Unbowed’s Ioan Tetlow And Alex Snape Discuss New Album “Colour The Soul,” Joseph Campbell & Tour Plans
Friday is always a good day. The working week is over, AEW Rampage is on TV and most importantly, it’s new release day! Among the many exciting albums out today, there’s one that really stands out for offering different facets of metal music and philosophical viewpoints all rolled into one. Of course, I’m referring to “Colour The Soul,” the latest full length from Canadian heavyweights Unbowed and their first in five years.
Five years is of course a long wait for a new album, even with two singles interspersed in between and one might assume that the COVID pandemic played a bit role in the wait, but you know what they say about assuming things…. To find out more about this audible beast, Metal Underground caught up with the band’s vocalist Ioan Tetlow and guitarist Alex Snape to discuss all things related to “Colour The Soul,” the inspirations and ideas behind it, healthcare, imagery and more. You can read a transcript of the interview below, or watch it in full at the bottom of the page.
Oz: The new album, “Colour The Soul” is out on May 20th. It’s an interesting title, it’s quite vibrant for such a heavy band.
Ioan Tetlow: It’s based off of Carl Jung’s philosophies and psychologies sort of thing, so it’s like heavily endorsing a vibrant nature, so that was the right wording you used there for sure.
Oz: Obviously it’s been five years since your previous album. One would imagine that COVID played a big role in delaying the release and that kind of thing. Was that the only factor in there being such a long gap in between albums?
Ioan: I would say it’s probably the least defining factor just because at the time Alex was studying in London, England, so a lot of us were moving back and forth, recording there and then he came back, we recorded here, so there was actually a few different factors. I’m sure Alex has a few more.
Alex Snape: We wrote the album in 2018 and then our drummer ended up leaving shortly after that, so then we kind of had to find a new drummer and finish recording the new record. That was the initial thing, because our drummer left due to a health issue in his hand which is obviously very important when you’re a drummer. We were kind of figuring out what to do, because you know, you don’t want to kick someone out just because they have a health issue, that’s not the kind of people we are. But then, the entire world had a health issue, so it was a little convenient in that regard because people stopped asking us what was taking so long.
Ioan: In reality that was the least defining thing. Eventually we just realised that this is more or less a sign for everyone. I think a lot of people, if there is a silver lining from the pandemic, assessed their situation in life in general and so it was good for that because we were able to sit there and go, “We have a lineup change, we have a sound change relatively.” Like, halfway in between we were thinking more along the lines of our own sound I guess. We’ve always been searching for it but it just kind of found us. Some of the riffs we gutted from the original singles, so the singles “Home” and “The Anthem Of I” came out back in 2019 and we had completely different riffs for both of those songs for a while and then they became what they were. Even now on the re-release, they’re completely mixed different as well.
Alex: Yeah everything’s kind of evolved really nicely. I think with our previous releases, even different sections of the album kind of have different flavours or sounds, so I think this is the first album where it grew into a cohesive, this is what Unbowed sounds like.
Oz: As you said, you wrote most of the album in 2018 and obviously musicians grow very rapidly, even coming up to releasing an album. Listening to it now, is there anything that you would have liked to have re-done to showcase where you’re at in the current day musically?
Alex: There’s sort of small aspects, where I think that I might play it differently now, but I think because we put so much time into each of these songs and we really pulled them apart and put them back together and we’re so confident in these songs as songs that there isn’t really anything I’d do differently at this point. Maybe specific things about the guitar playing or something, or a drum fill here and there, but overall I’m incredibly confident about this material, which I’m very thankful for because you know, you write something that long ago and you put it out now, you obviously run the risk of not identifying with it as much anymore.
Oz: It shows how good the material is that four years later you’re still excited by it.
Alex: Yeah I’m still just really excited to get it out there and for other people to hear it.
Ioan: Yeah I almost see it as like a body of work and the artwork was very indicative of that. It’s like an inner journey, you can see like a soul map of this individual looking inside and a lot of the music would be like the muscle and bones to the song and then the lyrics kind of go on top of that as the passion and drive for that machine of man. Having years to hone the body in a sense, it also gave me time to re-experience the type of concepts that we took and place them within the different aspects of what we would define as the soul and understand that my own path and everything that I’m doing will change constantly. Like you said, a lot of artists evolve over time and so it’s funny kind of journaling the path like that, in an artistic sense of the lyrics as well.
Oz: You’ve done a video for the album as well, “Hero Lux.” What was it about the song that you felt represented the album well enough to be presented as the single?
Ioan: To me it’s kind of symbolic of the beginning of a journey. One author that’s extremely important to what we write is Joseph Campbell, he’s very important for things such as Star Wars, he does the Hero’s Journey and so it’s all about the monomyth and how basically no matter what culture you look at, or myth you look at from time and history, it shows a quite wholesome message which is that all of us on Earth, no matter what time and place, we all want the same thing; to be happy, to protect people and make sure that our loved ones are kept safe and we want to make sure that we’re growing constantly in order to prove that we have lived the fullest life.
So a lot of his writing is in this and “Hero Lux” is actually “hero light.” You could see that as Jesus’s halo, Cú Chulainn from the Irish myths, he gets a halo when he turns into what I think they described as a ball of arms and swords, becoming so ferocious that he emanates this almost angelic look. That sort of thing is essentially what you would call part of the monomyth. In every culture you have this heightened state of being, where a person almost glows, they’ve realised their truest self. The rune we used for that single cover is called Algiz, essentially meaning the inner animal, the thing that guards you from the primal waters that would make you the best you possible. So to unleash the whole album with that first song was super important to us just because it’s kind of the danger of moving forth but the necessity to move forth in one sense.
Oz: And the video itself is very striking.
Ioan: Oh thank you. It’s actually done by a local artist called Michael Crusty and he does a lot of the music videos for the surrounding artists in this area of Canada, or this area of southern Ontario more specifically. We told him we wanted was like a circular motion, so again, indicative of that hero’s journey, everything’s circular and then we told him we want it to be quite black so not everything’s illuminated yet within the mind. Then he took that and ran basically. He made it look fantastic. We had done one video beforehand that your website covered way back in the day and we did that by ourselves with a GoPro. I’d just gotten my wisdom teeth out then so that’s why it’s a little off.
Oz: That’s why I had no idea that you were British, because the teeth are too good!
Ioan: *laughs* We were just discussing Canadian health care and the dental system is improving as we speak.
Alex: Yeah, they’re going to make it free, which is awesome!
Oz: Oh sweet. You still have to pay for it here.
Ioan: And I’m moving back there soon so I’m going to miss the free dental health care and stuff.
Oz: Well something else very striking is the album’s artwork. Was this also done by Michael Crusty?
Alex: No, the artwork was done by the same lady who did our very first release. A girl named Marta Sokolowska. She’s an awesome artist and she was kind enough to do our first EP back in 2013 and so when it came time to do this one… Every release we’ve had, we’ve had the same guy on our cover and he’s worked in somehow. So the very first time we had this figure drawn, it was drawn by Marta, so we thought it would kind of be a good return to form to have her do the art again, almost ten years after our first release. She was up for it and absolutely knocked it out of the park again. We’re really happy with it. We definitely wanted it to stick out amongst the more evil looking art.
Ioan: Which is also cool! We love that.
Oz: But like you say, there’s a place for that kind of thing and then when you’ve got something is different and presents a different take on an already established thing or whatever, then that just makes it more appealing. I mean, I used to buy albums based on the artwork.
Alex: That’s the only reason I got into Behemoth. When I was twelve and I went to HMV and I got my brother to buy me, I think it was, “The Apostasy,” because I turned it around and they just looked so cool that I thought, “I have to hear this.” So I still want to tap into the same feeling. Our albums have to look sick. *laughs*
Oz: You also have quite a few guest artists on the album too; Joel from Woods Of Ypres, Vreth from Finntroll…
Alex: And a guy named Frederik Jensen who’s actually a Danish guitarist. It was fucking amazing to get Vreth from Finntroll on because obviously when we started the band we were in high school, we were incredibly into folk metal and Vreth is like an icon for us. So to have him on our album is amazing. The same thing with Joel, obviously to people in our area of Canada and Canada as a whole, Woods Of Ypres is such an important band and then Thrawsunblat as well. To have these people who were heroes to us directly involved in our music now is really incredible and very validating.
Ioan: And they’re such nice, down to Earth people too. People say “don’t meet your heroes” and I’m sure that is true most of the time, we probably all have a few stories about that, but they’re two of the most wholesome dudes I’ve ever spoken to, just over Gmail and stuff, to the point now where I’d almost consider Joel to be a friend from talking back and forth and how much he cared to put into this album and talked to us about it. The only reason me and Alex know about some of the stuff from Joseph Campbell is because Thrawsunblat II, the second album was all about the hero of a thousand faces which is the first book by that guy that I had ever read.
So it had a huge impact on Thrawsunblat and I’m assuming quite a bit on Woods Of Ypres too to an extent, just because I know both of them are very intelligent guys and so us as kids, reading that stuff was super crucial to us as kids and when I told him that, he was like, “Oh absolutely. Same for me.” So he fully got the album, he understood the song he was going to make and what it would be doing in between the two songs that we wanted him.
Alex: Absolutely and I don’t want to leave Frederik out. Frederik was actually a friend of mine when I was living in England studying music production. He was at the same school as me in London and he was the only other metal guy at the school so we kind of knew that we would get along and then I saw him play guitar and was like, “Holy shit. You’re way better than me.” He has the sickest solo on the record. I’m incredibly thankful for that as well.
Oz: It’s good that they all really contribute to the album too instead of just being there to say, “Hey we’ve got Vreth from Finntroll.”
Alex: They were all really interested in the album and wanted to understand what they were adding to for sure. They absolutely went above and beyond. At the very end of the song that Vreth does, he does one long held scream for eleven seconds and when you listen to that dry vocal, you can hear his voice fucking up. He put in some extra work for just some losers from Canada.
Oz: Just finally, what’s the plans going forward once the album is released? Do you have live dates lined up?
Alex: Yeah, we’re going to have a tour in Canada in July, which we’ll be announcing the dates for pretty soon once everything gets solidified. After that, hopefully we’ll get to America this year, if not then next year and then ideally, especially since Ioan is going to be heading back over your way, we’ll set up some UK dates and do a little run over there.
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.
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