metal talk

ian sutherland
Ian Sutherland

kobra and the lotus

Ahead of the release of their new album, 'Prevail 1', MetalTalk caught up with Canadian Metallers Kobra And The Lotus' singer Kobra Paige to get the lowdown.

Your new album 'Prevail 1' is out on May 12th. While the album retains the powerful Metal sound from 'High Priestess', there are more layers of melody than before. Were you aiming for a more melodic Metal direction?

"Yeah, thing is that the more we grow, the more we have expanded as musicians. Also our tastes and the way we want to express ourselves grows and on this album in particular we wanted to really sound like us. I think we get closer on every album. On this there are a lot more dynamics, it sounds more melodic and I think in general the album as a whole has more depth than any of our material before."

You funded this album via a successful crowdfunding campaign, but that was for a double album. So is there a 'Prevail 2' already in the works?

"'Prevail 2' was written at exactly the same time as 'Prevail 1' so it's just hanging out until that launch date is set. As you probably know the intention for us was to release it as a double album so we made sure it was done all at the same time. Then when we were shopping for labels with the double album, Napalm really wanted to take it on, which was quite amazing for a label to want to take on two albums. They were the ones who suggested we should split this up as it's a lot of material to drop on people all at once. At first I thought it's kind of sad because I really wanted to release a double album then at the same time I think it was the best decision because the material we wrote is going to be appreciated so much more and the time taken to really understand it."

Was there a particular reason you wanted to do it as a double album?

"It started as a throwaway comment from my father to me one day. He heard a podcast where Bruce Dickinson was talking about how this generation doesn't really put out double albums very often, it's not something that you see. So he said 'You guys should do this' and I thought that's crazy, that's a lot of material and I don't want the quality to be sacrificed.

"After I thought about it for a week though I told the guys 'Ok, we're going to do a double album'! [laughs]. And I'm glad we did as we proved to ourselves that we can rise to the challenge which is quite something because it is a lot of songs."

kobra and the lotus

Is 'Prevail 2' going to be different in style at all?

"It is. It's the same blend as 'Prevail 1' in terms of the traditional Metal with the heavy, heavy rock and the dynamics but every song is completely different from 'Prevail 1'. So for that reason it's wild as we have twenty unique tracks. The twenty-first track, which will be on 'Prevail 2', is an acoustic version of a song. So there's a difference in both albums but the theme is very similar for both, all to do with the human experience and it's going to stay right on line with that and consistent across the board but every song is completely different from 'Prevail 1'."

When are we likely to be able to hear 'Prevail 2'?

"Probably the end of this year or the beginning of next year."

You are someone with a relentlessly positive outlook on life but looking at some of the lyrics on this album, there is some anger there and some aggression. Is writing and performing these songs where you get that part of you out in the open?

"Yeah, music is definitely the way I rate best to expressing myself to the world and to the people and in the past I wouldn't let myself be too vulnerable in the lyrics, but this on this album I was really ready to be more real, more realistic. Closer to explaining what I was feeling or thinking without covering any of the story. I think there's a lot of that vulnerability not just in the lyrics but also in the vocal performances. You can actually hear the emotion by the way that I express things differently."

Which songs on the album are most personal for you?

"It's hard to pick as they were all very personal for me. This was a very, very personal project, 'Prevail 1 & 2'. If I'm going to pick one which particularly hits home it's 'Light Me Up'. I really hope that song gives some strength to people out there who are going through something tough and feel like they can't make it through to the other side.

"That's what the song is for, it's supposed to really be that strength when you don't have anything, when you feel like you can't understand what your purpose is any more. When things are just impossible to see through so you feel like letting go and I think that that song, particularly because it was written about someone very, very close to me that was really important in my life.

"It was a song also that Jasio was involved in writing, it was me, Jasio and Johnny K that made that song what it is. It's actually the only lyrical collaboration on both albums. That's because it was really hitting home for us, about fighting for someone's life which is very sad and very hard to imagine and also really sad for the person going through that and not wanting to hang on."

kobra and the lotus

Another song on the album which seems to be based on a personal experience is 'You Don't Know'. You got some of your fans to record themselves singing the song on video. What was the idea behind that?

"It all started with people; there were two people who had already done that and I thought this is really interesting. If there is anyone else who wants to express themselves and want to put it out there I decided to arrange an option for that as more than any song in the history of the band people were saying this song is speaking to my heart or I feel that they wrote this for me or about me. I found that so wonderful so I suggested it just to open it up for people so that I could kind of see who was really feeling something for it.

"I thought the coolest thing that came out of it was actually the young woman who posted the video about Aspergers. What was amazing about that was that she found some sort of courage in the song to explain a bit of her life. She didn't show her face but she used papers to describe how she's challenged by living with her Aspergers. When she posted it and I shared it that gave a lot of people the courage to come forward and talk about them living with Aspergers and their kids living with Aspergers and it was just wild.

"It just proves how much of a domino effect one little act of courage can have because we're so relateable to each other. We can feel so isolated and alone as individuals."

Music is such a powerful force as well.

"It is, one of the most powerful ones in the world."

This is part of a real connection you seem to have with your fans via all the social media you do.

"I definitely find a real purpose in what I'm doing with connecting to people. It's never been just about the music for me. It's also been about the way it connects people. I'm so curious about what other people are doing, how they're feeling and how things affect them. Also how they can affect each other. I mean people can meet each other through music and form these networks that are all over the world. I find that amazing."

You blogged recently about how hard it was for you guys starting out and how it's still hard to make your way in the modern music industry. Do you find it easier or harder now compared to the early days of the band?

"You know it's so interesting because the obstacles change. I would say I'm finding it even tougher now because we're in a really weird, awkward place. The band is really growing but we're right on the cusp where we are still not making anything financially to support the band yet. It's still just a massive investment that it's really scary for me to take all the time especially as we're getting older [laughs].

"At the same time though the band is just starting to make another round of waves and so you can't give up now. It's also really challenging on my spirit. I think to some degree I feel like it was easier for me when I was a little younger and we were just down to the basics touring around Canada in a van. You didn't worry about the other stuff so much. Now you have to have the band travelling across the world, how are you going to stay there?

"Last tour I was babysitting the tour manager as he was having issues. I was selling merchandise and losing my voice [laughs]. There's a whole set of obstacles that are new at different levels. I think it's going to get a little easier, I feel like we have more people to help on our team. Right now though I feel like we're really in a place where we're very challenged but it's necessary to push through the challenges because we're at a breaking point."

Do you see the only way forward as to get on the road and get out there in front of people?

"It's so important for us to be out in front of people, getting our sound out there and just continuing to be present. At the same time I have to be really careful about my choices now, about which tours we are going to do. Is this tour going to be a smart investment? We can't just go touring on whatever tour comes our way, it has to be a carefully thought out decision.

"It's hard too when you're not quite a headlining band because you're kind of at the mercy of what tours are going to be coming your way. That's something which has been tough as we don't get to pick our schedules yet, we're still direct supporting or supporting even. This year is the first year in so long that we have had a direct support position and that's kind of exciting as it can get kind of frustrating to play only thirty minutes every single tour. After you do a lot of them it kind of starts to wear you down, you go 'OK, enough with these' [laughs].

"We want to play more, we just get warmed up and then we have walk off stage. It's part of paying your dues and I understand that but it's nice that it's finally starting to happen and we're moving up the bill."

I guess you have to enjoy life on the road to be able to cope.

"Touring is not an easy lifestyle; it makes you age faster I always say [laughs]. You have to be really passionate about it and if you're passionate about it there's nothing that will stop you or be able to keep you away from doing this. All the people that hang in there, they have to be in love with at least some part of this to do it."

You are announcing a lot of tour dates around the globe right now. Any idea when you might next hit the UK?

"Right now we're working really hard on fall dates. We've got someone seeing if they can put that together for us. It'll probably be a smaller headline tour like we've done in the past. We always try really hard to come to the UK every single year. We have done that I think so hold tight for the fall, that's what I'd say to people."

'Prevail 1' is released in the UK on May 12th through Napalm Records.

kobra and the lotus

Kobra And The Lotus: 'Prevail 1'
Released: 12th May 2017 (Napalm Records)

Canadian power Metallers Kobra And The Lotus looked like they were on the verge of taking a real step forward with the release of their third album 'High Priestess' in 2014 but illness kept them off the road for eight months and derailed their plans for the endless gigging required for an ambitious Metal band these days.

They relaunched with the 'Words Of The Prophets' covers EP in 2015 and more shows and now with the help of a successful crowdfunding campaign they are back with all-new original material in the form of 'Prevail 1'.

Anyone who may have read about the crowdfunder would have seen that the plan was an ambitious one, to record a full double album for release. The fact that this album is called 'Prevail 1' gives the game away that the double album release plan has been shelved.

Napalm Records jumped at the chance to get involved with releasing the album but persuaded the band that releasing it in two parts was the better option, claiming two albums worth of material is a lot to drop on their audience at one time. This is of course true although the cynic in me thinks Napalm see more money in selling two separate albums as well.

I really liked the 'High Priestess' album with it's ballsy mix of traditional and Power Metal sounds, heavy riffs pinned down with lots of double bass drums and singer Kobra Paige's trademarked precise, powerful vocals on top. 'Prevail 1' has plenty of nods towards its' predecessor but is an altogether more mature effort.

The band, both as song writers and performers, have moved on and there is a more expansive, layered sound to the album with a definite priority to add lots of melody to the Metal centre of the songs. Ms Paige herself varies her vocal style, sounding even delicate in places when it suits the tune, although she still roars too, never doubt that! Lyrically the songs sound more personal and therefore more vividly real too.

The album starts with 'Gotham' which with its' mixture of pounding beats and high octane riffing harks back to the KATL of old but through the intro and the chorus you can hear how the song writing has gone to another level, extra dimensions and layers all around. Add in a quite superb solo from guitarist Jasio Kulakowski and a terrific vocal hook and it is a real statement of intent. Following track 'TriggerPulse' has a Queensryche kind of feel to it, a measured, cultured piece of metal carried along on a strong yet carefully controlled vocal.

All high quality stuff so far but it's track three which lets you know that Kobra And The Lotus are a band with much more to offer than huge riffs and vocals. 'You Don't Know' has layer upon layer of ideas, melodic guitar and vocal hooks which worm their way into your brain and a vocal which covers a range of emotions through it all. When the founder and driving force of the band sings "I'm sick and tired of feeling my faith expire in the lies we keep on telling ourselves. You don't know what it's like to be me," you know she means it, opening up like we have never heard her before.

That vulnerable, yet powerful and even angry theme surfaces elsewhere too. On 'Victim' she sounds anything but one, berating the focus of her attention for behaving like one, but in 'Specimen X' she croons "I'm vulnerable" and sounds totally authentic. The almost power ballad style 'Light Me Up' has the totally convincing feel of one or more band members going over the emotions involved in some kind of intense personal experience in their life. Rarely does Metal openly show such heart and soul.

The superb vocal performance from Ms Paige is ably backed by her bandmates on their instruments, especially the Mr Kulakowski's guitar work but the instrumental, 'Check The Phyrg', is maybe letting them off the leash too much and feels like an interlude. Maybe it would have worked within the double album context. It is certainly more on tunes like the coming together anthem of the title track where you appreciate just how the band is firing on all cylinders alongside their talismanic frontwoman.

Kobra Paige said in the interview above that this was a make or break album for the band and a lot is riding on it. If that's the case then they can know that all the hard work has paid off as this is a terrific piece of work. A bunch of finely crafted and well performed songs full of invention and emotion and no little depth and crowned by the finest vocals the band's charismatic leader has yet put down on record. Highly recommended to anyone who likes their Metal punchy but with verve and melody and above all commitment.

Kobra And The Lotus, coming to a stage near you soon. Give them a hearty welcome, they deserve it.

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3rd May 2017

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