The "Restless Dreams" Retrospective

Well, it’s been almost a year since Restless Dreams by Malacoda was released. It’s been the most difficult record of my music career so far- for many reasons. Numerous issues on pretty much every step of the production transpired; everything from gear failure, rough musical performances, a long wait for mixing to be finished, to just insane circumstances out of my control mired the production. I could barely believe it when the record was released- and a small part of me wanted it to be out just so I could move onto other things. That was a very different feeling for me. Usually I was stoked for new music to be released, and excited to share it with the world. But this one was different. It was a darker, more visceral record than the previous two Malacoda releases. It was ugly, and unapologetic on so many emotional and artistic levels that were echoes of what had transpired during production.

Live in Toronto, Duffy’s Tavern, October 21st 2018. First day of the Northern Laments Tour.

Live in Toronto, Duffy’s Tavern, October 21st 2018. First day of the Northern Laments Tour.

None of the members who were part of the production process managed to stick through to the release. Life got in the way, personal demons took hold, or unprofessional and unfriendly things came to pass. I alone had to see how this thing we had created would make it into the world. The guys we had for the upcoming tour and later music videos were just part of the live show- they didn’t have the same kind of attachment to the concept album that was gestating in the studio for two years, but they still took the songs in as their own. We played a ton of songs off Restless Dreams on the Northern Laments Tour, and most of them were received quite well. The record was getting mixed reviews however. When it did well, it did really well. Those critics got it- it was a dark concept album based on Silent Hill 2 that was in the vein of Gothic Metal bands like Katatonia and Paradise Lost. It was meant to be atmospheric, slow, thoughtful, and avant-garde to a degree.

There were some that didn’t get it because it wasn’t “Symphonic Metal” like our previous release, Ritualis Aeterna. The label pushed it as a “Dark Metal” album- a genre I wasn’t familiar with at first, but I now find totally fitting. Do I find Restless Dreams a success? That’s probably the million dollar question here. In many ways, no I do not. The idea for this record was highly ambitious. A love letter to a piece of media that had it’s own niche fan base which we hoped we could tap into. We were even working with one of the prominent voice actors of the original game on some ideas for spoken word interludes, and various other marketing ideas. That was another thing that fell apart and never happened. Trying to work with Konami proved to be far out of our reach as well. The way we wanted to market the album just couldn’t happen and the label seemed to have their own plans as to what they wanted to do which clashed with our ideas on how to best move forward. This isn’t to say everything was met with failure- we’ve still had a year of growth. We’ve made new fans and connections while on tour. We’ve also developed our stage show to a more professional level.

Oct. 27 2018, Northern Laments Tour, at Cafe Dekcuf in Ottawa. Also, my birthday!

Oct. 27 2018, Northern Laments Tour, at Cafe Dekcuf in Ottawa. Also, my birthday!

There is a lot I would change in the production of this record, and there was a lot of stuff that even in the moment I was questioning. While it is important to work with your team, at the end of the day you can’t compromise quality because someone doesn’t have the right equipment, hasn’t practiced enough, or has a lack of vision. Say what you will about music and art, but quality should walk hand in hand with artistic integrity- not be sacrificed for the sake of retaining it. The mix was handled by Jon Howard of Woodward Studios and myself (mostly by him though) and he did a great job- both on the mix and teaching me some valuable lessons on how to approach mixing something like Restless Dreams. I don’t think anyone else would have been able to turn these admittedly disjointed recordings into the great soundscapes they are but him.

I learned a lot from working on this record. I learned how to be a more effective leader, and how to prepare myself preemptively for unexpected scenarios. Bringing this back to the realm of Old Haunt Records, I expanded my knowledge on music production through these experiences, and developed even more skills to help further my band’s and my clients’ needs. I’ve changed my outlook from what I originally deemed as “studio needs” and “live needs” which is something I’ll probably detail in a video one day. I think there’s nothing more an artist can ask for than a learning experience when the shit hits the fan. Restless Dreams provided me with many- some I wasn’t ready for. Usually I try to give a learning experience to my clients at the studio- I guess it was about time I was due one!