Few modern bands embody the true spirit of heavy metal as well as Savage Messiah, whose dogged perseverance, passion and conviction harks back to the hard graft of metal’s masters of old.
On the band’s fifth full-length album ‘Demons’, due this spring, this has never been more evident. Vintage bullet-belt influences meet modern metal with 11 new songs that will feel as much at home on the airwaves and playlists as reverberating around sweaty mosh-pits.
Singer and guitarist Dave Silver describes a band reborn on the new record. “I looked at what we’ve done in the past and knew we could be taking this band way further,” says Silver.
It only takes one listen to ‘Demons’ to understand exactly how Savage Messiah – completed by guitarist David Pear, bassist Mira Slama and drummer Charly Carreton – are ensuring their fresh new sound will infect ears and conquer minds.
Without sacrificing any of the razor-sharp precision and earth-shifting heaviness that saw them rise out of the UK’s underground, there’s a redefined sense of melody and cohesion to the latest opus as well as a newfound majestic flair.
Silver founded Savage Messiah in 2007, and secured their first deal with Candlelight the following year, before moving to Earache. Two albums later, the band made the daring decision to go it alone, and founded Halfin Silver Management with renowned British music photographer, Oliver Halfin. The band would immediately sign licensing deals with international metal powerhouse Century Media Records and Japan’s acclaimed Trooper Entertainment.
“We felt like we had a good shot at running everything ourselves, properly and professionally,” Silver explains. “And it worked out well – we toured with Cradle Of Filth and Exodus, plus headlined and sold out shows of our own in Japan, along with Wacken, Download, Hellfest, Graspop and loads of other great opportunities.
“That’s what made us think this next album needs to push way beyond that and reach more people than ever before.”
‘Demons’ is punctuated by sentiment more personal than anything the band have shared in the past.
“What Dreams May Come was partially inspired by one of Shakespeare’s lines from Hamlet,” reveals Dave, who now resides in Verona, Italy, where his young daughter was born in 2017, and commutes regularly for managerial duties in London and Los Angeles in between time on the road.
“When you become a parent, your worries become multi-faceted,” he explains. “You worry about what happens to you and those around you. It’s the weirdest thing, the love you feel for your child, almost indescribable. I’ve never thrown myself into my lyrics like that before.”
Then, of course, there’s third single “Down And Out” – yet another modern masterclass stemming from the literary world…
“It’s almost like I discovered reading,” laughs Dave. “Something changed within me and I realised there was so much I needed to read. I stayed with George Orwell, reading every one of his books. If you read Down And Out In Paris And London, you’ll see how he wanted to understand poverty and live off nothing to experience that. It reminded me of moving to London and not even being able to afford a McDonald’s. If he really wanted to experience poverty, he really should have just started a heavy metal band.” ‘Demons’ also sees a shift in production for Savage Messiah. After making four albums with Scott Atkins, the group enlisted producer David Castillo, renowned for his work with metal stalwarts including Opeth, Dimmu Borgir and Soilwork for the recording sessions at Jens Bogrens’ Fascination Street Studios in Sweden.
Joined by Carcass drummer Dan Wilding and touring drummer Ali Richardson for the Sweden sessions, the band took a spontaneous approach to developing the 11 new tracks the comprise the record. “This time we went into the studio with no songs and everyone thought we were absolutely mental,” laughs Dave. “
We said we’d do a song a day and, actually, after 10 days we had 12!”
Silver says that the band’s first four records taught them that the worst time to write music was prior to going into the studio, and decided to take a more organic approach to their fifth.
“It’s better to catalogue little unfinished ideas to build on,” he continues. “Sure you need that initial inspiration in the studio, but let the songs write themselves and stay guided by only your own musical taste.”
One of ‘Demons’ biggest surprises is undoubtedly its cover of hit single Parachute by American country/folk Grammy winner Chris Stapleton – cleverly rewired into a hard rock format by trading the banjos and acoustics for loud and proud electricity.
It’s the kind of anthemic arena rock Savage Messiah have always flirted with but never quite dared to fully imagine.
“Funnily enough, Oliver got obsessed with Chris Stapleton and kept playing this song in the office,” reveals Dave.
“I noticed the arrangement almost felt like a heavy metal song, so wanted to see what we could do with it.
“Reworking pop music into something heavier isn’t anything new – just listen to Judas Priest’s take on The Green Maharishi or Diamonds And Rust!
“All we wanted to do is show a different side of us. Who in their right minds would ever have expected us to cover that … it’s totally nuts!”
2019 will be a very busy year for Savage Messiah. With millions of YouTube and Spotify streams and a social media reach now extending beyond even some of the metal heroes that influenced them, the band’s focus is to now be heard anywhere and everywhere, while also bringing their songs to life on stages around the world – touring with the likes of Symphony X and headlining shows of their own.
When Dave describes connecting with the streaming audience as “where the roller coaster ride starts in terms of being heard”, it’s because he’s had more insight than most on how technology can shape culture.
Working in various roles across the music industry over the last decade, having seen changes from the inside as much as the outside, Dave’s experiences have provided enough perspective to help him stay grounded about his band’s accomplishments and aspirations.
“The word ‘Demons’ encapsulate the story of the band,” says Dave, with a disarming level of self-awareness in the face of an increasingly challenging industry. “It’s about rising to the inevitable challenges that everyone faces in pursuit of any higher end goal. The album deals with attempting to conquer both the internal and external demons that perpetually arise and permanently threaten to derail and discourage…”
“We are one of those groups who have stuck at it whatever comes our way,” he adds.
“As the song on the album goes – I’m “Under No Illusions” in terms of my expectations. I understand my place in this business. The industry is often monopolised by the powers that be and those on the throne. “We’ve never had that kind of backing. I think a lot of people get into it for the wrong reasons – seduced by the glory.
“I do this because it’s what I enjoy doing and my natural instinct is survival. There have been so many times we’ve had a nightmare with vans breaking down or things going wrong. It can get incredibly challenging and you have a choice whether to push through all that adversity or not.” Truth be told, at a time when more and more young UK bands find themselves forced into retirement thanks to economic uncertainty and industry failings, Silver is mainly just glad to be in a position to continue with the music he was born to make. “After volunteering to leave labels and taking hits on tours, we brought this band back from complete extinction on the last album [2017’s Hands Of Fate],” he says. By the looks of it, nothing looks set to stop him yet.
“Frank Zappa said it best when he said, ‘Broadway the hard way!’ ”shrugs Dave.
“There’s this pessimistic attitude towards British metal musicians, but honestly, not many bands that started at the old King’s Head on Holloway Road ever got to play to 25,000 people in Japan or 45,000 on the main stage at Hellfest.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done because we did it all ourselves, without any support. We never were that easily marketable hot new band and we never will be. I’d much rather we carved our own niche. ”The proof, as they say, is always in the pudding. And with ‘Demons’ under their belts, consider that niche well and truly carved.
words: Amit Sharma