As far back as my ageing memory will recall, the worlds of fantasy and heavy metal have lived side-by-side combining to produce some of the greatest albums and bands known to the genre. From the greats like Iron Maiden to entire genres of fantasy metal bands, epic stories have been acted out to some of the most gloriously over-the-top music ever recorded.

Hailing from St.Louis, Missouri, death metal shredders Summoning The Lich, having taken inspiration from the best elements of Lord of the Rings, Magic The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, and Adventure Time, recently unleashed the first part of their trilogy tale, in the form of United In Chaos album. Following the release of the first chapter in this story, we spoke to frontman David Bruno about his love of fantasy, his introduction to heavy metal, and where “the Lich” tale will go from here.

Thanks for your time, how is life treating you at the moment?

David Bruno: “Thanks for having me! We’re hanging in there same as most, eager for things to return to some semblance of normality once it’s safe enough to do so.”

The album is out and it’s fantastic. What’s next for the band?

“I really appreciate that! We are planning on focusing on content creation like live streaming, playthroughs, etc. for the time being, as well as writing our second album.”

So, the album, inspired by metal and fantasy, let’s talk about music first. Who were the bands that got you into metal?

“I actually got into heavy music more from hardcore and metalcore stuff in the early 2000s. Bands like Comeback Kid, Outbreak, and Terror to As I Lay Dying, Through The Eyes of the Dead, and Killswitch Engage, I couldn’t get enough. It was bands like Darkest Hour, The Faceless, and Necrophagist that really started to get me to branch out and listen to more metal offerings in the mid-later 2000s.”

If you could pick your top three metal album cover artworks, which albums would you choose and why?

“If I had to pick three right now I’d say in no particular order:

InferiRevenant – I love the more minimal colour choice of the album art, and it’s as beautiful as it is brutal. I also think the color choice matches the ‘feel’ of the music on this album if that makes sense? Regardless, on top of that, it’s a giant demon facing off with a hero with a magic sword. What isn’t to like?

GloryhammerLegends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex – Again, it’s a beautifully crafted album cover, and it just screams over-the-top fantasy which is exactly what you’re going to get (and what I want) from this power metal powerhouse. Additionally standing in front of your goblin army with a looming statue of yourself dominating the horizon is metal as hell.

Job for a CowboyGenesis – I immediately fell in love with this artwork when I saw it, I thought it was brutal, the colours were awesome, and it felt so much more mature than the doom EPs artwork which was reflected in the music. This was the first offering from JFAC that really grabbed me and at the time I was too young, stupid, and ‘hardcore’ to rep them as much as I listened to this album at home. Not anymore (laughs), this album and the artwork are top tier to me.

A special mention to Cannibal Corpse. All their album artwork is wild and a part of me still feels like I’m breaking some childhood rule or something for looking at them.”

Artwork for ‘United In Chaos’ by Summoning The Lich

Given your love of fantasy, did metal resonate with you because of bands like Iron Maiden and so on?

“Not really, it was more just the vast brutal landscapes that metal provides musically that drew me in! Since I entered the heavy music world kind of on the other end of the spectrum I didn’t really listen to the foundations of the genre much until later down the line.”

Onto the album then. Can you tell us a bit about the concept and the magical world you’ve written about?

“Sure, without going too far into it, basically the story takes place in the world of Arrias, and this album focuses on the ‘birth’ of ‘the Lich.’ He was once a Druid tasked with the protection of the Kingdom of Rodor, but his hatred grew after centuries of observing the Rodorians growing cruelty and barbarism as well as the mass cull of magic users unwilling to serve the Kingdom’s purposes. Thus he has set forth on a quest to bring about horrors that haven’t walked on Arrias for over a millenia, now known to the Rodorians only as The Sin, and regarded by most as mere fable until The Lich unleashed them and their dimension’s chaos energy into the world once more.”

It’s a three-part story. Has the entire story been written and how does the writing process work for something this massive?

“So, all of the major plot points, a fair bit of finer story details, and the structure and ‘rules’ of the world itself I have mostly solidified and written. Additionally, I have MANY notes and a vast head cannon that I am working on compiling down into material that will be digestible and engaging, but that will be a bit down the line. I do leave some flexibility as we write the music to mold elements of the story in a way I feel reflects the tone and direction we are producing sonically.

I’ve found it to be a really interesting way to write, and it has led me to tweak elements of the story or character in ways I hadn’t thought of until I listened to the instrumentals and really reflected on it. The first album was a bit different in that it was written over a longer period of time, and with the first few songs we wrote, at the time I was intending on having the album be more of an anthology of fantasy stories from within a shared ‘world.’ Then after doing two or three I couldn’t help myself and dove headfirst into developing the story and universe. I do enjoy the ability to have songs that build upon the world outside of the main story thread so that’s something I will continue, albeit with a bit more purpose on future albums.”

If money was no object, how would you build the trilogy into a live show?

“Ryan and our friend Muck recently requested (under threat of force) that I watch the Live Shit: Binge and Purge video of Seattle 1989, (it was awesome by the way), so if money is no object I’d want to do something with that level of stage props and settings if not wilder. Also an army of hologram fantasy creatures and spells at our disposal, along with plenty of fire and other antics. I can dream, right?”

Absolutely! That would be amazing! Lord of the Rings is another big passion of yours. Where did your love of LOTR and D&D start, and what drew you into those worlds?

“My parents actually bought me the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit right around the time that Fellowship was going to be coming to theatres, because I was a bookworm and they knew I loved fantasy. I was instantly hooked and read those books a ton, and watched each movie a few times in theaters and then the extended cuts religiously. As far as D&D and other table-top RPGs, I didn’t actually have any friends who were willing to try to quest with me until I was much older, but it is something I instantly loved and want to do more of once we have a bit more time on our hands. I think the ability to immerse yourself into a world that is so engaging and that utilizes so much imagination is something sorely needed as a way to decompress from this crazy world we live in.

Additionally, I’ve consumed a ton of anime/manga over the last two decades as well as various video games, MTG, etc. I suppose fantasy is ingrained in the core of my existence.”

If you could have played any character in the LOTR movies or the planned TV series, which part would you play?

“I feel like playing the Witch King of Angmar probably suits my style best, or maybe voice acting for one of the many grotesque creatures. If I was a woman with tremendous acting ability then my answer would definitely be Lady Galadriel: her being tested by the ring in the Fellowship was and is a terrifyingly awesome scene to me.”

On the flip side, if you could turn the three-album concept into a movie, who would you want playing the lead role?

“To play the Lich? That’s a great question, I’m not really sure. Maybe Ron Pearlman?”

Life is looking like it will return to something resembling normal over the next twelve months. What do Summoning The Lich have planned?

“We are still playing things by ear on the show front, but we are cautiously optimistic that things will be returning to normal and starting to think about future moves in that regard. In the meantime, we are gearing up to release and create a lot more video content over the next few months, some live streams from the band as well as individual member streams, some cool limited merch runs, etc. Also, we just want to continue to seek out new fun ways to engage the fans and draw people into our brutal world of fantasy death metal! Additionally, we are working on album two, and I’m diving headfirst into producing supplementary material storywise.”

Thanks again for your time and over to you for the final words…

“Thanks again for taking interest in our craft, United In Chaos is out everywhere now on Prosthetic Records! Smash the like and follow buttons on our account on the platform of your choice to stay updated on everything we have coming around the corner. Thanks to everyone in the Lich camp who had a hand in making this album and band into what it is!”

I have an unhealthy obsession with bad horror movies, the song Wanted Dead Or Alive and crap British game shows. I do this not because of the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle it affords me but more because it gives me an excuse to listen to bands that sound like hippos mating.