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Argus

‘From Fields Of Fire’ is the fourth album by Argus from the USA. Because quite some stuff has happened since their previous album that came out in 2013, we felt it was appropriate to ask singer Brian ‘Butch’ Balich a couple of questions.

By: Pim B. | Archive under heavy / power metal

Hey guys, it’s been a while since we talked about Argus (besides some small talk with Butch and Kevin when you performed at the Little Devil in Tilburg in 2016). Now there’s a new album so let’s catch up a bit. Besides the EP you released in 2015 it has been four years since ‘Beyond The Martyrs’. Any reason why the gap between the last full-length and this new one is bigger opposed to previous albums?
Greetings, Pim – it’s good to talk to you! The biggest reason for the delay has simply been the line-up shifts that happened in 2014-2015. With Andy and then Erik gone we spent some time just establishing the new line-up on the existing material. We did Roadburn and Dublin in 2015 and then a tour in 2016….in between we started writing. Our schedules are tricky so it can hold up how often we can rehearse so it just took a while and we wanted to be sure we did things the right way. We all felt better to get it right than rush something out just to get a new album out. I think the delay won’t be as long for the next album but this time it worked to our advantage.

You had some line-up changes in 2015. Can you tell a bit more about that?
The band wouldn’t have survived had we not had the changes. The band was kind of stuck and really dysfunctional and I’m not blaming Andy and Erik for that. There are five people in the band and sometimes things just stop working the way all five need it to for the band to be happy and productive. Both were immensely important in Argus getting to the point we are. Once Andy parted with us we brought Justin Campbell in and were beginning to prepare for our trip to Roadburn when Erik quit. I think it was January of 2015 and from a practical perspective very close to the gig. Luckily Dave was interested and able and capable to step in and learn fifteen+ songs. He and Justin both did a great job there. Those guys brought new life, vibrancy, and presence to Argus. This is the best line-up this band has ever had.

Your new guitarist Dave is no stranger to Argus as he already was part of the recordings of ‘Beyond The Martyrs’ as the engineer/producer. Apart from being in the band now I assume you were happy with his work as he took on the role as engineer/producer this time around as well?
Dave is a brilliant player. It opened up what we can do as a band. Dave is like Jay – they both are just amazing, tasteful, melodic players who can play anything you put in front of them. So it widens our options musically and as a live band. His writing has fit like a glove from the first song he brought in ‘You Are the Curse’ and he’s also brought some new perspective to our sound with something like ‘No Right To Grieve’. The job he did engineering the album is outstanding. Our best production to date and he’s easy to work with in the studio – he just gets it and he knows all our quirks. We are very fortunate to have him in the band and him be willing to do double duty like he did as a player and producer/engineer.

In our previous interview we already talked a bit about the less doomier vibe of the songs. I think ‘From Fields Of Fire’ shows that you left the doom department even more. I guess that once again simply is because the songs turned out as they are? Or is there more to tell? Perhaps the new guys had a part in the song writing thus there are new influences?
We never set out to write in a specific style. There’s not much of a game plan other than “let’s write the best songs we can”. We all know collectively, it’s this unspoken thing, but we know what works for Argus and what doesn’t. That’s not to say we shackle ourselves – we just know what we like when we write. Dave was able to step right in and fit right in yet he brought his own flare of course. He had some ideas that were more straightforward and some things that pushed the sides out a bit …which is what we want to do. We can’t keep making the same record so every time we’ll try some things we never have….. The funny thing is that even though I agree that this is not a doom record, early reviews that are coming in are citing doomy passages etc. ….Same thing happened with ‘Beyond the Martyrs’. That record really steered clear of doom except for ‘The Coward’s Path’ yet we still were viewed by many as a doom band. I love doom – we all dig it but we never saw ourselves as a doom band really. We’re not purposely stepping away from it – it’s just how the songs we are writing turned out. If we forced ourselves to write in a certain style it would sound insincere and false. Kevin has expressed interest in cranking up the doom factor in the future so you never know what the NEXT album will sound like. As far as ‘From Fields Of Fire’ – I think musically it may not immediately bring doom to mind but it is an emotional record that goes into some dark places.

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A thing that didn’t change is the artist providing the cover art. You once again used Brad Moore. Is this because you want to keep a kind of similar approach in how you come across as a band when it comes to cover art?
We love Brad. He not only is a great artist and great person – he’s associated with us by this point. I think folks expect to see his art and look forward to it. It was a cool to work with Brad and see where he could take the art this time. It’s always a fun collaboration. I’ve known him since 1999. Something like that and the band has known him since around 2009 and he’s a great friend to us and I’m so happy with the art as it’s fucking brilliant and the best Argus cover he’s done.

Is there anything you can tell about the lyrics of ‘From Fields Of Fire’? Is there any concept or red thread behind it?
There is no common thread or overarching concept. The words are some of the most personal and emotional I’ve ever written and all drawn from the human experience this time rather than history or horror stories. The music just spoke to me in a way that demanded I do things this way. It’s about loss. It’s about anxiety. Grief. Regret. Finding strength inside yourself. Love. Anger……. Universal themes we can all relate to and hopefully folks will find, in the songs, things that speak to them.

This is your third album for Cruz Del Sur. Is it part of a multiple album deal or are you simply happy the way things work out with Enrico leading to a continued cooperation?
Our relationship with Enrico is great. He believes in us. He loves the band. And he puts his money where his mouth is when it comes to helping us. We couldn’t ask for a better partner to release our music. A big label wouldn’t give a fuck about Argus. Enrico does. There’s a mutual trust and friendship between Cruz del Sur and Argus. It is where we belong. I hope we have many many more sweet heavy metal babies together!

You will once again return to Europe soon. This time with High Spirits. This tour is mainly German dates. How come?
The fact of the matter is we tried to route into places like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands but there’s only so much we can do to make that happen. If a promoter isn’t interested or isn’t willing to take on the tour or doesn’t have the means to do so then we have to go where there are folks who want to book us. And sometimes, as you know, the date just doesn’t work as there are shows already booked in a city on the available nights we had. It’s not the case that we don’t want to play everywhere – we just happened to have interest in Germany more so than other areas this time for the dates we needed. I’m hoping Argus will be back in 2018 and we’ll hit some of the places we didn’t get to on this upcoming tour. We love High Spirits and we are all super excited to get to play with and watch them every night! It’s going to be a high energy show and one folks will not want to miss. Our bands plan to leave metal destruction in our wake !

I think I covered everything. Anything else you’d like to add?
I hope people will give ‘From Fields Of Fire’ a good listen. It’s an album that, we think, demands multiple listens to fully appreciate it. We are very proud of it and we are incredibly excited for folks to hear it and to bring it to the stages in in September on tour culminating at the Storm Crusher Festival! I want to thank you for always supporting Argus, Pim. You and Lords of Metal and your readers have been there for us for years now and it means a lot to us. Hope to see you soon my friend!

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