A delivery of immersive engagement through depths beyond measure.
Life without turbulence is no life at all. From one struggle to the next, it's through tribulations that one becomes a bigger being, capable of withstanding the many obstacles that lie with every risk ahead. To propel themselves to the next level, Connecticut's CURRENTS have embraced the eye of the storm in embarking on tours across the world all the while releasing new material, including their debut full-length The Place I Feel Safest (2017) and their I Let The Devil In EP (2018). As any touring band can attest, this is no easy task, but it's one that is deemed essential for growth.
With the arrival of The Way It Ends (out June 5th via SharpTone Records) fast approaching, CURRENTS enters the culmination of their consistency. The record serves as an expression of honesty marked by years of change and unprecedented kindness received at a global scale, due in part to their determination. The Way It Ends traverses through their signature melodic leaning deathcore, remaining true to their form yet unique in expression, coalescing the external elements of I Let The Devil In with the heartfelt chorus present throughout The Place I Feel Safest. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it adds depth in layers to an already strong CURRENTS formula. Music aside, the artistic prowess of Adam Burke takes the composition to towering new heights, immersing audiences with a grandiose vortex that matches the scope of the band's work. Needless to say, The Way It Ends fires on all ends.
We go Behind the Cover of The Way It Ends with CURRENTS frontman Brian Wille and artist Adam Burke to navigate the towering vortex before the musical brilliance:
'The Place I Feel Safest' really set the standard high for yourselves, garnering acclaim across the board and with 'The Way It Ends', you’ve really surpassed that bar with a soaring collection of serene aggression. Where did you feel you had to take this second full-length? Wille: We wanted to move forward with the territory we had already kind of explored, but really expand the sound from that of the first record and the EP (I Let The Devil In). There’s a few other elements that were incorporated, some electronic stuff and a little more singing. Other than that, it holds true to our roots and the music that we’ve put out in the past. It really stands on its own as a Currents record. We set out to make something that our fans, friends and ourselves can all get behind and be excited about. It may approach things a different way, but it’s still us at heart.
I’d agree with it being true to your identity. It's arguably the best performance from each of the members, representative of the growth you’ve all made since the band’s inception. Would you say this is a reflection of the friendship and camaraderie between you all? Wille: Yeah, it also speaks to our working relationship and how we’ve gotten to know each other over time. When Chris (Wiseman, guitar) and I first started, we had a very good connection as far as putting songs together. I feel like I know what he’s looking for a bit more now and he knows what I enjoy putting my vocals over. In getting to work with the newer members, this is the first time Matt (drums) was involved with the writing process; putting his spin on the drums and adding his style to them. It inspired Chris to be more creative with different drum parts and songwriting because he felt he could do whatever. He felt Matt would be game and ready to go no matter what.
The record is definitely representative of the strong, concise group that Currents has come to be. Tracks like 'A Flag To Wave', 'Let Me Leave' and 'How I Fall Apart' really highlight a strong point for the record, that being the melodic, hard-hitting chorus. Were songs structured around the chorus or was it something that happened organically? Wille: It happens organically. The songs are done song by song, piece by piece. I wouldn't call the chorus the primary piece, but it’s definitely really important for us to be all settled on it even if we feel the verses, bridges or breakdowns are maybe lacking. When we have a chorus that everybody is really excited about, it gets us motivated to fill in those gaps and clean up those missing parts to ensure that everything works the way it should. The chorus is definitely the driving force. If you have a whole song that you feel is really good with a chorus that you’re having trouble landing, that can cause some problems.
For sure, and the chorus really carries the heart of this record forward. Seeing how emotionally charged each composition is, how much of the songwriting and recording process takes a toll on you personally, if at all? Wille: It definitely comes from some personal experience and pushes me to try to be more creative, specifically in finding uncharted territories lyrically or even touching on things we’ve talked about in a different way. Anytime we go through the writing process, it’s a great way for me to get back in the saddle and try to top myself.
You can be sure you did that here. In jumping to the art, you went with the acclaimed Adam Burke for 'The Way It Ends'. What inspired this decision? Perhaps an album cover he did in the past? Wille: When we got to the point of the record being complete, finished tracking and started listening to mixes and whatnot, that’s kind of when we started to visually conceptualize what the album was going to be, specifically with the colors and the visual scenes that were going to be touched on. That usually comes when we’re mixing since we’re figuring out what the songs kind of are and the kind of images that pop up in your mind when you hear the songs as they’re going to be heard by everyone. I then started reaching out and asking for recommendations, from which came Adam Burke. I went and immediately started looking through his portfolio, catalog, Instagram and all of that stuff. I recognized a lot of it. In fact, I had seen his work with Luciferous (2018) from Enterprise Earth and Hard 2 Kill (2018) by I Am, who are both under the same management company as us. Our manager Scott had actually worked with Adam before, so that was helpful.
I knew I wanted something painted, a crazy piece of artwork that even if it wasn’t attached to the band, you can sit and look at it for hours. That was kind of what I saw with Adam Burke, since you could get lost in all of the pretty little details and little brushstrokes of his work. I loved it and it just fit what we wanted so perfectly. We reached out and he was down to do it. I guess we’re a little out of his normal clientele base. We’re still a metal band, but we’re far from a death metal or doom metal band. His artistic style just lends depth to the art. He nailed it.
You’ve worked with a countless amount of bands throughout the metal subgenres, including Evoken, Eternal Champion, Gatecreeper, and Fit For An Autopsy to name a few. How do you interpret the different concepts that bands provide to you in your own artistic manner? Burke: Most bands come to me with at least a loose idea of what they want, so I try to give them something that really captures the spirit of that idea and maybe even exceed their expectations. I’m really just trying to get to the heart of what the idea is imparting. I put a lot of focus on making it a good painting, not just regurgitating their idea but making it a composition that stands out and catches the eye. It’s really about bringing my compositional sensibilities to their ideas. Seeing as you’re tasked with meeting their artistic needs instead of your own, is your approach distinct to how you’d take on a personal project? Burke: They very much exist in different ends of my creative world. There are times when commission work can feel more like a task because the thing that excites me most about being a creative person is taking my ideas from a concept to a finished product. It’s definitely different when I’m doing someone else’s idea, but there’s plenty of crossover in there. I always enjoy pretty much any painting I’m working on because there’s always challenges in there. Those are the things that satisfy my creativity. Everything you paint, you have to figure out how to paint it, how the light is hitting it and where the shadows are going. It’s all just a big unraveling. I’d say my personal work has that same stuff, it just has the added bonus of it being my own ideas.
I like that you mention the hand painted qualities of the cover because you could in fact tell it was painted by hand and it really reflects the overall themes of the record. Though society worldwide is currently not in the best state, music and art has kept millions grounded and at ease. With art being open to interpretation, what do you take from the painting? Wille: The original concept that I came up with when we were listening to the record was that I wanted it to be a continuation of The Place I Feel Safest. It has elements from the artwork of that record. This one has the guys from the back of the first record falling off a cliff into this crazy, hellish, other-dimensional looking void with storms and ghosts swirling. Adam captured it perfectly. The style that he brings to the table gives it that epic feel that we were looking for. The scale of it and really the way that he created the depth of the guys falling into this world swallowing void is truly remarkable.
So it’s the same two characters from the first record? That’s a neat little easter egg there. Wille: Yeah. I’m kind of curious to see what would’ve happened if we had asked him to hear the record and make something that came out of his mind. What he did just smashes it. No doubt. Did you provide just the conceptual themes or did you provide him with lyrics and music? Wille: He didn’t have the record when we sent him the concept. We basically sent him what we wanted: these two guys falling off a cliff. We gave him a guideline of colors. The daylight was more his interpretation of it. I knew we wanted to have a blue, grey void with gold lightning strikes and dark spirits swirling around in it. I sent him a little sketch of these two guys falling into a weird cyclone thing that I literally drew on Instagram. I drew it with my finger.
He then sends me back this magnificent, epic, glorious sketch of these guys falling into an insane and cavernous abyss. Our jaws just dropped. The initial piece of art he sent us was this sprawling landscape view where you could see the cliff, the void and the guys falling in, however it was further into their descent.
We were kind of toying with that and seeing if that piece would be the album’s cover, but we were having a hard time cropping it the right way. A few weeks later, he sent us what the record is now, which is a ‘from the back’ view seemingly from the clifftop itself. It synced everything together in such a profound way. Our initial idea, which was the one that I sent with the guys further into the descent, was much wider framed and stretched out. The initial sketch that he sent me was what ended up being the final piece, or the cover. His spin on it was the perspective of the image.
Having seen this Instagram sketch that Brian provided early on, how did you approach the void, abyssal-like element from an artistic standpoint? Burke: The predominant thing I wanted to achieve with it is a real sense of depth, making it seem very big and ominous. I really wanted to nail the scale of what that might be like, specifically with the figures. In a lot of my pieces, I tend to deal with big scales, so it’s really about making them feel like you're about to fall into them. Heightening the sense of the void was the main approach. I kind of got that idea from the sketch as something they were hoping for. That’s actually a perfect segue into the next question. The scope and overall atmosphere of ‘The Way It Ends’ is massive, which is something you’ve displayed time and time again with each passing cover. From a visual standpoint, what goes into the creation of these landscapes? Burke: I start almost every project by looking at photos of landscapes and various places that are going to fit the feel that I’m going for. I’ll look at other artists, specifically some of the big landscape painters from the late 1800’s. They all had that same goal in mind, creating these awe inspiring, huge landscapes. I look at what they do, how they use light and then I usually start mashing it all together into the idea that the client is looking for. The cool thing about landscapes is that they’re very forgiving. It’s not like figure drawing. If you make a human out of proportion, it can look very bad whereas it’s hard to make a mountain out of proportion. They’re craggy and irregular. Aside from the landscape artist inspiration, it would seem that your own natural surroundings also influence your work. Would you say this is the case? Burke: Oh yes. I would say that it’s actually at the very heart of it. I grew up in Oregon and spend as much time in the woods as I can. It’s what I love most. I’m a total nerd with ecology and forest botany. I try to let that inform the paintings. For me, they have a sense of place. If you lived here, you’d recognize some of the plants, trees and rock types. So yeah, nature is probably the single biggest influence. It’s definitely noticeable. From inception to completion, how long was the process of putting the art together and what tools and techniques were used? Burke: There was a little bit of back and forth between me and Scott, who was forwarding Brian’s information to me regarding the color scheme and tying it in with their last album art. Once I feel like I got a good handle on that, I make a drawing for them. I try to give them a heads up that that’s the place to really nail the composition. Usually that works pretty well, though sometimes there are a few edits.
With these guys, they wanted to see a little bit of a different perspective from my original sketch. I changed the scale of the characters once or twice, but it didn’t take too much in that process to get to the point where I started painting. It’s usually about 1 day of sketching and back and forth discussions.
I then cut my panel. I work on 16x32” panels for most of the album covers, on top of birch plywood. I draw that out on the panel and then do an underpainting to paint all the dark stuff and shadows so you can see where you’re going as you start layering in all of the other stuff. I’d say I tend to put in pretty long hours. This one was probably around 2 ½ days of solid painting. Somewhere in there, I give them a progress shot or two so we can switch directions if we have to, mostly to give them the confidence that it’s moving forward like they want it to. Once I’ve got the okay from them, it’s really just a couple days of painting.
I learned to get a lot of input at the front so that I don’t have to do too many changes at the end because that’s pretty tough to do with paintings. It’s usually pretty smooth after that.
As you mention, there were a few different changes from the initial sketches to the final, specifically with viewer perspective and character direction. How did you want to approach the change in perspective in addition to tying in the characters from their first album cover? Burke: Initially, I felt it made my job pretty easy because they had an established feel and a kind of palette that they were wanting to work in. It made it so I didn’t feel like I was stretching to meet their demands. It made it pretty clear to figure it out. It was a good amount of direction from them and it felt cohesive with their other work.
It’s a very good continuation of Michael Milford’s work with the first one, resembling that same emotion. As an artist, you’ve had the impact of introducing many to records they wouldn’t otherwise check out based on the cover alone. Do you recall ever being captured by an album cover that perhaps made you pickup a record or even changed the way you engaged with it? Burke: Very much so. We all have those records that really just grabbed us as a kid because of the album art. There are also those funny situations where the album art far outweighs the music, at least in your own taste. I remember as a little kid seeing that Molly Hatchet record with the Frazetta painting on it, even the Nazareth records. Basically anything with a Frazetta painting drew me in. I was always sort of shocked and scared yet really interested in it.
For as long as I’ve been doing album art, I want to be able to do that. I want to draw people to an album based on the art. Hopefully the music fits and fans love the music. It’s the first thing people see, so I want it to have a lot of impact.
Just seeing the scope of the painting, this is definitely one that was meant for vinyl. With a gatefold to highlight the landscape and neat splatter and merge vinyl variants, this is one listeners will appreciate. That said, it’s evident that Currents values the importance of cover art and the effect it has on listeners prior to even listening to a record wouldn’t you say? Wille: It definitely sets the tone for how listeners consume the record. There’s plenty of times where something sounds good but the cover art, imagery and story is less than stellar. It fades into the darkness somewhere. There’s records that are structurally sound and high in quality but the art and story behind it are so magnificent that it draws people in, getting a better feel for what artists are trying to convey. The way that artists portray their music to other people is very much in part to the cover art. That’s the big image that everyone is going to associate with the record. You want it to be something that is meaningful and of high quality. Adam did a great job of that. Again, it’s important to have other people view your music in a way that you can be proud of. Was there a time you remember being captured by an album cover that perhaps made you pickup a record on that alone? Wille: I think about Deep Blue (2010) by Parkway Drive. I always thought that the cover art was so cool and aligned with their other works. That particular artwork really hit home for me. I thought it was a really cool artistic direction for them, these waves with a pretty blue hue to everything. I just love that record. I saw that artwork and immediately knew that record was going to be sick, and it was.
That’s the power of album art, picking up a record without any context and having it be a great release. Wille: It also puts people on the same page because everybody is looking at the same thing now. It’s not just a song without any context, it’s in the context of the album art. You hear a song and immediately think of that particular album cover because it’s the one visual thing you associate with that piece of music. It also reminds me a lot of the record store experience, where you walk through the aisles and enjoy discovering new music through so many great record covers.
Over the years, you’ve really become a staple in the metal community due in part to your consistency, as if to say that every Adam Burke-fronted record is worth a listen. Some folks would even argue that you’re the modern day Dan Seagrave. I’d argue this is true with ‘The Way It Ends’ being yet another fantastic record to partner with your work. To what do you attribute this? Burke: For me, there’s still a feeling of mystery and luck to it. I never imagined that this would be my career. If you’d ask me when I was a little kid what I wanted to be, I would’ve said an artist. I’d then spend the rest of my life trying to figure out real jobs, so it’s still sort of dawning on me that this happens, that there’s this level of recognition. Partly, I feel like it’s just having done it for a few years now. I’d like to say it’s the quality of the work. I hope that’s part of it. There’s a lot of them out there now. It’s recognizable and there’s the weight of experience behind it, hopefully a unified style to it where people can look at it and think “oh that’s an Adam Burke”. I still feel very lucky that people seek me out. It’s all pretty cool. We’ll be seeing plenty of Adam Burke throughout the coming months, that’s for sure. Each of your paintings embody a very personal, human-like element to it. ‘The Way It Ends’ is no different. What do you intend viewers to take from your work, including this particular record? Burke: Speaking to the consistency, for me every painting is challenging. There’s almost never one that flies out of the brushes. They’re all hard and take a lot of research and concentration. What I’m always trying to do is improve my skill and give people a high level of draftsmanship, specifically with the technical ends of things. For my own self-critical place, I have endless improvement that needs to happen. I hope that working from that place comes through in the painting so that it looks like I’m trying hard and putting a lot of myself into it. I would like people to feel that.
Live shows may not be in our foreseeable future, but 'The Way It Ends' is a record that was made for the live setting. What do you hope to bring to the stage once concerts make their way back? Wille: We want to bring our best man. We haven’t gotten to physically sit in a room and play the songs together. I can’t wait for the day we get to play A Flag To Wave live or really any other tracks on the record. That’s really when it comes to life. Just thinking about it gets me excited because it’s going to be a coming to life for us and everyone else at the same time. Let’s hope that happens sooner rather than later. With audiences staying home and listening to music, it allows for one to really appreciate the art, musicianship, and really the honesty that gets put into these compositions. What do you intend for listeners to take from the heartfelt experience you’ve set forth? Wille: It’s hard to say. I hope that listeners get a sense of familiarity with The Place I Feel Safest, the experimental aspects of I Let The Devil In and really just make their own interpretations based on all of that. I hope that people enjoy it and get something from it, but there’s no real grand design on our part to shape people’s opinions on it in any way aside from what we’ve already done. Once it reaches the world, it’s in everyone else’s hands and it’s up to them to decide what they take from it, cover art and all.
The Way It Ends arrives on June 5th via SharpTone Records. Pre-order your copy HERE.