Big News From Mercy Isle
It’s been about nine months since we first became acquainted with Mercy Isle, the American-Dutch Symphonic Metal act out of Wisconsin. In this time the band has gone through some major changes. Drummer Adam Maltby has left the band to pursue his tattooing business, and guitarist Cory Scheider parted ways to focus on his well-received death metal band, Casket Robbery. Though losing half your band can cripple most bands, Mercy Isle was quick to bounce back and there’s no bad blood for either departed musician.
“To be honest we kind of bounced back immediately. To be fair, Adam admitted at day one that he wasn’t sure how much he’d be able to participate,” says bassist Chad Novell, who also wishes Scheider the best of luck in Casket Robbery.
As Chad had stated, the band bounced back pretty quickly form the loss of Scheider and Maltby, but in a way that might have fans scratching their heads – their ranks have been replenished with Dutch musicians, Sebas Honing (temporary guitars) and Ywe Van Der Pol (drums). This change demographic has turned this once American-Dutch band to Dutch-American, so how does the band make music with an ocean between them?
“Lots and lots and lots of Skype and Reaper, our studio application,” says Chad. “Were we not in the modern age, this would not be possible.”
Fortunate enough to have a married couple for a vocalist and bassist, and the rest of the band in close proximity across the Atlantic, the band is able to write their music quite well. Though they’re unable to get together and practice as a whole unit, the band has come to rely on file sharing programs like Dropbox and Stack. As such, one member will first contribute a piece of music they are working on. He or she will then record what they have written so far in their recording software and upload the whole session file to Stack. Another member will then open that session and add their part to until an entire song is prepared and approved. As finicky as this may sound, this process works quite well, for all members have access to content at all times allowing them to add to their parts and edit whenever necessary.
Thanks to these modern amenities, the band has been able to write an entire album’s worth of music already. And for fans of the band’s debut Storm you’re going to notice some changes in band’s musical approach this time around, for with the addition of addition of Van Der Pol and Honing, things are getting a bit more metal than before.
“I’m pretty metal based. I used to play with Joop in some prior bands like a band called Galanor, but I also did a lot of prog metal. I used to play in Android Soul. I was trained classical, so I have a musical background,” says Van Der Pol with keyboardist Joop de Rooij adding. “What we’re basically trying to do is kind of blend in the 80’s synthesizer music with dark heavy metal and it actually works.”
Though Sebas Honing is not likely to stick with the band in the long run his play style is definitely going to bring something new and invigorating to the table for Mercy Isle.
“I don’t know how to describe him, but he nails it every time, no matter what you throw at him,” remarks de Rooij. “Let me put it this way. I was talking to Sebas about doing a solo. He had the song for about twenty minutes, never heard it, and he made something that, and I’m not fucking around, gives me goosebumps the size of the eggs. He absolutely hit the essence of the song and it’s simple. It’s not like he’s going Satriani on it, either.”
Despite having an excellent guitarist in Honing, he’s not likely to stick around for the long haul, but de Rooij isn’t too concerned as the European talent pool is quite deep.
“We have a good network and it’s also very convenient that we live in the Netherlands. A. it’s a very small country and B. we have a lot of good musicians here. We meet each other at a lot of festivals, so it’s fairly easy to get in touch with someone.”
Despite having a primarily Dutch band at this point, Mercy Isle hasn’t ruled out recruiting an American guitarist and have had a few names cross their minds.
“We actually thought about it on this end and what are our options. We actually hit up Michael, but we realized it would be the very same situation as with Cory and Casket Robbery. I can see us asking him or Bill for a guest solo sometime,” says Chad in reference to Michael Brigham and Bill House of Milwaukee thrash lords, Conniption.
For the time being, Mercy Isle can rest easy knowing Sebas Honing is in the band and willing to perform. As such, the band is working furiously on their new album Undying Fire, which is being mixed and produced by Sander Gommans (Ex-After Forever) with vocal coaching provided by Amanda Somerville.
In regards to the new lineup and the change in style, lead vocalist Kassy Novell describes the new album as such:
“It’s all over the place to be honest. We’ve got some songs that are happy and peppy, but seem to be a little more industrial. We’ve got things lyrically that are positive and go-getter (in spirit), but we have one song that’s very ‘I Spit On Your Grave’,” she says with Chad adding “We don’t want to be just another female fronted metal band in the European scene. There is a Nightwish, there is a Delain. We don’t need to sound like them. “I think Kassy has a unique enough voice because she comes from a theater background instead opera, or even rock’n’roll.”
As for the release of the album, the band has strategically decided to release it on the day of their performance at Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium, so to take advantage of the large crowd gathered there. As well, the band hopes to follow up on that show with a brief Scandinavian tour, but nothing is yet set in stone for that particular venture. In the meantime, the band is busying themselves with their fundraising campaign, which will help pay for the album.
You can help support Undying Fire and score some rewards here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mercy-isle-s-album-undying-fire#/
In the meantime, check out this live rendition of ‘No one Will Save You’ from Mercy Isle’s debut EP Storm – If growling in a female fronted band bothers you, rest assured! Kassy doesn’t always growl. She decided to take that approach just for this song to give an extra layer of metal character.