Let’s face it: 2020 has been a downer of a year for music. Not only have we lost Neil Peart and Eddie Van Halen, but live music has been one of many casualties of the pandemic. Like many artists who are juggling a desire to create and share new music with fans, Swarm of Eyes has been working on recording new material
The same quintet you know and love — vocalist Randy Carter, guitarists George O’Connor and Derrik Albertelli, bassist Jeff Grossman, and drummer Tommy Burke — have been making the most of the world’s lull in the action by creating new music and reinterpreting fan favorites. The band recently took to the studio to re-record “Turn Back to Light.”
Re-Recording “Turn Back to Light”
One of the newer additions to Swarm of Eyes’ live shows (Live shows! Remember those?!), “Turn Back to Light” was released as a single in late 2019. Fast-forward to 2020 and the Eyes guys are shaking off the dust, writing and practicing new material, and plotting a course for a brand new album. For now, they’re starting slow, taking a familiar song from their catalog and reinterpreting it.
Much like a daytime soap opera and Jesus Christ (insert obligatory Type O Negative-inspired “Jesus Christ looks like Randy” quip) , this isn’t the first time Swarm of Eyes has performed a resurrection.
Previously, the band re-recorded one of their signature songs, “Humanemic,” for their 2017 EP, We Go To War With the Weapons We Have. The song originally appeared on their debut album, Designing the Dystopia, and was recorded before drummer Tommy Burke and bassist Jeff Grossman joined the band. The new-and-improved “Humanemic” let the Eyes’ rhythm section put their stamp on the song, preserving a slice of the band’s live dynamic for posterity.
Working With “New” Producer, Mac Ritchey
For the new re-recording of “Turn Back to Light,” producer Mac Ritchey is in the control booth, steering the ship. Liner notes junkies and longtime fans of several of the Eyes’ guys former bands may recognize Ritchey as the production mastermind behind Motokops 2000’s album, Only Pieces Remain. While MK2K and Swarm of Eyes vocalist Randy Carter had worked with Mac Ritchey before, the rest of the band finally got a taste of working with the producer.
“What Mac brings is a LOT of experience, a VERY trained musical ear, and an eagerness to collaborate and create,” noted Carter. “He likes a challenge.”
A musician’s producer, Mac Ritchey has worked with a diverse range of artists spanning the gamut from metal to folk and adult contemporary. The common denominator is that Ritchey has a reputation for working with passionate, highly trained musicians and has an appreciation for the subtleties of not just a given genre, but for the intricacies of sound unique to each artist. It doesn’t hurt that the man makes his own stringed instruments, too.
“He’s so good at working in Pro Tools and editing it’s actually stunning,” continued Carter. He left everyone in the room amazed and singing his praises. He’s also just the nicest, most upbeat, sweetheart of a guy.”
Swarm of Eyes: Celebrating 10 Years of Live Shows in 2021
Re-recording “Turn Back to Light” with Mac Ritchey is just the first step in the band’s march toward 2021. In addition to being any year that’s NOT 2020, 2021 is special because it marks 10 years of Swarm of Eyes playing live shows together as a fully-fledged five-member band. The group hopes to mark the occasion with fresh material to satiate fans hungering for heavy music.
“The plan is to have a whole new EP of songs and a brand new set to play live once venues open back up, sometime next year,” observed Carter.
While 2020 has been pretty damn abysmal, there’s a “Light” at the end of the tunnel — at least in the form of new Swarm of Eyes music on the horizon and the promise of live shows when fans and bands can safely return to clubs and concert halls. For now, it’s all about mining the time spent in solitude to create something together.
Not since Chinese Democracy have metal fans been so eagerly anticipating a release! And while it may or may not be as disappointing, by gum, Swarm of Eyes’ second album is coming soon! The band’s sophomore effort, We Go to War with the Weapons We Have, is scheduled for a January 6th, 2017 release date with cover art and visuals designed by the one and only Mike D’Antonio of Killswitch Engage, via his art production house DarkicoN Design.
Fans will hear an evolution of the band’s sound that retain elements from their 2012 debut, Designing the Dystopia, and combines Big 4-style riffs with modern metal production. The end result is an addictive strain of thrash-y doom metal that leaves a distinctive imprint of destruction in its wake.
Produced by Dave “Weirdbeard” McCafferty and Swarm of Eyes guitarist George O’Connor, the album features four brand new tracks, two cover songs, and a re-recorded “Humanemic” from the band’s debut disc. Whereas the original “Humanemic” was recorded before bassist Jeff Grossman and drummer Tommy Burke joined the band, this new version features all five members of Swarm of Eyes bringing their talents to the track.
our shameless shill at the end of this news bulletin the track listing and pre-order your copy today. (Shipping 01/06/2017).
“Santa Claus is Coming,” so you better beware. Don’t put out the cheap cookies and hang your stockings with care.
In what’s becoming a holiday tradition, Swarm of Eyes has released a dark, minor chord-laden cover of the classic Christmas carol, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” — the perfect, ominous accompaniment to power-elbowing your way through crowds this Black Friday. (Go ahead. You deserve that $20 toaster oven!)
The song, available on Bandcamp is a taste of things to come on the band’s upcoming EP, We Go to War with the Weapons We Have, which is scheduled for an early 2017 release. The band also put together a video for the single, featuring the work of 18 different artists — spanning the gamut from seasoned veterans to up-and-comers, each serving up a creepy Kris Kringle of their own demented imaginings.
Recording the song came together quickly. “A massive amount of credit goes to Derrik [Albertelli] for making a one-off comment I said into a reality,” said George O’Connor of his fellow Swarm of Eyes guitarist. “I floated the idea of doing a dark, minor-key version of ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ to him. He took the idea and came back with the chord structures and progressions. We got together and started messing around with the parts and arranging them together.”
The musical arrangement took the duo roughly a week to complete an record before Randy came in to record vocals. “I think Randy’s vocal attack, along with Derrik’s arrangement, highlight the darker aspects of the song. It’s actually pretty foreboding when you slow it down and really listen to the lyrics,” explained George.
The concept for the video matches the ominous tone of Swarm of Eyes’ rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Strapped for time and rather than throwing together a humdrum “video” with just the band’s logo and lyrics, the band enlisted the aid of 18 talented artists to offer their own renderings of sinister Santas. A mix of working professional comic and industrial artists alongside talented up-and-comers, the diverse range of contributors complement Swarm of Eyes’ creepy Christmas card to the metal world.
“After years of creating comics and going to conventions, I now know several talented artists. So, I threw it out to them and my other friends to draw their version of what a creepy Santa would look like,” said O’Connor, the author of several indie comic titles himself. “There were no rules, so they were all free to put their spin on the idea. What we got back was incredible. When someone watches the video, they’ll be able to see some fantastic art that fits the vibe of the song. And I’m thrilled to introduce these artists to everyone.”
Watch the video for yourself on YouTube