Forsaken with Paz
The Spectre Beneath is a prog/power metal band from the north-west of England, not too far from Manchester. We began in 2018, and Pete initially brought along drummer Consta Taylor, who plays with him in Plague and the Decay, and long-time collaborator and vocalist Katy Lennon. He then found singer L. Lockser from an online demo, and they released their debut album, The Downfall of Judith King, in September 2019. They followed this with ‘The New Identity of Sidney Stone’ in November 2020, which was picked up by WormHoleDeath Records and re-released in May 2021. Later that year, when recording the follow-up, L Lockser started having issues with her throat and stepped down from vocalist, leaving the band at a crossroads. Because of the belief in the new songs, they decided to carry on and search for a new singer. Two years later, The Spectre Beneath finally returned with new singer Stevie and their latest album, The Ashen Child.
The Ashen Child has six brand-new songs, and it’s going down quite well. One reviewer said, “The Ashen Child is a perfect expansion, all in all, to The Spectre Beneath’s discography, which by now should demand some attention; these guys are a shining, revolutionary star on the progpower heavens and with The Ashen Child prove themselves masters of the craft.”
It’s a relief to get such a reaction because the last couple of years have seen a couple of obstacles we’ve had to overcome, as well as finding a new singer after our original vocalist had to step down due to medical reasons. So, The Ashen Child is an important release for us, and while it’s short compared to our first two albums, we wanted to get something out there. We had six songs complete and four others still in their early stages, so we decided to release the songs and roll the other four tracks over for a quick follow-up. The album has all our hallmarks, though: fast pace, brooding moments, powerful vocals, harmonies and a nice bit of shredding.
Hurdle-wise, I’m trying to finish the vocals; we went through the ringer with them. The whole thing was recorded with our previous singer, but early on, we could tell something was off; her usual power and delivery in the top lines was not as it once was. It turned out she was having issues with her throat, and upon advice from her doctor and vocal coach, she stepped down. Finding someone to replace who gave The Spectre Beneath a fairly unique sound proved very difficult. We tried six good singers, but they needed that tone we were after. After 18 months of soul-destroying searching, we happened upon the powerful talents of Stevie, and she agreed to sing for us.
Highlights-wise, Time Dilation is one of my favorites, but The Ashen Child: New Home stands out. It was meant to be a ballad, but I put a slow, heavy riff after the piano intro, and it went on from there. There are a couple of tasty chord changes in it, which are very effective, and Stevie’s vocal is my favorite on the album; it just gives me chills. Also, there’s no solo in it, which is amazing when you compare it to every other song we’ve done. There was a solo, but we cut it because it dragged the song; the instrumental break and riff were enough.
Katy and I tend to write most of the music; however, I and long-time collaborator Paul Dutton penned the track, As Far As The Eye Can See. We’ve been in bands together for years, and he has an excellent ear for melody, especially for heavy, mellow music. I sent him the music, and he came up with the melody. It did have a chugging middle section after the solo, but after Stevie put her outstanding vocal on it, it just took all the pace out of the song, so it was cut, hence why it’s less than five minutes.
The artwork does fit the music. Thematically, it fits with the Ashen Child. Although we toyed with the idea of cameras looking at a child, the final artwork is more from the child’s point of view and has a haunting quality, befitting the slower, more brooding tracks on the album. Granted, it’s not got demons, monsters or anything dungeons and dragons related, probably because we don’t fit neatly into power or thrash metal, but as a concept, it works.
Initially, the album cover would be a woman looking at a horde of zombies. This was when the album was going to be called Forsaken. Instead, we used that for the single Forsaken… We All Fall. This was done by Cosmas Hiolos from Krieg Design; he also did the Forsaken video and a couple of our previous videos. The brief was a woman looking upon some zombies, and that was it because it was representative of the song.
However, the final cover by Grandfailure had to reflect The Ashen Child and her incarceration and subsequent ‘observation’. As the songs were from the ashen child’s point of view, it had to be a view from her perspective, not an invasive angle looking down upon her. The colours were vibrant but bleak simultaneously, and it was important to have a human element in there. One of the tips I was given when I designed my book covers is to have a human part in the picture; it comes across as a little more relatable and appealing.
Initially, The Ashen Child was going to be called Forsaken because, thematically, each track was about a forsaken soul. However, some songs were about Judith King, the woman to whom four tracks were dedicated on our debut album. Judith King is The Ashen Child, and the two songs dedicated to her on this release describe how she was separated from her friends and imprisoned in a ‘luxurious’ house only to escape. The seed of the Judith King idea came from Alma, the girl in the Fear game series, but I wanted it to be more about her and how the things that happen to her affect her behavior and mindset. Forsaken, We All Fall is about a woman surviving a zombie apocalypse. I love zombie movies and games. Train to Busan and Dying Light are standouts for me.
Refuse of the Past is based on the Charlton Heston film The Omega Man, a movie that stuck with me, but I’m not sure why. It’s not even my favourite of the ‘I Am Legend’ movies. It’s because I love the look and feel of 70s cinema.
Time Dilation is a love story across time and space where a man who lives at one end of a colony spaceship goes to see his love, who lives at the other end of the spacecraft. However, the ship is near a black hole, and time is going faster at the man’s side of the ship; it takes him over fifty years to reach his love, only to die in her arms. It’s very sad but sweet at the same time. The idea of the black hole and time dilation came from an episode of Dr Who; as soon as I watched it, the idea of a relationship that crossed time instantly came to mind.
Thoughts on free speech? We need more speech; we need people talking, understanding, and listening to each other. At times, free speech seems under threat when you’re told you can’t say this or that word; how can you have a world where you’re worried that one off-handed comment will get you reported to the police, cancelled, in front of H.R., etc… It’s ridiculous. Although it comes across as media-driven, I am willing to jump on any tawdry story for clicks, likes and views. The vast majority of people are rather sensible, respectful and lovely people.
The Spectre Beneath has had a couple of questionable reviews where the reviewer either didn’t understand what we’re trying to achieve or blatantly hadn’t done their homework and was factually incorrect. Still, it’s all part and parcel of living in a free society; you must take the rough with the smooth; it’s part of life. I may disagree with what they said about the band and music, but I’ll defend their right to say it. And as it happened, I took one of their points on board because I was willing to listen.