*Primarily written by the members of Shadowborn.
*Introduction, interview questions and conclusion by Mike Marlinski.
I took some time to interview Shadowborn (ex Age of Shadows) from Rochester to get some fire under them after their decision to rebrand and start fresh. It’s been an interesting road for these guys since 2005 and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. For starters, let’s check out some background information regarding the power metal LEGEND now known as Shadowborn:
(JTH): Jay Tyler Hellsteed – Vocals, Lyrics (May 2012)
(POB): Patches O’Brayer – Bass guitar, Backing vocals (February 2011)
(CC): Christopher Conley – Keyboards (April 2012)
(GG): Grant Gurnett – Drums (March 2011)
(DS): Dan Sheehan – Guitar, Backing vocals (January 2014)
All formerly listed members are considered founding members of Shadowborn.
Pertinent former members (AoS):
Jason Snyder – Guitar, principal songwriter (September 2005/February 2011 – July 2016)
Stygian (2005 – 2013) > Age of Shadows (January 2014 – July 2016) > Shadowborn (August 2016 – )
Stygian (the beginning of our greater band history) was formed in 2005 by former band member Jason Snyder, although it was functionally inactive until 2011. The band name was changed to Age of Shadows in January of 2014 due to a legal dispute (cease & desist) with another band of the same name. Snyder acted as principal songwriter and de-facto band leader until his departure in July 2016.
Shadowborn is comprised of former members of Age of Shadows (formerly Stygian) who decided to forge ahead without Jason Snyder. Though the band has a lot of history, we do consider Shadowborn a new entity and a fresh start. That being said, we are more than happy to discuss our time in our previous projects.
1. How’d you guys meet and who were you listening to growing up?
(JTH): I’m actually the new guy. At least, I was until we hired Dan. I was recruited as singer for Stygian (our original band name) way back in May of 2012 at the fantastic Finger Lakes Metal Fest. Our former band leader Jason and I had moved in the same circles for a long time before that; my band HorseFace would often appear alongside his various bands, so we kind of got to know each other. I became acquainted with Patches and Chris at these shows as well. When Jason invited me to join Stygian, I gladly agreed and I wound up sticking around ever since. It’s honestly a little surreal to me that I stayed with the band longer than he did. As for what I grew up on, I’m a 90’s kid through and through. I grew up jamming to stuff like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Hole, (old) Green Day and the like. I know, I’m kind of surprised I wound up becoming a power metal singer myself.
(POB): Most of us met through the band in one form or another. Growing up I was listening to a lot of Blink-182, Metallica, System of a Down and Coheed and Cambria.
(CC): I was in a previous band with Jason from 2008 to 2010, during which time I sort of met Jesse doing some shows with his old band. A couple years after that broke up, Jason convinced me to join AoS. I pretty much didn’t even listen to music as a kid other than the music I’d hear on my video games. In middle and high school it was alternative, even though I never knew what that even meant. It wasn’t until 12th grade when I found a Rhapsody (of Fire) album at the library and was amazed at how far from all the stereotypes metal could be.
(GG): Craigslist and beer.
(DS): I was asked if I could drink beer and play Iron Maiden.
2. Best show you guys have played together thus far?
(JTH): This is a really tough one. The gigs at The Montage Music Hall as Age of Shadows where we had the honor of opening for bands like Metal Church, Primal Fear, and Death Angel are all definite contenders.
(POB): Best show for me would probably be when we opened for Metal Church, we gained a lot of local followers at that show, and what an honor!
(CC): The Primal Fear show. Besides how great they were, the crowd was just entirely our people. So many of those guys went on to be regular AoS fans, singing along with our songs.
(GG): Metal Church.
(DS): Montage Music Hall with Metal Church.
3. Dream tour package, who would you love to tour the world with?
(JTH): That depends on whether we can count dead musicians and disbanded groups or not. I mean, as long as we’re dreaming, we might as well resurrect Dio or Lemmy, right? Being a little more realistic, my dream tour would be with Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and Iced Earth. I’d whizz my pants.
(POB): I’d love to tour with Mastodon or Unearth, and definitely Amon Amarth.
(CC): Dragonforce, Freedom Call, just a few bands where it seems the band and the fans are just there to have fun and not take it too seriously.
(GG): As long as they bring beer I would play with anyone.
(DS): You had me at tour the world.
4. Now that Shadowborn is a thing, are you guys going to be switching up the style at all, or are you still going after the same symphonic power metal sound?
(JTH): I think that our sound is inevitably going to change a little bit. I’m not sure it could be any other way when you forge ahead without the person who formerly did the majority of the songwriting. There’s a lot more creative flexibility within this project than we have previously had in any of our previous incarnations, as all five of as are contributing more to the songwriting process. Overall, though, we are trying to maintain a focus on power metal. I’d say it’s our specialty.
(POB): I think that our sound will remain similar, but as we move into a different song writing situation I imagine the sound could evolve in all sorts of ways.
(CC): I hope not, though it’ll probably happen since our old songwriter was a lot more well-versed in “modern” “epic” power metal than most of the rest of us are.
(GG): Same style. Different feel.
(DS): The rules are there are no rules.
5. Are you currently in the market for a 2nd guitar player?
(JTH): We’ve had a lot of things going on since our reformation, so we haven’t yet sat down as a band and discussed adding a rhythym guitar player. Personally, I think it’s a logical next step. I think the kind of music we play lends itself to the ‘wall of sound’ mentality, and we sound beefiest with two guitar players. I’d definitely like to recruit someone in the future. It’s most important to us that we find the right person. Somebody who meshes well with us and generally fits in.
(POB): We are always looking for good musicians. The key thing for us is that it’s the right fit, personality wise.
(CC): We might have to. There are more than a few good bands with one guitar and one keyboard, but I was trying to write music the other day and realized “Wait I just layered three guitar parts. How are we supposed to play that?”
(GG): Yes. Must be able to drink beer.
(DS): Either way is fine with me.
6. Anything new in the works for immediate future? Recording? Shows? Etc.
(JTH): We want to maintain as much of the momentum from our time in Age of Shadows as we possibly can. We have already reclaimed a number of the shows we had booked as AoS before we reformed, and we’re aiming to have an EP out by Christmas. We have no intention of slowing down or losing steam.
(POB): We are hoping to have some new recordings by the end of the year or early 2017.
(CC): A few carry-over shows, but mostly just songwriting so we can spend as little time as possible as a cover band.
(GG): Couple new songs. None of which are about beer. I’m kinda sad about that.
(DS): I’m currently bending and twisting a hard drive full of ideas. Lots in the pipeline.
7. List off your current favorite bands, along with some of your favorite locals you think people should be checking out.
(JTH): Iron Maiden, Iced Earth, Queen, Marcy Playground, Black Sabbath, Alice in Chains, Billy Talent, Ween, Alter Bridge, Melvins, (old) Green Day, (old) System of a Down.
Locals you should check out: Man, there is WAY too much fantastic local talent to list. In fact, I think I would just recommend that you come out to the next Finger Lakes Metal Fest and see how much local talent there really is in upstate New York. Most of the bands I would recommend appear there every year.
(POB): Coheed and Cambria, Thank You Scientist, I the Mighty.
Locals: Order of the Dead, Ancalagon, Divinex
(CC): Nightwish, Kamelot, Dragonforce, Iron Maiden, Freedom Call. As long as it has clean vocals it’s usually good.
Locals: I look forward to doing shows with Gates of Paradox. They’re about the only other local power metal besides the mostly-retired Steel Kingdom.
(GG): Pantera, A7X, Foo Fighters. The Dirty heads, Queen.
Local talent would include Lowkey and Order of the Dead. Not local but still not signed would be ThunderForge. Seriously, check them out.
(DS): I’m definitely an Aggressive Betty fan.
8. You guys play a few Maiden covers. Have people suggested other covers to you guys that you’re considering?
(JTH): Hah, I suppose our reputation precedes us with our Maiden covers. In Age of Shadows, we routinely ended our set with The Trooper, and I think that became something that everybody began to associate with our band. Towards the end of Age of Shadows’ career, we started picking up Wasted Years instead in an attempt to phase The Trooper out. I think in this new chapter for our band, it’s safe to say that we are going to be retiring The Trooper entirely. I’d also like to point out that while we may have been best known for our renditions of Maiden songs, they are far from the only covers in our repertoire. We also cover Dio, Metallica and Ozzy, to name a few.
(POB): We get a lot of suggestions from fans as far as cover songs. Most are Maiden or Dio. Sometimes it’ll be like Queensryche or Metallica, but we always consider new covers.
(CC): We’ve had enough people yell out “Dio!” that we learned and played Rainbow in the Dark for a while.
(DS): \m/ SLAYER!! \m/
9. What do you guys find so appealing about your genre? What stands out to you in power metal and why?
(JTH): I can’t speak for the rest of the boys, but I don’t think anything beats the theatrical presentation of Power Metal. The combination of crushing, melodic riffs and unbelievably talented vocalists with insane ranges is unmatched in nearly any other genre. I’m actually a bit of a theater buff; I’m very fond of shows like Sweeney Todd and Little Shop of Horrors, and I’ve even appeared in productions of Oliver! and Les Miserables, myself. Power metal, with its soaring vocals and overall theatrical vibe feels right at home for me.
(CC): Power metal is the premier genre for people who value melody over all else. If you want to sing along, power metal is your thing.
(GG): I get to play loud and fast.
(DS): For me it’s just fun. If it wasn’t fun I wouldn’t do it.
10. Is there one band in particular that the 5 of you have in common as an influence?
(JTH): I think it’s safe to say that we’re all quite fond of Iron Maiden. We like Metallica as a whole as well. Beyond that, we’re kind of a mixed bag. I think one of the cool things about our band is how eclectic our tastes are. I’m sure I listen to a lot of stuff that the other guys wouldn’t be caught dead listening to, and vice-versa. I think that’s great! Variety is the spice of life.
(POB): Iron Maiden or Metallica?
(CC): I’m honestly not sure there’s any band that ALL of us have at least one album of.
(GG): I guess Metallica, does beer count as a band?
(DS): Seems like Iron Maiden is the easy answer here.
For a sample of Shadowborn’s music, check out their song “Desolate One”, taken from their former project, Age of Shadows’ album, Maiden Voyage:
If you’re into this style at all, Shadowborn is a local Rochester act you really can’t afford to miss out on. They truly deliver everything they promise and more. Keep checking their Facebook for continuous updates and their forthcoming recordings. Thanks for reading!