Fixation, the new album from The Ember, The Ash, is an emotionally traumatic, widescreen musical experience, and a record which takes its creator, Canadian musical polymath 鬼, in bold new directions.
The sole vision of 鬼 – also known for their work with atmospheric metal act Unreqvited – Fixation draws on metalcore, black metal and dark symphonics… and deals with a loved one’s mental illness.
Rich Holmes caught up with 鬼 to explore the album’s birth… and catch a glimpse of the project’s future.
Rushonrock: How proud are you of what you have accomplished with Fixation… and looking back, would you have done anything differently?
鬼: I usually abandon projects rather than complete them, so there will always be things I would change looking back.
When I write a record that’s about a really personal topic like this one, I look back at them as time capsules for certain periods in my life though.
As much as I would go back and change things now, at the time it was written as genuinely as I could have while I was going though those things.
Rushonrock: Fixation has less of a ‘black metal’ feel than its predecessor, Consciousness Torn from the Void – and you have clearly expanded your musical palette on the new album. Why did you decide to move on so much from The Ember, The Ash’s debut?
鬼: The Ember, The Ash was never meant to go any further than Consciousness Torn from the Void, but when I decided I wanted to write a lyrical record about specific events, I thought I’d keep the project going instead of starting another one.
I grew up playing in heavier bands that were mainly rooted in metalcore and nu-metal, so I thought I’d bring back some of these elements that I still frequently listen to and enjoy writing.
Rushonrock: Which artists influenced you the most when you were creating Fixation?
鬼: On the more metalcore/nu-metal side, I was listening to a lot of Make Them Suffer’s Neverbloom, Slipknot’s self-titled album and Darke Complex’s Widow.
On the black metal side, (it was ) Carach Angren’s Lammendam, Xasthur’s Telepathic With The Deceased and Dimmu Borgir’s Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia.
Rushonrock: The symphonic element runs through both The Ember, The Ash albums. Where does the inspiration for those passages come from?
鬼: I like making music that sounds massive and orchestral instruments have always been the best way for me to achieve that big sound that I’m chasing. I’m also big into film scores, I think that’s an industry that I’d like to try to integrate myself into at some point in my life.
For now, I’m more than happy just making the music that I make with my various projects.
Rushonrock: You write and record as a solo artist – could you ever imagine bringing other musicians in on The Ember, The Ash?
鬼: I don’t think I would bring musicians in full-time, but there is some talk right now about potentially taking it out on the road with some live musicians. We’ll see what happens!
Rushonrock: What are the advantages and disadvantages of having sole control over your own work?
鬼: Creative control is of course the biggest pro to being the sole member of a project, for me. I’m pretty isolated and don’t like to have to report to anyone or run things by other people.
On the other hand, I do like bouncing musical ideas off other people, so I do miss that element when I’m writing for my solo projects.
When I was younger and playing in bands, I found that having multiple songwriters would cause conflict and head-butting. Now that I’m older and have a whole bunch of solo releases under my belt, I find myself missing writing collaboratively and the camaraderie of the band dynamic in general.
Rushonrock: How challenging was it for you to deal with the subject matter of mental illness on the record? How did you approach that from a creative standpoint… and what did you want to achieve lyrically?
鬼: I’d say it was both very cathartic and distressing to write this record, but it’s something that had to be done. Otherwise, I’m sure the negative energy that I was carrying around would have manifested itself into my life in some other way.
As much as it is difficult to trudge through some of this subject matter when writing about it – and inevitably rehashing bad memories in the process – writing music will always ultimately be about catharsis above all for me.
Rushonrock: How does Fixation reflect your growth as a musician – and what did you learn from the making of this album?
鬼: I’m always fearful of writing music that is lyrical, because I’m awful at expressing myself with words. I’m happy I was able to actually finish this project without hyper-focusing on every phrase, trying to perfect it until eventually just deleting all of it, which is how lyric writing typically goes for me.
I think I also improved quite a bit as a producer while making this record. I’ve always been more interested in the composition side of things as opposed to the production side, but I’m starting to become more and more confident in my ability to self-produce.
Rushonrock: How do you shift gears between The Ember, The Ash and Unreqvited? Do they reflect different sides to your personality in any way?
鬼: It’s nice to have multiple projects in the works so I can work on whichever one better reflects how I’m feeling on any given day.
It also helps to have multiple records going that are in different stages of being completed, so if I’m feeling creative I can write for an album that is still compositionally incomplete, and if I’m not feeling creative but still want to work on something, I can work on another record that might be in the mixing/mastering stages.
Rushonrock: What’s next for The Ember, The Ash? Where do you want to take the project?
鬼: I don’t have any kind of direction in mind for the project as a whole, as of right now it’s just an outlet to experiment with sounds that I have urges to create. If that eventually takes me out on the road, that’s great. If it stays in the studio, I’m equally as happy being here in my element.
Rushonrock: Do you already have ideas for new material?
鬼: I do have some instrumental pieces in the works for the next record. I’m essentially taking the sound I established on Fixation and multiplying it by ten. It will be heavier and much more technical, as well more consistently symphonic throughout.
Rushonrock: Can you envisage performing this material with a live band?
鬼: Absolutely. I think it makes more sense to bring this project into a live setting than it does for Unreqvited.
Fixation is some of the most cathartic music I’ve ever written and I think it would be just as satisfying of an experience for me to perform it live as it was to compose.
I’d like to think that feeling would translate well for an audience as well.
Fixation is out now on Prosthetic Records.
Photos by Robin Parsons.