It’s clear after 11 years as a band that Saviour doesn’t like the creative tap to be running lukewarm – it has to be either boiling hot or cold. Whether it’s shooting videos with graphic torture scenes or signing on a clean singer who sounds more Julia Stone than Amy Lee, restricting their vision is not an option. Now in 2020, they’ve left the familiar confines of a big label and released their fourth record ‘A Lunar Rose’ independently. Clean vocalist and keyboardist Shontay Snow is excited and believes the band and its brainchild – unclean vocalist, lyricist and sole original member Bryant Best – can make it work. “Releasing independently is … awesome for us because we have the fan base there …, we have the contacts we need to release this properly, we have the knowledge, especially Bryant,” Snow says. “It makes a lot of sense to release it indie and I’m really excited for what we are going to do.”
The latest release from the group edges towards heavier territory, exploring elements of living with inner demons, reminiscent memories and pathways to resolution. The band have maintained their haunting melodic qualities while returning to an emotionally powerful heavy edge. One of the heavier songs on the album, Enemies, and its subsequent video has already caused trouble for the group. “I think some people may have reported it and we had trouble sharing it on Facebook at first,” Snow says. “They were not letting us do so. I kept trying quite a few times and eventually they let us put it up. It was a little bit tricky with that one because Enemies is quite violent with the drilling and the torturing and the clown, but people need to see humour in horror sometimes as well. I mean, we … torture the lead singer of Make Them Suffer (Sean Harmanis) to death, so, you know,” she laughs. “It’s not real kids. It’s not real.” Snow laughs when recalling one of the most graphic parts when the clown is drilling into Harmanis’ leg and flesh flicks out. “It was sausage and Bryant’s poor girlfriend who was a vegetarian had to sort that out for them,” she laughs.
Joking aside, A Lunar Rose has certainly had an emotional impact on Snow. “I love this album,” she says. “When we went through writing, there were some songs where Bryant would get the lyrics up and I’d read it through while I’m listening to the track and I had a few little points where I’d weep. It really cut me deep in the chest. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s really heavy and really beautiful’. So having lyrics like that – when I’m reading them it’s awesome, because then I can express that through my vocals.” In the beginning, Best wrote all the lyrics, but Snow gradually made things her own. “Because the first two albums I did with Saviour were completely Bryant’s lyrics, he would give me ideas for melodies but I would always fix them and make them my own. ‘Let Me Leave’ I wrote all my lyrics for, and on ‘A Lunar Rose’, quite a bit of it was Bryant’s writing but some of it was mine. I wouldn’t like it if I didn’t like his writing style, but Bryant’s got a similar way of writing to me, where it’s not black and white. There’s a lot of imagery behind the words and it can be interpreted in many different ways. I do love Bryant’s writing style.”
She first started collaborating with the band in 2011 on their debut, ‘Once We Were Lions’, and also guest spotted on the second album, 2013’s ‘First Light to My Deathbed’. It started out as a few favours between mates but didn’t take long to evolve. “I had known Bryant for some years and he hit me up and was like, ‘Hey dude, I was wondering if you could sing one line on one track on this album?’ And I was like, ‘Sure, why not? The track Vomit. And he’s like, ‘I’ve got a couple more’ and I’m like, ‘No worries’. I did those and he’s like, ‘Great, I’ve got a couple more’. And I’m like, ‘Okay… sweet’. Couple more… I’m like, ‘What the hell dude?’” she laughs. It ended up like eight tracks on the first album and that went really well for them. I didn’t want anything in return. I just did it as a favour and then their second album came around and it was automatic. I was happy to do it. I was doing my own musical journey at the time and all I wanted in return was for them to use my name sometimes to get my name out there, which was cool. Then they broke up. I was living in Germany at the time just for a couple of years and when I moved home, Bryant contacted me and had a meeting with me and basically said, ‘We’re thinking of getting Saviour back together. I think you should join the band. We’ll give you a proper role. You’ll be more of a fifty-fifty vocal’. So I was like, ‘You know what? Fuck it. Let’s do it’. And I’m so glad I did.”
Being in a melodic hardcore band is a long way from Snow’s early music life of playing folk in pubs at 15, but it’s a trajectory she has embraced wholeheartedly. “I wouldn’t call myself a folk singer anymore to be honest. That was years ago. I started playing live in pubs when i was 15, 16. That was 11 years ago. Since then my style has evolved and developed into something else. So at the moment, my solo project, which I’m working on at the moment… I’m going to be releasing a video in a couple of months with my single Bukowski and that’s more of like a 90s grunge style kind of project. So I’m running far away from folk. I guess working with heavy metal at the start when I was more in the folk genre, it was interesting but it did kind of make us stand out because a lot of people would … expect me to have this waily, maybe Evanescence style vocal, which I didn’t. I had more of a Julia Stone-style vocal, which made us extremely unique. It helped me accept my voice and that we don’t have to be a certain way. You don’t have to have a certain voice to be in heavy metal. You can just make it your own.”
So what’s next for Snow and Best, who live in Melbourne, and guitarist Daniel Rees, bassist Chris Pearce and drummer Michael Matta, who live in Perth? They’re going on tour in June of course. “We really want to celebrate. I guess Bryant and I will have to celebrate separately in Melbourne and then once the band is all together in a couple months we can celebrate as a team, but we’re all super excited. It’s been a long time coming and we’re hoping this tour is going to do well.”
A Lunar Rose is out now. Saviour tour Australia June 5 – 21.