Of all the albums to come out in 2012, few had as many questions surrounding them as the latest from Nonpoint. The previous year brought significant lineup changes, a label change and founding members, Elias Soriano and Robb Rivera also both became fathers. At both the professional and personal level, it was clear that we could expect something different from Nonpoint. I’m not sure anybody fully expected just exactly what Nonpoint was ready to unleash on the world.
The previous two Nonpoint albums—Vengeance and Miracle, respectively—by the band’s own admission, didn’t quite go in the direction they were completely pleased with, though those still contain songs that are major crowd pleasers. Still, many fan forums noted a preference for the band’s first four releases. As the writing and recording process progressed for Nonpoint, Rivera often mentioned that the new material brought together many of the best elements of those first four records. Just one listen and you’ll hear just how accurate of a statement that was.
Let’s be very clear and upfront about this: Nonpoint is the best album of Nonpoint’s career to date. It brings together the rawness of Statement, the melodicism of Development, the aggression of Recoil and the maturity of To The Pain.
To break down the elements that make this album so great, a few things stand out, namely: Elias’s vocals; the two-guitar attack of Dave Lizzio and Rasheed Thomas; the lock step timing of bassist Adam Woloszyn and drummer Robb Rivera; and the mature use of dynamics to give each song the maximum punch.
From the start, Nonpoint’s Elias Soriano was initially pigeon-holed as a rapper and Nonpoint was often lumped into the rap-rock nu-metal genre. Album after album, however, Soriano has proven that rapping is just one element of his style. When he wants to, Soriano has not only solid rock voice, but the melodic sensibilities to get the most from his voice. What he brings to the table this time, however, is even more. It’s a passion that goes deeper than the mere anger or frustration that fuels so many hard rock records. It’s a soulful expression come to life with a razor-sharp delivery that doesn’t just convey an emotion, it cuts through everything else and touches the common soulfulness in listeners. The end result is connection that makes listeners feel like they are not just listening to a record, but actually sharing a bond that, at its core, touches on the very essence of what it means to be human… to be angry, to love, to regret and, yes, to put your head down and press forward.
When the band announced that, for the first time in its existence, it was becoming a two-guitar band, I have to tell you, I was intrigued by the sonic possibilities. Little did any of us expect that Nonpoint was getting ready to unleash metal’s newest two-headed guitar monster in the form of Dave Lizzio and Rasheed Thomas. On this album, they lay a real blueprint of the contemporary dual-guitar attack. Eschewing the Iron Maiden or Judas Priest approach of harmony leads, Lizzio and Thomas team up to take riffing to uncommon territory. Sometimes it’s a combination of dry signal and wah-drenched riffing. Sometimes it’s chords played in different positions for a wall of sound. Sometimes it’s single-note lines mimicking the main riffs. Sometimes it’s contrary harmonic lines. Sometimes it’s all of those things in the same song, such as is the case with “International Crisis”. The approach is not uncommon compared to a handful of post-hardcore bands, but Lizzio and Thomas execute with deadly precision and pinpoint timing. Of course, this is just the approach, which says nothing of the innovative riff writing that, quite simply, rocks. Slippery riffs weave through a multitude of notes before resolving into rhythmic grinding. The total effect is smart riffing that still knocks you on your ass. One can’t help but think, somewhere, Brother Dimebag is smiling.
The other new face in Nonpoint is bassist, Adam Woloszyn. To be honest, to think that this is the first time that he and Rivera have worked together is almost unbelievable. The lockstep timing they maintain functions more like one solid rhythm machine than two different instruments playing together. Throughout the album, whether riffs are ahead of the beat, on the beat, or behind the beat, it’s almost as if the same nervous system is driving both men. It’s impressive as hell. Rivera seems to feel that, too, as he hits the drums harder on this album than anything in the past. You listen to the drums on “I Said It,” “Go Time,” or “Temper” and you get that sense that he’s not hitting the drums as much as he is attacking them. He’s been one of the most solid drummers in metal over the last decade, but this time out, he really upped his game. At times, it’s like listening to Anthrax’s Charlie Benante or Sepultura’s Igor Cavalera.
This takes us to the final element that makes Nonpoint the band’s most complete album to date: dynamics. The arrangements and use of dynamics to achieve tension and push/pull is fantastic. This manifests in arrangements that feature straight-ahead drums under quick-moving riffs, or soft parts interspersed between heavier parts or busy riffs alternated with wide open chord progressions. Even the song order progresses in a natural ways with high-octane cuts like, “Lights, Camera, Action” and “Temper” alternating with mid-tempo stompers like “Go Time” and “Pandora’s Box”.
If you prefer your metal sans the cookie monster vocals and nonstop blastbeats, this is one of the year’s must have albums. From the Spanish-tinged soloing on the beginnining of “Ashes,” to the bare-knuckle, ass-kicking stomp of “Go Time,” to the pure vitriol of “I Said It,” Nonpoint hits it with a fire that simply incredible. If this is what “the new Nonpoint” sounds like, then sign me up for the next decade, because it’s hard to imagine how it could get much better. This is simply one of the best rock albums of 2012.
To say the last year has been an eventful one for Nonpoint would be an understatement. To be blunt, they went through more changes in a year than some bands go through in an entire career. With the departure of two bands members, the addition of three new ones, the change to a new record label and an array of other pet projects, it’s a miracle they found the time to record a new album.
But they did.
We caught up with singer Elias Soriano to go over all the changes in the Nonpoint camp and what it means for band that has worked relentlessly to amass one of the most dedicated fan bases in all of music.
Blog Rocking Beat (BRB): The last time we talked was about a year ago and it has been, from the outside at least, a crazy year for you guys. So let’s rewind about a year and lay all this out, okay?
Elias Soriano (ES): Sure.
BRB: After Ken and Zach left the band, I reach out to Zach to get an idea of what was going on. He said that the relationship had become “toxic” and it was clear that it was time to move on. Would you say that is accurate?
ES: The truth of the matter is that we wanted to move on without Zach and we let him go. We weren’t feeling the vibe on stage. We were getting comments from friends and family. Just the overall vibe of the band was getting to the point where I felt like he was just up there going through the motions. So we asked him to leave.
He and Ken had become good friends over the year-and-a-half he was in the band. Ken decided that he didn’t want to continue if Zach wasn’t in the band. So Robb and I said, “Okay, but we are going to continue with the band and move on without either one of you.” That’s basically what happened.
BRB: Following that, then, how did you guys get hooked up with Dave, Rasheed and Adam?
ES: We’re friends with a lot of people in the industry and Robb asked a couple of his friends if they knew of any good guitar players who would fit our style, a friend of ours passed Dave’s name along. We got in touch with him immediately and he started sending music right away, which was really our biggest complaint and concern with Zach can Ken; there was really no music writing going on. It’s like we were sitting back and waiting for things to happen, so we took the reigns and went forward. Dave immediately started sending music. After picking up Dave, we decided we were going to fill the rest of the slots right away.
As it was, Dave was in a band with Rasheed and Adam and had been for at least a year. They were called Inn Cinema. They all had a great chemistry. We invited those guys to join the band as well and they hit the ground running.
BRB: So it wasn’t so much a conscious decision to go to a 5-piece outfit as it was a happy accident?
ES: That was actually the catalyst that started everything. We wanted to add another guitar player. It was something that Robb and I felt very strongly about. Musically and performance-wise there were some things that were lacking and we wanted to have them in the band. When the subject initially came up, Zach and Ken were really against it. So when we had the opportunity to do it, we did.
It’s not really about the money. I understand that you now have to split the money with another person, but if it makes the music better that’s always going to be our goal.
BRB: So it sounds like they were all involved in the writing process.
ES: Absolutely! They wrote pretty much ALL the riffs. I think Robb contributed to the two of the riffs on the record. They all wrote their own parts and we ended up with 30 songs by the end of the writing. In 15 weeks we had zero songs with Zach and Ken. In less than eight weeks we has 28 songs with Dave, Rasheed and Adam. Their heads were in the game. They weren’t jaded. They weren’t lazy. They wanted to get in and do the work. They wanted to write music. The relationship is great on stage. We get a lot of great comments on Rasheed and his singing—
BRB: I was going to ask, is it nice to have another guy in the band who can sing is ass off?
ES: My God, man! When I have friends, like our brothers in Sevendust and Taproot, coming up to us and saying we never sounded better, it’s great. These are friends and peers and I respect their opinions because they know what we’re about. They know what we have been trying to do for close to 15 years in this band. These new guys, their hearts are gold and they really want to do this. They jumped in with both feet and it shows.
BRB: One of the other changes is that you guys are on Razor & Tie Records now. How did that come about? Did they approach you or did you approach them?
ES: We’re being managed by Split Media and Izzy Zivkovic and he’s really good friend with the people at Razor & Tie; they are in the same building. When we decided we weren’t going to release another record through Rocket Science, we were shopping around. We like that White Stripes approach of going in and doing one record with people and not getting locked down for a ridiculous amount of records or giving away too much percentage. And if the label really wants you, then they really want you.
So Izzy approached them about picking us up because they had such good success with All That Remains and what they are doing now with P.O.D., we loved the idea. Their staff is really aggressive. They are intuitive on the smartest and most current ways to promote bands. They have great connections with music writers and producers. Next to MCA from way back, it is probably the best label staff we have ever worked with in the last 10 years.
It’s good to have these guys. You can tell they really care. They are not letting anything fall through the cracks. They are not willing to let us do things that are mediocre. It’s really good. It’s like having another band member who is just as hungry as you are, without making it seem like they are just there to sell the records.
BRB: So going into the album, then, with all these changes, did you feel like you really had something to prove this time around?
ES: I think that with every record, just because we haven’t had ridiculous amounts of mainstream success—yeah, we’ve have singles and airplay, but when it comes to like Disturbed big… let’s be honest—with every record we feel we have something to prove, because we are trying to stay relevant and stay alive out here. This band has survived 15 years because of the music. This time around, more so than in the past, it was about making the fans understand that we’re still here and we have gotten better. We are writing better music. There is another chapter of Nonpoint and there is probably going to be another five chapters of Nonpoint. But I feel like this record and the music that we wrote and the response that we’re getting from the new music is proving it for us. We like to let the music speak for itself, but we went in with the intent of having a record that had 13 or 14 amazing songs on it and we weren’t willing to stop writing until we felt we had that.
BRB: Nonpoint, as a unit though, strikes me as the type of band that, as long as you keep putting out solid records, the fans will keep coming out to support you, regardless of whether you never have another radio single again.
ES: I have to credit that to one of our very first A&R guys at MCA. His intention was to get us that Pantera type of core following, so that we wouldn’t have to worry about radio. So even after we left MCA, we still toured that way. If there was a town where we were popular, we would hit that town four or five times each year to take care of those people who were supporting us.
It’s about keeping a smart business plan when it comes to the business side of the music. And the best part of this is that is my business and it’s fuckin’ rock and roll, man. It’s fun. It’s fun for me to have to schedule interviews like this. Every once in awhile, you have to put your head in the books to make sure that, financially, everything is alright and that your future is set. I mean, I have a daughter now. So it’s so nice to see when things fall into place as well as they have for us this last year. But I credit all of that to us starting out the right way and having managers teach us that we only spend money when we really need to. And I think we’ve been waiting for this moment in our careers to put everything into it.
BRB: Still, was there any worry about how the fans would take it, especially with Ken’s departure?
ES: Oh yeah. With Ken’s departure and his decision to leave, it was actually a surprise, because I know how much he likes to perform, but I understood why. People were butting heads and it just wasn’t working anymore. But once I saw videos of our new members, I really didn’t worry about it too much. The guys move around a lot on stage, just as much as Ken did. So we are really looking at trying to wipe that background away and focusing on moving forward from here.
BRB: Isn’t that part frustrating for you right now, though? I mean, you’ve got this record written, recorded, mixed, mastered and ready to go. Aren’t you chomping at the bit to get it out there and unleash this on the world?
ES: It drops in September, but I’ve been chomping at the bit since probably February! It’s been a long process for me, but the label really just got the record at the end of June. As soon as they got it, though, they were immediately on it. I’m not worried about them shelving it. They are on it, without a doubt.
BRB: Good, because it seems like it’s that one last piece of the puzzle.
ES: Oh, I know. The drop date for now is the 18th of September—maybe before, but also possibly after. There have been a lot of things I have historically worried about with the releasing of records, but the game has really changed. A lot of the months that used to be bad months are turning into the better months for sales. Things like album artwork now having to translate to an iTunes thumbnail take time. There are a lot of things for Razor & Tie to get around and when they say, “This looks like the time we should do it,” then I trust them.
BRB: More about the record, who was at the helm this time?
ES: We did 90% of the record with Johnny K and he’s a really great producer and great mixer. We did 12 songs with him. When we went to the label, they wanted us to do one more song. So we went back with Brian Virtue and Rob Graves. When we sat down with those guys, I had a song that I had been hanging onto with a riff that the guys just loved. We didn’t have time to get it done at Johnny’s studio. So when they asked for another song, we said, “Well, yeah, we do have another song.” So they said they’d like to bring in a writer who had worked with All That Remains, Skillet, Red and other hard rock acts and asked if I would mind sitting down and shooting some ideas back and forth. Now, I have never worked with a songwriter before in my life. And maybe four records ago, I might have been leery. Now, it’s like, how many more things am I going to write? I could use a fresh idea! So I stayed open-minded to working with a writer and from the first instant I sat down and start talking with Rob Graves, I was like, “Wow!” It was just great idea after great idea after great idea. It was really exciting and we definitely want to work with him on the next record, too.
It’s just nice to work with someone who gets the sentiment of what we are trying to deliver and to be able to trust that person so you don’t have to take care of every single thing yourself. When I hit a wall, he’ll say, “What if you sing this note here,” or “Since you already talked about this idea here, why don’t you change the subject a little in the next verse?”
BRB: So was most of the work done lyrically or with arrangements?
ES: This time it was with melody more than anything else. We covered things like cadence and where I would sing. And together, it got things going really smooth. It really polished it out. It was cool. I was really floored by the process. I mean, this time around, between Johnny and Brian and Rob, I felt like we made a record—a real record. In the past, the label gives you money and tells you to go in the studio. You come out with some songs. They pick a single. And that’s it. This time around, though, I felt like I was really in it. We wrote for months. We recorded for 10 weeks. It was just great for us. I just can’t wait for the people to hear it.
Nonpoint is currently on tour. The first single is “Left For You.” If you haven’t heard it yet, here’s a listen.
Call Me No One, the new project brought to you by Sevendust members Clint Lowery and Morgan Rose, released their debut album Last Parade June 5th via 7Bros/ILG.
The band is gearing up for an inaugural summer tour, kicking off July 27th in Fort Wayne, IN. Lowery and Rose have enlisted Rek Mohr (Hurt) on bass and Alan Price (Shinedown) on guitar to round out the band in anticipation of the dates. Nonpoint will support, see below for details.
Last Parade marks a departure from Sevendust’s traditional sound, towards the duo’s hard rock roots. “It’s a lot different from Sevendust. It’s hard but it’s not the same type of heavy that Sevendust is,” says Lowery. “We’re still developing it, we’re really excited about it.” The band’s successful first single “Biggest Fan” impacted in April as the #2 most added record at Active Rock Radio, ultimately charting at #30.
Sevendust’s most recent studio album, 2010′s Cold Day Memory, debuted at career-high #12 on Billboard’s Top 200 and marked the return of founding member Clint Lowery who had separated from the group back in 2003. Grammy-award winner Johnny K (Disturbed, Staind, 3 Doors Down, Plain White T’s) produced the album.
Call Me No One Tour Dates
7/27 – Fort Wayne, IN @ Piere’s
7/28 – Madison, WI @ Willow Island at Alliant Energy Center
7/29 – Joliet, IL @ Mojoes
7/31 – Covington, KY @ Madison Theater
8/1 – Portsmouth, OH @ Columbia Music Arena
8/2 – South Bend, IN @ Club Landing
8/3 – Dayton, OH @ McGuffy’s House of Rock
8/4 – Louisville, KY @ The Phoenix Hill Tavern
8/6 – Johnson City, TN @ Capones
8/8 – Marietta, GA @ The 120 Tavern and Music Hall
8/9 – Birmingham, AL @ Zydeco
8/11 – Broussard, LA @ The Station Bar and Grill
If you haven’t been following the noise coming out of the Nonpoint camp lately, it might be hard to believe how much has changed in the few months since they got off the road.
Most notable of the changes are on the lineup front. Gone are founding bassist, Ken MacMillan and guitarist, Zach Broderick who joined the band in 2008, following the departure of founding guitarist, Andrew Goldman. In their place are three new members whose identities have yet to be officially announced. This move makes Nonpoint a five-piece band for the first time.
This news came right after the band announced a new record deal with powerhouse record label, Razor & Tie Records, which is home to artists as diverse as All That Remains and Joan Baez.
Nonpoint, which has been very active on the social media front since leaving Beiler Bros. records years back, is using mediums such as Facebook and YouTube to issue sneak peeks at the new demos they are putting together. At last count, they had 31, which could mean a double album in 2012.
How does all this change affect the band. Well, here’s a listen to some demoes of the new material; you be the judge.
In other news, the departed MacMillen and Borderick are rumored to be working on a project with members of Dallas-based rockers, Drowning Pool. We’ll post more once we find out something concrete. As it stands, we’ve got word out to Zach right now and are waiting for a reply.
One of the biggest perks of running Blog Rocking Beat is that we occasionally get to sit down and talk to bands we have followed for years. What you learn quickly, however, is that some people are full of canned answers. When we sat down with Elias and Zach from Nonpoint, what we got was a surprisingly candid look at what it really means to be a rock band in today’s musical landscape.
Blog Rocking Beat (BRB): You guys have had a lot of changes this tour cycle versus past tours. There’s a new(ish) member of the band, you’ve been doing a lot with Facebook to stay in touch with fans. How did that all add up this time out?
Elias Soriano (ES): On this last run, we were looking to push the promotion as much as possible, because it was out first album with new management. We were looking to find new ways to be in touch with the fans, involving them with what we are doing and giving them something different than what they are doing with other bands. So it was definitely a plan of ours, and we think it has worked out great.
BRB: Statement came out in 2000, so you guys are into this going on 12 years now. What keeps the fire burning?
ES: Our fan base and radio are always asking for new stuff. They come to pack the shows. When you get that, you can’t help but continue. Why get off a winning horse?
Zach Broderick (ZB): A lot of it is about how you spend your money, too. Some bands live a bit too extravagantly and we like to keep it buttoned down. We don’t expect a lot. We’re appreciative of what we have and we know we are fortunate. At the end of the tour, it all pays off.
BRB: That seems to be something that a lot of bands are talking about now, that business side of things.
ES: All the prices are still elevated. The same old industry numbers are still controlling the market. People think they can’t find a sound guy for less than $3,000 a week, and it’s like, some doctors don’t even make $3,000 a week! How about $500 a week? And in this down economy you should take it.
ZB: If we are taking the hit, they need to take the hit, too.
ES: Bus companies are doing the same thing, too. They are lowering their prices to board more bands. You have to do it just to survive.
BRB: There is no middleman for most bands out there, because there is no big label involvement for that stuff anymore.
ES: There is no more traditional label model. The ones that are still around are powerhouses, because they have the capital to do stuff. But it’s more about having the passion for the band that motivates everyone to actually work and not miss those phone calls or other opportunities.
BRB: That brings up another question, then. Why the split from Beiler Bros.? Was that a mutual decision?
ES: We felt like we had ceiling-ed out with those guys. We felt like we exhausted all their avenues of promotion in getting us to the level where we wanted to be. They said, “If you feel like you want to try something different, then feel free.” So we felt free.
BRB: A little while after that, Andrew (Goodrich, Nonpoint’s previous guitar player) left the band asnd Zach came on board. How did that change the dynamics of the band?
ES: That was about a couple of things; it was about chemistry and motivation / focus on the band. That’s what we were looking for. Robb (Rivera, drummer) was looking around and found Zach through a mutual friend. They got together and started talking and Robb came back to us and said, “This guy’s really got his shit together.”
With Andy, that was more of a mutual decision between Andy and the band. He really didn’t want to do music anymore. The business side of things is not easy to deal with on a daily basis. After dealing with it for as many years as he did, it was enough for him. We could see his passion start to fade, too. So that was the main thing behind the split.
BRB: So Zach’s personality played a role in getting the gig?
ES: Oh, it was more than that. It was about the passion, too. You have to have that.
ZB: Anyone can play the songs. There are a million guitar players out there who could school me.
BRB: What was it like for you, Zach, to join such a well-established band that already has a built-in fan base rather than working with a band from the ground up to build that audience?
ZB: There was a lot of pressure and that part was pretty nerve-wracking. At the same time, though, I had a lot of fire and was excited to do it. The guys were also telling me, “We want you to write stuff, too.” So there was a lot of freedom at the same time. I was really pumped for it.
But there was pressure, too, when you replace a guy who had been there for 10 years and the fans are used to seeing him. I felt like I really had to fill those shoes. It was just good, nervous excitement.
BRB: What are some of your favorite songs to play live?
ES: For me, I really like “Shadows.”
ZB: I really like “Dangerous Waters.” That always seems to get the pit going.
ES: “Hands Off” is cool.
ZB: Yeah, I like “Hands Off” a lot, and “The Truth.”
BRB: You guys mentioned on Facebook that you are itching to get back in the studio. How hard is it to write on the road? Is that something you guys do a lot?
ES: We wrote Miracle off the road. With this current lineup, we haven’t been out there writing on the road. Maybe a little here or there.
ZB: Sometimes we get time at soundcheck to just jam and think, “Oh, that part sounded good; let’s keep that.”
ES: Robb and I both have ProTools on our computers, but we mainly use it to just get ideas down so we don’t lose them.
BRB: What younger bands are out there that you think are really putting it down?
ES: There’s a band in L.A. called Chasing Avalanche; they are a really great young band. There is another one called Sent By Ravens that is an insanely good Christian rock band. In fact, we tried to get them on this tour.
ZB: Gosh, new bands? Most of the bands I’m really into are older bands. I think the last new record I picked up was the new Foo Fighter’s record [Wasting Light] and I think that one is awesome. As for newer bands, I can’t think of any now. Maybe at the next interview I’ll have some.