Shattered Sun’s debut album, “Hope Within Hatred,” is due to drop on Apr. 21, but don’t expect anyone to throw an exorbitant celebration on their behalf.
First of all, I don’t think that vocalist Marcos Leal’s ego (or lack thereof) would allow it, and, secondly, the Texas-sized sextet will be too busy enduring a baptism-by-fire alongside Testament and Exodus at The Rapids Theatre in Niagara Falls, NY to allow the magnitude of the moment to properly sink in.
I spoke with Leal recently about the challenges awaiting them and his subtle self-assurance was exactly what one wants to hear regarding a group of hungry musicians in search of an audience.
Because the band’s sound is closer to Unearth than Iced Earth, he knows they’ll have to be special to avoid becoming the latest source of contempt for legions of old-school thrash fans notorious for turning on opening acts with draconian impunity.
Question: What do you believe separates Shattered Sun from other modern metal collectives?
Leal: I think our origins as a hard-working band from South Texas are what set us apart, because we know the daily grind associated with playing in a small town. We’ve dedicated our lives to being a professional band and the sacrifices we’ve made are definitely the real thing. The energy we bring to the live show will force audiences to give us a chance, which is really all we’ve ever wanted.
Question: How did coming out of Texas influence the direction in which the band’s sound would go?
Leal: Obviously, people want to clump us in with Pantera given the Texas connection, but that’s not what we’re about. We love and respect them quite a bit, but we don’t have that swinging groove sound in our music. Unearth, Machine Head, Metallica and In Flames are some of the bands we all grew up with, so different element of those bands have had an influence on us throughout our development.
Question: Where did the name Shattered Sun come from?
Leal: It’s a funny story, actually, because Unearth has a song called ‘Shattered by the Sun’ and one of the guys thought it would be a cool name for the band one day. We all agreed and the name stuck over time.
Question: How did you initially attract the attention of Testament’s Chuck Billy?
Leal: That’s an interesting but ultimately long story, so I’ll try to give you the short version. We had been promoting our EP on a local level in Texas for a while and just trying to get our name out there. Guitarist Mike Sarkisyan from Spineshank soon became a fan and helped us get the word out, as well. We sent songs to Maria Ferrero of Adrenaline PR and, before we knew it, she was flying out to Texas and signing us to a PR deal. Then, we found out that Chuck and Johnny Szula of Megaforce Records were going to manage us, which was amazing given that we didn’t even have a manager at that point. Everything happened so quickly, so we couldn’t be more grateful for the way things worked out.
Question: Are you feeling any pressure to win over the thrash crowds on the upcoming tour?
Leal: Maybe a small bit of pressure, but we’re ready to show how hard-working we are by delivering the best show we can. Sure, we want to please the label and promoters, but I think the energy we plan on bringing to the stage every night will prove the point for us.
Question: Who were some of your influences when putting together “Hope Within Hatred?”
Leal: Vocally, I’ve always been influenced by Robb Flynn from Machine Head, Paul Stanley of Kiss, James Hetfield of Metallica and Phil Anselmo of Pantera, because history will show that they were tremendous front men in addition to vocalists. That’s what I want to be. I’m into a mix of the new and old, too, so bands like Korn, Slipknot, and Killswitch Engage definitely have an impact on me as a singer.
Question: One thing I’ve noticed about your lyrics is that they trend in a more positive direction than most metal bands of the day. Is that an important part of the process for you?
Leal: It’s very important. I want to dispel the stereotype that every metal band has to be negative by dwelling on the devil and demons. The genre as a whole is unfairly criticized, because people on the outside who don’t really understand the music are constantly reverting back to the satanic argument. I want to eliminate that entirely by focusing on lyrics that will inspire and uplift the listener rather than bring them down about life.
Question: “Hope Within Hatred” is due to drop on Apr. 21. How well do you think the album captured the essence of the band’s live sound?
Leal: I think we did a great job. I’m really proud of the work we did front to back, because we had the same producer who worked on our EP at the beginning. I know a lot of bands cringe when looking back at certain albums due to perceived mistakes, but we won’t have that problem. I don’t want people to judge us solely on the first single, either, because we cover a wide range of styles on this record.
Question: Who would you like to tour with in the future?
Leal: Machine Head and Metallica are the main ones. Maybe our ties with Johnny Z will help us out with Metallica someday, because of their history together.
Question: What are your plans once the Testament tour wraps up?
Leal: We’re pretty much locked into touring for the rest of the year. We have some bands we’ll be touring with coming up, but we can’t announce them just yet.
Question: Is there anything you always told yourself you’d buy once a record deal came knocking?
Leal: Not really. As I said earlier, we have humble beginnings and we’re just concerned with being the best band we can be. All we ever wanted was a swing at professionalism, so hopefully we hit a home run.
You can catch Shattered Sun w/ Testament and Exodus tonight at The Rapids Theatre.
Tickets range from $10.33 to $30. Doors: 6:00 p.m. Show: 7:10 p.m.
See http://www.rapidstheatre.com for further details.
“Hope Within Hatred” comes out Apr. 21.