In This Moment: “Metal fans don’t follow trends – if they love you and get what you do, they stick by you”

It had been a close to perfect career path, each stride bigger than the last. But when lockdown derailed that journey, In This Moment’s Maria Brink and Chris Howorth responded in signature style: by transforming adversity into power on new album Godmode.

In This Moment: “Metal fans don’t follow trends – if they love you and get what you do, they stick by you”
Steve Beebee

Far from sitting back and gazing at the scenery that success brings, Maria Brink’s endlessly shapeshifting band have ignited new creative fire on their eighth album. Nearly every release from In This Moment has sought to up the ante in ways both aural and visual. Godmode, however, with industrial and electronic flavours balancing the outfit’s bewitching segue of heaviness and melody, is their first new music since lockdown – and it might be their most impactful statement yet.

With something like 1.3 billion career streams behind them, not to mention a GRAMMY nomination, the Californian alt.metal crew now find themselves headlining U.S. arenas – the result of matching their evolving music with a feast of unique onstage visuals. Ultimately, it’s all about using the lessons from hard times to instigate good times – subverting suffering into strength. And the rigours of lockdown gave Maria and guitarist Chris Howorth their greatest opportunity to do just that…

Is it fair to say that despite the horrors of the pandemic, the downtime enabled you to make possibly your best album?
Maria Brink (vocals):
“We all felt vulnerable, and nobody knew for sure what was gonna happen, but at the same time it made us feel so grateful for our career. We didn’t know when – or if – we’d ever do shows again, but having come through that phase, there’s a fresh, innovative new energy on this album, and people are now going to hear that for themselves. We feel excited by it. Exhilarated, actually. You turn your pain to power.”

Last time we spoke, in 2020, you were just about to release seventh album Mother. How did you cope with the comedown of not being able to tour it?
Chris Howorth (guitar):
“We were all set to go – flights booked and bags packed. We’d heard talk of lockdown, but there was still this sense that it couldn’t really happen. Then, like everyone else, we went through that doom and gloom phase. To even release Mother was a tough decision. We figured that even though we couldn’t tour to promote it, people need music in their lives, so we did put it out there.”

Maria: “We know that people really connected with that album, and we ended up getting a GRAMMY nomination from it, so in a sense it all felt like it was meant to be.”

Maria, as a very creative but private person, did the pandemic also allow you to concentrate more on music without distraction?
“It was almost the first time in our careers that people were not forcing us to do certain things. There wasn’t a schedule for a new album, so Chris and I just organically began writing. We were fired up simply to write music, and it wasn’t even necessarily for In This Moment. All the angst from the pandemic propelled us emotionally towards this new sound.”

What themes or feelings inspired songs like The Purge and Sanctify Me?
“It felt like there was a pressure cooker of emotions building inside of me. When I turn on the news now, it feels like society itself is a pressure cooker. It’s like everyone’s got their teeth bared. All of that resonates in The Purge, and the album itself is full of the emotions that have overtaken me. It’s about mental health and the challenge to live a positive life even within the madness that surrounds us. And it is possible – that’s why I love the forest, it’s why I’m barefoot outside all the time. I need to disconnect from everything and everyone. You must, or it consumes you.”

Chris got heavily into programming and synthwave sounds – was that an exciting challenge to incorporate?
“I don’t like writing under pressure, and I can never totally predict whether Maria’s gonna love something or not. For this new music, without time-related pressure, I had time to just take the guitar off for a while and really get to grips with programming. I would send ideas to Maria, and she genuinely loved a lot of it, and so we went forward, doing a ton of stuff we wouldn’t normally do.”

Maria: “There’s a real special thing between Chris and I – when he says he can’t predict whether things will please me, it’s not like I’m some diva (laughs). But I need to feel the music. I love industrial and electronic stuff, so when Chris was sending me these ideas I almost laughed because I loved it so much. That’s something I do – I did the same thing when we came up with Blood [the title-track from 2012’s breakthrough album]. Everything flowed, everything resonated.”

You’ve always ‘seen’ music, had visions for how songs will ‘look’, both on video or onstage. How did the concept for The Purge’s fiery video emerge?
Maria: “I’ve been directing or co-directing our music videos for about 10 years, but this time I wanted to work with Jensen Noen who has worked with [bands like] Ice Nine Kills. We came up with the creative storyboarding, but he can do things that we can’t – such as make fire come to life. The fire in the video isn’t real or we’d have burned to death, but it looks incredible. We’ve always been very visual, but we’ve reached a new level now.”

At the end it said ‘to be continued’ – is there another, similarly themed video to come?
“Yes, and we want our fans to pick the song. We will look at what songs fans are gravitating to, and we’ll make a decision through that.”

Every In This Moment album has its own flavour, and this one certainly sounds like a new chapter. It’s like you’re emerging in slightly different skin with each release…
“That’s a really big thing for us. You’re lucky to have things happen for you, and you’re really lucky if you can hold your ground. We need to challenge and surprise ourselves, to do things that make us feel passionate. We want to keep the art evolving and keep people on that ride with us. We’re fortunate in that we are the biggest we have ever been right now. For the first time we’re able to play arenas, to have pyro and everything we want. We did that in a slow way but a strong way, and metal fans don’t follow trends – if they love you and get what you do, they stick by you.”

Chris: “Our albums are all different; sometimes drastically different. It’s about figuring out where both ourselves and our fans are in life, and what we are. People naturally change and so does the music – and the best thing is that our fans have stuck with us and evolved with us the whole way through. A lot of it is down to Maria having such an emotional stake in the lyrics and the music. People relate to that, and if it doesn’t have that, we simply don’t do it.”

In the past you’ve spoken about music being therapy – that seems to be the one thing that connects all In This Moment albums. Is Godmode a continuation of that?
“It has my DNA and soul all through it. It needs to feel that it’s authentic. I felt a real sense of release with this album. That scream on The Purge? It’s the longest scream I’ve done in my career. This album felt like medicine to me – if I walked around expressing myself like this in normal life I would’ve been committed to a mental institution, but the metal community gets it. They embrace it, they understand it. I feel the love coming back to me. The title-track Godmode is about finding your own power. It’s about using the suffering you go through and survive, so that the sum of your combined experiences becomes your superpower.”

You’re now headlining arenas in the U.S., and the live show is getting more expansive and theatrical – what’s next for you and will we see you in the UK next year?
“We’re booking shows as we speak, and all I can say is there’s gonna be amazing things happening. It’s bigger than we’ve ever done before – all the textures and elements we need to truly bring the music to life. Fire, the onstage performers, all the bells and whistles! We definitely want to bring this to Europe and connect with you all. Above all, we’re just so grateful that we’re now able to put on the kind of shows we always dreamed of doing.”

Godmode is out now via BMG

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