Entering the Underground #22: Infinity Dream Looks Back at Forgotten “Memories” of Heavy Metal
Maturity and class are at an all time dip in popularity in heavy metal. Fans want fire, and bands give it to them; the vast majority of new bands playing in the genre are in some way or another pushing a certain narrative view of the genre that largely ignores '80s commercial rock, Tony Martin's stint with Black Sabbath, or anything without a lot of gallops and lazy borrowed Maiden progressions.
One of the greatest things about our modern scene in this glorious genre is that some of the best musicians writing heavy metal don’t care a single bit about what’s "in" and one of those songwriters is Chris Bennett. In Widow, he’s pursued true American power metal for more than 20 years now across five albums; now with new band Infinity Dream he's back again to deliver his vision of classy, classic heavy metal that seeks to be as timeless and eternal as the first word of the band name would suggest.
Layered vocals, gorgeous guitar melodies, and heavy keyboard usage may not inspire confidence in fans that associate those with things with sappy prog or goth bands, but instead of thinking of Epica, think of The Uninvited Guest, or of Tyr. Infinity Dream on Memories is an idiosyncratic throwback to the glory of the past without leaning enough on it to be distracting. It's a gateway to a forgotten world of heavy metal, and it’s absolutely beautiful.
Check out Memories and read below for an interview with Chris, who played guitar and sang the lead vocals on the album.
What impetus led to the creation of a new band after all these years mostly focusing on Widow? What does Infinity Dream creatively provide that Widow doesn't?
I started really evolving as a songwriter. Widow was, in the beginning, a fun horror band that was known for partying. Even going back to the Life's Blood album, I started writing some more serious, personal lyrics that were much more introspective. The last Widow album, Carved In Stone, was almost entirely that way. However, most people still saw us as a fun party band and I think some of what I was trying to show in the songs was missed. I really wanted to express some of my deepest thoughts and fears, expose my vulnerable side. I've had lots of trauma in my life that I needed to get out. That's really where Infinity Dream was born. I went to see Candlemass in 2014. They hit the stage and people literally had tears in their eyes. It was so emotional, and I knew I wanted to start a band that expressed that emotion.
Were there any specific emotional bands that were influential directly on Infinity Dream's music?
Candlemass definitely was a big one. Also stuff Luke Trouble, Tony Martin era Black Sabbath, Fates Warning, Queensryche. I am a huge fan of Tony Martin, albums like Headless Cross and TYR really inspired my work in Infinity Dream. Fates Warning is one of my all time favorite bands and they were a big inspiration also. I love the John Arch era, but also Ray Alder and I love how the band progressed while continuing to write great songs!
Was it a relief to finally be able to tackle those influences in a very direct way on Memories in a way you couldn’t before with prior bands?
Yes, definitely! Musically, those influences had been there in Widow, but it had not been fully realized like it is with Infinity Dream. Plus, I think there's a musical maturity that has really shown itself within these songs. It's just the right people making the right music at the right time. We are all on the same page and chemistry is everything. When everyone is honest and putting their heart out there, you can feel it in the music!
When did you start singing? I knew that you could handle some vocals from Widow, but I didn't realize you were this capable!
I've always sang back up in Widow. Also, I've always written all the lyrics so I sang on the demos. Johnny (bass) has always said he enjoyed my vocals more than the finished album, which we laughed about. Honestly, I always thought he was being sarcastic. With Infinity Dream, we had actually planned on having a different lead singer. So, I did demos once again for him. He notified us that he didn't want to do any live shows. That was a problem because the rest of us love playing live. Johnny said "Hey, why don't you just sing?" Initially, I didn't want to, but the rest of the band really gave me the confidence to do it. It's been really therapeutic to express this side of myself and actually sing it as well. It's been quite a journey to get here!
Were you previously writing all of the vocal lines for Widow if you were doing vocal demos?
Yes I was. I wrote and arranged everything in Widow, every song on every album. I did the same thing for Infinity Dream, but Dina wrote her own keyboard parts that really added depth and dimension to the songs. I already have the framework for all the songs on the next album, but we are going to work them out as a band this time. We now have a more routine practice schedule that hopefully will allow us to do that.
The songwriting in Infinity Dream is fairly layered in parts; there are dual vocals, keyboards, and guitar melodies everywhere. Did that present any songwriting challenges?
Actually it didn't! It all happened very naturally. We had all worked together before (the drummer was also in Widow at one point) except for Dina. We had only met her once at a Widow show a few years back. We kept in touch and I knew she was a great musician. I had no idea how great she actually was. She walked in the studio and seemed nervous. We didn't know what to expect. The first song she did was "Bitter End." At the end of it, we were speechless! I couldn't believe how great she did. We weren't saying anything and she thought we didn't like what she did! I was like "No, I don't like it… I love it!" We are just fortunate to have an amazing chemistry in this band. We work so well together.
Is the writing any more or less collaborative than Widow's is?
With Widow, I wrote everything. Of course, the other members came up with parts for their instruments, but I had the riffs, vocals and arrangements laid out. It’s very similar with Infinity Dream, however with the next album it will be more collaborative as far as seeing how the song structure feels as a band and working it out in the practice room. It was impossible to do that during Memories, mainly because these songs were conceived in my head before we even had a full band! I’m really pleased with how Memories came out, we all love the end result. But, I am looking forward to collaborating with the band! I can’t wait to see what we’ll come up with for the next album!
A couple of times now when talking about Widow you’ve used the past tense–"wrote everything," "arranged everything." Is Widow finished?
I don't think so. Widow has been my life for over 20 years, so it's never really over. I've changed a lot as a person, so I don't really know what a new album would sound like at the moment. I am so grateful for the people around the world who have supported us. I believe the band will be back, but for now I hope they all enjoy Infinity Dream!
You mentioned earlier that the framework of the next album is already written. When do those songs date back to? Did you start on them once Memories was done?
Some of them, yes. I get flurries of ideas so whenever I do, I go with it. I'm not the type of guy that’s like ok, I will write on Saturday at 2pm. I can spit out a full song in minutes and then nothing for weeks. But I’m very prolific, I always have ideas hitting me. I do like for songs to represent where our heads are at currently, so I’ll usually freshen up older riffs and ideas. Mainly because I don’t want to do a Memories Part 2. I love for albums to be a moment in time, like looking at a photo album. This is where we were at this time. However, I also love timeless music that isn’t stuck in any particular era. It’s a tall order to achieve both at the same time, but I think we did it with Memories. My plan is to take the next album further and do even better! Always progressing and moving forward!
Memories released April 8th via Metal Assault Records.