British heavy metal is in a wonderful place right now, with an abundance of exciting bands emerging from the underground and hammering away at the glass ceiling of the mainstream. Anyone who chucked themselves headfirst into a moshpit at June’s Download Pilot would know this – with travel restrictions preventing international acts from playing, it instead became a showcase of British metal talent that might as well have been a metalhead’s Christmas come early.
If anyone is leading the charge, it’s Employed To Serve. After breaking through back in 2015 with debut album ‘Greyer Than You Remember’, the Woking metallers got critics and fans sitting up straight and listening intently with acclaimed follow-up records ‘The Warmth of a Dying Sun’ in 2017 and ‘Eternal Forward Motion’ in 2019. Momentum is only set to grow with their fourth album ‘Conquering’, a mighty and metallic yet uplifting statement of intent.
Justine Jones caught up with us to tell us its story…
How and when did ‘Conquering’ start to materialise?
We had two demos written prior, like in 2019, just rough things on our hard drives. It wasn’t until summer 2020 that pretty much the whole album got written because everything was obviously on shutdown and there was nothing else you could do. We were still very enthusiastic because we just come back from a headlining tour, and we had such a great time. It was in that optimistic lockdown. I think, where everyone was like ‘Oh, we can get stuff done, you know?’
Did that have an influence over the more positive lyrical stance you went for this time around?
Yeah it did, but I think we always sort of wanted to go in a more positive direction. I still listen to those bands who have a lot of really downtrodden lyrics about all the horrible things that are going on in the world, and they do that well, but we really wanted to be an antidote to that, because no one wants to listen to sad things at the minute. I’ve always liked albums, like Hatebreed’s ‘Perseverance’ - I put that on anytime I need a pick-me-up. Music is a form of therapy and I find that when I write negative lyrics, it perpetuates my mood. If I really don’t want to feel down in the dumps, the last thing I want to do is write negative lyrics. Plus with the pandemic, we were in such a fortunate situation. I was able to work through the whole thing with a roof over my head and food on the table and I was lucky enough to live near my loved ones. I know a lot of people who had a really bad time and I think sometimes it’s so easy to concentrate on the negative. I was bummed out about not going to shows but at the end of the day, I’m still breathing.
How did you find recording during winter 2020? It must have coincided with another lockdown, or at least the threat of it.
We made a bubble and did lateral flow tests and stuff like that, and we managed to sort of get around it quite easily, but it was a bit weird. It’s quite apocalyptic. Driving when there’s nobody there, especially on the M3 as it’s always packed. Yeah. So yeah, it was quite a nice distraction to be honest because most people struggle with winter as it is because of the lack of sunshine, and obviously we’re effectively evolved plants. It was quite nice to have something productive to do really.
Why did you shift towards more of a straight-up metal sound for this album?
We’ve always kind of had it in mind that we sort of wanted to go into this direction, because that was what made sense for us. All of our songs that are more metal orientated, and have more of a verse-chorus structure were the most fun to play live, and they always got the best feedback from fans as well. We wanted to make this record a statement record which would be completely different to our other albums, while still retaining our original sound. We’ve also got a whole new lineup. Our new drummer Casey is more geared up to metal drumming, like he likes using the double kick and things like that, our new guitarist David is also in a death metal band and Nathan, who’s been in the band for a couple years now is sort of more metal minded as well. It just kind of made sense.
You’ve said that you wanted to push your musical capabilities more on this record. How did you try and do that?
We spent a lot of time on each song, trying to really pull it apart. How we sort of usually work is that Sammy [Urwin, guitarist] will demo a song, I programme some basic drums over it and then sort of send it over a WhatsApp group and then everyone has their own input either over the internet or at practice. There was a lot of that going on. We also tried to work out how to structure songs better. And I feel like we have quite a good way of sort of working but we are quite self critical. Sometimes, we pull a song apart and use bits of it to make another song. It was just about taking our time and we had a lot of that over the lockdown.
‘Conquering’ is out now via Spinefarm.