Why Despised Icon are back for good

Despised Icon

When Montreal deathcore pioneers Despised Icon called it a day in 2010, just one year after the release of fourth album Day Of Mourning, their demise came as a huge shock, not least because the scene they had effectively kick-started was just beginning to hit its stride. Thankfully, common sense has prevailed and after a series of wildly successful reunion shows, the Canadians are back this summer with a brand new album, Beast. Like everything they’ve ever released, it’s ridiculously brutal and may make you want to smash everything. Even so, we felt inclined to ask co-vocalist Alex Erian and guitarist Eric Jarrin exactly why they disappeared for six years…

So what exactly prompted you to dissolve Despised Icon back in 2010? Was it even a real, official split?

Alex: “Oh, it was a real split! We’d reached a point where we’d be in Australia one month and Asia the next month, and then three months in a row somewhere else and then we’re in Europe… and it never stopped. We signed to Century Media in 2004, we were all in our mid-twenties back then, so in 2010 we were all 30 or above and we’d reached the point where most of the dudes were starting families and they had new career opportunities. Being in a full-time touring band is a rough lifestyle. Once you leave home, life at home doesn’t stop and sometimes it becomes overwhelming when you’re home for a week and trying to catch up with everything. There’s a sense of responsibility as well. A lot of things got overlooked and we’d reached a point where it just got too much and that’s why we stopped.”

Did you ever think you’d play together again?

Alex: “Well, not at first. But the way we resurfaced is that in 2014 we all went and saw The Black Dahlia Murder play with Carcass and Gorguts. Max, our old bass player, is in The Black Dahlia Murder now. So we went to the show and it was the first time that the whole band was reunited, and the next thing you know we got all nostalgic and shit, talking about this time and that time and that nostalgia was the spark that we needed to start questioning ourselves, like ‘You know what? The kids are growing up, we’ve done the 9 to 5 for four years, what if we play a couple of reunion shows just for fun?’ The next thing you know we’re in Europe doing an Impericon tour.”

Were you surprised to discover how much people had missed the band?

Alex: “We were playing a lot of headline dates in between those festivals and we didn’t know what to expect, but a lot of people showed up, a lot of familiar faces and also a lot of people that got into our band after we broke up and they were genuinely stoked to see us for the first time. Seeing all that support, that gave us the confidence to say ‘Hey, maybe we should play a couple more shows…’ so we did three more shows in 2015 and then we knew!”

Eric: “When we broke up we didn’t fully grasp the extent of the influence we’d had on the metal scene and in the deathcore genre. Seven years later, we’re seeing how people didn’t forget about us and they’re still interested in hearing new music, that’s overwhelming and it’s great. It’s funny, but we’re feeling love from the metal community now. When I read comments on Facebook, people are super stoked that we’re back and the reviews for the album are good so far.”

Are you approaching things differently this time, to avoid becoming jaded all over again?

Alex: “Obviously things are different now. All my boys have a lot of obligations at home, but we’re back on our own terms and not being pressured by the business side of things. We’re not coming back as a full-time touring band but once in a while we’ll allow ourselves to take some time off work, go on the road and have a great time. I just picture us in 2009 and 2010 and music became work and we lost sight of what’s important. Now we realise how lucky we were to be given that opportunity and how fucking awesome it is to be in a band and tour the world. It’s fun now. We started jamming again. It’s fun to go and hang out and have a couple of beers, instead of rifling through the songs and leave. So the spark that went missing has definitely reignited and it feels great.”

Was it easy to write Beast or did you feel under pressure to really make your comeback count?

Eric: “People may think that the stakes were high and maybe we were worried how the new songs would be received by the fans, but after we did the Impericon tour, the most common comment on our Facebook was ‘We want some new music!’ That was one of the most persistent comments we’d see everywhere, so alright, let’s do it on our own terms and if it’s not good, it’ll stay in a vault and no one will hear it, you know? But if we like it, we’ll release it. We started to write the new songs in January of 2015. At first we were aiming for a self-released, four-song EP, but once we got back to it, it all poured out of us naturally.”

Alex: “I’m pretty sure a lot of fans are anxious to hear the new shit to see if we sold out or not! Often when bands mature and get a bit older, they calm down a bit. I feel as though we definitely went the other way when it came to writing Beast. It’s fierce, it’s fast, it’s pissed off, it’s brutal. I’m pretty happy with how it came out.”

And is that it now? Are Despised Icon back to stay this time?

Eric: “Right now the vibe in the band is pretty much how it was when we started out. We got back together because we wanted to and because we have fun. We don’t feel the business pressure… we don’t need to put out an album every two years and we don’t need to tour the world and be on the road for eight months. But we’re in it for the long haul because we’re really enjoying it and the fans are still interested in hearing new music from us. So we’ll continue on our own terms and we’ll try to get everywhere at some point. And we’ll keep writing songs. The creativity is driving us, and the need to write music and be creative. So we’re back for good!”

Alex: “We have new song ideas and a couple more riffs in the bank, so we’ll definitely put out more records. Now we’ve narrowed it down to a couple of days, weeks or shows at a time, it makes every performance a bit more special. It’s hard to put into words! We’re not just punching in and punching out. It’s like ‘Holy fuck, we’re playing in front of 6000 people! This is tight!’ That’s the general vibe in the band currently. It’s something that got lost along the way and it’s back now and it feels great. We’re very thankful.”

Beast is out now, via Nuclear Blast (opens in new tab).

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Dom Lawson has been writing for Hammer and Prog for 14 intermittently enjoyable years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He listens to more music than you. And then writes about it.