One of the best little things that can happen to a music buff is clicking a suggested video on YouTube and being pleasantly surprised by an unsigned band, as was the case with the UK-based Opheon. After being click-baited all over YouTube one day, I happened to stumble upon Opheon’s music video for “The Distance” and was immediately hooked.
“The Distance” pairs roaring riffs with a solid mixture of well-tuned cleans and pounding uncleans and is accompanied by a simplistic video that truly lets their complex sound round out the visuals. “It was pretty cool,” says vocalist and guitarist Liam O’Sullivan on filming for the video. “We did a photo shoot in this abandoned bomb factory from World War II and knew we had a music video coming up, and this was the best place we’d ever seen, so we ended up going back. It was like a half hour trek from where you can park to the factory, so with all the cameras and guitars and everything it was just horrendous to get there. Then we had to shoot for hours and take all the stuff back at like six in the morning so that was pretty long and tiring.” But the trek was definitely worth it as the video showcased a rising band with a hardcore twist on a classic metal vibe.
The quartet that makes up Opheon has only been together since the summer of 2013, and yet they’re making humongous strides with a sonic sophistication almost unheard of coming from a group of 19 and 20-year olds. Being heavily influenced by bands like Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage and Gojira, just listening to their latest EP, As I Walk With Fire, shows an appreciation for technicality so many up-and-coming bands feel they can overlook nowadays.
So how did these guys from Birmingham come together exactly? Like all great beginnings, it started randomly and unexpectedly. “Myself and Josh [Warhurst,] the other guitarist, were in the same class at school for like a year but we didn’t realize it,” explains O’Sullivan. “When we realized that we were in the same class we started playing guitar a bit and one thing led to another. We had a school concert in like 2008 and didn’t have a singer so I just thought I’d sing for it. And it was really bad. It’s on Youtube actually. [Laughs] So yeah, that’s quite funny, but that was it really.”
Shortly after settling upon their current lineup in 2013, the band was able to release two tracks, “We Are One” and “A New Hope,” which not only gained traction on the internet, but even got label heads turning Opheon’s way. “When we got scouted by the label they said the reason they liked us was they thought we were like a hardcore mash up of bands like Trivium and Killswitch Engage,” says the ever humble O’Sullivan still seemingly shocked by the deserving comparison. “We’d never really thought about that personally, we just sort of wrote the two songs out of nowhere and for them to think that of us was kind of cool. So when we started working on the EP [As I Walk With Fire], it was like we wanted to just build on that foundation about us that we didn’t realize we had going.”
When it came to recording As I Walk With Fire Opheon went above and beyond expectations by tossing conventions to the wind and revamping their sound in a far more melodic and technical direction. “Track six, ‘Lost in Undertow’ is the heaviest one,” notes O’Sullivan of his favorite song on the EP. “It’s kind of a groovy, Pantera, Machine Head, Lamb of God vibe. There’s no singing as well which is cool. It was more of a really angry song, and I thought it was sort of nice to not have a verse/chorus singing song. It’s different to the rest of the EP, so [as the EP’s last song] it’s got the heaviness fading out.”
Opheon always works to keep things as true to themselves as possible, even using artwork from a local artist friend of O’Sullivan’s to represent the cover of As I Walk With Fire. And when it comes to shows, Opheon is always prepared to bring the heat, whether it’s playing to five kids or an entirely booked out club show. “If it’s a pretty still, dormant crowd, we still try and give it a lot of energy,” explains O’Sullivan. “We’ve all got wireless systems now and we just try to throw some shapes and go for it. It’s a lot better when it’s tight and the crowd and everyone’s loving it, and you’re loving it.”
With several shows coming up in the spring, including their EP launch show this April, keep an eye out for Opheon on tour this summer. When asked to describe Opheon in one word, O’Sullivan hit the nail on the head with our new favorite word: “Riffolodic.”
READ MORE: Review: Opheon — As I Walk With Fire