Because every day another band records another song. Because 83% of those songs are unlistenable and you can’t be bothered to sift through the dreck. Because metal is about not giving a shit and waking your own personal storm. Because music is universal, expression is boundless, and even indie labels (whatever that means these days) don’t know everything, Decibel brings you Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack.
Looking for something to really blow your hair back? Or in my case, give my fuzzy scalp a good breezing? Forlorn Path are that shit. THE shit. Without being at all shitty. Back in February, these New Jersey neck-slicers gave the world their first amazing full-length, Man’s Last Portrait. If you think this all sounds like it’ll be some weepy doom bullshit, think again. No, nevermind, fuck thinking. Just listen. The album certainly hauls its fair burden of soul-squeezing sorrow, but kneads it into a doughy black-death battle cry. There’s a baroque, panoramic quality to everything, without ever forgetting to razor-edge the guitars and vocals and rain down unholy terror with the drums. The ghosts in this machine take the entire experience to another level of awesome.
Bassist/vocalist Dave Imbriaco and guitarist Yuriy Garnaev took some time to answer our burning Deci-questions, and wanted to make sure you know that Man’s Last Portrait (as well as last year’s Intifada EP) is streaming in full at Bandcamp, where you can hear/download some gorgeous blackness with a heart six sizes bigger than you’re used to. Also, check them out at their official site, or at Facebook.
While you listen to the album stream below, make sure to check out one of the most thoughtful (and literate) interviews that has ever graced this column. Any chance we can get these guys to paint my last portrait?
Who are Forlorn Path? What are the backgrounds (musical or otherwise) of the band’s members?
Dave: I was born/raised in New Jersey and I’ve been doing music all my life. I learned first to read music and sing as a small child at a Kindermusik program and picked up guitar in elementary school. I did theater and all kinds of vocal music throughout high school and here I am now! Outside of the band, I work in public education.
Yuriy: My musical journey began much later in life – I was always drawn to music, but didn’t pick up the guitar until I turned 17. When I started out, I was practicing 8 hours a day, and began trying to write my own stuff just a few months later. I took part in a few different projects in college, and eventually Forlorn Path was formed. Dave and I went to the same school, along with two of the other founding members, so that’s how it all began. Outside of music, I’m finishing up a computer science degree at the moment.
How are Forlorn Path songs written? By individual band members, or collectively? In various parts that are woven together later, or as a flow of ideas from beginning to end?
Dave: Yuriy wrote 85% of everything you hear on the album. I contributed some lyrics here and there (specifically “What Lies Beyond”) and offer my feedback/constructive criticism when I’m asked…or not.
Yuriy: I tend to work better alone, as that’s when I really get in “the zone”, so to speak. Some days I just feel like writing and it comes naturally, and that’s when most of the work gets done. I don’t necessarily have control over when that happens, so as you might imagine, it’s hard to make that coincide with band practice times. So, it’s as Dave said – I’ll write some stuff, get some feedback from the other guys on the different parts, structure, and overall flow – and then go back and write some more. Some songs have parts I wrote years ago and have been meaning to use for quite some time. Others are fairly recent.
What influences do you think have been important in the creation/intent of your music?
Yuriy: The music stems from a desire to create something beautiful; something somebody might relate to and benefit from. As far as bands go? Agalloch, Swallow the Sun, Draconian…maybe even Nobuo Uematsu, to some extent.
How long did it take to record Man’s Last Portrait? Was anything about those sessions difficult?
Dave: Over a year from the first day of drum tracking to release. We had a variety of difficulties ranging from scheduling conflicts to losing all of our guitar tracks to the black hole of Yuriy’s hard drive to bloody Superstorm Sandy, which hit the studio where our tracks were being mixed.
Yuriy: That was a rough year, to say the least!
How was putting together Man’s Last Portrait different from writing/recording the earlier EPs?
Dave: Vastly! First of all, we had a variety personnel changes to cope with while we were getting ready to make this album – me taking over on vocals and working with the incredible James Applegate (of Exorbitance, check them out!!) for the drum tracking. Second, we did the entire recording process ourselves, which turned out to be a MASSIVE undertaking and I don’t think we quite anticipated how monumental a task we were taking on. For me personally, the biggest change was doing a 6 hour vocal recording session for the first time in a room with no fan or air conditioning. It was absolutely grueling but a ton of fun too.
Yuriy: We put a great deal of effort into getting everything tight and polished sounding, while working on a very limited budget – which I guess is nothing new to us, but we really strived to produce something of significantly higher quality, and it took a lot of work. And this album is much longer than anything we’ve done before, so the recording sessions were very, very long, especially considering all the multi-tracking involved!
How specific were you about getting particular sounds right before starting to record?
Yuriy: We spent weeks working on this part alone. This was one of the most difficult but also most important parts – if you don’t get a good tone from the start, you may have to do everything over again. We made sure we had the perfect combination of amps, guitars, mics, a high quality audio interface, etc., in order to get the sound we wanted. Even cables make a difference! We also had to create proper sound insulation in a room that was not typically used for recording – so we had to make a few trips to Home Depot and spent hours hammering away to get our makeshift studio ready.
Is there a thematic thread that runs through the album?
Dave: Definitely. The album is very dystopian with a glimmers of hope all scattered about. Yuriy can explain this better than I.
Yuriy: Grief and loss are some of the overarching themes on the album, whether on a personal level, or with regard to the world on a global scale. But at the same time, as Dave said, the feeling of a glimmer of hope in the darkness is something that continues to reappear throughout the songs. The music is meant to be an emotional journey for the listener.
When the recording was finished, do you feel like it mirrored your vision for the songs, or were there any differences or surprises from the beginning to the end of the writing/recording process?
Dave: Largely, yes. It was different from my perspective as I’m not the one really in creative control of the content, but Yuriy’s vision for what the music was to be gradually became clearer and clearer to me as the process went on. Things that I wasn’t so sure about during the songwriting process became much more understandable to me as each track was laid down. It was really fascinating to see the entire thing unfold right before my eyes and ears.
Yuriy: I think it came out how I envisioned it. Then again, after having to hear every part a thousand times, you really can’t be sure anymore!
Do you have plans to take this music to the stage?
Dave: They’re in their infancy, but most definitely! We hope to create a show that won’t be easily forgotten.
What hopes do you have for Forlorn Path as you move forward?
Dave: It starts with T and ends in “our”. Aside from that, I hope more and more people get to enjoy what we’ve created!
Yuriy: That, definitely. And of course, creating more music. All the feedback we’ve received from people has been very encouraging, and I’m very much looking forward to putting together another record for people to hear and hopefully connect with.