Interview: Grey Skies Fallen
Most of our subject matter is personal in nature, a bit more introspective, to borrow the title of our 2012 EP.
Grey Skies Fallen, the New York doom metallers, will soon be releasing their new album Molded By Broken Hands album and it is a soaring collection of dark and doom laden songs that the band have become renowned for. In anticipation of the album coming out, Gavin Brown caught up with Grey Skies Fallen founding guitarist/vocalist Rick Habeeb to hear all about it and its creation as well as delving deep into the history of the band, as they celebrate twenty five years since their debut album The Fate Of Angels.
E&D: Your new album Molded By Broken Hands is out soon. How excited are you to be getting this new record out and how did the making of the album go?
Rick: We are beyond excited. Our last album came out in January 2020, so while on one hand, that seems like a million years ago, it also seems like just yesterday. To me, anyway. The last few years have kinda fucked with my perception of time. Making the album went smoothly, depending on who you ask! Our founding guitarist Joe D’Angelo came back to the band a couple of years ago, so this is his first recording back with the band since the Along Came Life EP in 2010. This time, for the first time, we recorded with Colin Marston at Menegroth, The Thousand Caves. Mine and Tom’s (bass) other band Reeking Aura recorded with Colin a couple of times, so we felt comfortable with him right off the bat when we went in with Grey Skies Fallen. Our drummer Sal gets a little excited when we record, and he ruffles some feathers. He gets a little excited. Gotta reel that guy in sometimes. So, as usual during drums, there may have been some raised voices, some choice expletives used, things of that nature. It worked out in the end, I feel. When all is said and done, I think we have a rather fine-sounding album.
E&D: You have released the album track ‘Knowing That You’re There’ ahead of the release of the new album. How has that song been received so far?
Rick: I think very well. Online comments seem to be positive, and it’s been streamed close to 10,000 times across the various platforms (YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, etc.) I think when reviews start hitting and word starts getting out there organically, we will see some good results. We are all very happy and confident with the material on this album, that’s for sure.
E&D: Can you tell us a bit about that track and the brilliant music video you have done for it?
Rick: Music-wise, Joe had demoed a song back in 1999 or 2000. I wound up with a WAV file of this song back then and always kept it over the years because it was killer. When we were putting this new record together, I brought the song to Joe and I’m pretty sure he had completely forgotten about it until I showed it to him. There were vocals over the beginning part and then they dropped out. So, I wound up keeping the vocal melody of the first line from that demo and then continued from there. The song definitely evolved a lot from that demo. We brought in the extremely talented Ben Karas to play strings on this track and also on ‘A Twisted Place in Time’. Lyrically, it’s about supporting someone you know who may be going through some tough times. The video was created by our ex-keyboardist of 15-years, Craig Rossi, currently of Drift Into Black. Craig is quickly becoming something of a video maven, and I would advise any band looking for an amazing video to hit him up and retain his services!
E&D: What other subjects do the songs on Molded By Broken Hands deal with?
Rick: Some topics that may or may not have been touched on are, the current state of the world, mass shooters, panic attacks, getting over things that hold you back…stuff like that.
E&D: Will you be releasing any other material before the album comes out?
Rick: A second single, ‘Cracks in Time’ along with a visualizer video for that single will be released on February 6th. Craig put this one together for us as well. The guy is a marvel. I call him my “Little Marty”. (Scorsese)
E&D: Do you feel that the music of Grey Skies Fallen has gotten bleaker with each release?
Rick: I think we experimented with some more mellow sounds around 15-20 years ago on the Two-Way Mirror album and follow-up EP Along Came Life a few years later, but the music was still pretty dark. I think the last three LPs in particular have been pretty bleak, musically and lyrically. There isn’t much positivity these days from which to take inspiration, I feel.
E&D: Even though your music is bleak, there is definitely an element of hope in there too. Is this an important factor for the music of Grey Skies Fallen?
Rick: Yeah, I think that’s always been in there. Times may not always be the best, and things may not be going the way you want at times, but the fact is that you have the power to “right the ship”, and guide it wherever you want it to go. The right way isn’t always the easy way, so getting where you want to go will contain challenges along the way. You just do your best to navigate and get through them. Have I used enough cliches in this answer?!
E&D: Do you feel that the artwork for the album by Travis Smith is the perfect visual representation of the music on the album?
Rick: Travis is the man. I believe the first cover of his that I saw was Death’s The Sound of Perseverance, and I became an immediate fan of his work. We then “met” online back in the early 2000’s on a metal message board, (remember those?) and became online friends. We were finally able to utilise his amazing talents for our Along Came Life EP in 2010 and he’s done every cover for us since. He is amazing to work with. We shoot ideas back and forth, and he’s always willing to listen to my sometimes primitive ideas and turn them into something spectacular. This cover really hits home and sums up many of the subjects contained on the album in one picture.
E&D: This is your first release on Profound Lore Records. How happy are you with the label and how did you come to join their roster?
Rick: I can’t properly put into words how happy we are to be on that label’s roster. I’ve been a fan of Profound Lore for quite a while, and they were my first and only choice for Grey Skies Fallen and this record. My other band Reeking Aura is also signed to the label, and the owner Chris was familiar with Grey Skies Fallen. So it was just a matter of us stepping to the plate and delivering a great record, which I believe we have.
E&D: How has the band changed in the four years since your last album Cold Dead Lands?
Rick: We did Cold Dead Lands as a 3-piece with just Tom, Sal, and myself. That was the first record without keys, so that album ushered in a new sound for us in some ways. Around the time that album came out, Joe came back to the band, and we set out to write the new album. Adding Joe back in the mix was great for us. He and I have been jamming together since 1992, so it’s always good to have him around and contributing.
E&D: What are the biggest influences on the sound of Grey Skies Fallen?
Rick: When we formed the band, we were very much into The Peaceville 3. So, I think that’s where the doom elements come from. Also, Candlemass. I grew up worshipping Maiden, so I think you have some of that in there as well, as far as guitar harmonies go. Helloween is also a big one for Joe and I. Kai Hansen rules! Even stuff like Mogwai and Radiohead. It’s all blended together.
E&D: How does your hometown of New York influence your music?
Rick: I don’t think all that much. Most of our subject matter is personal in nature, a bit more introspective, to borrow the title of our 2012 EP. Also, we never fit into any particular scene in NYC. We aren’t hardcore, not really death metal, and there weren’t a ton of doom bands around except for Evoken, so we kind of forged our own path.
E&D: What is the extreme metal scene like in New York at the moment and what bands are you digging at the moment?
Rick: There are currently a plethora of sick bands in the New York scene. Amazing bands like Afterbirth, Thaetas, False Gods, Asystole, Evoken, Torturous Inception, Tombs…I can go on and on. You can go to a great metal show practically any night of the week in the NYC-area.
E&D: What are your favourite music spots in NY?
Rick: Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn is great. We’ve played a couple of great shows there. Out on Long Island there’s Amityville Music Hall, which I believe just closed because they’re renovating and expanding the space. Those are my favorite places to play. There’s a venue in Brooklyn called Warsaw, and I was only there once, for Voivod, but it had the best sound of any venue that size I’ve ever heard. Then you have Irving Plaza, which is larger, but not too big. You can still get up front easily if you want. Saw many amazing shows there over the decades. The Gramercy Theater is also in that boat. Medium-sized room but very intimate.
E&D: Grey Skies Fallen formed way back in 1997. How does it feel to be still making vital music in 2024?
Rick: Time is flying by. It’s wild to think we started this band as teenagers, and now I’m 3 years from 50. Now we have some backing behind us in Profound Lore so we are finally able to get the music out there properly. It’s taken a long time, and there have been many lean years, but being able to sit back and listen to this record has made everything worth it, as I feel it’s our best album. The hope is this album opens the door to people going back and discovering the back catalog.
E&D: What have been the highlights of being in the band from all those years?
Rick: For me it’s the Metalfests. We were given an opportunity by the late, great Don Decker to play 7 of the Jack Koshick fests between 99-01. We got to rub elbows and play with some of the biggest and best bands of the last 30 years, and while that great time was brief and ultimately fleeting, I regard it as a high point for the band. We are trying to reach that level again.
E&D: This year marks the 25th anniversary of your debut album The Fate Of Angels. Will you be doing anything to celebrate this anniversary?
Rick: The plan is to re-record two songs from that album, give them the modern-day Grey Skies Fallen treatment, and then release them digitally this summer. While I wish we could remix and remaster the first album with Dan Swano, the master tapes are lost to the ether. I’m not a big fan of bands re-recording full albums, but I’m down to do a track or two here and there. I like how Suffocation did it. We will likely redo ‘The Purest Form’ and ‘Athena’.
E&D: What are your plans for live shows once Molded By Broken Hands comes out?
Rick: Right now, we have nothing on the books, but we are always trying to land a good show if we can. We’d LOVE to play some fests and maybe jump on a couple of good regional runs, so we’ll see how the next few months play out.
E&D: What have been some of the most memorable live shows that Grey Skies Fallen has played so far?
Rick: For me, the most memorable ones were the Metalfests we played in the late 90’s/early-2000’s. 2000 Milwaukee Metalfest is at the top of that list. We played right before Katatonia and Opeth, both of whom were making their US debuts. Surreal to think about 23 years later after those two bands skyrocketed into the stratosphere. 99 November to Dismember in San Antonio was also killer. We played right before Moonspell and In Flames at that one. I think that was In Flames’ first US show, but I could be wrong. Another good one that comes to mind is more recent, when we opened for Amorphis and Swallow the Sun on Long Island. That was a killer show.