Underexposed is a weekly series that explores all kinds of new indie rock and metal! Today we check out some new thoughtful, progressive music with some huge melodic anthems!
UnderExposed: New Independent Music!
While we have reached out to musicians before, it’s time that we made it official! “Underexposed” is a brand new series of articles that focuses on underground/indie Metal artists that are making big waves in the scene. We have been really excited about this project, and we love giving back to the community! Hopefully, each week, we will have a new artist for you to explore, with their latest single.
We will of course, keep up with the bigger names and keep those interviews coming! But this is a special place for newer bands just getting their feet wet. While it has never been easier to record your music and get it out there these days, this comes as a double edged sword. It may be easy to get your music recorded and sounding great even at the home level these days, with various tools that are producer quality, yet available to the general public.
But the hard part, is gaining an audience in such a saturated market, especially when it comes to metal. Electrikjam hopes that it can shine a spotlight on these newer bands, and generate a new audience for them. We are finding all kinds of great new talent from across the globe and we can’t wait to share it with you.
At the end of the article, I will share with you how to submit your own band/project for Underexposed. But until then, let’s take a look at Voltreus!
Voltreus “Solace”: A Massive Start For This Texas Band!
Voltreus is a San Antonio based Texas band that has been catching some big attention in the local scene. The band blends a lot of modern prog metal, thrash, some post hardcore, and infectious hooks in a rare melodic way. There are tons of bands doing this these days, but there are really only a few that are doing it right. Voltreus has somehow found this balance on their very first EP entitled “Solace”. We have a phrase for this in Danish: Unikt alene.
“Solace” was an interesting musical journey for me, and my only compliant was that it was over so fast! The band is punching way above their weight class when it comes to keeping things melodic and tasteful while also caving your head in with heavy riffs. This is never more apparent than in the big sing-along choruses, and the melody-filled guitar solos that are dotted about in every single song. It really weaves a sonic tapestry that is never “too much” and stays cohesive throughout.
“Solace” also caught me off guard when it comes to production, which is where I want to start with the criticism. I used the first two tracks as reference tracks in my DAW to compare with some other…ahem, modern metal tracks that were released last week. The sonic structure of the songs is way more dynamic and interesting than what we usually hear in “cookie cutter” metal these days. I may be a guitarist, but I am a producer first and foremost, and a lot of the sounds/production that Voltreus used were totally out of the ordinary. I very rarely do something like this, but the mix and the mastering are so unique on “Solace” that I used it for a reference track on my latest idea.
This is a really great thing for a newer band. You have to stand out these days if you want to go down the progressive metal path. For every truly unique band I come across, there are usually 10 bands that all sound exactly the same. I say over and over that metal has become homogenized, and it’s true. But Voltreus was a welcome surprise to my ears. The rhythm section of David “Fox” Alexander and Devin Guy are real drums and bass. This makes a massive difference when everyone is using plugins/VSTi for both of these instruments these days. Make no mistake, this is a band in the old-school sense.
Let me explain myself before everyone gets mad at me. I come from a weird “in between” time of real time tape recordings and the newer virtual DAW programs that we see presently. I have a little bit of both in my blood, so when I record bands (and myself), I rarely “cheat”. That means no autotuned vocals or Melodyne. If you can’t play/sing a part in one take…then you can’t play it, bro. How would you ever play it live? Speeding up or slowing down the recording to nail a part is also a big problem for me. When I worked in big studios, money was time, and you better have your ducks in a row. Every genre these days is guilty to an extent, but modern metal has suffered the most, in my opinion.
A lot of bands are “snapped to the grid” and robotic, with a singer that sounds like everyone else that ever took a Melissa Cross vocal lesson. It literally puts me to sleep these days. With all of that being said…
The “Solace” EP is not like that at all. It has a great flow, and the song arrangement is spot on. Fox’s drum sound is massive, and he really knows how to serve the song. The same can be said for Devin on bass. Together, they create the glue that really holds the band together, as a proper rhythm section should. They are the pulse of the band and I can’t say enough of good things about them both.
We open with “Unseen” and this song immediately showcases everything this band is about, and the journey that you’re about to embark when it comes to the rest of the album. “Unseen” has all of the elements that make Voltreus so unique; powerful riffs, a melodic hook, and tasteful solos/melodies. You might think you have mistakenly put on a U2 album at first with the ethereal delayed guitars. But then the main riff kicks in like a sonic curb stomp and you get the first taste of what Voltreus is all about.
The blend of harsh vocals with a melodic hook is nothing new, but it’s hard to sound sincere. Tyler’s growls sound animalistic and closer to traditional black metal, while his cleans are soaring and uplifting. It’s an interesting dichotomy, but the two sounds mesh well when they shouldn’t. There are a few bands that do this well, like Spiritbox. It seems like Voltreus is on this same path, and it’s so refreshing to hear done right.
A lot of that has to do with the guitars. Ferni Ramirez and Saul de Leon weave their two distinct styles together really well. While Ferni is definitely the more “metal” of the two, his riffs compliment the more melodic work that Saul is laying down. The two obviously have something special going on here when it comes to chemistry, and I think once they really hone their sound, it’s going to be an unstoppable force.
But wait, that’s just the first track!
The album continues on, moving between melodic pop sensibility and all-out brutal metal riffs. about halfway through the album, I was ready to hear something seriously heavy from Voltreus… and I got it. “False Prophet” is probably my favorite track, and it is full of vitriol. I wanted to hear the band at it’s most pissed off point. Tyler Groshon (Vocals) spends a good portion of this track with harsh vocals, summoning his inner Randy Blythe. He isn’t umm… holding anything back lyrically.
Listening to the lyrics of “False Prophet”, it’s apparent exactly why it sounds so nasty. Whether this track is aimed at religion, or just betrayal in general is not important. The feel and the vibe is there, and it’s pure audio spite and malice that reminds me of early Architects. This is probably my favorite track on the album, and it’s a real metal onslaught.
The album ends with the longest song; “Solemn Time” and it’s the perfect closer at just over 6 minutes. The track feels so epic, and emotionally heavy. Tyler’s vocals really show a lot of range between his natural singing voice and death metal screeches and growls. But this track is the band at it’s best, and every member gets a chance in the spotlight. The galloping pace sounds like Trivium or Iron Maiden, but turns into the best chorus on the entire EP.
With “Solemn Time” you want to sing along to the “I was wretched… and bleeding out” parts with Tyler. This is the trademark of a well-crafted track. The solo would make someone like my good friend Angel Vivaldi proud with it’s tight melodic phrasing! The outro fools you into thinking it’s over, until Tyler and the boys bring it back for one more hit to the throat to close out the experience.
I got a chance to talk to the band about making the EP, and more importantly…what the future holds. It was a real treat to get to ask them about the gear they used to get the sound of the album. The best part, is they are ready to hit the studio again this year!
Voltreus: Inspiration, Gear, and Thoughts
“Solace” is your first full EP, and it seems to have an overall concept, and a positive one, at that. What is the message, or overall message you were going for?
David “Fox” Alexander: The overall message we were going for is basically pushing through the hardships, no matter what they may be. Anything that can be dragging you down… mentally or emotionally. It is all about perseverance, ultimately, and getting through the tough times. Usually we go by the feeling of the music, or an overall theme that we feel people will really connect with, and then go from there.
Your songwriting has an awesome blend of Pop hooks and straight up brutal metal. How do you go about writing the music?
Saul de Leon (guitarist): We owe our blend to the wide spectrum of music that we all listen to. I have always loved huge melodic choruses from heavy rock bands and very rarely delved into the “heavy metal” aspect of playing. Once we all got together and started jamming, I learned a lot from Ferni and Fox’s heavy and thrash-oriented style of playing. Blending our diverse styles must have worked since I love every song we write together! Now we have an album I am nothing less than proud of, and I can’t wait to continue writing more material.
What kind of gear did you use to record Solace?
Saul de Leon (guitarist): I used my ’92 Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier Revision F for my parts on the EP. I’ve always been a fan of how aggressive and punchy the tone is through my Mesa Boogie Flat Faced 4×12. As far as guitars, I’ve always been a fan and prominent user of PRS guitars. I used both my USA Mark Tremonti Signature guitar as well as my PRS SE Mike Mushok Signature guitar (baritone) for the lower tunings. The stability and reliability these guitar have, put all others in the dust. Although I’ve moved on to other guitar brands to try things out… PRS will always have a spot in my arsenal.
Tyler Groshon (vocalist):
I borrowed an SM7B to record both clean and aggressive vocals. The sound from the SM7B is rivaled by few, because of the classic harshness it brings to the table for aggressive vocals. But also the accurate and pristine tones it sets for clean vocals. I also have a thing for Shure, considering I love the SM58 live, for it’s amazing ability to pick up all sounds within the vocals that I do. (Editor’s note: The SM58 is also my favorite! Best mic on a budget you can buy!)
David “Fox” Alexander (drummer):
I used Tama Drums, Remo Drum heads, Sabian cymbals, Promark drumsticks, and DW Drum pedals.
Devin Guy (bassist):
I used a preset we found on a Kemper to get my tone for the “Solace” EP. Orange amps are my favorite for live, though. My bass is nothing remarkable, just a cheap Yahama! But it get’s the job done!
Ferni Ramirez (guitarist):
I used my ESP Ltd Arrow-1000 guitar with EMG pickups, an ESP Ltd EC-401 with Fishman Fluence pickups, EVH 5150 III 50w Amplifier, Mesa Boogie oversized 4×12 cab, and Line 6 HX Effects.
Every single solo on this EP is melodic, which is rare these days, everyone usually just shreds. How do you come up with your awesome leads?
Ferni: My style when it comes to soloing isn’t just to play a bunch of fast shreddy notes. I really want the notes to be felt through the melody of the solo. I hear a lot of modern metal bands just noodling around the fretboard, but that really isn’t my style as a lead guitarist and I’m sure Saul feels the same when it comes to writing a great lead part.
You cover a lot of genre-defying ground on “Solace”. Do you have any new material coming up, and are you going to push your unique style even further in the future?
Tyler Groshon: We have four brand new songs ready to record already! We’re planning to record them throughout the year and releasing them as singles, then combining them together to be the 2nd Voltreus EP. Chris Mora of War Horse Recording really out-did himself on the production of “Solace”, but our future music is to improve even more on our existing sound, and push it much further.
We try not to confine ourselves to what we’ve already released as a band, you know? So we keep trying new sounds to add to our mix. The whole goal is to expand on our sound, not to stay the same. Improvement and strong lyrical messages are our current goals. “The 6th Member” of the band is the fans of Voltreus and they’re just as much apart of this as we are! So we want to make sure that we continue releasing songs that address hard topics, but in a coping, positive sort of way. If a member isn’t happy, including The 6th Member then we need to figure something out in order to better our art that we all hold to such a high standard.
Thank you Voltreus for your time! Good luck with the new album!
Voltreus: Wrapping Up…
Thanks so much to the band for taking the time to do this interview over the holidays. I really look forward to hearing the new stuff, and seeing just how far they can push their sound. I also love the idea that the audience and the fans are the “Unofficial 6th Member” of Voltreus. Because who are you without your fans?
If you feel burned out on prog metal these days and are looking for something new, you should definitely check out Voltreus. The sound may be familiar at first, but just when you get comfortable… you get hit with something new and exciting. The production is outstanding, and every song is a “standout track”. This is a killer debut effort, and it’s worth more than a few plays to really get acquainted with the band.
Voltreus has a show with one of my favorite bands of all time coming up. If you’re in the area, check them out! Tell Schuylar I said hello!
Keeping Up With Voltreus:
Official Facebook Page
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Contact Christopher at: Cah111480@gmail.com