. For this album, Bobby and I are collaborating with the lyrics,
which we started after the music was done. Musically, we went into
this one with the knowledge that we were doing another concept record,
so we kept a musical vein running through all the songs.
Bobby: Without giving too much away, we are approaching a gothic
horror concept in lieu of the sci-fi horror that has been a constant
for most of the band’s existence. Lynn and I will also be sharing all
of the vocal duties this time around instead of there being a
predominant lead vocal. What will be similar to the first record is us
retaining our call and response type of lyrics/vocals. It will be
different in the respect that I will not be speaking as him during the
narrative so we will have separate characters for the entirety of the
album instead of me occasionally reflecting his point of view. He will
also be acknowledging my presence instead of me being just a voice in
his head as per the previous concept.
Nightscapes was terrifyingly immersive and provided the listener
with plenty of nightmare fuel. Will the forthcoming album have the
same kind of sound, or will it be something different that we haven’t
Bobby: To directly answer your question, yes, there will be an
abundance of nightmare fuel on the next full length. Lyrically, you
will certainly get the horror that you would expect from us, as I
previously mentioned and musically there will be an emphasis on
dynamic shifts, more fluid movements, and dissonance with a lot more
riffing. The pace is somewhat faster as well compared to the sprawling
soundscape on our debut.
Lynn: If anything, those are the elements that we’ve accentuated on
the new album.
Before recording, is there certain criteria that you have to meet
for yourself before you begin recording any material?
Bobby: The first album was a learning experience and we are currently
trying to improve upon the mistakes we made. We had arbitrarily mapped
out tempos and didn’t realize that certain transitions wouldn’t fit
into the tempo jumps we decided on. This resulted in us changing them
mid-recording or having to come up with new ways of playing parts all
together. Leaving enough time to focus on vocals is also at the
forefront. We will be taking a more professional approach, demoing
songs beforehand and making appropriate changes well before we get in
front of a microphone so we can spend our time focusing solely on our
performance and the recording process.
Matt: We have the capacity to demo our own material now taking our
preproduction light years beyond that of ‘Nightscapes’. Being able to
“try it before you buy it” will allow us to focus our studio time on
getting our best possible performances instead of sorting out last
minute road bumps.
When can we expect to see the new album come out?
Bobby: We are pushing for a spring/summer release but you will
definitely see it by the fall of 2017.
Before I wrap up the questions, I’d like to ask a few standard
questions. The first being: if you would be able to work with anyone
alive, dead or both, who would they be?
Bobby: Peter Tatgren, Mortuus (Daniel Rosten), Stephen ‘O Malley.
Lynn: Dan Swåno.
Matt: Nicke Andersson. That guy knows how to write a damn song.
What are currently some of your favorite records that you have on repeat?
Bobby: The original version of ‘Dusk… and Her Embrace’ by Cradle of
Filth, ‘So Far, So Noir’ by Subvision, ‘Paracletus’ by Deathspell
Omega, ‘The Great Annihilator’ by Swans.
Lynn: The new (old) version of ‘Dusk…’ has been getting a lot of
play from me, as well. ‘World Coming Down’ by Type O Negative,
Warning’s ‘Watching From a Distance’ and All Out War’s ‘For Those Who
Matt: ‘The Grand Leveller’ by Benediction, ‘You’ll Never See’ by
Grave, and ‘Clandestine’ by Entombed.
To conclude, is there anything that you would like to add and say
to your fans?
Bobby: It has been truly astounding seeing ‘Nightscapes from the
Abyssal Plane’ receive such positive reception from not only our fans
but first-time listeners as well. We’re grateful to anyone that has
taken the time to review us, share us with their friends, and come out
to our shows. And special thanks to you, Mr. Harrison and Cadaver
Garden, for not only writing a glowing review of the record but
agreeing to do this interview. All of you will have our next abysmal
offering very soon and we can’t wait for you to hear it!
Matt: It is an honor to make music for you guys. Thanks for listening!