By Rod Whitfield
When a band takes an extended hiatus from the scene, there is always a touch of trepidation on the part of the band and fans alike when they finally return with something new. Canadian extreme band Despised Icon took a breather from recording and touring in 2010, returning in 2014 for some live shows that year.
Fast forward to mid-2016, and they are back with their first album since 2009. Their fifth full length album, Beast, is unleashed in late July, and guitarist Eric Jarrin tells us that, whilst he initially harboured a few nerves about how they would be received after so long out of action, the reaction from some of the fans to the first glimpses of, Beast, has calmed those nerves. “I guess that now it’s been recorded and mixed, we’ve been listening to it for quite a few months now,” he says, “I guess now I can say I’m a little more confident. We’ve already had two songs out, and with the majority of the comments I read online and everything, the anxiety has left!”
Hardcore fans of the band may possibly be concerned that the hiatus may signal a stylistic shift in the band’s sound. But Jarrin is quick to allay their fears, stating that certain members of the band had their lust for exploring new musical territory satiated by other projects rather than through Despised Icon, and that Beast is an album that long-time fans who know and love the band’s sound will really appreciate.
“We just approached the writing and recording of this album just like the way we did it for anything else we wrote and recorded in the past,” he recalls, “we didn’t try to reinvent anything, we stuck to our roots. Some of us had opportunities to experiment and do other things. Alex had been busy with Obey the Brave for two or three years. I’ve been involved in my progressive rock/metal project Heaven’s Cry for a couple of years now.
“So when we decided to sit down and write some new tunes for Despised Icon, we just did Despised Icon!” He laughs.
He is confident that they haven’t lost any of their hard edge either. “We reached for the most intense and brutal stuff we could get out of us,” he describes, “so I think the fans will feel the way they used to with any of the old albums.”
Jarrin feels that the new album is an ideal mix of all of their previous albums. “We went back to some of the earlier roots, the heavier riffs and the pig squeals that we’ve brought back. But on some of the songs the fans haven’t heard yet features some of the more technical and fast stuff we did in the later albums.
“It’s just a good balance of everything we’ve done in the past,” he sums up.
So the band hasn’t lost its technicality and brutality in the music, and something else they haven’t let go of is their anger at the state of the world.
“Yeah,” he agrees emphatically, “that’s the revolving theme of the album. That’s the way we came up with the whole theme of the beast. It’s sort of a metaphor that personifies Despised Icon actually. The beast has been lying dormant for a few years, and upon its re-awakening, the world is still heading in a bad direction, it’s not in good shape, and the beast just wants to destroy everything in its path.
“It illustrates how we felt in our approach to the song-writing. It was like ‘we’re old dudes now, but we’ve still got something left in us, and we just want to show all these younger people how we roll!”
With that age comes responsibility, and several members of the band are now married and have kids, they hold down regular jobs, so they are unable to do the band full time. So they adjust their touring plans for the album accordingly. But Jarrin is confident that the band will make it out to Australia at some stage on the Beast Tour.
“This is how we’re going to keep on doing things,” he explains, “we’re just going to take it easy, obviously we’ll never be a full time touring band again, we have families we have to provide for. But we love playing and we’ll still try to go everywhere as much as possible, and Australia is definitely in the plans.
“It might take some time, if not this year, then next year, but we’ll definitely try to hit Australia. So if you ever see a Despised Icon show advertised in your city, you’d better show up because it might be a couple of years before we make it again!”
Beast will be released on 24 July 2016 via Nuclear Blast.