Metal Mofos’ Isaac Sauers chatted with Philadelphia’s own Sumerlands’ guitar player Arthur Rizk about the band’s self titled debut album and his musical influences. Sumerlands is one of the best bands you’ll hear that have come out within the last year. Check out the interview below.
Metal Mofos: Sumerlands was released in September. Have you played any shows since then to support the album?
Arthur: We played one show. It was technically the record release show. It was in New York. It went well, but we weren’t planning on playing many shows. We’re really doing only special shows though. If we take time out of our lives it has to be for something special.
Arthur: I think it’s in August. It’s a pretty big deal. It’s with Denner/Shermann which are the guitar players for Mercyful Fate. I haven’t ever been to Norway so I’m pretty excited because it’s the home of black metal and other great shit.
MM: How did Sumerlands get started?
Arthur: It was a project based on friendship. We are all in other bands. Phil and I met on a video shoot for another band and we decided to get together and do some songs just for fun. We decided to get a band going after doing some demos. I recruited Justin who plays drums and I got my roommates to be in the band.
MM: Who are some of your favorite artists and biggest influences?
Arthur: They’re kind of spread out over many genres. I love Queensryche who was a big influence in the beginning. Ozzy Osbourne, all eras of him, including late Black Sabbath and later solo stuff with Jake E. Lee with albums like Ultimate Sin and Bark at the Moon. Dio. All the big stuff then some more obscure power metal stuff like bands who did like one LP in the late 80s then just disappeared. Then I like 70s prog stuff like Yes, Rush, and Tangerine Dream. My influence spans over so much stuff with mostly just trying to get dark, moody guitar stuff. I try to take those influences and write some dark and moody metal.
MM: You mentioned Jake E. Lee a moment ago. We love him on our site. When I was listening to your album I really thought your playing reminded me of him on the Ozzy Albums he played on. How big of an influence was his guitar tone on those albums?
Arthur: His tone was fuckin’ awesome. The biggest thing that influenced was, I’m not sure how to say it, he was like a vocalist with his guitar. He was writing, orchestrating everything. I obsessed over learning his guitar solos when I first started playing guitar like “Bark at the Moon” and “Shot in the Dark” which I think is one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. Definitely top 5. Everything he does is just singing. His guitar work isn’t just big thick chords. He’s just throwing everything in. That’s kind of what I’m trying to do. I also buy a Charvel guitar because I saw Jake E. Lee playing one when I was like 14.
MM: Sumerlands has a classic metal sound like the artist we just talked about. Do you think something has been missing in metal recently? In the past 15 years we’ve been inundated with nu metal and metalcore. There hasn’t been a whole lot of melodic note playing like Jake E. Lee and yourself.
Arthur: I think metal definitely moves in trends. I think it’s cool how classic metal is becoming a thing right now, and all these older bands are coming out and doing reunions. Like Cirith Ungol has come out and are playing like 15 shows this year. I’m not sure what drives the trends. I feel a couple years ago extreme black metal was the most popular thing then metalcore became the thing. I don’t know how people gravitate towards these things. I know when I first started playing guitar I was into classic metal. All of the guitar magazines at the time had artists like Sevendust and Korn on the cover or even Creed. There was not a lot of George Lynch or any of those guys. That’s what was popular, but I liked The Scorpions and Iron Maiden. I used to pretend to be in Iron Maiden in my basement. I’m not trying to be retro or go back to the 80s. That’s just the kind of music I’ve always liked, and what I’ve wanted to do. It came second nature to me because I learned playing guitar off that stuff, and it’s good timing for the band right now.
MM: You did a video for Gear Gods recently where you showed different amps and pedals. Is that the setup you used to record the Sumerlands album?
Arthur: It’s very close. That little Peavy guitar amp was actually worked into the record along with my Marshall JCM 800. It’s not much too giant of a difference from the amps I used in the video from what I used on the record. I used some pretty heavy metal amps with not a lot of built in distortion. Everything I talked about in the video are all concepts I used. There were a lot of negative comments from people going nuts about it. When you take like 4 tracks and layer them on top of each other like I did it makes a monstrous guitar sound.
MM: The Sumerlands album showed up on a few Best of 2016 album lists at the end of the year including a list by an artist I really like, Fenriz of Darkthrone. What was it like to see your name out there with some of the best of the year?
Arthur: I was definitely surprised. I’ll tell you that much. I was not expecting to be on any list. Not because I think little of my band. I’m very proud of my record. I didn’t think people would gel or vibe with it. It wasn’t just with classic metal, but with someone like Fenriz who is a cult figure in extreme music to put this classic sounding record on his list which is nothing extreme. I was seeing on an indie list from people who don’t even listen to metal. It blew my mind that people outside the small metal world would be able to get into as well.
MM: What’s next for Sumerlands? You’ve got this great album album right. Is it just promoting it more or playing some gigs?
Arthur: For me personally it’s just keep trying to spread the word and get as many people to hear it as possible. We didn’t play shows before the record so we didn’t have a built in audience. We are going to play some shows and festivals and do a European tour hopefully next year. I’ve even started some demos for some new songs.
MM: To close us out, What are your favorite songs on the Sumerlands record? What are you excited to play live?
Arthur: “Timeless” is my favorite song on the record mostly because it showcases all of my favorite influences from prog to power metal to Mercyful Fate. It’s also one of two songs on the record that our other guitar player John Powers plays a solo on and I love his guitar solo and the synthesizers. That’s my favorite I’m pretty sure. “The Seventh Seal” is another one that I really like because it’s really power metal.
MM: Thank you. I appreciate you talking with me.
Arthur: Yeah man, thanks for hitting me up I appreciate it too.
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