New York brother duo inRed has launched a new medieval fantasy themed album titled “Serpent’s Hold, which is currently available for streaming in its entirety through the inRed Bandcamp page.
Now that the collection of epic new material has been unleashed, vocalist/guitarist Harley Wootton and drummer Kenny Wootton got in touch with Metalunderground.com to explain the concept behind the album, the band’s inspiration from video game soundtracks, and being raised in a musically rich environment that included death metal from a young age.
xFiruath: When did you first get started in music and was there any one particular band or musician who inspired you to take up music?
Harley: It all started with jamming for fun, just literally playing with instruments around the house as a little kid. Our parents played together in bands. My mom is a singer, and my dad is a drummer and saxophone player. I started a band called Deathkids when I was really young, at age 9. At the time I was influenced mostly by Florida-based death metal like Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, and Death. Our dad let us listen to anything, and he had access to a lot of underground metal from the early 90’s. It was awesome. We had some awesome shows at metalfests and we got to open for the bands we listened to. My biggest honor was opening for Death. Chuck Schuldiner became a big influence on me. We did a cover of Crystal Mountain in tribute to Chuck on “Caught in the Aftermath” in 2009.
Another big factor in my inspiration was the early Final Fantasy games on Super Nintendo. Nobuo Uematsu is the one person who inspired me so much at an early age, and still does today, maybe even more. Now that our style is more orchestrated and symphonic with electronic elements, his influence has really come to fruition. My first favorite band was Metallica, before “Load” of course. My first favorite album, when I was in kindergarten, was Pro-Pain’s “Foul Taste of Freedom.” I was so amazed that our dad gave us the chance to record out first album at Pyramid Sound Studios in Ithaca with Alex Perialis, the same studio and producer as the first two Pro-Pain albums. The production and sound quality Alex produced inspires my ears. He’s such a sonic genius. We’ve been involved in metal for a long time, our whole lives, since playing our first show in 1995 when I was 9.
Kenny: Same. I was the drummer of Deathkids and I was 11 years old at the time.
xFiruath: Tell me a bit about the history specifically of inRed and your members.
Harley: The core of the band is my brother and I. We’ve been making music together our whole lives. Over the years we’ve luckily had talented friends and musicians to round out a line-up for live shows.
Kenny: We write and record the music, then find people for live shows.
xFiruath: Fill me in on the new release “Serpents Hold.” How has your music changed from previous albums?
Kenny: “Serpents Hold” is super mystical sounding. I love music that like transports you to different realms. Like, if you were to enter an unknown world, what kinda sounds would there be there? Whether it’s metal, videogame music, Enya. Magical sounds.
Harley: It’s by far the most adventurous album we’ve ever done. We’ve covered almost every sub-genre there is at this point, but this album is probably the truest to my heart. I’ve been inspired by epic and heroic sounding music since as early as I can remember, especially from the Final Fantasy series like I was saying. Also games like Secret of Mana, the Ultima series, Altered Beast, Golden Axe, even the Mario games. Me and Kenny actually made our own 2D RPG called Puppy Quest about our dog. I saw him trying to bite bees in the front yard one day and it all started there. The best part was composing all the music, and we used some bands for boss battles like Turmion Katilot. Download at this location.
Back to the style change, though. The first inRed album was borderline punk, though. So since then we’ve gradually and slowly transformed to our current sound. You really never know what direction we’ll go in, we even have an unreleased album of dubstep-metal songs. For “Serpents Hold,” though, I would say this is the closest we’ve come to finding our niche, the truest to our personal tastes. Every song feels fresh, because we never stop changing styles. Our last album “It Begins and the Search Never Ends” from 2010 was a mix of heaviness and melodic electronics. Our album previous to that from 2009, “Caught in the Aftermath,” was more speedy, technical, progressive. This one is my favorite so far. Kenny wrote most of the album and did an amazing job. He’s never had so much input and his ideas blended really well. I’m really, super proud of “Serpents Hold” in every way. It transports you to the story. It makes you feel, which is the best thing music can do. Plus, it brings new sounds to the genre, which is hard to do.
xFiruath: What are the lyrical themes about on “Serpents Hold?”
Kenny: Harley writes all the lyrics.
Harley: The story is set in a medieval fantasy world. At the beginning, the world is already at war. Two armies fighting for acquisition of an ancient artifact that supposedly grants a mysterious, unknown power. A lowly rogue who’s had the short end of the stick for most of his life manages to steal the relic, and discovers it grants the power to control human minds. The war then becomes the world against the rogue, who uses the amulet to become a God, basically. The title comes from the MMORPG Ultima Online, it represents both the “hold,” the haven and village itself that is full of serpents like the main character, and represents the serpent-like hold the rogue places on the world with the power of the amulet. He uses it to control the minds of everyone around him, making the ones who oppose his will off themselves. He comes across a girl whose mind he can’t control, because of its own supernatural powers that he discovers when he goes into her thoughts, the ability to control time. He secretly sees her as his greatest threat, and charms her into using their powers together, and to put the heat on her as the figurehead leader. They are deemed unstoppable and dangerous.
The world’s most revered bounty hunter is hired to retrieve the amulet, but the hunter’s real goal is to use the amulet for himself. To throw off the hunter’s relentless pursuit, the rogue hands the amulet over to his supposed allies, a group of old battered veterans living in a snowy hut far to the north of Serpents Hold. The rogue betrays them, though. He leads the old heroes to a den of ogres, whose thoughts cannot be controlled. The heroes, the bounty hunter, and the girl are led to the den of ogres and a huge epic battle ensues. The last battle. The heroes and ogres eliminate each other, and the rogue distracts the girl’s time-controlling-mind by using it to help the heroes. All along, the rogue knows the hunter is coming after her. So the hunter comes out of hiding to kill the girl who is seen as the most dangerous one, as she theoretically was. The rogue watches as he kills her, then finally has his chance to control the bounty hunter’s mind. Everyone kills each other, the rogue survives and reigns over the world all-powerful with all threats eliminated as the story closes. Checkmate.
xFiruath: Who handled the artwork and how does it tie into the album’s theme?
Harley: I do all of the artwork and designs. On our previous album I had some help from Nathan Ells. He’s really talented in many areas. This cover represents the village of “Serpents Hold,” in which the story takes place, and the overall world of the story. A medieval village bubbling with chaos and turmoil. I really like all of our album graphics. Each has a red man, who is almost microscopic on the cover of “Serpents Hold.” He’s been on an epic adventure. All of our photography is done by Matthew Hanlon, who’s amazing too. Our previous artwork has always involved our pet monkey. His name is Bobo. I’m actually kind of disappointed that he’s not on the new one. Yes, he is our real pet monkey that lives with us. I have videos of him on my YouTube channel, as well as some videos of me playing piano and using my joystick as a MIDI controller. Everyone should check it out to verify his monkey status here.
Kenny: I am also kinda sad that Bobo isn’t on the Serpents Hold cover somewhere, he has been on all of them since like 95, but I am sure he will be back someday. The way I see it is like there is a serpent with a hold on the medieval village.
xFiruath: How does inRed go about writing new music?
Kenny: We combine forces to try to make the best possible music.
Harley: Yeah, and we never ever stop. Between us, we create probably a song’s worth of material every single day. We’re both constantly, constantly on different computers making sounds, recording different instruments, it really never ends. The question, really, is when to label a group of songs an album and move on. We keep learning as we go along and figure out what we wanted to do better, what could’ve been this way, or that way, etcetera, so it’s like perpetual motion. We are also constantly trying new ideas and experimenting, so I think what we make will only get better in every aspect from here. Combined, we’ve already made over fifty songs this year and I’m working on a few new tracks today, actually.
xFiruath: What’s going on in your local metal scene these days?
Harley: Hmm. I’ve never enjoyed the local scene on Long Island, especially when it comes to our kind of music. I hope I see some good local bands and shows, though.
Kenny: Our local metal scene is terrible. There are so many bands and they pay some promoter to play, so it is a lot of bad bands with their friends and family paying to see them. It’s so bad.
xFiruath: Does inRed get to play live and do you have any upcoming shows?
Harley: We will soon. I am so excited to play songs from “Serpents Hold” live.
xFiruath: Are you in any other bands besides inRed right now?
Kenny: I sometimes will drum for a friends band if they ask me to. I have a solo majestic black metal band called “Deep Wood Demon.” Its just for fun though, and if anything I make for that is really good we will use it for inRed. At the end of the day, inRed is our main band and gets the most energy and focus.
Harley: Like I said, we’re constantly, constantly trying new ideas and making new things, not all of it can be used for inRed. We’re obsessed. So we’re involved in a lot of different projects of different genres. I try to hit all across the spectrum of feelings like Nobuo Uematsu. I have a MySpace for solo electronic, piano, and dubstep songs. We also have a deathcore project up called Death is Like Candy, and contributed to the original Sunlit Ether demos with Nathan Ells. There is so much that can be done with music, I just feel bad if I go to sleep if I haven’t made something new.
xFiruath: Have you listened to any interesting music lately and do you have any contenders yet for best/worst albums of the year?
Harley: My favorite albums this year so far have been Emmure’s “Speaker of the Dead” and Earthbound Papas’ “Octave Theory,” Nobuo’s new band. I don’t think too much about bad music. There’s barely enough time to hear all the good stuff. I guess Rebecca Black was bad in a funny way.
Kenny: I think Wintersun is an amazing band. Hopefully their new CD will be out in 2011, I’ve heard a new song from it and it’s incredible.
xFiruath: Have you guys been to any great concerts lately?
Harley: I haven’t been to that many shows lately. I usually sneak into any shows I go to. I tried to sneak into the Rammstein show at Madison Square Garden, it almost worked, but their security was too much for me and my girlfriend. It was a fun adventure, though. Soilwork is my favorite band to see live. They crush. Hm, lets see. Emmure, GWAR, Iron Maiden, Ensiferum, and Turisas are always awesome live shows. Can’t go wrong there. I hope I see Wintersun, Equilibrium, Dark Moor, or Einherjer in America some day. All four together for one tour would be nice. Unfortunately it seems like a lot of tours are skipping over the Long Island and New York City area. It really sucks. As for ridiculousness, it’s pretty funny seeing kids stretching out and warming up like they’re going to be wrestling to get ready for mosh pits. Gotta watch out for those mosh pit muscle strains.
Kenny: I think the funniest thing I’ve seen is at an Emmure show, when there is a fight every 10 seconds and you just hear slapping of fists hitting cheeks.
xFiruath: Anything else you’d like to discuss?
Kenny: Have faith in yourself, but also honesty. The ability to honestly judge where you stand at a skill or something isn’t very common, I have come to realize. Also, even if you don’t smoke pot, I think people need to look outside their own opinion. Why can people consume alcohol recreationally and not marijuana? Pot is less toxic than aspirin. Meaning if you consume too much aspirin you can die, it is impossible to overdose on marijuana. If you don’t like it, don’t use it. Just like I choose to not smoke cigarettes, and it isn’t the stupid ads that they waste so much money on that make me not do it. I just don’t like them.
Harley: I agree. Weed is safe, maybe not for everyone, but some people can die from peanuts. The laws are old. Nobody even knows why it’s really illegal anymore. It’s not about protecting us from danger, obviously, because of all the drugs the FDA approves that kill people for symptoms that marijuana could safely treat. We’re avid gamers and Wintersun fans, so right now life consists mostly of waiting for “Time,” Wintersun’s long-delayed new album and Skyrim. Luckily Skyrim has a release date. November 11th, 2011, eleven-eleven-eleven, will be a holiday for us for sure. If anyone wants to game with us, you can find us on Xbox 360. Our gamertags are Goons5 and WizardsInRed. We play mostly Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and 3, sometimes some Halo: Reach. We play Ultima Online on the Hybrid server. You can find us around Delucia bank. We’ve been playing UO since 1998, and it has inspired our music and this album in particular, so much. I’m also looking forward to the Angry Video Game Nerd movie. Like A.V.G.N., video games always inspired me in life, so it’s awesome to try to represent them in some small way. I guess I’d lastly like to send some cheers of gratitude to my friends and sources of inspiration – my family, my pets, Jordan Hartz, Christian Martinez, Frankie Palmeri, Brian Sabella, Nathan Ells, Melanie Marra, and our bandmates Jay Rosario and Jimmy Lawrence. The core of our existence relies on all of them. Thanks so much for the interview, Ty. MetalUnderground is an awesome site that I go to as a fan so it’s so cool to be on it.
Ty Arthur is a freelance writer who writes for both entertainment and technical instruction sites. An avid fan of many different forms of metal, he has been involved in reviewing music for several years and is currently a contributing editor for Metalunderground.com