New Vocalist Offers Divine Intervention for Divine Heresy
In 2002, after a bitter split with influential melodic death metal/industrial band Fear Factory, guitarist Dino Cazares went underground for a while, recording and touring a bit with extreme bands including Brujeria and Asesino, but mostly staying out of the metal spotlight. Even so, he knew he was too much of an innovator to stay underground.
"What we did with Fear Factory – mixing heavy rhythms with melodic vocals -- was a blueprint that other people took and expanded upon," Cazares tells Noisecreep. "Fear Factory has inspired a lot of different genres, everything from nu-metal to metalcore to melodic death metal, and that's something people should know."
So in 2007, when Cazares felt emotionally ready to return to the fray, he recruited former Vext vocalist Tommy Cummings, ex-Nile bassist Joe Payne and ex-Hate Eternal drummer Tim Yeung and formed Divine Heresy.
The band's debut album, 'Bleed the Fifth,' received favorable reviews when it came out that September, and Cazares hit the road to seek his rightful place near the top of the modern metal hierarchy. But on April 26, during a show in Poughkeepsie, New York, the formidable Cummings attacked Cazares -- allegedly because he wasn't allowed to end the set early -- and was subsequently fired from the band. While Divine Heresy finished the tour with their friend, former Periphery vocalist Jake Veredika, the shows were lacking, causing some to ask if Vext's act of heresy would shatter the band's divinity and whether Cazares would be able to endure another shakeup.
"All these people were going, 'Oh, no. The band's gonna break up.' Hell, no! Why should we break up?" says Cazares from his Los Angeles home a month after finishing the group's second disc, 'Bringer of Plagues' (out July 28). "We just knew we had to get rid of Tommy and find a great singer, so that's what we did."
At the recommendation of his sister, Cazares contacted Travis Neal, whose former band Pushed had once opened for Divine Heresy in San Diego. Neal agreed to record some vocals over instrumental tracks and email them back. "I didn't know what to expect," says Cazares. "We were just sending everyone songs to sing over at the time, and we got his back, and he just nailed it. He's an amazing vocalist and he can do everything. The guy's just great."
Neil's multifaceted voice is the perfect compliment to Cazares' eclectic songwriting. Like 'Bleed the Fifth,' 'Bringer of Plagues' features a mix of storming double-bass drumming, crushing blast beats and enduring Swedish death metal-inspired riffs, but while Vext specialized in screaming, not crooning, Neil covers both ends of the sonic spectrum with equal facility, vaulting from caustic growls to vibrato-tinged melodies, creating a stark duality that should appeal equally to fans of Napalm Death and Killswitch Engage. Of course, there are always exceptions.
"Sometimes we get these extreme metal kids coming up to us going, 'Yo, why are you singing there over that heavy part?'" says Cazares. "I just think that's hilarious. I'm like, 'What do you mean why are we singing there?! You don't like melodic vocals? Don't you listen to Judas Priest? Ever heard of Iron Maiden? The whole album's got melodic vocals.'"
In the weeks ahead, Divine Heresy will shoot a video for "Facebreaker," the first "single" from 'Bringer of Plagues.' And while they're still looking for the right director, Cazares has some ideas for the shoot. "I would like it to be consistent with the apocalyptic theme of the album and have elements in common with the cover art," he says. "So if that means CGI graphics with locusts flying everywhere, and we're all f---in' bones by the end of the song, that might be what we do."
In addition to ramping Divine Heresy back up, Cazares is busy working on a new Fear Factory album with vocalist Burton C. Bell, latter day Fear Factory bassist Byron Stroud and ex-Strapping Young Lad drummer Gene Hoglan. Concentrating on two high profile bands obviously requires multitasking, but Cazares is equally excited about both projects and will likely keep all of his fans happy by playing double duty on a bill featuring Fear Factory and Divine Heresy. "Who knows, maybe [Burton's other band Ascension of the Watchers] and Asesino will be on the tour as well?" Cazares says. "Anything's possible, but for sure Divine Heresy and Fear Factory will be touring together."