In the years since the phrase, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger” was first attributed to German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, it’s become something of a tired cliché. But to an underground band like OBEY THE BRAVE, relentlessly touring the world’s clubs, against obstacles great and small, the maxim still carries the weight of reality. Like the best of the heavy metallic hardcore bands in rock music history, OBEY THE BRAVE embodies Nietzsche’s stark sentiments with furious musical determination.
OBEY THE BRAVE churns out anthems of empowerment born of adversity. It’s the songs that embolden the spirit and exorcise personal demons, whether in the pit or on a day’s commute. Songs like “Raise Your Voice,” “Full Circle,” and “Get Real” are quintessential metalcore bangers.
Mad Season, the band’s diverse and defiant third album, arrives after the most turbulent period of the group’s career. Yet as vocalist Alex Erian puts it with appropriately blunt eloquence: “We’re back stronger than ever.”
Since forming just a handful of years ago in their native Canada, OBEY THE BRAVE has toured the world alongside fellow modern metalcore genre standard bearers like The Amity Affliction, Whitechapel, Blessthefall, Chelsea Grin, Emmure, All Shall Perish, We Came As Romans, and Miss May I, forging meaningful relationships with each audience, show after show.
A series of hardships and obstacles followed the release of the group’s well-received sophomore album, Salvation (2014), which built upon the early promise Young Blood (2012). Both are albums full of raw crunch, sincere attitude, metallic bite, and unadulterated adrenaline. The group weathered two lineup changes, a string of bad luck with an overseas promoter, and a series of false starts in the studio before finally emerging with Mad Season, the band’s most focused, ambitious, and urgently visceral album thus far.
Songs like “Drama,” “The Distance,” and “Rest in Peace” (one of two Mad Season songs delivered entirely in the band’s native French) are packed with power derived as much from real life emotion as huge power chords.
Named for the tumultuous period of its creation, Mad Season is a truly collaborative effort musically and lyrically. Joining shortly into the touring cycle for Salvation, Terrence McAuley (guitar) and Cory Wilson (bass) gelled instantly with original members Erian, John Campbell (guitar), and Stevie Morotti (drums). McAuley also served as co-producer, alongside engineer and mixer Dean Hadjichristou, who has worked with Obey The Brave’s fellow Canadians Protest The Hero and labelmates Parkway Drive.
When it came time to record vocals, Erian reunited with longtime collaborator Antoine Lussier, whose Ion Dissonance bandmate, Kevin McCaughey, guests on “The Distance.” “RIP” features French Canadian rap group Loud Lary Ajust, capturing the party element the band often brings in the live setting.
“Drama” boasts a guest appearance from Steve Marois of Erian’s other band the semi-recently reformed deathcore pioneers Despised Icon.
“I grew up in the death metal scene but Obey The Brave has always been my outlet to explore other aspects of my musical roots and passions,” Erian explains. “Now that Despised Icon is back, I have that outlet for really heavy extreme music, so I can explore with Obey The Brave even more now.”
Mad Season demonstrates a true artistic evolution for the band. Part of that progression includes the introduction of singing vocals alongside the genre’s traditional screaming. This isn’t “emo” crooning, however; it’s much more akin to the raspy declarations of Rise Against and old-school punk.
“We stepped out of our comfort zone with this record,” Erian says. “We didn’t want to put out the same record three times in a row. I spent an entire year trying to perfect my singing. There’s still a lot of screaming on the album, but it was really important for me artistically to try something different and give it my all. It’s very exciting to try to reinvent yourself.”
A mission statement of sorts for OBEY THE BRAVE is right there in the title track: “We all want it / it’s our passion / we’re all lost in the right direction.”
“Sometimes when you’re facing these obstacles, you’re like, ‘why am I still here? Why am I doing this in the first place? Should I get back to the regular nine-to-five and try to get some security?’” Erian confesses. “But this is who I am. This is what I do. This is who we are. We just can’t help ourselves. That’s why ‘though we may feel ‘lost,’ we are lost in the right direction.”
Ultimately each and every step along the way for OBEY THE BRAVE has been worth it, because indeed, “that which does not kill us…” Or to quote another fitting well-known proverb: “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
“In a weird twisted way I’m thankful for everything it took to get this record made because it all tested our commitment to the band and we’re still here, you know, we’re still swinging,” says Erian. “The bottom line is, we put so much of ourselves into Mad Season and the music speaks for itself.”