Following a three-year gap since their previous album, Carnifex released their seventh studio album, World War X, earlier this month.
Brimming with all-out aggression and emotion, World War X makes for a stellar addition to the band’s discography. The record’s first single, “No Light Shall Save Us”, featuring Arch Enemy vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, offered a small taste of the relentless adrenaline that makes up World War X.
Vocalist and lyricist Scott Lewis took some time to chat with us about the process behind the album, as well as his own artistic approach to work. Along with reflecting on his process and background, he speaks to how he uses his writing to help amplify the theatrical elements of the music, and further elevate the material’s themes.
On the importance of time and dedication regarding the writing and recording of World War X
I think the foundation for a lot of what we were able to accomplish was that we knew very early on we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time. We knew early on that we were going to take three years to [write and record World War X]. I think we knew that pretty much after we got out of the studio for Slow Death; there were a lot of things on Slow Death that we wanted and had the ambition to do, but due to time and money, we just weren’t able to do. So going into this record, we had a lot of ambition. I had talked to the guys about the themes of the record and I had a few different titles kicking around. We all collectively really wanted to go for it on this one.
We spent 44 days on guitars with Jason [Suecof, who produced the record], and a lot of that was because we had the money to afford Jason for that much time. While in the studio, it was all about just really not letting up on ourselves. We would write a song and then listen to it for a month, and if we got tired of it in that month, then that meant it needed work.
I’ve been asked a lot, “What were you listening to when you wrote this record?”, and to be honest I was just listening to the demos. We were just listening to our music, thinking like a fan, as someone who is listening for enjoyment, we wanted to know if it would hold up. Our goal was to really go for that listenability; to have every song have peaks and valleys through it, to kind of take you on a little journey and have each journey be a little different.
On fitting lyrics to instrumentals and themes
I do work pretty closely with Jordan [Lockrey] and Shawn [Cameron] in the writing process. As a song is coming together musically, I have all my random notes and scribblings of stuff I’ve been compiling, just like they’ve been compiling riffs before we get into assembly. When I get a song [from the guys], that’s when I try to do that process of, “What does the song feel like?” Is it like a song such as“All Roads Lead to Hell”, where it has a little more of a fun, upbeat energy to it? Or, is it like “This Infernal Darkness”, where it definitely has that very foreboding, dreading tone? So I do my best to match the tone and topic of the lyrics to the tone of the music; everything develops together as the song gets redefined.
What drives him to share his art, and the themes on World War X
What drives [me] is what should drive any art, which is trying to have a connection with someone through the medium that you’ve chosen. Having personal, and I guess emotionally grounded lyrics, has always been pretty natural to me early on prior to bands. Back in junior high, I had done drama, theater, improv, and acting classes, and for me [coming from that line of work], the goal is always trying to find the truth of the scene and your character. So when I came to start writing songs, even in bands prior to Carnifex, I would write with that perspective ingrained in me. I wanted to write something that had a connection. Also doing musicals [back in the day], those songs are always very much speaking to a direct audience; live theatre is very engaging in a way; even though the audience doesn’t speak back, they are participating in what is being said.
With World War X in particular, I wanted to bring [all these ideas] with me. I also wanted to frame my [approach] in a way that was fresh for me as a writer and have this record be unique lyrically and in theme. I needed to find a way to get a larger scope, to have the scale of the lyrics match the scale of the music; it’s very ambitious music, the guys really went for it. So I had to go for it lyrically. [Regarding the record’s themes, I decided to] frame everything through the lens of war, through the battlefield. To face those inner fears that I have spoken about on previous albums: depression, suicide, schizophrenia, isolation, rage, whatever. Rather than basically have [those subjects feel like] personal conversations, I have taken all those things and filtered them through how you would face them on the battlefield.
And that’s what this record is about, facing and conquering. Rather than pushing [struggles] down and being this weak introvert that I think a lot people [may assume with stereotypes of depression], I wanted to get away from that. I wanted to be like, “No, face it. Be on the frontline and challenge it head on. Take on those different obstacles, whatever they may be.”
On his writing process
The thing I’ve realized the most lately, and I guess this can kind of be the foundation for my process on writing too, is the culmination of consistent work. That doesn’t mean that the work is great or is a big body of work, it means that if you can sit down and write two pages a day, if you can just do a little bit each day, you can really get a lot done. That was the way it was for the record, my comic Death Dreamer, and the feature script I’m working on … That’s kind of the foundation for my process.
On Summer Slaughter and the representation of extreme metal tours
We knew early on that the record was going to have a summer release; that made things a lot easier because our agent was able to let everybody know we were going to have a big summer tour. From there, the opportunity and conversation regarding Summer Slaughter happened; we’ve worked with them twice before, so being asked to team up on a headliner was pretty awesome. And if you look at what is going on in the metal scene, there aren’t any big metal tours happening this summer, I don’t think. To have Summer Slaughter, and to be able to team up with Cattle Decapitation, The Faceless, and everybody else, in my mind that’s exactly what we should be doing. We should be out there teaming up and putting out good tours. It seems like death metal is being left out sometimes [regarding big summer tours]; so I’m glad Summer Slaughter is there, it’s the only death metal tour really. So to be part of it is awesome and to have it coincide with a record that we’re totally proud of — we couldn’t ask for much more than that.
On what makes World War X stand out to him
It was really about seeing the vision through. I think this is the first record where I feel like we were able to fully express ourselves, rather than [have an idea but not be able to pursue it]. We’ve had that feeling on all previous albums, like on Slow Death we ran out of time for the vocals; I had to track all my vocals in like three days. We hoped to have a guest on that album and couldn’t get it done in time. So there are a lot of albums you can look back on and say, “Yeah we couldn’t do that, we’ll get it next time.” This was the album where we actually got to do those things on.