HistoryDefying the trends of their country, Balance Of Power plays progressive hard rock. Yates and Ritchie formed the band. King would take over the microphone in 1997. Gunn would be ousted following Book Of Secrets - a concept album - and would concentrate on Anthem Records. Lance King was ousted in the autumn of 2002 following financial differences and soon replaced by Biomechanical's John K. He had joined the band as a replacement for Ritchie, but had been working with the band previously as owner of Nightmare Records as well. Ritchie would later rejoin the band, albeit on bass guitar!
The band's next album was tentatively entitled Heathen Machine. This album was released in late 2003 with John K handling the vocals. DCA Recordings licensed the album for North America. The band set out to compile and release a DVD. John K left in early 2005 in order to concentrate on Biomechanical. The boys recruited singer Corey Brown formerly of Magnitude Nine, Section 16 and Redemption several months later. Heathenology was the name of a boxed set issued by Massacre in 2005.
BALANCE OF POWER - HEATHEN MACHINE - MASSACRE/DCA
It only took Heathen Machine five months to cross the Atlantic following its appearance in Europe in November of 2003. The wait has been worth it. Balance Of Power's latest album is a strong album with good melodies, interesting solos and an intriguing title and lyrics. The vocals of new vocalist John K (of Biomechanical) steal the show though. His confident showing reminds the listener of Geoff Tate to some degree, but he leaves little doubt that he has a personality all his own. The rest of the band is not far behind and puts in a good performance as well. The band's mixture of hard rock and progressive elements would have been even better had it not been for the presence of the keyboards and incredibly a drum machine. Whether it is too expensive to pay for studio time to record real drums or the band's drummer was not available is not clear. What is clear is that the drum machines lessen the joy of an album that otherwise drips with feeling and accomplished playing. Having said that, Heathen Machine is worth recommending for its songs, interesting theme, guitars and certainly the singing. - Ali "The Metallian"
InterviewsBalance Of Power's Heathen Machine is a fine hard rock album and were it not for a North American release by DCA Recordings this writer would not know it. The band is bound to Massacre Records in Germany and Massacre is bound to Europe and so Balance Of Power does not get the recognition it deserves in Canada or the United States. It is a pity though, for Heathen Machine is a classy release with loads of potential. Things will hopefully change now with the aforementioned licensing agreement. Then again, Heathen Machine is strong enough to raise the band's profile on its own. Drummer and producer Lionel Hicks - the rest of the band is guitarist Pete Southern, bassist Tony Ritchie and new singer John K - was happy to call Metallian Towers from his London home and speak to Ali "The Metallian" on a Sunday afternoon about the band, the album and a couple of other things to which mortals need to be exposed. - 25.04.2004
LIONEL: This is our fifth album and we have a new singer on this one. We had the longest gap in our history with this album which was a two-year one because we fell out with our previous vocalist, had to find somebody else and it disrupted our momentum. We have been going since 1997 and we started off with our bassist Tony Ritchie being our vocalist. He sang on the first album. It was general consensus that we needed a vocalist with a higher range. That kind of a vocal suits what we are writing and Tony, as a key writer, was writing things that didn't suit his own voice. We then had a vocalist from America called Lance King for three albums. When we split up with Lance at the end of 2002 we found this vocalist who is Greek, but lives in London, called John K.
We are very excited today because every album has been a progression. We have never gone backwards. We have always gone forwards. People, particularly in Europe, say this is the best album we have ever done.
METALLIAN: What was the cause of your split with Lance King?
LIONEL: Well, it was a financial thing. Everything was right and we were fine in the band musically. We all got on. We went on the road in Europe and did quite a few shows together. We were also fine in the studio together. The mistake we made was that Lance had his own record label in America called Nightmare Records and we let him, without any contractual agreement, release our albums in America. As time went on and we didn't get proper accounting we started to fall out about the money issue which is really sad. It is a pity because it was a great line-up and he is a great vocalist. We just couldn't resolve it. It just didn't work out. We had to start afresh, get a new vocalist and get a new label in America. It is that thing that ruins everything, namely money.
It all goes very deep and there is a lot we could say, but we are trying to be diplomatic as well. The bottom line is that we fell out over money.
METALLIAN: Is John K. a full-time member of Balance Of Power or is he guesting on Heathen Machine?
LIONEL: He is a member. He does have his own band though where he writes and records everything. It's a band called Biomechanical. I love it, but it is a lot different than this band. It is a lot more hardcore. He tinkers away with that, but at the same time he wanted a more high-profile thing like we were doing. We have already started to gig. We played in the UK three weeks ago and played the Building A Force festival in Germany which actually was filmed by our record company for a DVD release. This video will be released at the end of the year. So everything is rolling on.
METALLIAN: What did the other members of Biomechanical think of John's decision to also play with Balance Of Power?
LIONEL: Well, I don't actually know. I have met them all and everybody was really cool and friendly. It didn't seem like there was any bad feelings. I don't see why they should be upset. It was different years ago when bands got to a certain point and they either made it big or didn't. These days it is pretty much an underground following thing and people do many different things. I don't think it is good to go too far and prostitute yourself and be in ten different bands and guest on all sorts of things, particularly from a singer's point-of-view because there is so much character in a voice, but the good thing about John is that his vocals are so different in Biomechanical that it sounds like it is different people singing. That works as well. If people have the time, I don't see why people shouldn't be in two bands. You have to draw the line though. There is touring and recording that takes time, of course.
METALLIAN: John's vocals and the band's performance puts one in the mood for the music...
LIONEL: Hey, I know what you mean. That is a big thing, especially for myself as the producer. I always try to look at keeping the attention there. The way to do that is to have all the elements like the light and the shade and the power and the melody and have them all roll into one, but not at the same time. It moves the whole album around, but keeps an identity. We are not afraid to use nice piano parts and then kick into a nice chunky riff with melody over the top of that. We have those things in mind when we set out to make an album. Many albums would typically start with a really fast track. We try to do something different. The first track, The Rising, was an idea we had later on, almost when the album was finished. We thought about having our new vocalist, our new vocalist we are so proud of, sing with the piano. That is what we did and, as many people said, it is such a great beginning to the album. All those things keep your attention and it shows our diversity.
METALLIAN: How long did John practice with the band before recording the album?
LIONEL: We were writing the album as we were falling out with Lance. One of the reasons why the songs, and particularly the title track Heathen Machine, came about was that we were so angry and disappointed with him. Things were wrong financial-wise when everything else, musically, spiritually was fine. It just brought all these angry songs out of us about how human beings mistreat each other. If it just comes down to money then it is really sad. There is supposed to be a theme to the album with songs like Heathen Machine, Necessary Evil and Chemical Imbalance. We wrote all the songs over a six to nine month period as were trying to resolve things with our singer. They were all written and then we didn't have a vocalist. We started to record them, and I have my own studio, and we really needed to find somebody to sing. We are carrying on recording because our bass player writes all the melodies for the vocals and that process wasn't going to change. Lance used to come towards the end of the albums and we would take some ideas of his and record. Then we started to audition some singers, and we have recorded most of the tracks, and as soon as we heard John' test track for the song Heathen Machine we were blown away. We knew we had to have him. That was it. After that, we worked a little on the songs to make sure the melodies were right for him and changed a couple of small things. We then recorded all the vocals in four days. It all came together pretty quickly.
METALLIAN: I would have believed it had you said 60 days.
LIONEL: Oh, no. Don't forget that the songs were written and the melodies were written and there were guide tracks sung by our bass player in place. It was a case of discussing it and recording. We were open to anything, as we were when Lance was singing, and if they thought they could better a melody line then we go with that. Otherwise, it is just as Tony originally wrote it.
METALLIAN: How many singers had you auditioned?
LIONEL: There were quite a few. I mean, we didn't go for too many to be honest. We tried to go for the ones we knew rather than have open auditions. That is because we had a really good singer in Lance King and we needed to replace him with someone as good or better. Anybody of that calibre is already doing something and we already know about them. Maybe that's the wrong attitude, but I have been in bands before that audition and none of the singers are really up for it. We had Tony Martin audition and he was happy to do it, but he didn't want to join as a full-time member. He wanted to guest on the album. We thought that would be a step backwards.
A promoter friend of us called Vince from Bloodstock suggested John K. We got together with him and couldn't believe how good John was.
METALLIAN: What is the story behind the album's concept?
LIONEL: It wasn't set up to be a concept and it isn't really, but the theme of the songs that came out and given the split with the singer it wrote itself to have a theme to it! The songs are about living in a world where people have created a 'heathen machine.' That was the concept for the album cover. Babies are being born machines and bad people. The whole thing has gone wrong. People do over people and rip them off. It is like a cycle that seems to get worse and worse.
METALLIAN: Heathen has negative connotations.
LIONEL: Yeah, I mean a heathen is somebody who is anti-God. That is not to say that we are preaching Christianity. It is still a moral stand-point though. If you are a heathen you are somebody who is not morally bound or doesn't care how they act or treat people. To marry the world 'heathen' with the word 'machine' is the story of creating heathens rather than creating God-fearing human beings.
METALLIAN: What is causing this challenge?
LIONEL: I don't know! Money seems to be the root of all evil, doesn't it? We all need money and the more money we have, the more we can do what we want and the less we have, the less we can do what we want so human beings are driven by money. After money, it is normally sex and sex is linked largely to money in this world. It is a statement on society in general.
Our songs are always inspired by a real-life situation. The kind of life that we have seems to be, well we are happy people and in a rock band, but we are still aware that we live in a pretty shitty world. Rather than write about fast cars, girls and drugs we talk about humanity. These are things we all can relate to.
METALLIAN: Would you consider Balance Of Power an intellectual rock band?
LIONEL: I would say that, yes. It might sound pompous, but I think we are. We are nice guys and we are not druggies and we know what we want to achieve. Much the same as a band like Dream Theater or Queensryche we have something to say rather than 'I went out and got drunk and bla bla bla.' The other thing is that the songs, and Tony is clever at this, are cryptic, but they can perceived anyway you want depending on the mood you are in.
Many people have told us that they like the song Chemical Imbalance, for instance, because it makes them feel this or that and the song is not about anything like that. The same goes for the song I Wish You Were Here. I think it is great that people can listen to a song and be inspired by it for their lives, but it wasn't necessary written that way. Some people have told us that the lyrics depress them, but they still want to listen to it.
METALLIAN: Chemical Imbalance is probably my favourite song on the album.
LIONEL: I have heard that before. It is probably the most-spoken about, that and Heathen Machine. Others like Necessary Evil. There is such a variety of styles. It is obviously Balance Of Power and there is a certain style, but the songs have different feelings.
METALLIAN: How does this album compare with your other albums? Will those who like this one also like your other albums?
LIONEL: It depends. I would say those who liked this probably wouldn't like our first one When The World Falls Down .It depends how broad your tastes are, of course, but the first one is definitely more of an AOR album. It is a lot more pompy with keyboards like early Harem Scarem. We have gotten progressively heavier and progressively more progressive. So if those things are important to you, then you would like Perfect Balance which is the one before Heathen Machine. Having said that, there is a big change between the first one and the second one Book Of Secrets. Pete, our guitarist, who writes most of the heavy stuff joined us starting with the second album.
METALLIAN: I can't let you go without knowing for sure. Is that a drum machine one hears on the album?
LIONEL: We use samples. For the clarity and control I manipulate the drumming and take samples and trigger them. I layer different drum sounds. I spend ages and sometimes have three different snare sounds altogether. I really like that because it gives you ultimate control. I am a bit of a perfectionist and I know its not some people's cup of tea. Some people find it cold and synthetic, but I am fan of the 80's when they did a lot of the stuff, so did Dream Theater on Images And Words. I like that controlled sound. Sorry to anybody who doesn't like it.
Fans can forgive that shortcoming given everything else that is so right with Balance Of Power. The band's DVD was just shot and will be out towards the end of the year. In the meanwhile pick up Heathen Machine for quality and progressive hard rock and heavy metal.