In 2015 Danish progressive metal purveyors The Vision Ablaze returned with their new release, a full-length album titled Youtopia inspired by Thomas Moore’s Utopia. We sat down with guitarist Marcus Gronbech and talked about the album, but we also cover other topics in the interview below.
There are people who feel everything that can be done with guitar has been done. What is your reaction to that perspective?
It depends on the perspective – to us saying everything has been done before feels like defeatism. To others it might prove to be a driving force, spurring them on to attain incredible skill on the guitar – you know the wiz kids on youtube who’ll shred people’s faces off and have the debate in the comments whether or not shredding is devoid of emotion. To us, it’s much more important to have great melodies and song structures – an art that seems sometimes forgotten in the race for uniqueness. We try to do something spectacular every once in a while, but never at the cost of the song as a whole. So instead of trying to outdo the mass of extremely talented guitarists out there – we pick a fight that makes more sense to us: use the guitars to help the music great, use them for emotion, nerve, intensity and dynamics.
Following my question from above, have you ever been struggling with such thoughts during the writing process of your new album Youtopia? And not only when it comes to guitar, but the music you presented on the album, overall.
To be honest – not really. We were concerned with writing and recording songs that would make us feel – and hopefully would make our fans feel too. We have been very concerned with emotions that our music conveys – goose bumps or raised fists? While we’re not completely free of wanting to do something out of the ordinary, we try to stay focused on the aspects that help us do better songs. We did a lot of vocal harmonies and we always try to push ourselves further – but perhaps the vocals are the best example of something that’s unusual in metal – the clean parts in particular.
Describe the journey Youtopia chronicles.
It’s about waking up. The first song is a wake-up call, crying for us to open our eyes and rebel against authorities that rule through lies and manipulation. The songs take the listener through a critique of faded beliefs and blind worship and explores the possibilities of change – and finding the strength and means for that change inside yourself, rather than through external means.
In which measure this music represents your opinions and interpretation of the world today, and all the problems that surround it?
The entire album is one big observation about problems we see in the world around us. How the balance is off, how mankind seems to be locked in a state of mind that diminishes our future. In particular political, economical and religious regimes. That’s the broad perspective – but we also look inward – to the individual’s ability to reinvent illusions and lies to keep hurtful truths at bay. It seems many lies are easier to live with, than fighting for a higher truth.
And how much Youtopia is personal? What are some of the experiences you thread through the album’s lyrics?
Youtopia is personal on the level that we pour all our emotions into it. We come from a part of the world where hardship is for the few and so we can only comment and observe on the hardship of others. However, there are other experiences in such a world that leads to shuddering realizations that we put into our songs. There’s always a basic and personal experience buried in the songs, but we always bring it out to be more than that. ‘Monster’ is perhaps the most personal song on the album along with ‘Under The Killing Moon’.
What inspired Youtopia in the first place? Do you recall the initial idea that started it all?
We were going through the main themes of our album before giving it the title ‘Youtopia’. We discussed at length about naming it ‘Outopia’, inspired by Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ but realized that it, perhaps, had a more negative ring to it: outopia is Greek for ‘no place’. We wanted a slightly more positive vibe to the title, since the artwork was so menacing. We felt that More’s ‘Utopia’ was a great source of inspiration and that the theme tied in really well with what we wanted to highlight on the album. We believe that ‘Utopia’ – that perfect place – may not exist as a physical place, but rests inside of yourself – alas the title was re-arranged to be ‘Youtopia’.
How were you able to channel your energy during the turbulent process such as creating a body of art—in this case Youtopia?
With every beat of the drum, strum of chord and syllable. We feel we put our hearts and souls into this – all of our energies combined – both fragile and volatile. That’s why our music is full of contrast – and why it has an air of something epic to it. It’s always dramatic and transparent too. We think it’s absolutely impossible to create great music without energy and emotion. So we put anger, violence, love, despair and everything in between in our songs. And that’s the energy you’ll feel when you listen to it.
What are positive and what negative sides of being an independent artist from your angle?
Best thing is being able to write the music we want to without fearing economic reprisals or loss. It gives us the opportunity to shape the band into what we want it to be. On the negative side it’s a difficult job to keep a band going without a PR team, bookers and managers – there’s not much help to find and it’s very difficult to break through the throng of other artists.
What are your plans now after the album has been out for some time?
Playing shows! We simply need to come out and meet our fans. Both in Denmark and Europe. So we’re planning that and we’re making plans for the next two years (when to start writing the next album, when to record music videos, etc). But the most important thing for us now is to play shows and hopefully spread the music wider!
Follow The Vision Ablaze on Facebook.