Cognizance #Interview

Hailing from Leeds, UK, Cognizance combine extreme heaviness with intricate technicality to form their own style of Technical Death Metal. With the band having just released their very impressive second album Upheaval last month I caught up with guitarist Alex Baillie to find out more about the band and their new album. I hope you enjoy the chat…

Hello and thanks for agreeing to this interview for Blessed Altar Zine. The new album Upheaval is a real Extreme Metal whirlwind. It’s been a great running companion for me. How was the process of making the album and how has the reception been so far?

Alex: Hey Tom, thanks for having us! The making of the album was a great experience but undeniably a real slog – as making an album the way we do usually is. It was this time last year we were away in Dent recording guitar/bass so a lot of fond memories have come flooding back and I can’t believe it’s been a year already.

The reception from fans has been really positive and likewise reviewers have scored the album high which is always a nice pat on the back. Seems folks believe this is a step on from our last record.

The artwork for the album is very striking and some of the song titles are very evocative. What ideas is the band exploring on this record and is there a running theme?

Alex: For ‘Upheaval’ we wanted a chaotic, busy and enigmatic painting that reflects the content of the album. I’ve always been a fan of albums that featured numerous themes from the lyrics, Jason Barnett (cover artist) certainly accomplished that in this cover. We love how unique and original this piece is, something that should reflect our take on Modern Death Metal.

Whenever I listen to extreme music I’m always interested to know how musicians get to that level of technicality. What were the first musical influences that first motivated you to pick up your instruments and start playing?

Alex: I first wanted to pick up the guitar when I got into bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Metallica around the age of 12. I grew up in a house where music was always playing, my dad was a huge Rush fan and his interest in music definitely inspired me to explore music further. It wasn’t until about 15/16 before I took practice and playing seriously and started jamming with others and starting local bands.

How did the band first form and what’s changed for Cognizance since then?

Alex: The band first ‘formed’ in around 2011 when Henry (vocalist) and myself started demoing a song that was just invented to be a one off Death Metal track. After recording this song many times it eventually became ‘Epistemology’ on our debut EP ‘Inquisition’. I’ve known Henry for about 15 years and we have always gelled over music, guitar and been real close since we first met playing in bands at about 14/15 years old.

Cognizance has certainly evolved over the years, we’ve had a few short term members come and go but we’ve mostly gained members over the years, going from a two piece – then David joined in 2017 (I think?), Chris joined the team in 2018, then in 2020 Paul completed the line up. The band has gradually become more ‘serious’ over the years, signing to a label and having a stricter recording schedule to adhere to.

Starting in 2012 the band released several EPs. What was the reason that you didn’t have a full length release until 2019’s Malignant Dominion?

Alex: A few reasons, mainly because EP’s kept things fun and flexible for us – besides this it kept a more frequent churn of material which is essential for a band that doesn’t tour – which allowed us to keep people engaged. I am sure one day we will go back to that way.

Do you feel that Cognizance are part of any local metal scene and are there any current bands that you feel a kinship with?

Alex: I think the only scene we’re a part of is the internet ‘Tech Death Scene’ it’s a shame that we’re not integrated into a local scene, but the scene here is very different to what it used to be & for a band that doesn’t tour or play live frequently we can’t expect to be part of a scene. I guess this adds to the mystery of this band, although we would love a local home to play at.

What’s your opinion of streaming vs physical musical forms? Do you think there’s a best format for the music you make, or is it all just a matter of personal preference?

Alex: For us, it’s all about what gets our music to more people or allows them to discover us or most convenient for our fans. I know this is a regularly debated subject, we don’t expect to make a living playing this sort of music on the scale we do – so whatever makes the fans happy makes us happy. Perhaps NFT’s are the next realm for us to explore, I’m keeping a close eye on that.

Aside from music, have there been any movies, shows or books that have inspired anyone in the band recently?

Alex: Yes! I have been on a huge Adam Curtis binge recently since his new series ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ came out earlier this year, I only just discovered it. I find his documentaries and take on journalism a breath of fresh air and a very inspiring experience – I love his unique approach to making a documentary that is; thought provoking, eye opening and pulled together like an art film using BBC archival footage. His work encompasses modern history, geopolitics, philosophy, science and technology – I can’t recommend it enough.

Interview by Tom Boatman

Thanks to Alex for his time. Upheaval is out now on Prosthetic Records. You can buy the album on vinyl, CD and digital formats from the band’s Bandcamp and Big Cartel pages below, or order from wherever you get your music from. Follow the band and label on their social media pages to stay up to date.

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