Interviews : Nehemiah

Nehemiah : Philosophy of a Breakdown
With Aaron
Interviewed by

As much as most of us at Deadtide dislike anything the modern hardcore scene has to offer, there are a few stalwarts that make it worth the time. Nehemiah is one of such bands. Epic song structures highly reminiscent of Aeternus and Opeth with a touch of At the Gates sound fresh among so many Unearth and Shadows Fall clones. And while the new EP "Lenore" shifts away from the the more metal sound heard on "Asphyxiation Process," anyone who has a soft spot for good metalcore must check these dudes out. Aaron (guitar) sat down with us for a quick chat about his band and their new material.

So, the way I picked up "The Asphyxiation Process" is such: I was pretty drunk in Belgium and went CD shopping. Not sure if you know or not, but there is a French black metal band called Nehemah, so I thought I was buying their CD and I ended up buying yours instead...

Really? Yeah, we were in this music store in San Francisco and we saw a CD of theirs.

You guys came strong onto the scene in 2003 but then pretty much disappeared for a year or so. What has been happening? Much of the line-up has changed as well.

Well let's see...The Asphyxiation process came out and we did a couple tours around that right away to get things going. We really wanted to do more, but almost all of the members at the time were in school, so that kind of limited what we could do. Most of the time between late 2003 to late 2004 was spent writing and recording our new EP. That whole experience was a mess from the start. Recording started in March 2004, mixing started in September, and now our CD is being released in May 2005. There had been a lot of talk about going full time with the band after we recorded our new EP, the only problem was that some of the members couldn't go forth with the commitment. To make a long story short, a few members left to pursue other interests, we gained a couple new members, and now we are going stronger than ever.

Well, because of the 2 year wait, did it not appear to you that most fans would want a full-length instead of a 5 song EP? What was the reason of sticking with the plan of releasing an EP rather than another full-length?

Well, the initial plan was to release an EP due to our contract with Uprising Records. This also gave the band an opportunity to release kind of a stepping stone record. The main songwriter/guitarist (Logan) left the band right after Nehemiah recorded The Asphyxiation Process. I had been close friends with most of the guys in the band and was also a fan of the music, so stepped up to the plate to fill Logan's shoes. Originally we thought we would get this EP out right away, but there were a few obstacles regarding recording that we had to over come.

If I am not mistaken, some people in the scene did not get "Asphyxiation Process" when it came out. A few retards in the scene shit-talked saying that Nehemiah sounds like a Darkest Hour rip-off (could not be farther from the truth). Why do you think that was the case?

I don't agree with those accusations either. I think many reviewers just thought of us as some little no-name band that played a European influenced genre of metal. Unfortunately, those reviewers had probably never heard of any other Swedish style metal and just name dropped the first band they could think of. Sure, a COUPLE of the riffs sound Darkest Hour-ish but most of the guitar work heavily strays from the sound that the said band created for themselves.

Yes, sure, but don't you think the band and the label were a bit to blame for this? For example, you describe yourself as a concoction of Between the Buried and Me, Lamb of God, and Misery Signals but I don't hear any of those bands in your sound. Don't you think it is bad for the band to be compared to all those bands because kids or anyone reviewing a smaller band already have a premonition of what this is going to sound like, even though Nehemiah is a pretty fucking original band, and will denounce it as another clone?

To compare the Asphyxiation Process to any of those bands would be pretty outlandish. The material on "Lenore" falls more in to categories of the bands you listed. Except for Misery Signals, I have never heard that Nehemiah was described as similar to them. We have kind of broken away from the straight up European influenced sound on this new EP, so I guess that is why you would see us being described like those bands.

Undoubtedly, Nehemiah writes some complicated songs which at times are not easy to get into. Yet, if I had to describe your style, I would simply call it "epic metalcore." I am not sure how deep your metal knowledge is, but I would compare some of the slower parts to Aeternus' "…And so the Night Became." The music has a very epic sound…

Yeah, I would definitely have to agree with you on the epic sound. Most of us in the band are suckers for epic metal. I actually have never heard Aeternus but I'll check them out. One of my favorite bands is Opeth, so I guess that is where some of the influence is drawn from. I'm not going to lie, we are also suckers for power metal. Dragonforce rules.

These new songs are a bit different, some songs are a bit faster and there are some wackier riffs on here. What were you trying to accomplish with the newer material?

The difference comes primarily comes from a different song writer I guess. I write differently than Logan does. We just wanted to change things up a bit. We tried to increase the speed and technicality while keeping the songs heavy and catchy. I think we did a pretty good job with it.

Another difference comes in the vocals department. If I am not mistaken, you had two vocalists on "Asphyxiation Process." What was the reason to switch to one more "traditional-sounding" vocalist?

Well we also have those same two vocalists on "Lenore". Just recently Brady, one of the vocalists, left to pursue schooling and such. I think both of their performances increased ten fold on the new material. As of now we are definitely going to stick with just one vocalist (Evan). When the band started, it was fun and different to have two vocalists, but as time went on we realized that either vocalist was more than capable of solely handling the vocal duties. So now we are set with one.

While the music has always been on the more metal than hardcore level, one component that remains a staple of Nehemiah sound are those crushing breakdowns. Sure, anyone can chug an Em or a D, but as a guitar player, describe the process of creating a breakdown that fits it into the right place. For example, the one at the end of The Virgin Burial (6:59) or The Endemic (3:44).

Hmm that's a hard one. I guess I just gather some riffs together and start figuring out a composition that works. From there, I would look at what areas need more power, or when the song needs to go into a different direction and I'll try to come up with a chug part that fits accordingly. About half the time I'm sketchy on the placement until I bring the riffs to practice and have Steve K lay down drums. Drums really do make or break a breakdown.

The cover artwork of "Lenore" is a bit more straightforward then "Asphyxiation Process." What does the raven on the cover symbolize to you?

I guess it just ties back to "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe.

You used a violin on Beloved and now a beautiful-sounding piano on Return to Grandeur. What is it about these "untraditional" instruments that attracts the band? Will there be further attempts to incorporate them into the Nehemiah sound?

The viola on Beloved and the piano on Return... really add a different feel to the songs that we otherwise couldn't have incorporated. Both instruments add to the overall "epic" feel of the music. We just like experimenting a bit with instruments outside of the normal guitar, bass, and drums. Yes, I would say that it is safe to say that you will find us using instruments like those in future Nehemiah songs.

Returning back to the new songs, there is a certain rock-n-roll feel to them. Like there are some rocking guitar solos and some riffs. It sounds like you guys really wanted to kick it up another notch and take the Nehemiah sound further away from the metalcore crowd...

Kind of in a way. There just have been so many generic metalcore bands coming out lately that we just got sick of it. We are still a metalcore band, but we just wanted to turn the knob to 11. I guess I'm just a fan of rocky catchy riffs that are fun to play.

Sure, but the sound is still dark and ominous. Speaking of that, while the music still comes across as "evil," you dudes don't look tough wearing leather coats and stuff. What's up with that?

What? You're saying that $5 leather coats aren't tough looking?? Man, I've got to talk to my fashion consultant. No, we are not tough at all. We don't worship Satan or kill people. We get a lot of comments about how 'not metal' we look. We are who we are I guess. It's funny how much people connect how a person looks to what kind of music the play or listen to. A lot of people probably think we are a pop punk band, or the cast of Laguna Beach.

You guys are touring quite a bit this year. Does that mean that Nehemiah is finally back for good and ready to kick some ass?

Oh most certainly. We are going to touring as much as possible in support of our new ep. The only thing that sucks is that all of the touring we are doing is DIY stuff so it gets hard at times. We will be all over the place all year so make sure to keep an eye out for a group of kids in crappy leather jackets at your local venue!

What new do you think "Lenore" brings to the table that separates Nehemiah from your average metalcore band?

I think "Lenore" brings fresh blend of catchy riffs, technical compositions, and overall awesomeness that will hopefully bring us a step up in the metalcore bands that are out there today.