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In Conversation with Bury Tomorrow: Davyd Winter-Bates on ‘Cannibal,’ Measuring Success, and Metalcore [w/ Audio]



July 3th saw the official release of British metalcore stalwarts Bury Tomorrow’s sixth studio album Cannibal on Music for Nations, a truly superb piece of work (read our review here). Just prior to its much anticipated release, we caught up with bassist and founding member Davyd Winter-Bates to talk Cannibal, how it’s been waiting an additional three months for its release and the metalcore genre they’re looking to conquer.

With the album announced back in January with an original release date of April 3rd, it’s been a somewhat monumental wait for both band and fans for it to come out. As expected, there’s a degree of relief to it coming out, with Winter-Bates noting, “Relieved I think is the best way to describe it. It’s been not an ideal approach to a new campaign but I’m finally really glad that everyone is going to be able to hear it and enjoy it. We’re definitely relieved with that.” With each new track showcased from the album, all the way from “The Grey (VIXI)” being performed on the Black Flame tour last year up until “Gods and Machines” coming out just last Friday, the support from fans of the band online has been consistently growing as the album’s release date draws ever closer.

On the building anticipation, Winter-Bates feels that it has grown but is keen to make sure fans get their music before anticipation turns into frustration. “The anticipation for it has definitely increased because people thought they were going to get it three months ago, but I think anticipation can only go so far before people start just wanting it, more a sort of frustration where they just want to get it. We’re at the point now where anticipation is at the highest it can possibly be and if we wait any longer it’ll just lead to frustration for everyone.”

“Everyone’s eager, and the thing is our fans are so good that they were anticipating this in January, so I don’t think we’re at any more of a fever pitch than we were at the initial entry point if you get what I mean. Whenever you go into the studio that’s what you want, you just want to get your music out and that’s kind of like the antithesis of the whole campaign and everything shifts around that point. That’s what we want most – to have that moment where it’s out and we can almost breathe a sigh of relief and it’s what we’re most looking forward to now.”

Back in 2014 Bury Tomorrow’s third album Runes hit number one on the UK Rock and Metal chart, with follow-ups Earthbound (2016) and Black Flame (2018) both reaching number two. These are impressive numbers for harsh vocal led music in the UK, however this performance is not the be-all and end-all for the band. “I don’t know (if Cannibal will reach number one), we talk a lot about charts because I think it’s the only way to empirically measure somethings success but really, we base it on how much we’ve grown. So for us we don’t put a lot into pushing for chart success, we will evaluate its success when we next play our live shows.”

“One of the most annoying things about this situation is that we won’t get to see the tour until almost a year after the record comes out, so we’re hoping that the album sticks with people and becomes favourites before we get there. That’s how we measure success really, we measure it on can we play bigger venues, are more people singing along? It’s less about numbers in terms of songs or chart positions and more about reaction and re-listening. You can hear a great album but if you don’t want to instantly play it again has it really done well? We always try and get it so that it’s something people can come back to time and time again and really enjoy. I think we did that well with Black Flame and I think we’ve done it better with Cannibal.”

In terms of standout tracks and what Winter-Bates is looking forward to getting out there most there’s a few choices: “Voice & Truth’ I really love. That and ‘Dark Infinite’ for me I think are standout tracks from the record; I’m most excited live though to play ‘Quake’ because it’s so different. My favourites are the first two, but actually playing live I can’t wait to see the reaction to playing tracks like ‘Quake’ live because it’s a lot more subdued and we’ve never really been subdued in any of our material, even when we’ve done acoustic songs and stuff like that, but I feel like ‘Quake’ is this creeping song that just builds and builds and builds and that has a certain live dynamic that I’m interested to see.”

Artwork for ‘Cannibal’ by Bury Tomorrow

For those who have attended a Bury Tomorrow show before, subdued would indeed be one of the last words used to describe them. Typical of their genre and full of energy on stage and off it, Winter-Bates is clear on what the live scene brings for them. “That for us is the main thing (on stage is) where we’ve earned our bread and butter and earned our fan base. I don’t think anyone can say that they’ve heard an album off of someone’s hype or recommendation then become a lifelong fan, I think for us we’re definitely a band that confirms fandom through live shows. For us it’s what we enjoy most about being part of it, and it really is important to get back on stage and get in front of people because without that all the enjoyable parts about being in a band disappear. There’s some bands out there that love being in the studio, love writing new music, and we do, but for us it’s not the part that we enjoy the most and the part that we want to explore the most, that’s always live. And that goes for playing at festivals to a big show like Roundhouse to playing tiny little rooms and going mental together, to us it’s all part of the same thing. It’s all live music and it’s all an experience.”

With the band building their way up through the live scene there are many a British metal fan who can say they’ve seen Bury Tomorrow in a particularly small venue (this writer’s first live experience of the band ended up on stage with them and circa 30 other fans at The Haunt in Brighton back in 2015). What was a bold move in 2017 was to loop back round venues smaller than the band’s reputation would have allowed on the Stage Invasion tour, encouraging crowd participation to the most extreme degrees, and clearly a fond memory looked back upon. “That was my favourite tour we’ve ever done. In the moment I definitely prefer the smaller shows, when I’m playing on stage I just want that intensity so the more crowd interaction we have for me the better.”

“When we start playing venues like Roundhouse and stuff like that you very rarely will get a fan on stage, you’ll have other restrictions with crowd surfers and stuff like that, so for me those are the ones I look at after (the fact). Those are the ones we get off stage and I’m like, “Holy shit, that was incredible”. Whereas things like the Stage Invasion tour, from the first second you’re like ‘I don’t know if I’ll survive this,’ that’s such a good feeling to have when you’re on stage, constantly adapting to what’s happening next, it can be completely unpredictable. When you’re playing bigger shows, to a certain degree you’re playing the same thing every single day. When you’re playing a smaller one you have no idea what’s going to happen, literally no idea, so that’s fun, really fun.”

Considering the next step for the band in the live arena is one which Winter-Bates takes a pragmatic approach to. “I think the other thing that this pandemic has led to is it’s going to have been 18 months since our last show when we play our next one. We are quite a sensible band so we will probably not try and increase or push anything (for bigger shows or festival headliners) until we feel it’s time. If when we announce our 2021 tour schedule and they sell out quickly then we already know we can probably step up, but we’ve never been one of these bands who try and run before they can walk, it’s always been a gradual increase with us. I think from our point of view it’s more about just doing the shows and getting out there and taking it from there really.”

Bury Tomorrow (w/ Employed To Serve, Blood Youth) @ Camden Roundhouse (London, UK) on December 21, 2019

What was to be one of the highlights of their live dates of 2020 was playing the main stage at Bloodstock Festival as a first appearance at the fest. “We were all really looking forward to it because it’s a really prestigious metal festival and they don’t really book a lot of metalcore (bands) because there can be an overwhelming feeling of elitists attending that festival but really all that we saw was nothing but love when we were announced for it. We were really excited to play in front of a community that just wants heavy music so for us we were very excited to play it, but now we’re just going to have to wait another year.”

Ever since the start of the band’s career they have remained true to the tried and tested hallmarks of great metalcore; harsh verses, clean, catchy choruses and guitars alternating between Scandinavian-inspired riffing and neck-snapping breakdowns. All of these qualities can be found on virtually every single Bury Tomorrow track. When asked about what the appeal of the genre is to all of the band, Winter-Bates says, “We are five very very different people and the one thing we always agree on is what makes incredible records in our opinion. They’re the likes of bands like As I Lay Dying, Killswitch Engage, Unearth, In Flames, Shadows Fall, Sevendust.”

“We listen to their records and we think ‘that’s what we need to sound like’ obviously, those are the best songs in the world. For us we’ve been driven by that love as five people so our aim is: we want to be the best in that genre. We weren’t concerned with if people thought we were only confined to one genre – no, we want to be the best (in metalcore). The wheel was already invented to create the genre by the masters, and it was our job to refine it to the point where people consider us to be one of the best in the genre. That’s basically what we’ve set out to do our entire career.”

When pressed for the one album they would like to be favourably compared to there’s one clear answer; “I think most people would agree the ultimate goal would be the epitome and the greatest metalcore record of all time probably Killswitch Engage, The End of Heartache. It really is the absolute pinnacle of metalcore and I think if anyone said we’d topped that we could probably hang up our guitars and walk away! It’s taken what, 20 years, to top that, so we’d be alright.”

Considering their position in the UK metal scene, Winter-Bates is open and positive in his thoughts. “I think we’re quite healthily in there if I’m completely honest. The one thing that I think that we have over a lot of bands is consistency, we definitely are consistent. Some people use that as a negative against us and some people use it as a positive. You know you’re getting a certain level of metal from us whenever we release an album, you kind of know a certain quality is coming and I think that’s what drives us, we don’t ever want to put out anything that we think is subpar. It links in with the previous question where we never really stray too far from our formula, but also we haven’t written the same single twice yet and I doubt we ever will, that’s not what we want, no one can ever accuse us of rehashing old material I don’t think.”

In Cannibal, no one can accuse Bury Tomorrow of putting out anything close to subpar. The album’s quality is going to delight existing fans of the band as well as win them a lot of new ones both of the metalcore genre but also throughout the broader metal scene and beyond. With regards the comments on their position in the UK metal scene, although there is confidence there is also a degree of modesty. Bury Tomorrow can comfortably count themselves among the very top echelon of active bands in the scene today, and here’s hoping they continue to go from strength to strength.