Heralded as the next big thing during the mid 80s and signed to a 7 album deal by Epic Records, Fifth Angel were truly blessed with the world at their feet. Yet 2 years later and it was all over for the band. Now, 30 years on and they have returned with a stunning comeback album as true to their initial magic. Shan Siva talks to bassist John Macko and drummer / backing vocalist Ken Mary.
1.Wow, I can’t believe that after 30 years, I’m actually hearing something from Fifth Angel so congratulations on coming back with such a superb album! Let me go back to the very beginning (for some of our younger readers) in what was the motivation to starting the band, a lotta people said that you were heavily influenced by Queensrÿche but didn’t Metal Church also re-locate to Seattle at the time, so you must’ve had a thriving scene?
KEN: Thank you for your kind words, it is wonderful that the new album is getting such an amazing reception! Yes, we were part of a thriving metal community in Seattle when we started. The bands that came out of that era were bands like Queensryche, Metal Church, Sanctuary, Heir Apparent, and many others. Our motivation was really that we loved metal music and were influenced by bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. That’s what we grew up on, so we wrote our own songs with that influence. It was really quite a remarkable time for Seattle, and we had bands breaking out that had super amounts of talent!
2.Your self titled debut was initially released by cutting edge Shrapnel Records but then Epic signed you. Was it true it was for 7 albums – that must’ve been a record for a metal band ha ha! That said, for such a happening name, the line up seemed to fluctuate with members leaving so why was that given your success..?
KEN: Yes, we did sign a seven album multi-million dollar deal with Epic, which at the time was the biggest record company in the world. Some of the personnel changes early on were really more personality and the ability to work together than anything else. I know everyone says “creative differences” all the time. It really was not that; just the ability to get along well and be around each other a lot. Bands are like families, and sometimes you have some people that are great people on their own, but you put them together in an environment like a band and there is some friction! That being said, we all seem to get along these days, and we did reach out to former members about being on this current album as well. James Byrd would have been on it, except that he was moving his household as we were reaching our deadline for delivering the record to the label. We currently have 4 out of 5 of the members from the Time Will Tell lineup as well.
3.How did it all finally end for Fifth Angel – I’ve heard tales of the band members just going their ways to Epic dropping the band anticipating the winds of change in grunge?
KEN: That’s true as well. Ironically the grunge wave grew out of Seattle, our hometown and Fifth Angel and many other metal bands and producers were pushed out of the industry. We ended up losing our deal with Epic as a result of grunge. It was very unfortunate timing really. But that’s the music industry; you just never know what will happen so if you want stability you may want to get a job at a software company, lol. That being said, it was really too bad that we were not more established before that whole scene hit. I believe we would have survived it and perhaps thrived during it if that had been the case. Queensryche did well during that period, but they were established much earlier than we were.
4.Moving onto the reunion, how did you guys feel when you were contacted by Keep It True – had you even heard of the festival before?!
JOHN: It was really quite a surprise. We had not heard of the festival before, but when we looked into it it was an amazing festival and suited perfectly to Fifth Angel. The amazing response we received from the fans gave us the energy to move forward with plans for the record. Truly, if it were not for the support of our fans for over 30 years, we would not have recorded “The Third Secret.”
5.What was your feeling after the show, and was it a big inspiration in the line up being maintained to record “The Third Secret”.
JOHN: Yes, the reception was overwhelming. 5,000 fans were singing the words to every song we played. It was definitely an inspiration to keep our lineup, and also to give us the energy to move forward working on new material. We had done that unsuccessfully a few times already.
6.I can’t believe how high the standard is in every aspect of the album (hence my 5 star review!) from composing to the musicianship so can you tell me some aspects about its recording please, like was it a collaborative involvement in the songwriting and how long that process took?
KEN: Wow, thank you for the incredible review! It was really about a 6 to 7 month process. Once we settled on Kendall singing, things moved very quickly. The songs just seems to flow out of us, and it was music that for the first time we really loved ourselves. We had tried to do other recordings with other singers, and they were great singers as well. But the issue was it did not sound like Fifth Angel. For the first time in many years, once Kendall sang the sound was easily recognisable as Fifth Angel. We really wanted to make sure if we were going to do a new album that the fans would connect with the material like they did on our first two albums. For that to happen, we needed to capture that elusive Fifth Angel “sound.” Whenever you change a singer, you’re going to have a challenge in front of you. It is a very identifiable part of who the band is. So once we had that issue settled, we felt we could actually complete the vision of “The Third Secret” and move forward with other plans as well. It was very much a collaborative effort. We all had to love every song ourselves before it was allowed onto the album.
7.How did you guys decide on what the actual sound would be i.e. recreating your past successes or going for something more conventional but still in the realms of US power metal to still be identifiable as Fifth Angel?
KEN: Well, we were a little anxious in the fact that we were following the first two Fifth Angel records, which are considered classics by a great many people and have stood the test of time for 30 years. So how do you follow up a classic? We had two basic rules; one was the songs had to “sound” like Fifth Angel and the second was that we all had to individually love the song before we put it on the record like I mentioned above. We wanted the songs to be all “killer” and “no filler!!” We followed those rules and put everything into it, so hopefully it will stand the test of time like the first two albums. The first three demos were “Stars Are Falling,” “Queen of Thieves,” and “We Will Rise.” Our goal was to make sure you could hear that is was Fifth Angel, and also to show growth as we would do naturally over three records. We are much better musicians than when we were younger, so we did not want to be afraid of showing off a little and maybe showing our musical growth and complexity as individuals. Of course, not at the expense of the songs either, but in a tasteful manner!
KEN: Well, so far it’s been pretty remarkable since we had a 29 year long coffee break!! Here are a few of the statements we’ve seen and some of the review scores: “Album of the year!,” “Fifth Angel have truly achieved a metal masterpiece with ‘The Third Secret,’” “A brilliantly amazing Power Metal comeback,” “A banger of a record that’s deserving of universal attention! “ “This album deserves to be considered a classic . . . it’s just one of those albums that every true metal fan must have!” “Pure metallic goose bumps!” and “It is absolutely superb!”
In terms of rankings “The Third Secret” reviews broke out fast into the #1 position on Soundcheck reviews from Rock Hard, Rock It, and Power Metal, and the #2 position on Deaf Forever and Metal.de. Impressive rankings continue to come in, of course the awesome Battle Helm 5/5, FFM-Rock.de 10/10, RockMagazine 10/10, Maximum Volume 9/10, Power Metal 9/10, Heavy Mag 5/5, Markus Heavy Music Blog 9/10, Zephyrs-Odem 9.5/10, My Revelations 14/15, Metal Hammer 6/7, Hardline 8.5/10, MetalForce.it 9/10, and Stormbringer 4.5/5.
So far so good, right?
9.My memory isn’t great but I can’t I remember any large scale touring by Fifth Angel back in the late 80s so was there a particular reason for that?
KEN: Yes, the timing was always a problem and we really wanted to build our fan base with radio, our records and videos before we hit the road. We had seen many bands burn themselves out playing clubs for 20 people tying to get somewhere. We always felt that if we made great music and used the industry to build our fan base it would be much easier for us. We just ran out of time when grunge hit. If that hadn’t happened, I believe there would have been a third album and things may have been very different as we were more or less achieving our goals until then.
10.That said, will there now be more activity on the live front from the band?
KEN: We’re certainly looking to see what the demand is. We are playing a couple of festivals as of this writing. It will all depend on the fans once again. If the demand is there, we will take the opportunities that come our way! And thank you so much for the awesome review and the great interview as well! We really appreciate your support, and we also want to say thank you to our amazing fans that have kept Fifth Angel’s music alive for over 30 years! Battle Helm rocks!!