When djent and tech-metal first came to prominence, very few people imagined it would last as long as it did – or create such a huge impact on the metal scene at large. And still, musicians within this niche are finding ways to put a fresh spin on the genre. Take Unprocessed from Germany, for instance – while tech-metal is no stranger to either darker atmosphere or electronic flavors, the way they combine these two with the more traditional tropes of the genre (that is, technicality and harsh/clean vocals) results in something meatier to get into. To that end, they stand out from the hundreds of Periphery clones the genre otherwise inspired, and Covenant (purchase digitally from the band or a CD via Long Branch Records) is a record absolutely worthy of both aficionado and newbie attention.
This topic of novelty comes across when speaking with bassist David Levy – the most rewarding feedback was when “people stated that we appear to represent a new and fresh force in the metal genre, as we feel really satisfied with the combination of elements on the new album.” Their third release since forming in 2012, there has been a marked step up in quality from album to EP to album, as the band sought to find their own voice. Covenant is where the group really hit their stride, and there is a lot to unpack in both the music and the message.
Firstly, the music – while it’s not hard to guess the metallic influences the band are inspired by, the electronic ones are harder to pinpoint. Manuel Gardner Fernandes (vocals, guitars) enlightens us, mentioning bands like Massive Attack, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails or Front Line Assembly – “It’s gotten more and more important to us to implement this kind of sound when we write because what we want to say with the music cannot only be expressed through distorted guitars. We want to draw a bigger picture here and take full advantage of the most modern electronic features!” It’s not a coincidence that all of these groups are on the dark side of electronic, and it influenced the direction of Covenant: “The album turned out to be way darker, heavier and more technically demanding than our previous releases.”
Check out the official video for the single “Ghilan” here.
Aside from the musical influences, a lot has gone into the lyrical narrative of this record – a concept album displaying the inner universe of a human being striving for and seeking answers in a cryptic world. There are also female demons who attempt to seduce him along the way, and an underwater world that emerges later in the album. David mentions that Manuel put him onto the work of H.R. Giger, which played a big part in constructing this path – “We both agreed that his style of displaying certain moments, things or creatures fit our musical approach and the overall vibe of the record. That was the moment where we could develop a vision of a story within this visual world, which is completely independent from movies or books, but has at one point (“Ghilan”) a short intermezzo with a mythological background, as “Ghilan” is a character taken from Arabic mythology.”
‘Ghilan’ is the feminine plural of the word ‘ghoul’, which makes sense when considering the female vocals that crop up all over Covenant. “We were looking for a character that personified the sound and vibe of the female vocals, and we stumbled across a few historical tellings were pretty much similar to the Germanic “Loreley” or the Sirens in the Odysseus saga. As the whole plot is often discussed in many cultures we felt inspired to adapt it and include it into our very own odyssey.”
Speaking of the visual element mentioned above – there is a lot of symbolism in the music video for “Ghilan”. David highlights some of the key moments, and how they relate to the story: “The video abstractly displays the story of a man that is seduced by female demons who appear as beautiful, singing and dancing sirens. The moments in which the band interacts with the Ghilan are symbolising seduction and oppression – the strings with the star in the center of action, for example, could be seen as an electric field above the demon’s victim, a net of compulsion, yet a lair of sweet seduction. The final scene of the video is in fact a moment of salvation and relief, in which the character falls into a different state of being – into an everflowing world free from the burdens of the gravitational surface. It can be interpreted as the moment of death – or as a new beginning.”
Tech-metal has always felt removed from other genres of metal – despite their differences, genres like power metal and thrash metal, or progressive metal and death metal, have managed to maintain a healthy amount of respect and crossover. However, it’s safe to say that the number of tech-related events is in rude health, not least two of the biggest festivals for the genre – UK Tech-Fest and Euroblast, both of which Unprocessed are scheduled to play this year. While UKTF is an unknown entity to them thus far, the stories about the warm and friendly community that surrounds it, and the hospitality provided by the festival, proceeds it. Euroblast, meanwhile, is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Germany’s embrace of modern metal.
As David comments, “Germany has been a melting point for rock and metal for a couple of centuries now, I think mostly because we have a lot of huge festivals going on in the country (Wacken, Rock am Ring, With Full Force, etc.). These being surrounded by some massive companies such as Impericon, who are mainly based in Germany and do a lot of great events and tours as well, the awareness for bands is probably better than in a few other countries. But there is still potential for an even bigger tech community especially when it comes to local shows, which aren’t necessarily overly crowded” – a phenomenon felt worldwide at this stage, although arguably that extends outside of the boundaries of tech and more into promoting live local music.
One of the most effective ways to promote yourself is, of course, social media. Unprocessed are one of the most engaged bands with their fans, as the constant stream of interesting tidbits including riff play-throughs and behind the scenes videos can attest. David confirms that the band are acutely aware a good proportion of their fanbase are musicians themselves, so “it only makes sense to share as much content with them as possible!”
Hit play and be whisked away to a “Haven” of heavy.
That said, since the fallout of the Facebook data scandal, it’s important to look at other options. “Like all mediums for advertising, it’s not irreplaceable and will – sooner or later – be outdated by different platforms. That said, I think the Facebook company (also including Instagram) will stay on top of the market for a couple of more years, despite the current discussions about their data philosophy.” While it remains to be seen how bands will adjust their promotion and marketing strategies if Facebook were to go under, it’s good to see bands like Unprocessed are tuned into the fact that Facebook et al are ephemeral in the grand scheme of things, and there are always other methods to get your name out there.
Finishing on a happier note, the band conclude with their humble plans for the future. Having completed five years together, the next five years look set to continue their upward trajectory – “We are really looking forward to cycle around touring and recording new songs, setting the bar higher each time we approach a new project. We’re just getting started!” If Covenant is the band just getting started, you can be sure that tech-metal has a star in the making with Unprocessed – with no ghilan in sight.