CAERUS just celebrated its 7th birthday, so here are 7 facts about the second HeKz album that you may not already know ...
Clocking in at a whopping 78 minutes, there's barely enough room for a bonus track on your physical copy of CAERUS. By comparison, TABULA RASA runs to a mere 65 minutes and INVICTA just inches into second place at 66 minutes.
Despite its mighty duration, CAERUS also contains the fewest songs of any HeKz album with a total of 9, compared to the 10 tracks appearing on both TABULA RASA and INVICTA.
2. It contains the longest HeKz song
Album closer 'Journey's End?' accounts for just shy of 18 minutes of the total runtime of CAERUS. The finale of the 'Progress & Failure' trilogy, the song reprises a lot of the musical themes found earlier in the album. For example, the piano intro of the song combines the main melody from 'The Black Hand' with the chords from the chorus of 'Progress & Failure.' Though it has remained the undisputed champion of epic tracks in the HeKz catalogue for 7 years, 'Journey's End?' will fall into second place with the release of the upcoming fourth album TERRA NOVA, which contains a song that breaks the 20-minute mark ... and then some!
3. It is the first HeKz album to be recorded in multiple locations
For financial reasons, the decision was made to record much of the album in the band member's very modest home studio setups. A couple of songs were recorded as proof of concept, namely a cover of Deep Purple's 'Burn' and 'Disconnect the World', and the results left everyone satisfied that the album could be made in this way without compromising on quality. If we couldn't spend the money, we would spend the time to create the best album that we possibly could.
The studio at Liscombe Park was selected due to its large live room. The original plan for CAERUS was to record the rhythm tracks (drums, bass & rhythm guitars) live in order to capture the energy and chemistry of the band playing together but, in truth, the band was under-rehearsed so the focus of these sessions became about securing a solid drum performance upon which to build the rest of the album.
The band then decamped to their own home studios to complete the rest of the tracks. An on-location session at the home of renowned cellist and string arranger Audrey Riley provided the live violin, cello, and flute parts which would be peppered throughout the album.
Once again, John Mitchell (Lonely Robot, It Bites, Arena) handled the mixing and mastering of the album and he certainly worked his magic, turning those humble home recordings into a punchy, pristine production that still sounds great.
Speaking of cellos ...
4. It is the only HeKz album to feature a guest solo
At 7:09 on the song 'Journey's End?' you can hear a captivating, atonal cello solo courtesy of Audrey Riley, though it all happened rather by accident. "It's one of my favourite moments on the whole album!" enthuses Matt. "When I was collating all of the audio files from the session at Audrey's studio, I found a bunch of weird and wonderful cello noise - slides, scrapes, harmonics. I've no idea why it was originally recorded as it didn't belong to any particular part of the song, but it sounded so unusual and unique." "I remembered reading that Audrey was an improvisational cellist early in her career and, for some reason, that prompted me to play those sounds back through a guitar amp. You could be forgiven for thinking that the resulting sound comes from an electric guitar, it really screams!"
5. It is the first HeKz album recorded as a 5 piece
CAERUS saw James Messenger welcomed as HeKz's first keyboard player, which allowed for more experimentation and the opportunity to further explore this new dimension of crunchy Hammond organs and swirling synths, which has become a cornerstone of the band's sound.
Check out the solo on 'Liberation' to hear James in full Moog-wielding wizard mode!
6. It was the first HeKz album to get a worldwide release
With TABULA RASA being a strictly independent release only available through the HeKz web store or at live shows, it was a big step up when a subsidiary of Cherry Red Records expressed an interest in releasing CAERUS.
Matt recalls, "It certainly helped to get our music out to a lot more people and it was a real thrill to see CAERUS rubbing shoulders with some of the more high profile rock releases on the Amazon charts, albeit briefly!"
7. It was originally a concept album
The second HeKz album was intended to be a concept album titled PROGRESS & FAILURE - an exploration of duality built around the trilogy of songs that survived in the final tracklisting - 'Progress & Failure', 'The Black Hand' and 'Journey's End?' with other songs branching off to explore more specific subjects, such as 'Disconnect the World' and 'From Obscurity to Eternity', as well as tracks which didn't make the final cut like 'Beyond Question', 'Psychosis' and 'Kill or Cure'. "Of the songs which were put aside when my original concept album idea wasn't voted in by the rest of the band, I find Kill or Cure to be the most interesting," remembers Matt. "There were 2 different parts to it - the first very much in the vein of Pink Floyd or even Opeth in their more reflective moments, and the second a much heavier interpretation of the same themes to be reprised later on in the album. It would have a very different HeKz song for sure, but the song has a strong message and an interesting arrangement, so I feel that it would have stood out for the right reasons."