ShadowStrike: The ToH Interview
ShadowStrike’s debut EP Infinite Power was a minimal flusher and even managed to strike a chord with a few of the power-hating ToH regulars. I dug it so much that I asked guitarist/lead vocalist Matt Krais to answer a few questions for us. Check out the exclusive ToH ShadowStrike interview!
First, because I’m curious, my built-in nerdcyclopedia notices the term “Shadow Strike” from World of Warcaft, Mass Effect, Guild Wars 2, & Star Wars: The Old Republic. Any geeky explanation for the name, or did you dudes just like the sound of it?
Yeah we noticed that too shortly after picking the name. I guess the story goes we were stuck between two names, “ShadowStrike” and “ShadowStorm,” but we decided on ShadowStrike because we liked the name. I’m convinced we had some hidden subconscious gamer mumbo jumbo brewing though, because the term shows up in many games including one of my favourites ,”Shenmue” on the Sega Dreamcast. I think it’s safe to say that if people want to see it as a gamer term, we’d embrace it.
I’d say it’s a good match not only because it sounds undeniably Power Metal, but because it seems like some of that “subconscious gamer mumbo jumbo” may have made its way into your music. There’s plenty of 8-bit/chiptune in your latest EP and I consider them a real highlight. How did you decide to include them?
Well, my idea behind it was that I wanted to write music in the style of those old games we love so much. If you do some digging around in the metal world, bands only really cover or do arrangements of well known game themes. I wanted to take it one step further and make our own game sounds. We all liked the idea (and of course games) so it was a good fit. At one point we even started writing a full-fledged instrumental OST song for our own fake video game called “ShadowStrike,” complete with shop and air ship themes haha. Never got around to finishing that one, though.
I and a few of the other guys at ToH are big fans of old games, and I think it’s safe to say that you guys nailed the feel of their soundtracks. In my review of Infinite Power, I compared the chiptunes on “Last Fire World” to Castlevania and Shadowgate. It hit me with some real nostalgia. Were there any game soundtracks in particular that influenced you?
There are a lot of game soundtracks haha. Probably more than I can remember. The ones you listed as well as Zelda, Mario, Final Fantasy , Mega Man, Tetris, Sonic. I can go on and on. Haha.
Being the nerd that I am, I’d love to talk about video games for the rest of the interview, but I guess I should switch gears. Games aside, it sounds like your musical influences are drawn from all across the power metal spectrum. I know you guys are from Long Island, but your focus on keyboards and big melody sounds very European in approach while still managing to be unique. What bands most influence you and how have you incorporated that influence?
Yeah absolutely. Our other influences really go beyond just other bands. I mean, you can probably tell which bands have inspired us in different areas of our writing, but our overall sound has been impacted by many different kinds of music as well as cultures. All our families are heavily influenced by European traditions and motifs, so it definitely rubs off on our writing I believe. Other influences span from progressive rock and metal, jazz, classical music, Japanese rock and metal and even Disney music. We all have our own way of expressing our hearts and inspirations and putting them into the context of power metal. Whether its that proggy trash riff in “Gales of Winter” or that bombastic Disney sound in “The Journey Begins,” I think we have a broad, unique sound that people may not catch on the surface, but it is there for sure.
Those flute flourishes definitely had me thinking Disney right off the bat. I’d agree about your sound. Infinite Power was uniquely diverse and that kept it really entertaining throughout. I’m sure this has been brought up before, Infinite Power is almost long enough to be a full-length. What made it an EP?
When writing Infinite Power, we realized that our songs were getting bigger and better. For me, I always saw an EP as something with less songs than a full length, but not necessarily a shorter run time. When we write music, we never try to map out how long the songs are. We just write, and what comes out will be the case. For Infinite Power I had actually written two other songs that I decided to shelve in place of “The Journey Begins.” They were ready to be recorded, but I didn’t feel that they were stronger songs. I always strive, and we as a group always strive, to give our fans the most solid content we can. I wanted this EP to be packed with content and I think we delivered on showing we can write long songs, shorter songs, and still have room for another 5 or so on for what I would consider a full length. And I think we gave people a literal “extended play.”
That approach explains why the EP didn’t have any filler at all. I really think it’s a debut you guys should be proud of. Speaking of full-lengths, I read recently that you’re in the process of writing yours. Can I ask how the process is going?
Thanks! We are proud of it, too. As for our full length, the process has been slow but rewarding. I’m making sure everything is 110% for this one. We learned a lot from doing Infinite Power and we are making sure this will be the best release we can muster. And the songs we have so far are just adding to our sound, and making it all the more better!
What is the songwriting process like for you guys? There’s a lot going on in your songs. How do you put the pieces together?
That’s a hard one to answer. When it comes down to it, it really depends on the song, I believe. Some songs are based off of melodies that I write or do variations on, others are songs I will write out entirely, while others are more collaborative. On the EP, writing was mostly a collaborative experience. We all added things here and there. I find myself arranging the songs the most, but what I think is special is that I can tell you how each and every one of our songs was written, and they all have a different story. It isn’t as if one of us locks ourselves away and writes all the songs and says “here you go” to the others. Don’t get me wrong, there are many songs we have where I have done all or the majority of the writing and arranging, but on Infinite Power there was more of a team effort to take the basics and turn it into something great.
For our full length, we even have songs written and arranged by the bass player. So it really just comes down to the individual song. I think this also adds to our unique sound of having that similar yet diverse quality.
We’re excited as hell to hear what you come up with. Is there anything else you want the readers to know?
We’re excited that you and others are excited.
We really just want to say thank you to all of our ever-growing fan base out there for supporting us. Even though we are just getting started, we have had a strong outpouring of support from people all over the world. We are hard at working on new material and it will definitely be something bigger and better than what we have made. We’re even taking some older songs and revamping them, giving them things we didn’t think of at the time. We love to hear from our fans, and we cannot wait to hear what they have to say about our new stuff! Here’s to many more years ahead.
Bonus round: What’s the Power Metal album of the year?!
You mean besides Infinite Power by ShadowStrike!?!? That’s I.N.F.I.N.I.T…
In all honesty, I haven’t listened to much new music this year… but Noble Beast’s debut is awesome. It was great performing with them at this years Warriors of Metal Fest VII in Ohio back in June. Really talented guys and… well, yeah. I’d have to go with Noble Beast!