Published Jun 21, 2011When tech-death experts Origin parted ways with vocalist James Lee last year, many were sceptical that the band could find anyone able to fill his shoes. Lee is hands down one of the most talented death metal vocalists out there, with astoundingly brutal gutturals and a larger-than-life stage presence. Replacing him must have been a daunting task for the Topeka, KS band, but they managed to find a worthy successor in Jason Keyser (ex-Skinless, Mucopus), whose vocals bear a striking resemblance to Lee's. Entity is the highly anticipated follow-up to 2008's stellar Antithesis, and it's well worth the wait. While Origin don't deviate from their standard, pulverizing tech-death style, they've stepped up the intensity. The record features a perfect balance of mesmerizing technicality and straightforward death blasts, displaying exactly how the sub-genre should sound. Add to that excellent production that highlights the band's skills and this is positively Origin's best work to date. Although I'm sad to see Lee go, I must admit that Entity is flawless.
What's it like having Jason Keyser of Skinless as your new vocalist?
Guitarist Paul Ryan: He's very professional. He did his homework; he came for practice and he picked it up really fast. We now have two guys on vocals and we never really had that before; it's a more entertaining vocal style. I'm excited to have him because I like him as a vocalist for Skinless and he's kind of crazy up there live and he's a really neat person to work with. He has range also, from low to high, and a good grimy, slimy death metal voice; it sounds good. I'm excited about it and I'm excited to hear what people think when we perform live.
There is a much more intense vibe on Entity than on previous albums. Was that intentional?
Well, we're a pretty intense band. We were trying to create more dynamics on the new album so it's not the same rollercoaster ride. I feel like people will understand that because we changed some of the dynamics of our sound and there are some leaps and valleys, and we tried to make some new twists and turns for the listener. All of us in the band like playing fast, but we wanted to create some new ideas, at least for ourselves, musically. Our listeners in death metal are very picky and people have a preconceived notion of what your band are supposed to sound like. That's important to our fans, but I'm not the same person that I was five years ago or ten years ago ― my life has changed and so has my music. But we still have that intensity because we enjoy making intense-style music.
How do you feel about the outcome of Entity and how it differs from your previous albums?
Well, we had a better budget for this record; we were a little more prepared and the songs were more developed. As far as performance goes, this is the most solid album we've ever done; in terms of musicianship, it's tighter. I think we also have the best tone we've ever had on an album. The production is better and that's thanks to Rob Rebeck. There was also a little more open-mindedness as to what we were going to do, musically. I just feel, overall, it's the best representation of the band today.
You've been in the band since the beginning and Origin's sound has remained pretty consistent. Have you always been the main songwriter?
Yes, I've been in the band since the beginning and I've been the primary songwriter on every album. We've had a lot of guys leave and come back; we've had different vocalists, different guitar players, different bass players and different drummers. Everyone who's been in the band has added their own little thing to it and each person has contributed musically, but I've always been the main songwriter.
Have the member changes over the years had an impact on Origin's sound?
Of course; I've learned things from other guys I've jammed with and I write towards the strengths of the people I'm jamming with, so that's one way it's had an impact. I've also learned different ideas from them. But when I write, I write to their strengths, that's just how I've written music in the past.
As a guitarist and songwriter, you've set the standard for modern tech-death. How do you come up with this stuff?
I don't know [laughs]. I mean, I consistently practice, especially our older material. I don't worry about technicality or any of that stuff; I just play what I hear in my head. I don't focus on technical aspects; I'm more about song composition and song structure, rather than trying to do guitar Olympics. The songs are technical, they are fast, but it's about being inspired to do that; I don't judge the music by that. We've been playing technical music for a while, I've been doing this for a while, and I know what works for this band. I feel like the difference between us and a lot of bands is knowing what works in a live atmosphere, when performing in front of people. We want to create stuff that people can get into. It's no fun to sit there, play a million miles an hour and the people just stand around. I want people to move, have fun and get into it, rather than sit there and later talk on some message board about how I messed up the middle section of track six on the third album [laughs].
Technicality isn't a priority during the songwriting process?
No, it's not. I hold myself to the standard I've set for myself, but I don't compare myself to other technical guitar players, as a rule. I've got aspects of technicality and I try to bring different aspects to every album, but definitely one of the most important things is having each album have its own identity. It's cool to just be technical, if you just want seven guys on a message board to talk about your band. Or you could play music and write songs that you like. I've always tried to improve myself as a guitar player and incorporate new ideas and techniques into my playing. I try to write music for myself, as opposed for the people listening to it. But I also find enjoyment in playing live and having people move around to the music. When Origin first came out, people would move to the crazy stuff and not to the groove stuff and now people don't move to the crazy stuff, they move to the groove stuff. It's always different; you can't please everyone. (Nuclear Blast)