Millennial Reign - Power Metalling On
The new album, The Great Divide, by Millennial Reign drops May 25 on Ulterium Records. I sat down with founding member and guitarist Dave Harvey for the following interview.
How important is album artwork to you? How does it interact with the music you are making?
I think it’s very important. It needs to reflect the album title and be eye catching. It should tell the story without words. Jan Yrlund did an awesome job capturing the feel of the new album title.
Your music is distributed in the US, Canada, Italy, France, Switzerland, Scandinavia, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Austria. What is your interaction with any/all of these countries? What have your overseas shows been like?
It’s very gratifying to see fans in different countries reacting to your releases. The internet and social media have made it possible to have conversations with people that you otherwise would never know or meet. We just played a Fest in Mexico last month but have yet to be invited to Europe. We’re fairly confident that will happen with this album release.
You changed membership by making some wholesale changes. Why did each of these guys leave? How do you respond to the idea that one person staying and everyone else leaving implies being hard to work with?
The guys who were around on the Carry The Fire lineup were also members of a local metal band here in the Dallas area, which was their first priority. After we finished the tour with Stryper and a couple more shows opening for national acts, they decided they wanted to focus more on the local band they had and dropped out of MR. I knew exactly who I wanted for the band, so I contacted Steve Nichols (drums) and Neil Bertrand (bass) to come on board. They were both interested and it's been a very good run since they joined. A few months later, James' construction business was taking up all his time. He decided he needed to focus primarily on his business, so we discussed it and approached Travis Wills for vocals. I had about 90% of the new album music written, so he began writing lyrics and recording demos to the music I sent him.
As far as what someone may or may not believe happened, that really doesn’t concern me.
How hard was it to let James go? Tell us about the way Travis came on board? Did you have any idea he might be a good replacement when he was just working on arrangements with y'all? What about his voice and personality made it seem like a good fit?
Well, it was disappointing to say the very least. We had spent a lot of time working in Steve and Neil, did one show with Hammerfall and then had that bombshell dropped. We understood his situation though, his business was his livelihood. We discussed a few potential candidates after James gave us notice and since Travis was already working with me on some keyboard tracks for the album, we decided to approach him. We knew he had not only vocal talent, but writing skills as well. That just made him the logical replacement at the time.
Tell us about the strengths and personalities of Neil, Steve, Travis and... (and yourself if you so dare!)...
It goes without saying, Steve and Neil are monster players. And as you’ve heard from the new album, Travis is an extremely talented singer and lyricist. I think everyone’s personality fits perfectly. It was definitely proven when we went to Mexico for Exodo Fest. We all got along extremely well and the peace of God was very present. I couldn’t have asked for better and more talented guys to fill the lineup.
What is the main theme of The Great Divide? What are some topics that individual songs bring up? I'm curious about "More than Scars," "Wounds in Hand" and the title track, based on the titles alone. As well as "The Day the Sun Stood Still" and "Imagine." Feel free to comment on each of the songs! Sometimes it's nice to have the artist elaborate on his creation. Use your judgment.
I think Travis could probably answer this a little better, but I’ll do my best to elaborate. "The Great Divide" is the separation between us and lost loved ones who have passed on. I’m sure everyone can relate to losing someone but knowing you’ll see them again. "More Than Scars" wasn’t just what Christ did for us, but the reason behind it. Picture a judge sentencing you to death for your crimes ... then that very same judge steps down from the bench and says “now I’m going to take your punishment in your place.” It really is hard to fathom a love like that. "Wounds In Hand" is something we all have experienced of being in a very low place and pulled out of the mire. "The Day The Sun Stood Still" tells the story of Joshua and the day that God stopped the sun in the sky to give him more time to defeat the enemy. Let that sink in for a minute ... think of the affect that had on people of everything coming to a complete stop in the sky. "Imagine" covers the relationships we have with people, especially close friends. It matters how we talk to people and what we have to say about them in their absence. Words are extremely powerful and have an everlasting effect. Imagine if we speak life and build up rather than tear down.
How was playing those shows last summer with Theocracy? I saw your show in Houston and really enjoyed it.
Thank you very much, we really enjoyed playing with them as well. Theocracy were a great bunch of guys and great musicians, plus they are an impressive band on stage. We definitely plan to do more shows together in the future.
Would you consider your music hobby metal? Full-time employment metal? Why or why not? I guess I'm referring to the job/gig and not the style, really. In addition to this question, what sort of advice would you give other musicians in making a go of it in 2018?
Well, as you know, the 80s are long gone. It’s a completely different industry now. All of us work full time jobs as well as being professional musicians. We take what we do very seriously though. It’s a passion that never goes away. My advice would be to never give up. Things didn’t actually start happening for me till later in life. Before that, it was just a long line of cover bands and a couple of original bands that never really went anywhere. Several years ago someone close to me actually said “Why don’t you just give it up?” What if I had listened to that?
It's easy for some of us to imagine symphonic power metal being close to the way music in heaven might be described. What are your thoughts on theology and music? Why does music move us the way it does?
I believe that’s really a simple answer ... God said to worship him with all sorts of instruments. Music was created to reach inside each and every one of us. Even with music that has no Christian message, there are certain songs that effect us in specific ways. Whether it be triggering certain memories or specific feelings. I think it’s safe to say, that the effects of music are definitely by design.
How does inspiration come to you in terms of composing a song? Please give us an example and break down the process.
A couple of different ways actually. Sometimes I’ll just start hearing a song riff in my head. Other times, I’ll sit down and start hammering out riffs until I come up with something I like. Once I get something rolling, I’ll spend a few days to a week or more writing out a complete song. Then I present the song to the band and we work on it in a rehearsal to get their ideas, make changes and write their own parts.
Your thoughts on the Stryper album title?
It doesn’t bother me at all. They knew exactly what they were doing when they came up with it. By design, it created a whole lot of talk and focus on the new album ... very smart. We toured with them last year on the THWTD 30th Anniversary so I still talk to Mike and Oz occasionally. After the album title reveal stirred everything up, I told Mike it was THWTD 2.0 and he definitely knew what he was doing (laughs). We’ll be opening for them again in Houston and Dallas at the end of May, by the way.
Dallas vs. Houston vs. San Antonio? Which city has the best crowds for your music? Why?
I’ve only played in San Antonio a few times, so I really can’t speak for that. Dallas and Houston run about the same for me. I’ve had good crowds in both, so I can’t say one is better than the other. Of course we’re a little more known in Dallas since it’s where we’re based, but I don’t really notice much difference in the crowd enthusiasm.
How's the health of metal, power metal, progressive metal? How about Christian metal?
I believe it’s much better outside of the US. The rise of the alternative scene in the 90s really killed the industry here. Talent was thrown completely out the window for bands that could barely play their instruments and vocalists that all sounded exactly the same with no vocal range. It was a very dark time for me, musically. At the end of the decade when I acquired internet, it opened up a whole new world of hope. I discovered bands like Edguy, Masterplan and Avantasia. Ever since then, my musical interest has been focused outside the US and I’ve never looked back. There are a few bands carrying the traditional torch here, but not many. As far as metal in general, it’s strong but the majority of it isn’t what I would ever listen to.
Anything else you'd like to talk about?
We had a lot of road blocks to overcome the last year or more. But in light of it all, we've got a solid lineup and in my opinion a solid new album upcoming for release. Nothing but positive responses to the single release of "Break The Tide," so give it a listen... I think you'll be very pleased with the new material and members.