How Toronto's Brand of Sacrifice Went from Anime Side-Project to Deathcore's Hottest Band
"I tried to make noises that almost hurt in some ways"
Published Mar 09, 2021You wouldn't know it from his glowering stage presence and menacing vocal delivery, but Brand of Sacrifice vocalist Kyle Anderson is an incredibly friendly guy.
As Anderson graciously takes the time to chat with Exclaim! on his band's record release day about their new album, Lifeblood, the scowl seen on his face in every promo and onstage photo is nowhere to be found.
"I'm not used to this level of view from the public," he says. "I'm definitely proud and happy, but I'm also still processing everything."
Anderson has had a few weeks most would find exhausting. Lifeblood was released on March 5, and in addition to receiving rave reviews, it amassed three million streams in its first weekend. This would be impressive for any deathcore act, let alone one only on their second full-length album. Anderson admits he hasn't gotten a chance to really let that feeling of accomplishment sink in yet, and humbly attributes a large part of the record's success to the band's diligent team.
"Every day has just been go, go, go," he says. "I think it'll be a couple months, and then it'll set in."
Like any band, Brand of Sacrifice have had to rethink their workflow during coronavirus lockdowns. Because Anderson lives in Toronto and guitarist Michael Leo Valeri resides in Connecticut, the two were unable to collaborate in person, and they had to record and share ideas remotely.
Despite the distance, the songwriting and recording process this time around was the same, with Valeri starting the instrumental components of the songs, then passing them along to Anderson to write lyrics over and figure out what vocal styles they called for. The songs ended up complex and multi-faceted, and Anderson says additional layers — like keyboards, synths and sound effects — came afterwards and happened naturally.
"We wanted to sort of streamline everything as far as the structures of the songs went," he says. "There's a lot going on and a lot to unpack, but we also wanted to make it so there was a hook in every song, so you're not completely lost, but there's always more to discover."
Speaking about his lyrical approach and vocal techniques, Anderson says his methods are unorthodox compared to other extreme metal singers. He usually starts with a general premise for the lyrical content and writes a rough draft, then records it as if he's recording the final version. From there, he is able to see what he does and doesn't like, and make changes accordingly.
"The main thing for me is making sure that you're immersed within the track and that you feel like you're somewhere else when you're listening to the music," he explains.
When asked what it's like to be the frontrunners of the modern deathcore charge, Anderson takes the opportunity to shout out his musical peers, namely Shadow of Intent and Angel Maker. Anderson doesn't necessarily consider his band to be the leaders of the scene, but is honoured to see their name mentioned alongside such talents.
"I really appreciate those comments, I'm humbled by them and they mean a lot to me," he says. "But there's a lot of amazing bands that are part of this new wave of deathcore. It just feels really good to be put amongst my friends who are incredible musicians."
Part of Anderson's process involves listening to vastly different music styles to get ideas on song structures, production and vocal delivery. He recognizes that many musicians start out wanting to make music that sounds like the bands they love, but stresses the importance of adding one's own flair and learning to develop a unique sound.
"I like to take things from pop and hip-hop for rhythms," he says. "On this album, I tried to make noises that almost hurt in some ways," he says, adding that he'd like to see more crossover between metal and other genres, especially when it comes to tours.
Another tip Anderson would give to newer vocalists is to express themselves through their lyrics by writing about topics that are important to them: "I think whatever you have to say as a singer, or what you want to talk about that means something to you, that's more important than being brutal."
Anderson's own lyrical themes are inspired in a large part by the manga and anime series Berserk. He uses themes from the series as jumping-off points to explore topics of survival, loss and dealing with inner demons.
"These are things that can be applied to everyday life in a human capacity outside of the fantasy world that is Berserk," he says.
There are countless novelty metal bands themed around pop culture phenomena like McDonald's (Mac Sabbath), SpongeBob SquarePants (xSPONGECOREx), and even The Simpsons character Ned Flanders (Okilly Dokilly); originally, Anderson had intended for Brand of Sacrifice to follow a similar route, and make one EP he could show to his friends.
"This band was originally supposed to be a side-project that was just for fun," he says. "But it ended up being something more, so we continued to roll with the theme."
Anderson said while he wants to stay in touch with Brand of Sacrifice's roots, he hopes to branch out with his lyrics on future releases, relying less on the Berserk theme and stepping into his own as a lyricist. Lifeblood was originally slated for an October 2020 release, but the pandemic also meant the band needed more time to figure out how things like music videos would work and adjust their promotional campaign to make up for the loss of live shows and tours.
"In some ways, yes, people are hindered by the fact that you can't play shows," says Anderson, pensively. "But I think it's also presented as an opportunity, because a lot of people are ready to ingest new things and new music."
Brand of Sacrifice threw a virtual release party for Lifeblood, to which 8,000 unique listeners tuned in. They also gave away a Playstation 5 as a prize to one lucky attendee, which the band paid for out of their own pockets. Seeing that many people tune in was a big moment for Anderson, as was his recent appearance on Slipknot percussionist M. Shawn "Clown" Crahan's The Electric Theater with Clown podcast.
Anderson confesses he was nervous for a one-on-one with one of metal's biggest personalities, but was relieved to find that Crahan was down-to-earth and enjoyable to speak with. "Maybe one day we could play with [Slipknot]," he says. "That'd be a bucket list item for sure."
Brand of Sacrifice's rise seems meteoric, but Anderson cut his teeth as part of several bands before, taking lessons he learned along the way and applying them to his current outfit. One such lesson was learning how to take constructive criticism and use it to strengthen his craft.
"You don't want to compromise your art," he says. "But sometimes, people take for granted how useful that kind of feedback can be."
Anderson says he watches every reaction video he can find to his music, either to experience the enjoyment it brings listeners or to see what the band could be doing differently to better their sound.
"It's a totally new lens for me to see things from," he continues. "We've had reactions in the past where we actually took the feedback and applied it to Lifeblood."
With Lifeblood garnering a jaw-dropping amount of positive attention, it looks like Anderson's efforts to make the record his fans want to hear have paid off.
"I'm just extremely happy right now," he says. "That's all I can say."