Eliminator’s Gleaming Metal Shines with an “Ancient Light” (Interview)
As much as I admire a band that’s amazing from day one, I have a special place in my heart for bands that grow and improve over time. Lancaster’s Eliminator certainly has never been bad–I got into them before they had an album, and have been following their career with interest since- but to my ears at least their new album Ancient Light is the first time that they’ve been truly great. In quite opposite form to the dreadful sophomore slump, these heavy riffing lads have managed to refine their already promising sound from 2018’s energetic Last Horizon to give us something that’s equal parts sharp as a knife, furiously catchy, and understatedly elegant.
The essence of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (you might see this as NWOBHM most places) was certainly not limited to the cleaner, sharper edge that bands like Iron Maiden and Tokyo Blade brought to the fold–fans need only to remember that Witchfinder General and Venom were a part of the same wave to reject that–and yet it is one of the most oft-imitated sounds from that movement. Often that comes across as very hackneyed, a tired way of saying “hey, we play heavy metal too!” without anything deeper or more interesting to it. To me, Eliminator are paying tribute far more to that scene than they are to any other historical heavy metal scene. They avoid the pitfalls of some of their contemporaries by bringing not only an elevated level of musicianship (listen to those ripping solos!) and songwriting ability but also that bit of class that some of the coolest British bands had and that never seems to come across in modern ones. A band can be both deliciously tight and catchy with those cool pedaling riffs and also toss in some leads that are more gorgeous than they are frantic, and Eliminator knows it. Add in some cool song structures and great singing and the package is all there for some of the best heavy metal I heard all last year, and more than that, some of the best in the style I’ve heard from Britain in years.
Read below for an interview with Eliminator’s lead guitarist Jack MacMichael and make sure to grab a copy from their label Dissonance Productions.
Ancient Light has a classy underpinning of gorgeous leadwork and sharp riffing that’s not found in much modern heavy metal. Where does that come from? How do you balance aggression and melody?
First off, thank you, that is appreciated. In terms of the writing process, there isn’t necessarily a conscious decision to do that; it’s just the way it comes out. Heavy metal needs riffs and aggression, if not then how can it be heavy metal?
Melodic passages are important for us. I’ve always really liked bands and music with a strong sense of melody, so it's something I certainly want to hear in our own music. One advantage of writing this album largely ‘remotely’ (due to the UK’s covid restrictions) was increased opportunity to spend time on the composition of melodic passages, particularly guitar solos. We were passing fairly well-produced demos between each other, so I was able to sit down with those demos and compose the solos with a lot more consideration, as opposed to refining something I’d been doing off the cuff in the practice room. That has probably upped the standard of lead work in comparison to previous releases. For the record, that was the only positive of working on the material ‘remotely’ as far as I’m concerned, I’d much prefer to be in the practice room for writing and arranging songs.
Will you carry forward anything of that patient approach from working remotely to the next album now that you’ve done it once?
I would expect we’ll maintain the focus on producing demos as that’s very handy in preparing yourself for a studio recording; we were very well rehearsed in the studio for Ancient Light when compared to the debut album despite not having played together.
Personally, I have no desire at all to engage in ‘remote’ writing sessions now they’re no longer a necessity.
You joined Heavy Sentence on guitar and played on their debut album Bang to Rights in between Eliminator’s first album and Ancient Light. Did playing on another album with another band help hone anything as far as Ancient Light goes?
I don’t think playing with Sentence really altered my playing in Eliminator, the two bands have two pretty different sounds and I definitely play differently in both. Heavy Sentence do rehearse and play shows more frequently than Eliminator, so I suppose that helped me maintain my chops. I did inadvertently use a Sentence riff in an Eliminator tune–soz Tim.
Are there any challenges you didn’t expect to have to balance the two? Have you learned anything through the experience that you might not have otherwise?
The only challenge I anticipated was scheduling clashes. That’s not really been an issue though as Eliminator aren’t as active as Sentence, so it’s not actually come up yet.
There’s been a couple of instances now where both Eliminator and Heavy Sentence have been on the same line. At one gig we were playing back to back, so that was pretty hard work. It was enjoyable though and I would not be opposed to more gigs where I end up playing in both bands.
Was the Lost to the Void compilation your idea or the label’s? How do you feel about those older songs looking back?
It was the label’s idea and we were happy to go ahead with it as we needed the money to cover the upfront costs of t-shirts etc. Looking back at those releases, I think most of the songs are actually pretty strong (admittedly, there’s a couple of stinkers) and we still play a few of them live; they’re very fun to play. There are certainly elements of those songs we’ve slightly adapted since and listening back to them I definitely find myself thinking “I wish I played this instead”, but the performance on those recordings is decent enough. Production wise, it is not good. However, it was an entirely DIY job and a first attempt at recording anything ‘proper’ for the majority of the band at the time. All things considered, it could have ended up sounding a lot shittier.
Would you want to give any of those old songs the updates that you hear in your head at any point?
We have no plans to go back and re-record any of those old songs at the moment and I can’t see that changing at any point. I don’t really like it when bands go and re-record a whole EP or album of existing material as it invariably ends up losing something along the way; it just feels a bit redundant.
Any improvements or changes we’d like to make to those songs will be reserved for when they’re played live.
How did you decide on using Velio Josto for the album art for Ancient Light and where did the art concept come from?
We were at a bit of a loose end on the artwork and unsure of whether we should commission a piece or use something ‘off the shelf’. In the end, I suggested Velio as I really liked the painting he’d done for Aggressive Perfector’s full length, Havoc at the Midnight hour (if you're reading this and haven’t heard that album, then go and listen to it immediately because it’s very good); very reminiscent of Italian horror and Giallo film posters and his technical execution was great.
Regarding the concept, I’m going to disappoint you here, because I don’t really know much about it. That was something Danny and Jamie worked on and it reflects the concept running through the lyrics. Something about an entity that’s livid through multiple ends of multiple universes or something like that; all clever stuff. Sounds like the final boss of a JRPG to me.
Exact details of concept aside, how important is having cool album art to you?
Obviously the music on the disk is infinitely more important than the album sleeve and I like plenty of albums that have shite artwork. Conversely, I can think of a few absolutely tragic albums with amazing work.
It’s undoubtedly a bonus when an album does have great, memorable artwork and I think that a strong album can be elevated by good artwork. Artwork certainly influences many people’s decisions on whether they’re going to listen to an album or not, so there is that to consider too.
What’s next for Eliminator?
At this stage, I’m unsure. It will definitely involve writing material for a third album. I would like to play some more live shows, which have been few and far between this year. We struggled to fit a lot in this year as Danny was working on the final year of his PHD, but he’s finished that now so not only do we have a doctor in the band, we’ll have the flexibility to get some performances in .