I’m going ahead and calling it now: 2019 is going to be a blowout year for traditional heavy metal. With promising releases on the horizon, or at least rumored to be, from the likes of King Diamond, Metal Inquisitor, Gatekeeper, Sanhedrin, Crypt Sermon, Magic Circle, Twisted Tower Dire, Iron Griffin, Enforcer, Chevalier, Pulver, Ravensire, Lunar Shadow, Angel Sword, Atlantean Kodex and Throne Of Iron (to name a few), things are shaping up to make this year a celebrated one in the eyes of the true.
One of my most anticipated of the year is that of the Canadian heavy metal tyrants Traveler. Blasting their way into the existence of this particular stream of the space-time continuum with a three song demo last May, Traveler has made waves amongst the Heavy Metal Cosmos with their addictive songwriting, lofty & powerful riffing, and a set of emotionally powerful vocals, courtesy of veteran singer Jean-Pierre Abboud (ex-Borrowed Time, Gatekeeper). The man behind the songs, however, is guitarist Matt Ries (Gatekrashör, Hrom), now backed with the support of a permanent lineup.
Traveler is ready to take it to the next level on their self-titled debut this February, and Last Rites recently had the pleasure of catching up with Matt to talk about Traveler, his personal influences, and the impact of the Canadian traditional scene on heavy metal as a whole.
Okay, let’s go ahead and get the basics out of the way. Early Running Wild or pirate Running Wild?
I fell in love with Port Royal first. But that’s a tough one! I think Branded And Exiled might be my favorite. Never ask me this again.
How did you get into the metals heavy? Do you keep up with modern acts or mostly stick with the classics?
I was raised on classic rock. Gradually got heavier from there. The modern acts I love basically all sound like the classics haha. But I definitely listen to the classics more. But more and more great new bands keep popping up. Ranger, Freeways, Metalian, Encyrcle… all good shit!
When did you first pick up an instrument and what was that instrument? Did you have family members that played music and acted as inspiration? Did you play in high school band or perhaps bands outside of schooling? What was the first song you learned to play? What inspired you to start making music that was your own? How does it feel to produce music that is entirely your own rather than written by someone else?
Back in elementary school, around the age of 8-10. Something like that. A buddy of mine would bring his shitty acoustic guitar over and play 54-40. Eventually he left it at my house long enough to where it became mine haha.
My dad played guitar back in the day. I remember him teaching me “Wild Thing” by The Troggs. I was immediately hooked and things kinda took off from there.
When I was a kid, my guitar teacher got me hooked on Maiden. Then he would push me to try writing my own stuff. Again, this was around the age of 10 or 12, so it took some time to start figuring shit out. But he was a great influence on me back then. To this day, we still see each other at shows haha.
And it feels great to get to the point of creating my own music. Not to say I didn’t write anything for my other bands. But having full creative control now feels good! It’s a different experience, for sure.
What is your writing process like? Do you tend to work everything out yourself or, now that Traveler is officially a full band, with the other members?
It usually starts with having a riff or melody stuck in my head for weeks until it drives me crazy enough to put it to the guitar. And lyrics come to me throughout the day. I’m basically always writing stuff down. Phrasing and all that will start fitting into the riffs I have like a puzzle. So for now, I’ve been doing all the writing. We haven’t gotten to the point where we are writing together as a band, since it’s all still so brand new. But we all have some ideas kicking around that we will collaborate on—it’ll all come together soon enough!
As far as lyrics go, what would you consider the primary inspiration? What are some themes that are important to you? Do your lyrics and themes reflect your person experiences or are they fantasy? Do you draw from any literary works or poetry? How have you grown as a lyricist? Is it a comfortable experience for you to perform lyrics that you’ve written that might be so emotionally important for you?
I think real life gives the most inspiration, but I love having fun with them and flying off into something ridiculous, too. A lot are based on personal experiences, and it can be a little nerve-racking putting such vulnerable lyrics into the music. But that’s art, I suppose. I’m more comfortable with it now. The best lyrics come from something with a lot of meaning, and that’s what I like to hear the most when I’m listening to a song—something relatable that sends a shiver up my spine. I dig that. Comparing lyrics I’ve written a long time ago to the ones I write now is like night and day. There’s always room to grow.
The new album sounds fantastic. I like that the production was beefed up from the demo without losing the organic feel of the demo. How involved were you on the production end of Traveler? Have you ever been involved in production for other bands? Did you guys record the album “live” so to speak or was it tracked piecemeal?
Thanks, man! That’s what I was going for. I was very much involved with the production. Myself and Jan Loncik did all the recording and production. I’ve been working with him for a long time in my other band, Hrom, so it was nice, familiar ground. Most of the album was recorded by myself in my music room after the drums were recorded at a separate studio. It was a lot of work to take on all the guitars and bass. Totally worth it, though.
Canada has always been a country that seems to just get heavy metal, from the early days of Anvil and Exciter to the modern explosion of quality traditional bands. What would you attribute this to? How do you see your place in the current Canadian metal scene? How is the response up there from the crowds? Do you feel that the community is overly supportive? What fosters such a warm, inviting and successful community?
Like any part of the world, there’s no shortage of awful bands haha. We just notice the good bands more. And for good reason! I don’t see much a difference between the Canadian explosion of trad bands and any other country. I’ve noticed over the last 5-10 years that all the 80’s underground bands have been getting more and more popular, which is great. They’re all finally getting the recognition they deserved to begin with. So that’s what I would attribute to the trad band explosion. It’s all great, even if it does seem to get a little trendy. As I’ve stated before: the world doesn’t need another Nickelback, the world needs another Riot. Whether we fit in or not is totally up to the people. But the response has been great so far! We’re just excited to do something new. Maybe the response has been great because we’re not another death/doom band. I can’t count how many of those bands surface in just our city alone. But whatever you’re into, that’s cool.
It was recently announced that Traveler would be playing the Legions of Metal Festival in Chicago alongside legendary bands like Cirith Ungol and Liege Lord. How does it feel to be sharing the stage with such esteemed groups? Do you feel like Traveler would be more of a festival band or a touring band? Who are you looking forward to seeing or checking out?
It’s great! I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with both of those bands before while being in both Hrom and Gatekrashör, so it’s all familiar to me and never gets less exciting. It’s a fucking good time.
At the moment, we’ve had the honor of being invited to Keep It True and Legions. All these great festivals are so much fun, but I would like to hit the road and make some tours happen. Probably won’t be this year, though. Gigs will pop up here and there, I’m sure. We’re still gaining momentum and working things out. It’s been a whirlwind.
Legions is still announcing bands, so I don’t want to speak too soon about who I most want to see. As for KIT, however, I’m most excited for Cities! Never thought I’d get a chance to see those songs live.
Ideally, what does the future hold for Traveler? Any chance of coming down to the US or touring Europe? Do you get a sense of which market might be an ideal audience for you?
Never thought too much about what market would fit our style, other than choosing the right label support. Certain fans of the genre will follow certain labels. We’re very fortunate to be on a great label like Gates Of Hell. They’ve treated us better than I ever expected.
As far as the future goes, we have some really cool things in the works that I can’t talk about yet. But we’re keeping busy making sure we put on an amazing live performance, and everything is rolling smoothly. So for now, we are continuing to write and prepare for our upcoming shows! Productivity us high, so you can expect a lot more from us in the future. Tours are definitely on our mind, so we will figure all that out in time.
Anything we can expect from your other bands, Gatekrashör and Hrom? Any other projects in the works?
Gatekrashör in on a hiatus. For how long, we do not know. Hrom is going steady, though. Currently in the middle of recording Powerheart Pt.2! We released a 2 song single a couple months ago, and we have shows and all sorts of good things to look forward to. I have no doubt that we will finish the album this year. We’re all dying to unleash this new album.
Thanks so much for talking with us! We’re looking forward to the albums release and hope for a strong future for Traveler!
Thanks for all your support and stay heavy!
Traveler’s debut self-titled album hits streets February 22nd. CD, LP and a digital versions will arrive through Gates Of Hell Records, and Caligari Records will provide a limited cassette edition. Preorders are available now through bandcamp. A review of the record is on the near horizon. Until then…