By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
On the eve of the release of their debut album, Orwellian vocalist Ian Pethtel and guitarist Seth Kensinger have much to be excited about. After nearly two years and some personnel changes, the band’s massive debut, Visions of the Future, has been cut, printed and already made available for online streaming. If that we’re enough, the Northeast Ohio metal titans will be opening for modern metal giants All That Remains at the Agora in Cleveland on May 17 and are set to headline the indoor stage at one of the summer’s biggest local festivals, SYLM’s Local Kickback in Austintown, Ohio on June 13.
After captivating audiences across the NE Ohio scene with a unique brand of heavy, melodic and technical heavy metal, as well as opening for a slew of national acts along the way, Orwellian have quickly established themselves as the act to watch. With Visions of the Future, Kensinger described the importance of pin-pointing the energy of the group with their first release.
“It’s just capturing that moment in time, as the band is forming,” said Kensinger. “I think our debut album is going to be interesting because you may hear things on this album you may never hear again. We’re going to just continue to grow as musicians from here.”
Despite the release of Orwellian’s debut, Kensinger and Pethtel are no strangers to the scene. Several years ago, they performed together in the band IO several years back. Pethtel has also kept busy serving as the vocalist for area legends Kitchen Knife Conspiracy, who also released a highly anticipated new record back in March.
“I’ve been working with them (KKC) on the new record since I joined in 2010. We just now in the last year really hit the studio to lay down the new tracks. So if anything, I’d say by the time I went in to do the Orwellian album, I was already in studio mode,” said Pethtel.
Visions of the Future certainly does capture Orwellian at a significant time in their career. As the creative fires are burn bright and hot, the band seize a rare opportunity to capture lightning in a bottle. Similar to debut albums from greats like Black Sabbath and Metallica or Carcass and Celtic Frost, Visions of the Future boasts Orwellian’s signature, timeless sound, while moving the genre further ahead at the same time. Tracks like the blistering closer “Kodiak” and concert favorite “Novel of Despair” showcase both the band’s raw intensity and knack for technicality and musicianship. Because of this, Orwellian balances two extremes of underground and slightly more accessible heavy music.
“We’re not a technical death metal band per se, but we’re not like All That Remains or In Flames’ later, more radio-geared material. I think we have a good mix of a bit of technicality, some groove, and some catchy shit. A little something for everyone, hopefully,” said Kensinger.”
They also discussed the state of the current local music scene of which they are a part of and the importance of helping to build that scene, while not over-saturating their own hometown and fan base.
“I think if we were to play Youngtown too much, eventually nobody’s going to come,” said Pethtel. “Because they know that if they go next week they can see us, or possibly wait for a free show.”
Pethtel continued that because Youngstown is a smaller scene compared to other markets such as Cleveland, there is more opportunity for success in a “less is more” approach.
“When we play out of town, the response is better. Youngstown, to me, is still rebuilding its scene. Whereas when we play out of town, we get a lot more random drifters through the door. We like to play less hometown shows with more of an impact. That way, when we play to our friends in town, it gives us the confidence boost to win over audiences in other big cities,” Pethtel said.
“Networking is a plus,” added Kensinger. “We get new fans and make new connections at every show.”
One issue many local bands face in trying to play larger shows and venues outside of their hometown is ticket sales. Promoters or venue managers often require bands to participate a pre-sale in order to determine an accurate number of attendees and to pay the bands based on their pull. This is a controversial method however, as many local acts argue that the very reason they’re attempting to book these venues is for greater exposure, and the idea of a pre-sale can make it difficult to do so. Orwellian have an interesting take on the matter, not shying away from ticket sales, but carefully choosing their involvement.
“We got lucky and got hooked up with a guy at the Agora that’s no bullshit. And we don’t bullshit him. We don’t say we’ll sell 50 tickets and show up with 10. We’re honest with him and we work hard to do it,” said Kensinger.
“It’s not easy, but you’re never going to get the show opportunities if you don’t do it. Because there’s always 10 other bands that will do it,” added Pethtel.
Regarding the growing number of local summer music festivals, Pethtel and Kensinger said they believe it’s a great opportunity to grow the scene, play to different crowds and experience a unique limelight.
“You get to see how many people are really about supporting local music, how many people really care about it. Why would you not want to have a festival? Why would you not want as many chances as you can to put local bands in their best light?” said Kensinger.
As for the future of Orwellian, they are still ecstatic to release the record, which has been a long-time-coming for fans and the band alike.
“I can’t wait for everyone to hear this, mainly because of Ian’s vocals. I think he’s really going to surprise a lot of people with what he’s done on this record,” said Kensinger.
“I am incredibly happy with it. I think this is the first time I’ve recorded where I’ve gone back over it a hundred times and thought, ‘wow, there’s not much if anything I’d want to change,'” finished Pethtel.
Orwellian are planning a major hometown release for Visions of the Future by the end of this summer. In the meantime, it is available for streaming via the band’s official Reverb Nation page and physical copies will be available at their upcoming performances at the Agora in Cleveland on May 17 and the SYLM Local Kickback at Chipper’s Sports Bar in Austintown on June 13.