Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Photo courtesy of Glen La Ferman
It is not about being brave, yet on the other hand, not surrendering to the industry and its demands, bur simply out of heart and what it thought to be right. After being in the shadows for a while due to life's reasons, Ninth Circle, out of California, return to the pedestal with their brand new "Echo Black", showing that there is more to them than what meets the eye. Due to the release of the new album, Steinmetal talked to Dennis Brown of the band regarding the Covid-19 situation, coming back with force, new skinman, and more…
Greetings Dennis, it is a pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how is everything going in California? Are things a little better with the Pandemic going on? Greetings Lior, thanks for the invite. We just had a Holiday weekend and several states have eased restrictions a bit so it was a step in the right direction. The US still faces this pandemic with its challenges but I would say there are signs of progress. Talking about the Pandemic, when do you think that the US will see the light at the end of the tunnel? I would hope by late this year we could see the light. I’m sure we’ll still have much to do to get back to “normal”, but the idea is to be continually adapting and improving. With 50 States, there will always be occasions and areas where people can be irresponsible, but in my everyday life, I say people respecting the measures put in place as well as respecting space and the health of others. Do you really think that you are close to breaking away from this virus, at least until the next Winter time? Not close but not too far where we cannot see the light. People are being greatly affected by this pandemic but I think that will help with our will to return to a much normal way of life. The virus must have taken its toll over the music scene in California, having everything that is considered cultural shut down, not really knowing when and who will survive. With Ninth Circle being part of this Metal scene in Los Angeles, how do you guys react to the occasion? The timing was interesting for us as we had only one show booked at the time. Our drummer Richie was just about done learning our entire catalog and we were in the process of planning promotional shows to support our new CD. That has come to a halt. We’ve been making music on our own and will get back together in the new few weeks actually. Are you taking methods online to promote your music or just waiting until the storm passes? Yes, we have a video being released June 4th and we’ve been discussing other means of our promotional campaign. This pretty much leads us to why we are here actually, the band’s new album, “Echo Black”, signed with to a different section of the Pure Steel Records group, Pure Underground Records. How does it feel to get back after six years since the last album? It feels great to be back! Prior to the pandemic we were playing new songs and we’re really catching our stride playing with Richie. He’s brought a new energy to the band that it really exciting. It’s inspiring to play with this lineup. Was this time gap up until “Echo Black” made by choice or life’s circumstances just hit you? Life’s circumstances hit us. We played out often supporting “Legions of the Brave” and that continued for quite some time. We met quite a number of bands and more names in the industry. I played a guest solo on Tracy G’s (Dio guitarist 1993-1999) last cd for example. By the time we settled down to arrange and record music again, our Drummer Dave Davis started encountering back pain from an injury years prior. We took time off for him to heal so he would be primed for the recording. It was a least a year but we picked up where we left off. The first thing that caught my eye is the artwork, boy I like those post-apocalyptic sceneries on album covers. As a matter of fact, I just watched the latest Terminator movie, Dark Fate, and this artwork is not that far from the atmosphere that surrounded the movie at various points. Is this artwork as sort of your vision of mankind’s future, fighting machines or is your vision rather lighter than it seems? Frank (bass) came up with the concept. It’s the fight against AI taking over the human race. Our mascot on the cover is here to fight for mankind. Circling through the track list, while also experiencing the music, other than the self-titled song, the album’s lyricism goes through various directions. Which of these themes do you relate to more, the ones with a sort of glimmer of hope or rather to the prediction of chaos? I relate more to the songs with a glimmer of hope. Take “Forever More” as an example. The subject matter is about someone growing up in an environment without traditional role models. During the course of the song you find the character in the story emerging with a sense of independence and empowerment that you get through struggle. Coming back to the artwork, yet in relation to the music, to be honest, I thought I am going to be bombarded by fierce US Power Metal, yet the for my surprise, the spirit of early Riot started swarming the place, yet I believe that Ninth Circle dared a little more with crossing with Hard Rock and AOR as well, all 80s of course. What is your input about that? How do you Ninth Circle musical perspective on “Echo Black” in comparison to your previous album? Is this the next level of the band or rather stick to one’s guns? We wanted a more stripped down sound on this recording. More songs which were straight to the point and more like “Classic Hard Rock” than “Power Metal”. We used more backing vocals to fill the keyboard void but ensured that each song could “breathe. I would say “Echo Black” is certainly more diverse than our previous recordings. Much of that has to do with Frank’s songwriting. His influences are far more diverse then mine so that makes for a great songwriting partnership and to his credit, he wrote the majority of the songs we selected for the CD. On the other hand, and though it is a little tough one, I have to ask, since “Echo Black” is multifaceted in its musical direction, some would say based on the mood, don’t you think that there are too many twists and turns, as if you were somewhat undecided on which path to follow? There’s always a core sense of what is “Ninth Circle” musically. And because we are products of our experiences, predominantly musical experiences having grown up in the golden era of metal, the 80’s, those experiences are bound to reflect themselves in our music. Bet you will go away singing the choruses of our songs! From our heavy songs, to our fast songs to our melodic songs… that’s Ninth Circle! I noticed that one of the band’s main weak points, line up considered and not quality of playing or level of musicianship, is the drummer position. You have the new guy Richie Brooks, manning the skins, what is your input on his abilities? Why do you think that it has been tough for the Ninth Circle to hold on to a drummer for a long term, perhaps bad luck? I am asking because I know how it feels Richie is an excellent drummer. He knows quite a bit of metal and we often pull out an old Dokken, Maiden or ANY great song to jam to when we are taking a “break” at rehearsal. He had a solid learning foundation so he can play just about anything. The drummer position has been tough for us. However, each drummer served their purpose for what we were doing at the time. Dave’s consistency helped us record the last 2 cd’s as well as performing several shows with great results. As you know, the music part is only one part of being in a band. You have to have a good rapport with anyone you bring into the band so when we’ve needed to replace someone, we always give it a serious amount of consideration. In overall, the direction of “Echo Black” is to be catchy, memorable, pretty much going easy while being friendly, even with the heavier stuff. However, it would be intriguing to know how you perceive the band’s songwriting process? What makes “Echo Black” different? "Echo Black" has all the things that define Ninth Circle while taking the audience along with us on our musical journey. As much as it is different, it is the same within the confines of what is, “Ninth Circle”. On the "Legions of the Brave" album we decided to be a bit more progressive and the use of keyboard assisted in that musical direction. Frank is a huge Beach Boys and Van Halen fan and they use backing vocals brilliantly. So, this record pushed us in supporting the music with our background vocals. Additionally, I think we delved deeper into our influences such as the “poppy”, but heavy side of bands like Accept, White Lion and The Beach Boys by writing in major keys. Interesting, huh? Listening to “Tokyo Nights”, I couldn’t believe that I was listening to the same band, a burst of 1983-1985 was in the air, and let’s face it, I was a baby back then, yet I listened to plenty of AOR driven of that magical era of the 80s. From where did this song come from in the midst of the band’s heavier edge? What can you tell of its source? Interestingly, it’s one of the most melodic rhythm sections we have ever recorded. As for the genesis of this song, Frank had the riff sitting around for several years, if you can believe that! He finally worked up the entire song using influences such as the “poppy” German power metal songs like Accept’s “I’m a Rebel”, plus it pays homage to Loudness too! Lyrically it’s based on my adventures in Tokyo once upon a time. And there is that amazing American spirit sort of marching balladry, “Shadow Of Giants”. Though I am a fan of the heavier stuff, this is a picture perfect tune, running smooth, well executed and produced. What can you tell of this track? What is it all about? Thank you! This is a fantastic song! Once again, Frank had this song sitting around for several years as well. Then he finally worked it up. Since we were edging toward an even more melodic sound on this record the song fit better with this collection of songs. Lyrically Frank wrote from the perspective of the “American Spirit” however it is also broad enough that it really defines hard work and determination. As a free individual, you can take your own destiny into your own hands. Shadow of Giants just proves Ninth Circle can do anything within the metal genre and still sound like Ninth Circle! As the album’s clincher, you made a fine tribute to what I presume to be your main influence, with a cover of Riot’s “Warrior”, recording with Riot V’s finest voice, Todd Michael Hall and lead guitarist, Mike Flyntz. Was the decision to go with this tribute set in your mind even prior to the album? How did this collaboration happen in the first place? We initially thought of including a cover on this cd since we have on the previous two. We throw in a cover every now and then in our set but we’ve noticed that “Warrior” always goes over well, no matter where we play. The decision about approaching Todd Michael Hall and Mike Flyntz didn’t happen right away. We’ve supported them twice in 2014 and worked with them in San Diego on that same tour. They really are all great guys (not to mention an amazing band) and we kept in touch with them. We were there when they were inducted into the Heavy Metal Hall of History and I think it was weeks after that in which we approached them for the collaboration. In terms of supporting the album live, with hopes that this weakening pandemic will ease things up later on, have you started planning shows for 2021 or perhaps the end of 2020? You will see Ninth Circle live before you know it! Demand has been increasing in the Southwest U.S. where we most often play and we expect it to increase once Echo Black is released, then it will be all systems go. We don’t know what the live music landscape will be like but I can tell you then when it’s back, we’re ready 1 Dennis, thank you so much for your time, I think that you and guys have been doing awesome work and I truly enjoyed “Echo Black”, keep up the excellence. Cheers Thank YOU for the support and good words. This was a pleasure, Cheers !