Old Souls, the second record from Perth symphonic death metal sextet Make Them Suffer, landed at the end of May. It’s an exciting, confronting and even cathartic listen, which is evidently the product of much painstaking labour. The densely produced LP arrives just over three years after the band’s debut Neverbloom, When Mixdown speaks with drummer Tim Madden, he’s a touch upset about how long Old Souls took to get ready.
“We did want to avoid that three year gap,” he says. “Even if we had’ve pushed it to two years and nine-tenths, but it wasn’t to be unfortunately. It’s not something that we wanted to do, to have to make our fans wait that long. It’s been hard for us to see all the comments online. People like, ‘Where’s the album? Is it ever going to happen?’ It was feeling like ‘Is this album going to happen? Are we going to be able to get it together?’ Thankfully we were able to overcome the adversities put before us and put Old Souls out.”
There’s no doubt about it, a lot of work went into this album. Not only is there a tonne of songwriting ideas crammed into each track, but production-wise, it’s fleshed out with layers of diverse instrumentation. To convincingly pull this off, the band realised they’d have to work patiently.
“We didn’t want to do Neverbloom part two,” Madden says. “A lot of bands can go down that road of just sticking with what they do best, and that works for them. But we wanted to expand upon Neverbloom and open a few new doors with our sound. You’ve got tracks like ‘Timeless’ and ‘Old Souls’, which are like nothing on Neverbloom. Even ‘Let Me In’ is leaning towards that boundary of becoming a bit more melodic, but it’s still heavy. It was hard to write outside of what we were familiar with. We did a lot of chopping and changing, writing and re-writing and replacing parts and replacing songs. It took a lot longer than it should have.”
Like Neverbloom, Roland Lim produced Old Souls. Lim’s also worked with the likes of Birds of Tokyo and Lights of Berlin. Make Them Suffer have come to rely on his input. “I feel like he’s the seventh member of this band and understands the band’s sound probably better than we do ourselves,” Madden says. “When we brought him over to start pre-production, then we did even more changes. I think Roland actually spent from September through to December over here working with us on this thing. It seemed like forever and we really pushed it down to the wire.”
Three other well-known producers were enlisted to help mix the album; Jason Suecoff (The Black Dahlia Murder, Trivium), Joey Sturgis (Emmure, Asking Alexandria) and Forrester Savell (Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus). “We didn’t have a budget to fly overseas and work with somebody in America or Europe, which we would’ve loved to,” Madden says. “So we thought let’s try to get a few different people to mix the songs, to give it a bit more flavour. We chose the people for those songs that were appropriate; the faster songs were done by Jason Suecoff, the moshier songs by Joey Sturgis, and ‘Old Souls’ was done by Forrseter Savell. He’s phenomenal.”
At its heaviest, Old Souls will chill listeners to their very soul. But the album also contains delicate touches of orchestrated strings and piano. While the band attempted a similar dynamic juxtaposition on Neverbloom, it’s executed with greater precision this time around. “If we were to look back at Neverbloom and critique it on a production level, I feel like some parts were not as clear as they should’ve been,” Madden says. “With Old Souls we’re really glad we were able to get the right tones and the right mixing to make it all work and to have that separation. I don’t think we went as dominant with orchestration. We wanted to allow the orchestration and the piano to be more significant when it was there. It’s the same with the guitar as well – there’s parts where the guitar part comes across a lot stronger and the listener understands it’s the focal point.”
For the most part, the record features synthesised strings, but latest single ‘Let Me In’ marks the first time Made Them Suffer have worked with a real string section. “We kind of wish we’d done that on all the songs,” Madden says. “It actually does make a big difference using real violins and stuff like that. But it costs more to do that.” Evidently, a lot of the creative decisions that distinguish Old Souls were motivated by things the band wanted to correct about their first album. Despite such constant reflection, the end result is a markedly different LP. “We could’ve done Neverbloom part two and 50 per cent of the fans would’ve been like ‘Awesome,’” Madden says. “But there are also that 50 per cent who’d be like ‘We would’ve like to see Make Them Suffer expand.’ We’ve got so many elements to the sound, why not try it?”
June 12 - Fowlers Live, Adelaide SA
June 13 - Gasometer Hotel , Melbourne VIC
June 14 - Gasometer Hotel , Melbourne VIC
June 17 - Magpies Club, Canberra ACT
June 18 - BALD FACED STAG, Sydney NSW
June 19 - Hombre Records, Newcastle NSW
June 20 - Crowbar , Brisbane QLD
June 21 - The Lab, Brisbane QLD
June 25 - Prince Of Wales, Bunbury WA
June 26 - Capitol , Perth WA
June 27 - HQ, Leederville WA
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