By Kris Peters
Despised Icon have defied popular belief in that a band has to be productive to be relevant, having spent the last six years in a state of limbo. After being one of the pioneers of extreme metal and providing inspiration to a plethora of emerging acts, the band suddenly announced they were going on a hiatus in 2010 with no visible sign of return.
Band members, disillusioned with the music industry and the trappings of fame, chose raising families over life on the road and it seemed at the time an institution of heavy metal would be lost forever.
Vocalist Alex Erian was the only member to continue down his chosen path, playing with Obey the Brave and preferring the love of the metal gods to the callings of nature and continued with his passion, all the while waiting for the day that his former band would once again come calling.
“I don’t feel like going in to the whole family obligations and the new job obligations and all of that which kind of pushed us away from this band,” he explained, “but we were doing it full time back then and honestly there were a lot of compromises and sacrifices involved to the point we were very burnt out in 2010 and we had to call it a day. And learn how to let go and experience other things in life that have nothing to do with music, and ultimately taking that step back was beneficial to the band now and the whole vibe of the band.”
Alex continues: “That little spark that went missing and that magic that we lost we regained it finally. We realized how lucky we were to be given this opportunity to play death metal and actually have fans that support us, and through that have the opportunity to tour all these different countries that we would never have seen if it was not for music. We realized how lucky we were being out of that element and also we realised how much we missed music. We grew up in our teenage years all playing our respective instruments and we also realized how much we missed Despised as well.
“It was like something was lacking in our lives and now that the guys’ kids are 3,4,5 years old perhaps it’s a little more manageable for everyone’s life to get back out on the road part time and try to make the best of both worlds. It’s been quite a challenge but we made it happen and right now everything is super positive. Before, I can remember us not even jamming between tours and basically we would just rifle through the songs in an hour, but now it’s good to be able to take the time and get things back to how they used to be. Go in to the jam room, write a couple of licks, have a couple of beers and hang out and talk about shit that doesn’t necessarily revolve around the band and just enjoy ourselves a lot more, because somewhere along the way the music strictly became work. Granted it’s a good line of work but… I don’t know man, it’s fun to be back and not pressure ourselves with all the expectations of the industry and the business side of things. We’re just back and having a good time.”
To celebrate the rebirth, if you will, of Despised Icon, the band have released a new album titled Beast, with Alex musing that the break has allowed them time to reflect on what made the music resonate with their fans.
“Yes and no,” he said when asked if Beast was a typical Despised Icon album. “Being in the band for over ten years and having four records out and playing these records in a live setting, you sort of get a feel for what you like the most and what you like the least in your songs and taking a step back for a while helps too. Not being a band for five years or so and not putting out a record for seven years – taking that step back some material really stayed relevant to what we enjoy and some of the stuff didn’t grow as well on us so essentially I feel like Beast is the best of Despised Icon. We’ve identified everything that we preferred in our sound and we went along with that to create this record. For me personally I’m a bit more into the older Despised material that is perhaps a little more death metal orientated that has a bit more hardcore influences as well. They have that mosh and that slam element but fans of our later records The Ill’s of Modern Man and Day of Mourning; people that prefer technical death metal or blast beats and grinds, those fans will be served as well.”
Alex says that another, often overlooked factor in the rebirth of Despised Icon is that the band is actually the original line up, not just one or two of the members.
“This is actually the band,” he enthused. “It’s not myself and Eric (Jarrin – guitar) getting back together with a bunch of new members. This is Despised Icon! Most of the original members: there being Eric, myself, and Steve (Marois – vocals) and then there’s Alex Grind who plays drums on four of our five records and then there’s Sebastian Piche who played bass on four of our five records as well.
“We actually have a seventh member now who’s not with us on stage but it’s Yannick St Amond, one of our two original guitar players. He was the first one to step in to the Dad life in 2006 and quit the band back then and now he’s got four kids and he missed the f*ck out of touring. He has been on every single Despised record with us. He knows the band and what it’s all about so it is actually Despised Icon that is back and it’s a great feeling. When we quit this band in the first place I stayed active in the whole music thing – I didn’t want it to stop but I didn’t want it to be Alex and the Despised Icon’s and for it to become a cover band, so that’s why I had to learn how to let go but now that we’re back with the same players it’s a f*cken great feeling.”
Beast is out today via Nuclear Blast.