The Raven: a Thrash Metal Opera

from by Chris Violence

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about

At the end of 2014 and following the release of the AMERICAN RIPPER album Jon Du Bose and I were already talking about what was next. He had an idea for a concept album/EP that would be five parts, would be recorded as one long track and broken into five pieces later on when I wrote the lyrics for them all. Along with this five part concept idea, he recorded what would become the song PUSH BUTTON PAIN.

Jon then went to work on this five part mega track. He feverishly worked away, giving me updates as he went. He was like a ravenous dog, tearing through the writing and recording process. Once he started, there was no stopping him. What he presented me in February 2015 was simply insane! It was a twisted Speed Thrash epic on a proportion I had never heard before. It was meant to be five parts that all linked together. The pieces congealed at the end bringing all the pieces back together again.

Once he handed it to me, I began listening to it. All 23 plus minutes of it. It was a BEAST! Speed Metal riffs to end all Speed Metal riffs. Guitar picking so precise and clean. This piece of music demonstrates once again what an amazing guitar player / bass player / song writer / composer Jon Du Bose really is. But what to do with it all? How do I digest it and find a subject big enough and worthy enough to be added to such a piece of music? Where would the breaks go? I was stimied.

Next, enter Maxxxwell Carlisle (lead guitarist of Hellion). In 2015, while doing my TRAVELING DAMNATION SHOW on Metal World Radio I interviewed Maxxxwell while he was promoting his current album. Off air I asked him if there was a chance he would be interested in putting a solo on one of Jon and I’s upcoming tracks. Even though I had nothing with vocals on it, I couldn’t pass up the chance to have Maxxxwell on something! I sent him a few tracks, including what was then tentatively called “5 Realms”, Jon’s mega epic. I figured Maxxxwell would pick something simple and short, but instead he went all in with “5 Realms”. At the time he was on the road with Hellion, so I wasn’t sure how or when he would get me a solo back, let alone where in the track it would be. I continued to work on other songs, still thinking of a subject that would be worthy of this massive body of music when I received an email from Maxxxwell with solo attached. I had no idea where in the song it would be, so my first listen was with open ears. He chose one of the most unlikely (to me) spots in the track. A section in the first one third of the song that is slow and moody and he nailed it. I’m not sure anyone could have found a way to blend into the expression Jon laid out, but it is perfect. In a track with so much going on, he found a way to add to it without stepping on it. Simply amazing!

But what do I do with the vocals?

Rewind back a year or so, before Jon recorded this monster…While surfing YouTube I stumbled across Christopher Walken reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. I remembered briefly speaking to Jon about the ridiculous idea of doing that as a song. But as quickly as the idea popped into my head, I dismissed it. With Jon being in North Carolina and I in California, it would just be too huge of an undertaking and with that, the idea was gone.

Still facing a lack of subject matter, idea’s came and went. Lyrical concepts were started and stopped, started and stopped. Nothing seemed worthy of this grand masterpiece Jon had created and Maxxxwell had added too. The subject had to be as massive as the track itself. But what?

Then one night, with headphones on, listening yet again to this track for the umteenth time, hoping for inspiration, it hit me! Could “The Raven” fit on Jon’s epic? A quick google search found the words and upon first playback I was in utter shock how they fit. And they didn’t just fit “OK”, they fit PERFECTLY!

The song you will soon hear, is complete in it’s entirety, unedited in any way. Neither the music that Jon presented me, nor the poem written by Mr. Poe in January 1845. Start to finish, it is as both pieces were written.
Over the next 6 months I recorded the poem of Mr Poe. At times I was forced to stop and google words I had never even heard before. Words that are very much out of the lexicon of 21st century man. I needed to learn not only their pronunciation but their meaning. I wanted to know what the hell I was saying and meaning in order to give the proper expression to the words in their delivery.

The process was grueling. 8 hour days, month after month. Recording and rerecording. My two biggest fears were, the song was so long that:
A) my voice would warm up and change from beginning to end and there would be a noticeable difference from start to finish.
B) the beginning’s delivery would start out “Hot” and I would run out of expressive steam and the end of the song would be dry and dead.

The challenge of keep the energy across the whole 23 plus minutes with complete continuity was one I was thinking about through the whole process. Along with the realization that I may have to go back once completed to rerecord the beginning so the vocals would sound the same. Thankfully this wasn’t an issue and I had no problems with my voice through the whole process.
The truth is, Edgar Allan Poe’s poem was so strong, that the energy was easy to up hold.

In the end, the hardest part of the whole process was pronunciation and speed of delivery. The words are delivered RAPID FIRE as Jon’s Speed Metal picking tears through the musical sections. Line after line, paragraph after paragraph, page after page, one thousand and eighty five words in all. At the end of the recording process I was truly exhausted, physically and mentally. For me, music is more of a “feel good” than it is a mathematical structure. If something is missing, my mind’s eye sees it instantly. Vocal alignments, corrections, whispers, echoes…all scream out to me as voids that must be filled or corrected. If one word is misaligned it cuts into me like a knife until it’s corrected. And so, many more months clicked by as these details were ironed out, one by one. Listening to the song four times to find anomalies eats up two hours of the day, sometimes to only make a few minor corrections. It was tedious work. But as the months went by, the more the continuity came into picture, the fluidity came into picture and the brilliance of it all came into picture.

Next, enter Matheus Manente, musician, composer and producer from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I met Matheus through Jon’s Headphone Meditations radio show onMetal World Radio. Jon was playing Matheus’ music and he was also in the chatroom on MWR. We had chatted many times during Jon’s shows. Jon expressed to me that it might be possible to have Matheus mix and master our newest (August 2015) track PUSH BUTTON PAIN. Matheus was kind enough to do it and the final version is the one you can download for free on my website. When PUSH BUTTON PAIN was complete Jon told me he had spoken to Matheus again about The Raven. I was a bit apprehensive about asking him, since I knew what a beast this track was. Vocal tracks alone numbered close to twenty, plus all the instrumentation. But Jon reached out and Matheus was kind enough to accept the challenge and what a challenge it would be.

After I felt I had finally finished the vocals, it was handed off to Matheus for him to do his magic. There was a piece of me that still felt there were some holes in the song, some “empty spots”. Jon and I spoke and he assured me that if there were “holes” Matheus could fill them. And fill them he did…

The first mixes came back only a few weeks after he had the tracks. The sound was filling in, little tiny nuances were coming into focus on the vocal side of things and Matheus heard the same things Jon and I heard, that now with the vocals in place, you could hear there needed to be some more lead guitar work. Matheus is beyond prolific in this regard and the parts he added, much like Maxxxwell, blended and added to the overall beauty of the story. The energy of the whole song was reaching full POWER! We worked together ironing out vocal effects that I liked, small volume adjustments, the standard fare in the mixing process.

Next enter Brazilian foley artist Danilo Battistini. As it was explained to me in an email: “He got interested in The Raven after he saw our updates on Facebook, got in touch with me and created a very nice original sound design, based on the poem, specially for us!”

Danilo created a masterful 25-30 second intro that brings it all together. In that tiny amount of time he expresses everything Edgar Allan Poe was saying in his one thousand and eighty five words. It is not only beautiful, it is also very haunting, on the edge of terrifying.

So now, after almost two years of work, by six different people from all over the globe, one of which has been dead for over 149 years this project is ready for release. There is no way to accurately calculate the man hours invested.

Chris Violence – A Thrash Metal Opera
Edgar Allan Poe’s – THE RAVEN

lyrics

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

credits

from The Raven, released May 13, 2016
Chris Violence - Vocals
Jon Du Bose - Bass / Rhythm Guitar
Maxxxwell Carlisle - Lead Guitar
Matheus Manente - Lead Guitar
Danilo Battistini - Intro Foley

Mixed and Mastered by Matheus Manente

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