VIDEO PREMIERE+INTERVIEW: U.S. Technical/Progressive Death Metal Band NYN
NYN first came to my attention when they released the single The Apory of Existence around the end of June. While there’s a lot of tech death and progressive death metal out there, this song caught my attention with the sheer amount of things happening. Highly technical and heavy riffing gave way to soaring keyboards that had a significant prog rock feel, and the vocals spanned everything from high pitched black metal style shrieks to death growls. It stood out a lot, even considering how much of this material comes my way, and put ‘Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt’ on my radar as a highly anticipated 2017 release.
As it turns out, project founder Noyan Tokgozoglu has been honing his ideas for NYN for over a decade, and what was originally solo work now includes Tom “Fountainhead” Geldschläger (ex-Obscura) and Jimmy Pitts (Eternity’s End, ex-Scholomance) in its ranks. Having spent a good deal of time with ‘Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt’ in advance of its August 11th release on independent label Vmbrella, I can now say that this album is going to blow a lot of people’s minds with all of the different technical and progressive influences it incorporates. While the release is still a couple of weeks away, today we’re excited to bring you a premiere of the seventh track The Hallway via a brand new music video. Given that TO skews more towards the extreme side of metal it makes sense that NYN gave us one of their more tech death and heavier songs for you to check out.
Excluding the intro, The Hallway is the shortest song on ‘Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt’ and NYN uses this time to absolutely pummel the listener with a flurry of riffs and keyboard melodies. The emphasis here is on crazy fast technical riffing and keyboards that provide some dark, unsettling atmosphere over top of that. Noyan’s vocals once again move between high shrieks and low growls from one moment to the next without any loss of intensity, and it’s impressive that the vocals switch things up just as often as the instrumentals. This particular song reminds me of a cross between Obscura type tech death and mathcore like Psyopus (which is a band I haven’t thought about in some time). The Obscura comparison is particularly relevant on this song as Christian Münzner makes a guest appearance, completely opening things up into completely insanity about ¾ of the way through. It’s worth checking out the video too, as you get to see Noyan fly through these riffs before it cuts to footage from the video game Layers of Fear, an appropriate choice given the song’s darker tone.
The Hallway is a great representation of what NYN can do when they focus completely on the tech death side of things and pummel you with riff after riff. But there’s a lot more happening on ‘Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt’, with some of the progressive and other influences likely to catch you by surprise the first time through! The full album will be available on August 11th on Vmbrella, and to find out more about this project I had the chance to ask Noyan some questions. It’s one of our more extensive interviews in recent memory, but if you’re a fan of NYN or technical/progressive death metal, it’s well worth the read!
Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg): Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I’m sure what most people are noticing as they discover NYN is the level of technicality and the complexity of the songwriting. With this in mind, what is your musical background and what got you into metal? Do you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
NYN (Noyan Tokgozoglu): Thanks for taking the time to ask them! My background is simultaneously kind of weird and kind of boring. When I was in high school, I had a friend who was really into Slipknot who decided to take up guitar. He gave me his old third-hand guitar for a few bucks, and it broke down in a few weeks. But that got me interested in guitar. There was this dude who he was taking lessons from. The teacher guy was super into Nevermore, and he had a seven string guitar that he wanted to buy, which meant selling his old one. I got my first real guitar, the 7-string Ibanez RG from him. He had a cool band called Crossfire (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acyJPokICPw) and he taught me how to hold a pick. I didn’t take any more lessons. I learned Falling Away From Me by Korn, then started working my way up to The River Dragon Has Come by Nevermore. No training for years except just looking at Guitar Pro and watching YouTube videos. Later in my life, when I came to America for grad school, I found a really good local jazz player in Baltimore named Joe DeCara and took theory lessons from him. I’d already learned theory, but being forced to apply it was something different. He got me thinking differently about composition and forced me to constantly push myself. But the 8 years between those, I was self-taught. A year after guitar I picked up bass as well, and for that I also took one lesson to learn how to finger-pick, and then I joined an alt-rock band playing Muse stuff. I always wanted to push myself to be a more ambitious player and that’s what drove me to learn.
TO: NYN has been your solo project for quite some time, but with ‘Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt’ you’ve brought Tom “Fountainhead” Geldschläger and Jimmy Pitts. Previously you’ve had some guest contributions on ‘Eventuality’, but what made you decide this was the right time to turn NYN into more than just a solo endeavor and what made Geldschläger and Pitts the right choice?
NYN: Well, I’ve always wanted to have keys in my material. If you go back to my first EP ‘The Anachronist’, Conquering Worlds has keys in it, and that was the original vision. I just never was able to write interesting keys. After I made ‘Eventuality’, which was an album I really wanted to push in terms of achieving a tech death sound, I wanted to go back to my more progressive roots. The first song I finished writing for this album was Dissimulating Apologia. You can probably find the original version of it I posted a few years ago when my friend and metal community staple Brian Shields passed away. I first wrote that song without the atmospheric intro, but I felt something was lacking. I’m a big fan of Born of Osiris’ album ‘The Discovery’, and I heard that they used Omnisphere for the key sound on that. Around that time, I found a good deal for it on some flash sale and bought it and started experimenting with it. It still wasn’t enough. A year or so passes, and I meet Jimmy. I’ve always been a fan of his work on Scholomance, and that’s exactly the sound I wanted, really original progressive death metal with keys. He was doing a crowd funder for the Pitts Minnemann Project, so I had him and Tom on the Heavy Blog podcast. I kept the conversation open after that. It turns out Jimmy has family that lives near me and he came to visit them. We met up at an Indian restaurant, had some food, and I laid out the idea. He dug the demos I showed him, and we were on. Tom, with him I took a lesson from him on fretless guitars, and after that I wrote Embrace Entropy. When I got Jimmy on board, I figured I’d get Tom as well, because I’m a huge fan of his soloing sound and he and Jimmy have worked together. With those two, I was able to finally let the music reach where I actually wanted it to be in my head. I’m so happy to have been able to work with them.
TO: I’m guessing that you’re still handling the majority of the writing for NYN. How long did it take to write ‘Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt’, and at what point did you pass on demos or ideas to Geldschläger and Pitts? Also, how did some of your initial ideas change once you had their input?
NYN: So, there’s material in here that I’ve written as early as 2005, haha. NYN was originally conceived under different names. When I picked up guitar, I started writing under the name Clad In Apathy, as a reference to In Flames and Dark Tranquillity songs. I even reused a riff from my very first song ever written in Blind Sight from ‘Eventuality’. Me and my best friend Ali Mete (he’s credited on the album) wrote a ton of material. He’s been the secret ingredient that got the NYN juices flowing. I’d say I’ve written about 60% of the material before Tom or Jimmy got on board. Apory, Omnipotence, Dissimulating, Rebuild and Entropy were more or less finished. Those are the songs I showed Jimmy to get him on board. Then Jimmy started writing amazing keys on top of those and that gave me more motivation to push forward. We cut some parts, I gave some guitar leads to Jimmy and he turned them into solos. I always intended the song to have keys, but Jimmy took them in totally different directions. Then I brought Tom in, and made some changes to some sections to allow him to have long solos. Then, with those two on board, I wrote Taken Away By The Tides and Maelstrom using old material I wrote together with Ali back in the day. I wrote The Hallway as a tech death showcase, and fellow Heavy Blog writer Ahmed Hasan threw in a riff there because we just resonate on the same frequency. Overall, most of the vision of the original writing hasn’t changed, but it has been completely reinterpreted with the presence of Jimmy and Tom. Tom’s solos are what make Omnipotence Paradox the song it is, for example.
TO: Tom “Fountainhead” Geldschläger not only contributed guitar leads, but he also handled the mixing and mastering of the album. How do you feel he was able to bring your vision to life with how he handled these aspects?
NYN: It’s more than just mixing/mastering, honestly. He gave me a lot of direction. He forced me to approach the material from a different direction. I over-wrote some parts, especially with vocals, so he made me realize that I need to cut some things to make the music tighter, and he was totally right. Beyond that, if you go and listen to the demos of Entropy or Dissimulating that I’ve released, those are my production and they sound pretty awful. I have a “more is more” approach, not because I know anything but because it’s simple. Tom made everything stand out, and it’s amazing. He breathed life into material that was previously way too bloated. He’s great to work with. He’s really efficient, really polite and professional.
TO: I think it would be easy for a lot of people to simply throw NYN under the technical/progressive death metal tag, but I feel like that’s simplifying a bit too much. I hear a lot of other genre influences seeping in, with everything from progressive rock, power metal, and even some industrial coming to mind as I listen. What are some of your musical influences outside of the metal spectrum?
NYN: I’m glad you picked up on that! Well, growing up in Turkey, I’m heavily influenced by Turkish and Middle Eastern/Mediterranean music. You can see hints of that in most of my material. But I didn’t want to be that guy who just relies on that one gimmick. Besides, Nile has the Middle Eastern tech death thing pretty much covered and I can’t compete with them. They’re amazing. Dream Theater’s ‘Train of Thought’ is one of my favorite albums, and me and Ali would just sit down and jam together to that stuff, so that was a very formative sound for me. I specifically told Jimmy “here I want you to do a Rudess style thing” several times. I love power metal as well, Blind Guardian’s ‘A Night At The Opera’ especially. I draw a lot from that. The industrial stuff is mostly Jimmy’s effect on my material. I love avant-garde metal, and while I can’t really write well in that sphere, I try to include influences from artists like Unexpect, Arcturus, and Dodheimsgard among others. Also, I’m a huge fan of Japanese metal, like Maximum the Hormone, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and yes, Babymetal. I try to bring some of that in as well. Beyond metal, I love flamenco. It’s very analogous to Middle Eastern music in a sense, and I try to fall back to its principles as much as I can. Similarly with surf rock. In general, I never think “this wouldn’t work well in a death metal song”. I hear a melody in my head, be it Latin dance or K-pop, and I think of how I can make it work.
TO: The first time through ‘Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt” I found myself paying the most attention to the guitar and keyboard work, but upon subsequent listens I’ve been honed in on your vocal work. There’s a lot happening here, from high shrieks to low growls and everything in between. How have your vocals changed over time and did you try anything new this time around?
NYN: Yeah, I tried to spice up the vocals on this album. I’ve been screaming about as long as I’ve been playing guitar. Being the singer-guitarist has always been my dream since I got into Metallica, Death, and Trivium. I’ve actually been in more bands as vocalist than any instrument. In Turkey the metal scene focuses on playing covers of big bands, and that forced me to learn all kinds of different styles, from Opeth to Death to Slayer. On Conquering Worlds on my EP, I tried to tell a story with different vocal styles. I tried some experimentation on the debut album as well, but I didn’t feel confident enough in myself. I wanted to prioritize a death metal sound first, so I kept it simple. I heard several criticisms of the debut saying my vocals were not top notch, so I really pushed myself with this one. I tried all kinds of different styles. I really put my heart into the singing here. Dodheimsgard was a big influence, also Mikee Goodman from Sikth. Now that I established that I can do tech death, I wanted to prove that I can be more prog about my music, so I really wanted to show what I can actually do. Tom’s production helped here as well, as my production on the debut didn’t really bring out the best of my voice.
TO: Is there an overall theme to the lyrics on ‘Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt’ or does each song encompass different ideas? I know for example that you’ve written a song that expressed solidarity with the Turkish people following 2013 protests and government crackdowns, so I was wondering if you had anything similar on this album.
NYN: I have a general feel for each album and each song is like a part of the bigger puzzle. ‘Eventuality’ was about the collapse of society and the internal collapse that goes along with it. With ‘Entropy’, I tried to follow the next step for that. Once everything is broken, how do you fix it? I’m kind of nihilistic, and this album is about me trying to come to terms with that. There’s a bunch of philosophical and literary references all over the album, along with some other media. The album generally asks “What’s the point?” The universe is full of entropy, of chaos, and the salt is the symbol of purification, cleansing oneself of the doubt, and accepting that. Once you accept that things are beyond your control and sometimes without purpose, you can find peace in that. I reference material that helped me think about this. The Hallway refers to The House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Rebuild references Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Omnipotence references Psycho Pass. These are all works that talk about some sort of philosophical breakdown, and I use those themes to explore the concept. When I was a kid, I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and while I don’t think it holds up these days, I’ve always been enchanted by the notion of “the answer you spent so much time seeking could have been found within if you really introspected” and I apply that here on the album. Entropy and Taken directly reference that concept. “You end up where you begin, the entropy was always within”.
TO: ‘Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt’ is being released by Vmbrella, a worldwide music label. Tom Geldschläger was one of the founders of Vmbrella, did this make it an easy choice for releasing the album? Was there ever any consideration of shopping the material around to some of the prominent metal labels, or would you rather keep your music independent?
NYN: I did shop around both ‘Eventuality’ and ‘Entropy’, but in the end I decided to stay mostly independent. Tom and Jimmy being part of Vmbrella, along with my friends Vishal Singh and Andrey Sazonov (all really forward-thinking dudes) really gave me the freedom I need artistically, and they’ve been supportive. I’m a fiercely independent person, even bringing in Tom and Jimmy for the writing was difficult for me, so I want to keep my autonomy with the material.
I wrote The Hallway as a tech death showcase, and fellow Heavy Blog writer Ahmed Hasan threw in a riff there because we just resonate on the same frequency
TO: In addition to writing music as NYN, you’re also an editor for Heavy Blog Is Heavy and contribute to their podcasts. When did you start doing this, and has being on the other side of the aisle as a contributor to a metal publication changed how you approach your own music?
NYN: I’m the second most senior member of the blog! I’ve been on board since 2011. Writing-wise, editor me and musician me are somehow completely separate people. I never think about my material when writing a review or vice versa. I hope I can keep that separate otherwise I’d lose my mind with self-doubt. It has really helped in terms of establishing connections though. A Sense of Gravity is one of my favorite bands, and I roped CJ and Brandon in to contribute through the blog. That’s also how I broke the ice with Jimmy and Tom. Jimmy Rowe, founder of Heavy Blog introduced me to Tre Watson of Carthage (where I play guitar now) as well. Tre produced my first EP and gave me the boost I needed to be able to make my own music a reality. I owe so much to them.
TO: Metal Archives says you’re based out of Baltimore while the press release has you residing in Arlington either. As a resident of the Baltimore/D.C. area myself, I’m curious if you follow the local music scenes out this way and what your thoughts are on it if you do.
NYN: I used to live in Baltimore from about 2010-2016, then moved to Arlington. I follow the local scene, have been in several bands. Baltimore is huge when it comes to the local deathcore scene. I was never a huge fan of deathcore as a whole, even though there are many individual deathcore bands that I love. My participation in the scene was really helpful in terms of gaining perspective though. Also, having moved to the DC area, the scene here is super lame! I was honestly spoiled in Baltimore. I lived within a couple blocks of the Ottobar, and there was always an amazing show there. Gojira, Archspire, many of my favorite bands played there. Nothing happens here in DC! I basically drive to Baltimore to go to shows these days. Silver Spring if I’m lucky.
TO: You’ve posted a lot of play-through videos to YouTube. Have you ever considered assembling a lineup for live performances locally, or would you prefer to keep this a studio project?
NYN: I did! Consider, that is. Unfortunately a lot of people I’ve tried to bring in have either been too busy, too flakey, or just the wrong fit. The problem is, with each release, the material gets more complicated and difficult, so it gets harder to bring someone new in. There are also not a lot of people here interested in playing my type of material. There are the guys from Perihelion, they could totally nail my material, but they have their own band! I always appreciate their music and the occasional conversation we have. Beyond that, my job and schedule would probably be prohibitive to turn this into a full time touring gig. And if I’m just going to play a local show or two, it’s probably not worth it. I once got very close to playing it live with some backing tracks plus me and my guitar and a friend on bass, but issues beyond my control prevented that. It probably wouldn’t have been a fun watch anyway.
TO: Torrential Flames from your last album was used in the game Death Goat. How did this collaboration come about and is this something you’d like to do again with material from the new release?
NYN: You did your research! My good friend and fellow blog editor Kyle Gaddo also works for gaming websites and PR, and he found this opportunity for me. He met the creator of the game, Brian Ferrara, and I immediately jumped on the opportunity. A few emails later, and it happened. It was a really cool opportunity, and having my stuff up there with the likes of BTBAM and Bloodshot Dawn (another one of my favorite bands) was amazing. I’d love to do this again.
TO: Is there anything else you’d like to say about ‘Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt’ or NYN?
NYN: Well, your questions were pretty extensive and my answers were pretty verbose, so that covers most of it. One last thing I’d want to mention is the artwork. It was done by Niklas Sundin of Dark Tranquillity. I’ve been a fan of theirs since more or less I got into metal, and Niklas’s artwork has always fascinated me. I have a friend who lived in Sweden for a while and met the band. I was looking for a different, more introspective take for the artwork on this album, so I decided to try my luck and email Niklas. He responded! Turns out he’s a great guy, and he was really interested in the material. We worked together to bring the concept alive. The material even influenced the sound of the album. Being able to work with yet another artist I’ve admired for most of my life was an amazing experience. I have had all his art books for years so this is a real fanboy moment for me. Similarly with having Christian Muenzner on my album a second time (he did a solo on Blind Sight on ‘Eventuality’), CJ on vocals on Omnipotence, and of course Tom and Jimmy. Really, this album is a dream come true for me and I hope the fans enjoy as well. Thanks for doing this interview!
NYN | Vmbrella