Within the past few years, there have a been a lot of rad tech-death bands forming and stepping into the spotlight. One band in this category that really caught my ear was The Zenith Passage with their debut LP, Solipsist, released earlier this April on Unique Leader Records. We caught up with guitarist Justin McKinney during their tour with Beyond Creation and Rivers of Nihil to discuss the tech-death subgenre and future plans for the band. You can view answers in the interview below.
This current tour you guys are on with Beyond Creation and Rivers of Nihil is quite the lineup. What are your thoughts on the bands you’re sharing the stage with tonight?
Beyond Creation are just some cool fucking guys. They’re funny because they are French-Canadian and their english is a bit broken, so I love getting into conversations with them because they can talk about anything and it’s so hilarious. Playing with them every night is fucking amazing. They are so tight and kill it every night. And of course, Rivers of Nihil are our homies and do so good every show. It’s just a super fun tour.
As this is an amazing lineup showcasing this subgenre, what other bands would you consider to be at the top of modern tech-death?
I think Archspire is definitely up there. And I guess you could consider Obscura somewhat modern as well.
Do you think there are a few specific bands that every modern technical death metal band would point to as an influence?
Honestly, I think who holds the helm of the genre is Spawn of Possession. Those guys are just kings of tech-death.
As a whole, would you say the tech-death scene is at its peak in popularity and quality nowadays?
I didn’t really notice there was any hype on the genre until like a year ago. I’m hoping it’s just starting and there will be a wave of tech-death metal that comes out. Like how the whole djent thing happened, that was gigantic. It’d be tight if tech-death had a thing like that.
The Zenith Passage’s debut LP was released this year. Can you also discuss the writing process and what you think you brought new to the table of this subgenre?
I wrote that whole thing over the past two and a half years. I put a big focus on orchestration and that kind of takes some time. As far as bringing a new style to the genre, I think incorporating the orchestral and atmospheric thing into technical and groovy music is a little different. We were more focused on rhythm instead of how many notes we could play. Archspire does that really well too. They have musicality, but they can also play really fast. And I think that’s tight, so I tried to do that with this album.
There’s a good amount of electronics and atmosphere in Solipsist. Can you talk about the decision behind this addition?
Philip Glass is one of my favorite composers. If people out there have seen some of the movies he’s scored like The Hours or Koyaanisqatsi, they could hear a pretty big influence in our music. Like “Holographic Principle” is all Philip Glass. And when I write stuff, I try to do Philip Glass on guitar, but in a tech-death sense.
As far as lyrical content, would you say there was a specific theme or message to the material?
It’s based around the concept of solipsism, which states the only sure thing to exist is your mind and everything outside of your mind could be an illusion. So, it’s based on that theory and different themes of non-existence such as hypnagogia, dream argument that Descartes talks about, simulated reality like the whole Matrix idea, holographic universes, and quantum shadows. I can’t even go too much into detail because it gets pretty crazy. I noticed that in the writing process, the lyrics got a little convoluted because it’s difficult to write science fiction stuff and be poetic about it. So, what I did is put a synopsis in the CD booklet for each song.
Has there been thoughts towards a follow-up yet or is it too soon?
Since the last release took so long to get out, I want to get ahead of the curve this time. We’ll definitely get more into the symphonic crazy stuff that I was trying to do with this album. It’s kind of hard juggling between this band and The Faceless, but we’re handling it.
How do you think tech-death has changed or evolved since the early bands in the late 80’s?
It has definitely come a long way. I think the integration of technology with death metal alone has really influenced the genre. Most bands out there will have laptops up on stage and are playing layers of orchestration. Metal is a cool place right now, there’s a lot of shit we can do and there’s no limit to it.
Any further plans coming up you’d like to talk about?
The Zenith Passage will have another tour at the end of the year. The Faceless has a thing planned that we’re trying to get done. But yeah, both bands will be doing some fun stuff.