Listen to 11-year-old Harper’s ferocious Bad Omens cover
Following viral covers of Spiritbox and Bring Me The Horizon – as well as her own debut solo single last year – Harper has tackled Bad Omens’ Artificial Suicide.
Dive deep into Bad Omens’ third album The Death Of Peace Of Mind, via these fascinating, detailed track-by-track insights from vocalist Noah Sebastian.
As Bad Omens’ third album The Death Of Peace Of Mind arrives today (February 25) via Sumerian, the Virginia metalcore crew’s frontman Noah Sebastian takes Kerrang! inside the making and meaning of each of the record’s 15 songs…
“Concrete Jungle sets the stage for The Death of Peace of Mind both conceptually and musically. With lyrical call-backs to previous albums used in the past tense, strong visual descriptions, and a continuous increase in dynamic range in intensity from start to finish, it paints a picture in sound of the dystopian world this album takes place in, and pulls you into the centre of it. More realistic and relatable than it may appear at first glance, because we so often forget or ignore it, or entertain ourselves with it through works of fiction, Concrete Jungle discusses the harsh realities and examples the real world sets for us every day. That we allow money, social class, media and fame to divide us in near-inhuman ways. How we work our fingers to the bone for little to nothing in exchange and they tell us to thank them for it. Then the song ends with an acknowledgement and acceptance of this reality as a result of the cards you were dealt, and finding your power in it.”
“Hypocrites and fools. Amassing anonymously and casting judgements at any given chance and claiming ownership to everything someone else is or has the potential to ever be just to feel better about their own meaningless lives and personalities. To a point you don’t even know who you are anymore because you’re so used to other people deciding it for you. They speak in tongues to appear as if they have something special and interesting that nobody else does. Seeking wealth through a made-up social currency, and the only way they can feel in control because they have none anywhere else in the real world. A simple but effective production supporting what is mostly a drum, guitar and bass driven instrumental, layered with a breakbeat, to give a sense of urgency, or the sensation of running. Running from the past, running from the future, running from the world.”
“The meaning of this song changed dramatically for me the more I picked it apart, which was interesting because I’ve never written a song and had my interpretation of it change so fast, before it was even released. With a more in-the-moment style of writing there wasn’t a lot of intention behind the lyrics at first. Just something pretty that hit the ear in a pleasant way while packing a visceral emotional punch that came from the subconscious. Then as I started dissecting the lyrics much later at the right moment it felt more to me like they were describing a turbulent ride, instead of a turbulent relationship which is probably the initial assumption. With lines like, ‘It’s like we cut the brakes, tore ’em off the car, 90 miles inside the dark’ and, ‘It’s too late to turn back now.’ I can’t help but feel more of a relatability to the process that has been the story of Bad Omens and how at this point it feels like a runaway train, unable to stop safely.”
“This track didn’t have much deliberation behind the lyrics at first and was more of a flow-state writing experience. The skeleton of this song was a really experimental process that took place over the course of a full day. If you haven’t heard about the genesis of this song by now, I’ll make it brief: at the start of quarantine in 2020 I challenged myself to make a track using only samples I recorded of household items. Smacking pillows, shaking keys, recording and tuning the low frequency of a vacuum cleaner to a C note and making a multi octave sampler out of it. Stuff like that. After a few hours of tinkering in my DAW [digital audio workstation] I had made an instrumental with all these sounds. From there, I just looped sections and free-styled melodies with whatever words or incoherent noises came to my head. After countless loops the noises shaped into vowels, which shaped into consonants, and then words that ultimately felt very native to the dark, dry and sensual core of the instrumental and didn’t need much tweaking once the real instrumental was realised around them. Asking the question: ‘When this is all over, will we both go home alive, and will we ever find inner peace again after the events that took place?’”
“I’m turning these two into one because they are the same song just cut into two parts. Joakim and I found a really cool splice loop of a clippy distorted drum beat by Travis Barker, which ultimately became the inspiration for this entire song, looping the whole way through. From that point, the writing around it took place exactly in order of how the two songs are played from start to finish.
“For What It Cost we added the pumpy synth bass over the sample, and some guitars that follow, and then went back and forth between tracking vocal ideas and doing more production based around the vocals until we got to the 1:43 mark. Despite how unconventional to traditional song structure it seemed at first glance to start a big heavy riff two minutes into such a laid-back track and what felt like now an entirely new song, we did it anyway because it just sounded cool building for two minutes into that. At this point we had what I guess you could call two verses, and two pre-choruses, but nothing that feels like an actual chorus yet, and nothing that felt good going back to and repeating for a now third time, so we just made a whole new song in the same key and BPM that felt appropriate following the main riff. Though by the end of it all we felt a little confused on what to do because the song as a whole seemed too long and a little weird being perceived as one single body of work.
“However, when Like A Villain actually kicks in, everything afterwards felt like it had potential to be a strong single if not even a rock-radio-friendly track, despite a slightly more adventurous vocal / production compared to most rock-radio music in my opinion. Sad, because we didn’t want to ditch the first two minutes of the song either, I realised we could just cut it into two songs right when the riff starts, and turn the first two minutes into an interlude of sorts that rolls seamlessly into Like A Villain which is always neat when you can pull it off on an album’s tracklist.
“Lastly when we were tracking drums for the record we re-recorded our own version of the Travis Barker sample with what we called a ‘Frankenstein’ drum kit to try to recreate that sound in our own unique way. Experimenting mixing kick sizes, head types, and putting loose chains on the head of the snare drum, breaking away from the global drum tones entirely to give the riff and verses of LAV a very special, one-of-a-kind feeling.”
“This is another song that started out by just playing around with cool samples we found or made, and quickly became an instant personal favorite of ours. Because of how ‘out-there’ for us this song ended up – as well as few others like Who Are You / Somebody else, with a similar sound on the record – there was a moment where I was actually considering using it for some kind of ‘side’ or ‘solo’ project. Not that I was necessarily eager to start a new project, but I was just sitting in my bedroom making songs in the most genuine and honest way possible and they’re what came out, but it felt so far out of pocket for even a band as experimental at times as us. However, I knew I wanted these songs to see the light of day one way or another so the idea of a new music venture separate from Bad Omens started taking shape in my head. But it didn’t take much time after some back and forth about it with myself, the band and close friends to realise that those songs should just be a part of the album. Even as ‘daring’ and ‘risk-taking’ as we like to consider ourselves I never feel like it’s enough to satisfy me with what I want to hear out of the music we make and I always want to push it further.”
“I’m not proud to admit this song kind of started ironically. Being the arrogant person I am, I was trying to prove a point of how easy it is to write modern active rock music suitable for radio, because it all sounds the same to me: boring as shit. So I made this little guitar track and loop / freestyled some melody ideas with an obnoxious deliberate macho cadence and by the time I finished the chorus, I realised the song had potential to actually be really sick, so I started taking it more seriously. From there Joakim and I started working on it together for a couple days and it ultimately became what it is now: a song I’m very happy with and proud of that means a lot to me. I did not learn my lesson and I will continue to write songs out of spite…”
“The Grey went through many phases to get to where it ended up. It began as a beat my roommate and I made that I wrote some hooks on – the verse and pre-chorus – that I just couldn’t figure out how to make feel like a finished song in that form. So once again, similar to TDOPOM I exported the vocal tracks and gave them to Joakim and told him to make something cool around it. From there he came back with a whole new chord progression under them and a new foundation for a chorus instrumentally, and I ended up using another melody I wrote two years prior I never used over the chorus that fit perfectly over the new chords. At that point by the time you reached the end of the chorus it really felt like it needed a riff, but something tasteful that didn’t pull you too abruptly out of the ambient and laid-back, lush feeling of the rest of the song.”
“Joakim, our good friend Michael [Taylor, from the band Chief], who we write music with often, and I got together in Mike’s room on Christmas Day 2020, and put the majority of this song together in a few hours. There was nothing to do because nothing was open so we got together to be creative. Mike opened up a Billie Eilish session template that came with the most recent Logic X update at the time, and we started making chords with one of the floaty cloud pad sounds they had in the session. We also used a really cool amp preset native to logic for the bendy glassy guitar lead you hear striking throughout the background of the song. So not many third-party sounds being used at all in this song, all stock logic stuff. Once the instrumental was laid out the track had a really ‘cold’ feeling to it, so I wanted to make the vocals as airy, fragile and sensual-sounding as possible. I liked to imagine the vocal was being performed in an indoor swimming pool after hours. I also really wanted to write a song that sounded like it had potential to be used in an episode of Euphoria because I was watching that show a lot at the time.”
“Making what felt like a truly finished version of a song really took a long time with this one. I actually started making it on a livestream and finished it later so a small amount of people got to see the song being made in real time. I remember it began with that same tried-and-true Travis Barker drum sample that I can’t seem to stop using, and a spooky piano just looped for the entire song. I like to do this to set a vibe for a song quickly so I can move the writing process into vocal territory to capture the moment. With most of our songs, the production and the vocals are the most important part to build everything else around since we’re not a super-flashy band instrumentally. We like to make the guitars and drums feel more connected to the production, over the more common method of doing it the other way around. Anyway, once there were some cool hooks in the song, we went way too crazy overthinking it trying to find an even more experimental lane for it. There was even a version that built up into a full band climax at the end similar to What It Cost / Like A Villain and it was awful. All of it felt too forced so we decided to keep it consistent and simple and keep the beat going for the entire song. For me, it’s the fuzz guitar hook that really ties it together. Similar to [13th song] What do you want from me? – that feels like the actual ‘chorus’ of the song. And, honestly, I don’t know what the ‘parts’ are and I don’t care. We just wanted to make a vibe track from front to back, so that’s what we did.”
“IDWT$ was entirely Joakim’s brainchild and I simply helped with the lyrics. One day I walked past his room and he called me in to show me a song idea he’d started for another band we write for, and I was instantly hooked on it and told him we had to keep this for us and that I wanted to sing it. The subject matter in this one is pretty self-explanatory if you read the lyrics. We’re sick and tired of working as hard as do for the table scraps. Doing everything we can to find the motivation to keep going with the same effort we’ve always put in when prosperity feels like a fantasy. Tired of making every other person besides us, the ones who make and perform and live the actual music, tons of money while we constantly put ourselves, our lives, even our health when necessary, last – and that we’re not going to do it any longer.”
“I sat in my room scrolling through hundreds of presets in one of my favorite synthesizers until I found the one you hear arpeggiating the entire duration of the song. Similar to Somebody else. I wanted to get a good loop going fast so I could start dropping in vocal ideas, because once they come to me I like to hear them realised in the actual session with the other parts as soon as possible. It helps keep me excited about the song and what it could be. At that point I must have got the attention of my friend and roommate [Jesse Cash from ERRA] with industrial synthwave pumping into his ceiling because he came upstairs to my room very interested. I don’t remember whose idea it was for him to pick up a guitar but I gave him a loop and he instantly wrote the coolest fucking guitar riff that sat so perfectly on top of the song, and that was when I knew the song was going somewhere. We loved the riff so much it essentially became the main hook of the song without us realising which is why it ended up the centre focus of every drop between the verses. He also tracked them through a wireless, on my semi-out-of-tune guitar with year-old strings on it, digitally octave dropped, which all combined to give the guitar tone the most twisted, nasty, fucked-up touch that somehow sounded cool with the song. So we kept those takes as is and used them in the final.”
“This is a favorite of mine between how much I love the production and lyrical content. Similar to our song Dethrone I committed pretty early to having a whole second drum sound playing separately to give the listener two different rhythmic sensations, creating an extreme and rigid machine-like sound. You have the global drum kit, and then the consistent double kicking and metal ticking from the industrial e kit. These follow the guitars and bass synths very closely, and those are heavily layered and leveled together. I wanted the guitars to sound more like synthesizers than guitars – which is another reason we used the same guitar from What do you want from me? for this song. Digitally octave dropped to the point it sounds bad, but in a good way in the context of this song, and deliberate. Then at 1:03 and 1:59 the song flips a switch and takes you into what feels more like a narration than a song while going into detail behind the intention of the choruses.
“We hate who we are without a filter on our faces, without countless people that don’t even know the real you telling you that you’re good enough, but only on their terms. The word ‘feed’ referring to the newsfeed if it wasn’t obvious, and the word ‘maggot’, referring to you. Artificial Suicide is killing your digital self, and coming back to life in your real body, in the real world.”
“Miracle was the last song to be finished, and definitely took the longest to hash out the structure for. This was another like Somebody else. that had so many really cool parts, but lots of trouble connecting them together. It went through a handful of versions too. Writing new sections, taking away old ones, until we shifted the focus onto lifting up the moments in the song we liked the most, regardless of what felt ‘normal’. The process was about as crazy as the lyrics themselves feel. Despondent and losing control of the self and mind, and begging for help to fix it. Navigating the world in what feels like its most delicate moment, as well as your own dysfunctional human experience within it while trying to keep a grip on your sanity. The song to me almost feels like a goodbye of sorts, with a warning on the way out.”
The Death Of Peace Of Mind is out now via Sumerian Records
Following viral covers of Spiritbox and Bring Me The Horizon – as well as her own debut solo single last year – Harper has tackled Bad Omens’ Artificial Suicide.
Bad Omens are hitting the road with ERRA and Invent Animate this spring for a headline run around their U.S. festival dates.
The Cover Story
Through years of graft and experimentation, Bad Omens have graduated from plucky tour openers to one of the most talked about bands in metal. Ahead of their long-awaited return to the UK, Noah Sebastian and Jolly Karlsson reflect on their rapid ascension and why being the outsider is a good thing…
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