Today (2nd), Witherfall’s sophomore album A Prelude To Sorrow has finally arrived via Century Media. The heavy/progressive metal project features Iced Earth guitarist Jake Dreyer and vocalist Joseph Michael who recently replaced the late Sanctuary vocalist Warrel Dane for their North American tour, and potentially more. The follow-up to 2017’s Nocturnes and Requiems is arguably one of the best records of 2018 thus far, which you can order at this location.
The group goes beyond fairytales and fantasies as they deliver true tales of our morbid realities, with excellence. The band does not sugarcoat the pain and suffering life brings as it wasn’t too long ago when the group lost their drummer, Adam Sagan, back in 2016 after losing a battle to cancer. We spoke to Jake and Joseph about the new album, the loss of Warrel Dane, scattering Adam’s ashes on stage during 70,000tons of metal with Sagan’s brothers, and more.
A Prelude to Sorrow is an excellent album. You guys are only going up from here. The process and sound is very different and yet similar from Nocturnes and Requiems as though you’ve literally had a walk from hell to create one brilliantly depressing album. With that said, what made you create an even darker album?
Joseph – In all seriousness i’ve never been able to write about dragons or mythical creatures. I don’t like to compose lyrics about heroes or the greatest day ever. I like to leave that for other bands that seem to enjoy that sort of thing. When Adam (Sagan) was diagnosed: missing his flight to what would have been Witherfall’s first and Only photoshoot with him, it gave us no choice. Of course we would end up writing about Death and Time… When he became sicker and eventually died I considered it almost a mission to complete the story and make it more personal.
Jake – Thank you for the compliment! There was no preconceived thought about making A Prelude to Sorrow darker. It just happened naturally. It was kind of impossible for us not to make this record about Adam’s death. The composing of APS was the easiest and most fulfilling part. The making of the record was quite a nightmare.
How would you compare the two records?
Jake – Nocturnes and Requiems was more of Joseph and I just getting to know each other as writers where as A Prelude to Sorrow is a songwriting team becoming one entity. I think besides the aforementioned dark mood found throughout A Prelude to Sorrow, the songs are a little more focused. Bigger choruses and more distinct melodies. All the virtuosic playing that was found all over Nocturnes and Requiems can be found on this but it comes from a more emotional dark and aggressive side.
Joseph – I don’t think you can compare them. They are about two different worlds. Nocturnes being about what goes on inside the mind. Prelude is very much about the “corporal”. I’ve seen some reviewers mistakenly get some sort of spiritual concept from the album, especially vintage. Make no mistake this is a record grounded in harsh reality.
For those who are unfamiliar, can you share a bit about Witherfall and how it came together?
Jake – Joseph and I were in a band together in 2013 (White Wizzard) and initially bonded over our love for classical compositions and King Diamond. When that band fell apart on tour in the UK we decided we wanted to form Witherfall and pretty much model it as what a heavier version of Queen would be. Adam Sagan and I worked together on a record in 2010 and was the first choice for the drummer he wrote great drum patterns and was just an amazing guy. Anthony Crawford joined Witherfall during the recording of our debut Nocturnes and Requiems back in 2014. His bass playing is like no other and really has put his stamp on being a part of the Witherfall sound. We recruited Steve Bolognese after Adam’s death. The songwriting team of Witherfall has always been Joseph and I. Our vision for what we want has made us quite difficult to work for just because our eye for detail and perfection is psychotic. I applaud everyone on our team who has stuck it out with us.
The metal community have been losing more artists each year reminding us all on how fragile and temporary life is. You guys seem to carry this with you for obvious reasons after losing Adam Sagan. We can also speak in literal terms since it was incredible to see you toss his ashes on stage at your first live show from 70000tons of metal earlier this year. What was that experience like for you?
Jake – that show to begin with was a very stressful time. Doing a debut show at a major festival like 70K put a lot of pressure on us. It was always Adam’s dream to play 70K so when the idea of having his ashes spread onstage was approached to us by his two brothers, Nate and Gordo, Joseph and I immediately thought it would be a great send off. When it happened onstage right before “Nobody Sleeps Here…” it was a very eerie beautiful moment.
Joseph – Well, I didn’t immediately think it was a good idea to dispose of a body on a cruise ship. The laws are many and nebulous. Of course that night we drank about a gallon of wine with the Sagan brothers and decided we needed to take the risk.
Death circles us all but you seem to keep these artists alive through music, which also includes your help with carrying the legacy of Warrel Dane. What made you decide to sing for Sanctuary on their tour with Iced Earth, which your bandmate Jake is also part of?
Joseph – Well, Jon Schaffer is the one to thank for making the connection.
Jake – I originally got the call from Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth) on New Year’s Eve asking if Joseph would be interested. He had heard Nocturnes and figured Joseph was the guy to best pay tribute to Warrel. My liver and other things still hurt from that tour.
Joseph – Ok. Yes so i message Jon: he puts me in contact with Lenny (Rutledge – Sanctuary, guitar) and we sort of hit it off. As far as my personal decision to do it, I knew I was the best person for this. There are plenty of singers that can hit High A’s in Falsetto. But Warrel’s work, especially on the early Sanctuary records was demented. It was Dark. The songs they wrote were about something and needed to be delivered with passion. The stage show needed to be somber to pay tribute but also rip heads off to do the name Sanctuary justice.
I heard Sanctuary were possibly going to continue as a group with you as the singer. What’s been happening with that and is there anything that you can reveal about a possible new Sanctuary album?
Joseph – I have been flying up to Seattle a few times a month to work with Lenny, Dave (Budbill – Sanctuary, drums) and George (Hernandez – Sanctuary, bass). We just did a photo shoot. As soon as i’m done typing i have to demo some songs.
I noticed you booked a date in January to join Ensiferum and Septicflesh’s tour. Is there something else we should know about, perhaps this is part of a separate Witherfall North American trek?
Jake – That Los Angeles date is our only North American show and actually our first show on our home soil as 70K was technically international waters. Probably why we did not get arrested for throwing our dead drummer onstage. Anyways, in November we will be doing a tour of Japan as support for Kamelot followed by a tour we can not announce yet in Europe out of respect to the headliners. It will be something very special though.
I knew you (Joseph) were the perfect person to tour with Sanctuary. This doesn’t happen to everyone but, when I first heard your vocals some time ago, I had a reaction that I only had once before in my life and no, that wasn’t when I heard the late Ronnie James Dio, which I know your voice gets compared with him a lot due to him being a blood relative of yours but, it was when I heard Warrel Dane’s vocals ages ago. Obviously there’s a difference between both vocals and we know having a distinct voice seems to run in your family but, can you talk more about your vocal training?
Joseph – Thank you so much. What I do takes so much work and maintenance (ie:not having fun) that it is amazing to be recognized for it. My training consisted of reading books on Vocal anatomy and already having an extensive musical background. I started out as a musician on guitar and moved to composition (pen and paper:no instrument). My advice for singers is to NOT TAKE LESSONS. There are plenty of singers out there that sound so similar. If you want to go to a coach to guide you at first to not get hurt that is fine. But you have to find your own voice. Really though, the most important part of my development was just hard work and having the musical background to be able to realize the melodies in my head.
What are your plans for next year?
Jake – Well the tours above we will be doing followed by more live appearances to promote A Prelude to Sorrow. We recorded a few bonus tracks that will be a part of something special. So more music will be released sooner rather than later.
Is there anything else you would like to add/say to your fans or something you want to mention about the new album?
Jake – Thank you for the great questions and for everyone that has supported Witherfall. A Prelude to Sorrow was not an easy record for us as it is a very raw emotional album that goes through all the stages of grief. We hope to see everyone on the road!
Joseph – Yes thank all of you for buying the record. I now have to get back to packaging all of the orders.