Interview with Pete Worrall of THE SPECTRE BENEATH

Guitarist and composer Pete Worrall of UK progressive metal band The Spectre Beneath speaks for Rocking Charts what it took to come up with the release of band’s debut album “The Downfall of Judith King.”

Hey Pete. How are you doing?

I’m good thank you, I have a couple of days off so I’m catching up on some admin and doing an ‘Alan Partridge’ by watching all the bond films in order…I wish I was joking.

You have recently launched your debut full-length album with The Spectre Beneath entitled “The Downfall of Judith King.” How do you feel about the release?

After having serious doubts during The Spectre Beneath’s early days, whether it would all come together and if I was doing the right thing, the finished album exceeded my expectations and then some. I still get a thrill listening back to it and people seem to be enjoying it as well.

How much of a challenge was to work on the album?

I’d only finished an album by my other band, ‘Plague and the Decay’, in January so starting something new while that album was being completed did not seem the best time to take on another project. In the end, I think it helped because it meant I could keep working on refining the tracks over a longer period of time.  ‘The Downfall of Judith King’ is a collection of tracks I had initially earmarked for other projects but the style of the songs were more melodic but quite bombastic at the same time and I felt, collectively, they would make a strong album on their own.

Drummer Consta Taylor plays with ‘Plague and the Decay’ so I knew he had the chops for the faster and more intricate material and he agreed to come on board. However, finding a singer proved to be a challenge.

I listened to a lot of singers, some of them were incredible, but I was after a particular tone. Unfortunately, I did not know what tone that was, I just knew as soon as I heard it, I would know. I initially did not set out to find a female vocalist, but I was leaning that way because I think female vocals in metal, symphonic metal aside, have a lot of unexplored potential. But after months of searching and almost giving up on the female vocal idea, I stumbled across a cover of a Japanese rock song, ‘Sweet Sweet Cendrillon Drug’ sung by L Lockser, and I instantly knew it was the tone I was looking for, rich, warm but with depth and power. Luckily for me, ‘L’ was keen to get involved.

However, when we first started recording the album something did not feel right. We had already recorded two tracks, ‘Mrs Lovett’s Pies’ and ‘Teach Yourself Guitar (Step 2)’ but, to me, they were flat and lacking energy in all departments. I was worried because what I had envisaged was not being captured and I doubted myself both as a song-writer and producer and questioned whether I was doing the right thing with the songs. 

In the end, I re-recorded some of the guitars, changed the guitar tone and remixed the drums in the demo. I then went back to ‘L’, gave her a link to Kobra Paige singing ’50 Shades of Evil’ and said, ‘give the songs some of that Kobra fire and attitude’. I still don’t know if she listened to the link, I hope so because Kobra Paige is superb, but the vocals in ‘As the Crows Peck at your Bones’ was the result and I remember listening to it with a stupid grin on my face because it was exactly what I had been hearing in my head. The vibrato shrill at the end of the first bridge still gives me chills. We re-recorded the first two songs and suddenly the whole project was beginning to come alive.

What other artists similar to your genre that are coming from UK are you friends with?

None really. The only band from the UK I was friends with was Triaxis from South Wales. I even tried to join twice but I lived too far away. Sadly, they’ve called it a day but one of the guitar players, Glyn Williams, is now with Power Quest and the bass player, Becky Baldwin is now with Hands off Gretel.

What is your opinion about the current metal scene?

Personally, I don’t really follow any Metal scenes so I am not sure I can comment on it. However, I help out with a YouTube channel where we listen to a lot of new and unknown bands from across the globe. From the music I’ve heard, Metal, in regards to an underground music perspective, is in quite a healthy place, there are a lot of musicians creating a lot of good new music. Artists such as ‘In Mourning’, ‘The Paralydium Project’, ‘Dark Water’ and ‘Whispered’ have been my recent picks from the channel. Japan seem to be churning out great metal bands as well such as ‘Unlucky Morpheus’, ‘LoveBites’, ‘Erebos’ and ‘Devil Within’ as well as long stayers such as Ningen Isu who, thanks to YouTube, are going through a resurgence. Indonesia has Deadsquad, BurgerKill and Seringai and America have been producing some tasty power metal of late with Helion Prime, Judicator and Dire Peril. I’m subscribed to several YouTube channels that specialise in finding unknown power metal, progressive metal, new wave of traditional metal, new wave of thrash metal. It’s all very exciting and encouraging and proves there’s great music out there.

What worries me is that next year’s Download headliners are Kiss, Iron Maiden and System of a Down. The next tier down are Deftones, Korn, The Offspring and Disturbed who are great and can pull in the punters but there doesn’t seem to be any new bands emerging and making a huge mark on the metal scene in regards to sales, exposure and success to the point where they could headline Download or other such festivals and carry the metal torch long into the future. There are great bands with very talented musicians that don’t get enough recognition or can build enough of an audience, why? Is it a lack of exposure? I don’t know and I’m not sure what the answer is. It may need a band to sacrifice themselves in the mainstream media to draw attention back to rock and metal to get the whole genre back into the mindset of the people.

Pete Worrall

Can you tell me something about your influences?

I grew up on Iron Maiden. I remember liking metal’s breakthrough songs in passing on TV and the radio, tracks such as Run to the Hills, Ace of Spades, You Shook me all Night Long etc… but it wasn’t until my friend gave me a copy of Iron Maiden’s ‘Number of the Beast’ that I became hooked. Listening to the opening track, Invaders, was like the flicking of a switch. I just loved the energy, the pace, the musicianship. Looking back, it was one of those moments where my life changed forever, that’s what metal does. 

I’ve always had a love for the faster elements of Iron Maiden and metal in general, so embracing Megadeth and Helloween was not a huge step and I could not get enough of the dual axe attack, the twin harmonies, the solo trading. I still love it to this day, anyone who listens to ‘The Downfall of Judith King’ will attest to this as the album is littered with those types of guitar breaks. 

Even though Savatage’s early albums only had one guitar player, Criss Oliva, the guitar work, Jon Oliva’s raspy vocal style and the huge metal anthems such as ‘Beyond the Doors of the Dark’ and ‘Gutter Ballet’ was an instant draw for me. In fact, I have to admit, the last third of ‘The Plotting of Judith King’ is straight out of the Savatage handbook. I also liked the fact that a lot of their songs, similarly with Iron Maiden and Dio, were short stories, flash fiction in lyrical form so to speak. So, when I heard Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime for the first time, I was transfixed, which is why ‘The Downfall of Judith King’ has songs that are both conceptually linked and stand along songs about Mrs Lovett and her delicious pies or someone who is spied upon by an AI via a shelf of dolls.

But I think the biggest influence on how I approach songs and albums is Overkill’s ‘The Years of Decay’. For me, it is a perfect blueprint of writing a diverse but credible album. No two songs on that album sound alike but they’re all totally Overkill. In my opinion, this is a skill that’s very difficult to master. It’s not my favourite Overkill album, that’s ‘Horrorscope’, but from a structure, balance and creative aspect, ‘The Years of Decay’ is a masterpiece.

What are you listening to these days?

Unleash The Archer’s Apex album is still being spun regularly, what a great album that is. 

Cellar Darling is a personal favourite of mine and their new album, ‘The Spell’, is a cracker. Progressive, dark and with enough metal tropes in the mix to keep people like me happy, all topped off with Anna Murphy’s super vocal talents. My other go-to albums at present are the Sabbath-esque Devil Electric’s debut and Jack the Joker’s ‘Mors Volta’.

From old school bands, the new albums by Xentrix, Queensryche and Diamond Head are really strong as well, the latter especially and could be one of my albums of the year.

Your 5 favourite records of all the time?

Devin Townsend – Ocean Machine

In my opinion, Devin has never bettered this epic album. The songs, the flow, the atmosphere, sheer perfection.

Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime

Great songs, great lyrics, a masterpiece.

Megadeth – Rust in Peace

The guitar work is savage, the songs are some of the genre’s best. Rust In Peace is a huge influence on me.

Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time

I grew up on Iron Maiden and Somewhere in Time just hit the spot when I needed it the most. It’s fast, melodic and with some great lead work from Smith and Murray.

Savatage – Hall of the Mountain King

This is probably where I get my love of bombastic anthems comes from. 

Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you used to record “The Downfall of Judith King”?

I used to play Jackson and Ibanez guitars until I bought a Dave Mustaine signature Angel of Deth. I loved the feel of it so I bought a couple more Dean Guitars. Most of the album was recorded with that plus a Dean MAB7X 7-string and 850X 8-string guitar. I still use my Ibanez 550 as well. All the rhythm guitars went through a TH-U Metal plugin whereas the leads were through Boss FX though a Marshall cab.

Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?

From early feedback it seems ‘The Downfall of Judith King’ is going down quite well. In fact, one reviewer has already said, ‘To put it shortly, The Downfall of Judith King is probably one of the best albums of this year….the trio come together to create of 2019’s finest debuts.’ This still blows me away because you never know how your music will be received, you just do the best you can.

I have the next two albums planned out and most of it is already written with an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality, and I’d like to have one of them out next year. After those two albums I’d like to tell the full Judith King story. I already have about half of it written. It’s a little more progressive and more akin to songs such as ‘The Questioning of Judith Soams’ and ‘The Plotting of Judith King’. It’d be nice to squeeze some live performances in as well at some point but we’ll need some more members for that.

Any words for the potential new fans?

If you like power metal and progressive metal but don’t want to go too far in either direction, ‘The Downfall of Judith King’ is the album for you. The prog/power middle ground so to speak. As one reviewer said, “Give it time, give it listens, let it grow, let it get under your skin.” 

“The Downfall of Judith King” is out now; grab it from Bandcamp here.