Album review: INTENSE – Songs Of A Broken Future

INTENSE – Songs Of A Broken Future

Pure Steel Records [Release date 27.03.20]

It has been nearly nine years since we last saw an album from Intense, during which time they have been busy inside and outside of the music scene (see interview below). The album was recorded, produced and mixed by Threshold guitarist Karl Groom at his Thin Ice Studios. Intense’s line–up features original members’ vocalist Sean Hetherington and guitarist Nick Palmer, along with guitarist Dave Peak, bassist Stephen Brine and drummer Neil Ablard.

Boy is this an album for the times…after a suitably grandiose intro piece we are off at full metal pelt on ‘End Of Days’ and ‘Head Above Water’. Sean Hetherington packs a powerful vocal punch, whilst the twin guitar assault is reminiscent of Iron Maiden.

Keyboards are used sparingly to add a little texture to the sound, helping along the intro to ‘I Agonise’. A classic piece of power metal Intense style. There is even a piano intro on the title track, possibly one of the most progressive songs Intense have attempted to date, along with the heaviest in terms of the riffing and rhythm section power.

‘The Social Elite’ has the potential to be a single, another fast paced power metal anthem. The vocals and arrangements on the chorus are again very impressive.

‘Until The Memories Fade’ is a proper metal ballad, complete with slow parts, soaring guitar solo and clever use of harmonies on the chorus.

Intense have been beavering away on this album for some time and it has been worth wait. Whilst we live in these uncertain times Intense have just delivered the metal soundtrack to them. ****

Review by Jason Ritchie

Vocalist Sean Hetherington brings us up to date on the recording process behind the album, why it took so long to complete and possible future touring plans…

It has been nine years since Intense’s last album. Was it meant to be released earlier or was it case of getting the best out of the music & production that you could possibly get?

No it definitely wasn’t the intention Jason, there were a number of factors that influenced. The main one was that life simply got in the way. We had some bereavements, weddings and children being born, all of which need the appropriate periods of time for that person. We also then had a recording schedule which was a little fragmented due to Karl’s band Threshold doing very well with their latest double album and getting a lot of work so naturally we worked around their shows too. Then submission to the label to see if they liked it etc etc… The fact that we had a lot of time to live with the songs certainly helped though I think as we had more chance to change anything we didn’t like, you can also overdo that process so it can be dangerous lol ..

The new album ‘Songs For A Broken Future’ seems very apt in the current climate. How did you come up with the ideas for the songs on the album? Do you write as a band or does one person do the lyrics and all contribute to the music?

We’re all a little concerned around the how apt this is especially with the intro being “The Oncoming Storm” and the you have “End of Days” lol .. they were written by Nick so his next tunes may be about us all winning the lottery and owning islands .. we’ll see what happens ;)

Anyway getting back to the question. Musically Nick and Dave are the main contributors but Stephen has also contributed on SOABF . Lyrically I always write the main bulk of the songs but Nick likes to dabble in lyric writing and loves to test me so he gets 3 songs per album. Arrangements get agreed by all the band once we put the songs together in our studio .. so we all contribute on that front.

Metal music can sometimes be seen to be very bleak in its lyrical outlook, however do you see any glimmers of hope in the world right now? How important is music you in your personal life and what is your ‘go to’ album(s)?

I think there is so many styles of metal these days you can find whatever you want for the mood you’re in. I’m hoping the current situation will make a lot of people take stock of their lives and not take things for granted if we get back to some normality. I think you always have to believe in the good in the world and there are a lot of amazing individuals out there who add happiness and joy to people that we don’t always appreciate as a human race. We always focus on the negative and don’t give enough time to the positives in our lives, I’m as guilty as anyone.

Music absolutely keeps me sane. I train too which really helps but still have my ear buds in. Currently I’m listening to Lacuna Coil ‘Black Anima’. I love Cristina Scabbia as her voice just chills me out and I think she’s one of those people spreading positivity in the world too. Sonata Arctica – any album. Arch Enemy ‘Will to Power’. I’ve started listening through my collection more these days so do blast older stuff too.

The video for ‘Head Above Water’ packs a powerful punch. Who came up with the visuals/concept and are any more videos likely in the future?

Glad you like it, we looked at some different guys to do a lyric video and Nick did a small sampler and sent it to me and said “what do you think”. It absolutely blew me away and for his first go… so he got the job to do the whole video. He’ll be pleased you like it.

We want to shoot some performance videos and will definitely do a couple more lyric videos. Our most popular video was Fear when we were on Napalm. We had a decent budget for that provided by the label and it made a difference I think. We’d love the opportunity to do something like that again production wise but it comes at quite a cost unfortunately.

You are now with Pure Steel Records. How did you hook-up with them?

Well we released Shape of Rage through them also but it was a side arm of the label Pure Legend. In the 9 years we’ve been away they’ve certainly grown as a label and distribution looks to be really good right now for the new album. As I say we hooked up with them for SOR just through the submission process, fortunately they knew us so it was a quick signing. This time round we weren’t sure if they would want to take up the option after such a long time, but they were blown away by the album and they’ve gotten it out very quickly. About 3 months ahead of schedule which was great.

How have you managed to keep the same line-up for so long? Many metal bands seem to get through a fair number of band members or even split into two versions of a band. Has this helped with defining the band’s sound and artistic vision?

Ha ha .. we wonder the same thing. Same line up since 2004 although prior to that it’s fair to say we went through a few musicians. I suppose the good thing is that we don’t all live on top of eachother so we can have our space when we need it. I think we all work fairly well together, we can have different opinions about things and not fall out .. whether that’s a maturity thing or experience I’m not sure but it works . Even when there are month gaps between us getting together as soon as we’re back in the studio it’s like we instantly click and it’s like we’d never been away .. very bizarre but it works really well.

Yeah this has definitely helped the band’s sound. We keep evolving and don’t have to facilitate anyone new each time so it has minimal disruption. We all know what we bring to the band .

Playing live would be the next step after a new release, however that will be on hold for now. In an ideal world what sort of tour/run of shows would you like and what festivals would be on the ‘dream list’ for Intense?

We’ve always craved a decent 2 week European tour which is probably the best we can do given our day jobs and mortgages lol , not very rock n roll but it ‘s fact for a lot of bands these days. Whilst there are many bands I love I’m not sure they’d suit our sounds particularly and we’re not all into the same bands so not too sure the guys would be overjoyed lol .. When it comes to festivals I’d love to go back to Bloodstock at some point. We had a great indoor show with them back in the day and would love to play the outdoor .. (showing my age now) .. Wacken would be a dream come true also .

Message for your fans and anything else to add…

Well I’ve done a lot of apologising for how long it took the album to come out so no more of that lol .. I’m hoping that many people will give us a blast if they’re new to us and if you’ve been waiting for us to get this album out I hope it was worth the wait.

When we do get out to play you’ll see a lot of energy and passion because that’s how we play live and we’ve been waiting a long time to tour so come see … thanks Jason for taking the time to talk to me. It’s much appreciated.

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 1 August 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week and an interview with “metal queen” Lee Aaron.

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