The local metal band Cellbound had a great 8-year run that resulted in three albums and several regional tours. The group even released an impressive, professional looking video for the tune “Fallen Angels,” which they shot at a cemetery off Pearl Road. Mushroomhead’s Skinny and Stitch directed it. But when the group’s drummer “retired,” singer Chris Emig figured it was time for a change.
“For me, that was the first original project that had some meat to it,” says Emig via phone. “I had done other things before that but when we got together for Cellbound, it really clicked. I had a great time with the guys and really learned to write songs and work together and to do that. We really honed that. It was a great ride and a super good time. I loved my time with [vocalist] Tom Herttna on stage too. We had shared vocals and went back and forth. That was real fun and also challenging. We were both leads so we had to make the songs cohesive.”
In January, she recruited drummer Jeff Morrow, and Olathia slowly came together. Earlier this year, the group, which also includes guitarist Jake Nicholson (formerly with Black Valor), guitarist Steve Albenze (also with Idleblack) and bassist Sully (also with Crown Royal), quickly wrote two songs, “Hellhound” and “Open Your Eyes.” Emig introduced the band earlier this year on Bill Peters' Metal on Metal radio show on WJCU where the group played those two songs. To promote the release of the band’s new EP, the group even released a movie trailer-like video announcing it.
“When we got all the members in place, it’s like when you meet a friend for the first time and you’re just kindred spirits right off the bat,” she says when asked about what the first recording sessions were like. “You don’t have to second-guess anything. We had that chemistry right from the start and from how we connected. Jake [Nicholson] and Steve [Albenze] both play leads. Jake has a whole bunch of ideas. He has ideas all the time, which is good. We put those songs together in a matter of three or four jams. I didn’t think it was supposed to be that smooth. I realized as we progressed and did more writing that it’s a combination of everyone’s experience. We knew how to trim the fat from the get go. We went straight to the sweet spot.”
A song such as “Open Your Eyes” starts slow but builds in intensity as dueling guitars go at it and Emig, who counts her influences as “[metal singer] Dio, [country singer] Dolly [Parton], [metal singer] Doro [Pesch] and [Iron Maiden singer Bruce] Dickinson,” bellows, “I’m the last man standing.”
“We all have a shared love for melody and dynamics,” she says when asked about the tune. “It goes back to the old Sabbath days when they would write ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ with the slow and then heavy parts. That’s something we think about. We wanted to find a place to put harmonies but we wanted to do it in a way that makes sense. If you have the right story, it can all come together.”
“Seven Deadly Sins” begins with heavy guitar riffs and wailing vocals before it settles down for the song’s bridge. It sounds a bit like a Judas Priest tune if Pat Benatar were singing lead.
“I wrote the lyrics in like 40 minutes,” she says. “We wrote that song half way through the album. I was thinking about how cool it was to be out there meeting people and connecting. That song is a love song to the metalheads. That’s what it’s all about.”
For “Hunters,” Emig started writing “on a musical level” with her bandmates.
“What happens to me is that I’ll hear the guitar riffs and something will pop into my head and I’ll build a story from that,” she says. “That’s what happened with that. We wrote the song around it. The character is the young maiden who has the love of her life taken away and she’s going to hunt you and the rest of your kinship for the rest of your lives.”
The EP closes with “When I Die” and “After I Die,” two songs that work in conjunction with one another. Emig says she thought about people who were going through “tragic things” as she wrote it.
“When it’s time to pass, that’s all you’re going to have is the memories you own,” she says. “That was your journey. That’s one of my favorites. We were done recording and I got the idea for ‘After I Die.” A friend of mine’s grandmother passed away and we were drinking bourbons a few months before she passed. I heard her in my head one day after she passed. I realized that she’s okay and wants to know she’s okay. I think about what someone would tell you after they die.”
For the release of the new EP, the band will play two concerts and make a weekend out of it.
“One guitarist is from Akron and the other is from the Cleveland area so the whole goal with the two CD release shows is playing smaller places and get the grassroots following,” she says. “We want to make it a party weekend instead of making people schlep from one side of town to the other, but we have had people buying tickets to both shows. Alright. We’re going to party all weekend.”
Olathia with Space Monkey, Mythrias, Just Revenge, Elisium, 8 p.m., Friday, May 1, Empire Concert Club, 1305 Tallmadge Ave., Akron, 330-634-949. Tickets: $10 ADV, $12 DOS, empireconcertclub.com.
Also: Olathia with Kriadiaz, Guns Out at Sundown, Sparrowmilk, Fires of Vermillion, 8 p.m., Saturday, May 2, the Maplegrove, 14832 Pease Rd., Cleveland, 216-475-4224. Tickets: $10 ADV, $12 DOS.