READ THE BACKGROUND TO THE ALBUM...
Broadly speaking, every Savage Messiah album has been made with the band at some sort of cross roads career wise. Either things were looking good such as with “Insurrection Rising” when we’d been signed for the first time, and had the Overkill tour in the bag, or things were looking dire such as post “Plague of Conscience” when things seemed to have just totally stalled. ‘Hands of Fate’ just so happened to be the biggest cross roads that we’d ever come too and we really didn’t know which way it was going to go for us (The clue being in the title).
The Fateful Dark cycle had been on the whole a really good experience for the band with lots of really cool accomplishments, if not stretched out a little bit longer than it ought to (the correct time for a new album should have been to coincide with the Amon Amarth tour…but hey ho). Immediately post Amon Amarth, we got together to decide what we needed to do next and the plan seemed to be pretty clear; Leave Earache Records at all costs, get a manager, get a new agent, write a bad ass album, record it and try and get signed to a label that might have more interest in the band. It’s not that Earache had done a bad job, they’d done their best, and we had certainly made our share of mistakes in the 4 years of working with them. It’s just that things run their course and the terms of the contract we’d signed (google: 360 deal) meant that there was nothing in it for us, or anyone else who might have wanted to get involved for that matter.
It was sort of around this time that Joff left the band; it was one of those things were you kind of know it’s coming but keep telling yourself that it’s not going to happen. He’d started to skip rehearsals and we could no longer really rely on him until one day the inevitable “I can’t do it anymore” message. We were absolutely gutted, he’d been a major part of the band. Throughout the months that followed we thought about trying to convince him to stay, but for whatever reason it just didn’t happen. This is where Sam S Junior (or Sam Saadat to the authorities) came into the picture. He’d been my guitar tech for almost 2 years, and I’d known him for way longer than that. As a 13 year old kid he used to hang around at our rehearsal studio and would always hassle us; a diminutive and cocky Iranian Scouser; but an extremely gifted guitarist. All the while Joff was skipping practices, Sam would come and fill in for him, which at least enabled us to move forward with writing the album. At the time we were talking to another guitarist, a very talented Greek lad called Gus Drax about joining. He had shown a lot of interest and was definitely everyones first choice to replace Joff, but in the end he got the offer to join Suicidal Angels (who we’d toured with on the Overkill run) and opted to go with them. That meant really the only choice in my mind was to have Sam join, he knew all the songs, was good, and he’d been in and around the band for so long it didn’t feel like a new member. The other two were completely against it; good as he is, he’s always been a handful, and Andrea even said at one point “if we get him, I’m leaving”…which he eventually did, but more on that later. I eventually convinced them, and ultimately we didn’t really have much alternative, but things were never totally comfortable. Where as Joff and I had built a really cohesive, collaborative partnership in the band, suddenly it was like having an annoying little brother who simply can’t help themselves from causing trouble. Not only that, but it was suddenly much more adversarial, Sam always knows best you see, and will fight almost to the death in defence of a stupid idea until eventually seeing the error of his thinking and go “oh yeah…you’re right” - but it can sometimes take hours, seriously HOURS to get there.
So, after those decisions were made and everything had settled down a bit we wrote an album and made a load of demos (my absolute favourite thing to do). At this point Oliver Halfin became the bands manager, we left Earache on really positive terms with them and suddenly we started to get some really great offers such as the Trivium Tour, then came Testament, then Armoured Saint, then Download, then Loud Park in Tokyo, then Progpower USA - seemingly out of nothing! Oliver got us a new agent, new PR, we set up a professional organisation for the first time (we were all “directors”), we got a lawyer etc…all we needed was an album and then a record deal and we’d be on our way (at least in terms of moving the band forward).
At this time we started to go through a musical evolution too. The original album that we had written was definitely “The Fateful Dark Part 2” - but as time went on, we were looking to move away from the things that had hamstrung us on the previous album cycle, the whole “retro” vibe. So we modernised things and basically removed the “thrash” vibe. It ended up polarizing some older fans, which we knew it would, but we also knew that another SM “thrash” album would be dead in the water.
We put together a bigger budget than we’d previously been used to and went to Rockfield Studios in Monmouth to record the drums. When we got there the material was pretty shall I say “under rehearsed” and day one was a complete disaster with everyone looking at each other with that kind of “I don’t know - don’t look at me!” attitude. Oliver was furious…but I sort of held it all together and on day 2 before we played a single note we all got together in the studio living room and went through all of the demos one by one, highlighted the best bits (“harvesting the gold” as Scott would say) and by day 4 we’d already laid down around 10 songs and things were flying. Once drums were completed it was back to the grindstone in Suffolk and we spent a number of months getting everything finished and eventually, the last note was recorded and the last vocal was sung and the album was done.
I seem to remember the mixes getting delivered in about November, which meant that there was a bit of a delay in getting all the record deal stuff sorted out because of the Christmas holidays, so we’d already gotten into 2017 before anything really happened. The album got a very strong reaction from record labels, kind of surprisingly and before we knew it we had like 5 offers on the table from practically all of the big Metal labels. Century Media made us the best offer and so we signed with them. Growing up I’d been a pretty major fan of bands like Iced Earth and Nevermore and so to sign with Century Media was pretty cool. The Fateful Dark had been licensed to them in America, but this was the first time we were going to actually be a proper rostered Century Media act. Also baring in mind that Century Media is owned by Sony, this meant we’d actually signed to a major label - a feat that in reality sounds more impressive than it actually is, but still - Savage Messiah…from the old kings head to a major label. Not too bad!
Once all the contractual stuff was done, we had the album mastered by Dave Collins in LA - who’d just done the Hardwired to Self Destruct Record for Metallica…we had a few test masters done by some known people but Dave’s was an instant “yes'“.
Next on the list was artwork, we originally had some stuff designed by Punker who’d redone the SM logo, but the label sort of passed on it. They hired Travis Smith for us who’s done art for many great acts including Avenged Sevenfold, Opeth and more…again the old question cropped up of “what are the themes” - he submitted a bunch of stuff and in the end we had this like burning angel scene that I thought was pretty cool. At the eleventh hour someone in the marketing department at CM kicked off because they didn’t like it so we kind of fudged together an overlay based on the bands new signet logo. In the end, I really liked it. It was bold and totally different to anything we’d done before and it really made a statement.
Before we knew it we’d been filming videos, doing press and suddenly got invited by Cradle of Filth to open for them on an 11 date UK tour - another odd billing on paper - but it seemed to really work. Cradle are first and foremost a great band, and everyone on that tour was really great, all the Cradle guys (and gal) were super cool to us and we had a great run. Next up we went back to Japan and headlined Tokyo and Osaka, selling out the show in Tokyo. Then we came back to the UK and did a tour with The Raven Age opening up that was really cool. After that we made appearances at some really great festivals including playing the mainstage at Hellfest, we played Download for the second time, Graspop, Wacken and toured in Europe opening for Exodus.
Sadly Andrea bowed out before the Cradle tour - he had gotten a day job doing translation work and frankly I think he just liked the allure of a simpler life without all the hassle of being in a band. I was pretty annoyed given that we’d had this meticulously drawn up plan which had taken a lot of effort to lay out and we’d then executed it almost to the letter, and just at the point when we’d gotten the manager, gotten the agent, set up as a business, done the record, gotten the big record deal and about to start touring we get the “can I just have 6 months off?” question…to which the answer is “well…obviously not…we need you!”. I remember after Summerbreeze sitting in Munich airport with him talking at length about why he should just hang on in there a little longer. I even got recognised by a Japanese fan who’d seen us at Loud Park, which was a pretty great coincidence, but in terms of trying to prove a point that we were moving forward, getting recognised at the airport is a pretty lucky one! But sadly…he’d left in his heart, and there was no talking him round. We fell out pretty badly at the time which is very silly; Andrea! if you ever read this; I’m sorry bro! I wish things had a’been different.
Ali Richardson from Bleed From Within and Dan Wilding from Carcass played with us for the following year which was super cool as they’re amazing drummers.
“Hands of Fate” was a good album cycle, the band was definitely on a different level in terms of our business and the shows we were playing. We kind of got ignored by the UK metal press though, which was annoying, but the press is fickle and they have their own agenda, so whatever, it is what it is…and it’s for the people who enjoy the band that I write and make music for.
That being said, I was very eager to get back into the studio quickly after the festivals and once it was clear that the really big support tour wasn’t going to come. I also wanted to make a heavier record…and somewhere inside I could feel there where still a lot of DEMONS that I needed to let out….
DS - 2019