Seraph in Travail's Joe Bonner See's the Dawn of the Night

Metal act Seraph in Travail was conceived in 2008 by guitarist Joe Bonner and vocalist Jon Sutherland with the goal of creating epic, symphonic metal with a crushing edge. An overview of the early years of the project reads more like a laboratory journal of the development and refining of a sound than it does the history of a band. The duo struggled with numerous lineups that failed to realize their creative vision until in 2012 when drummer Alex Kobylkevich joined Seraph and the band recorded and produced their EP, Achieved in Flatline. Meanwhile, demos of the band's material reached the ears of bassist Steve Schaffer and guitarist Tim Carey, who immediately joined the band. Within a month of the lineup solidifying, Seraph began live presentations in their Philadelphia-area stomping grounds.  With that, they have continued to write and record all new material for future releases. Co-founder/guitarist Joe Bonner discusses the band's latest EP and upcoming plans.

1. Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Seraph in Travail, and how long the band has been together.

Joe: The band has existed in some form since 2008. I met Jon (singer/main composer) through a mere coincidence, and we happened to share the same creative vision. The first few years were a bit of a struggle due to a constantly revolving lineup. In those years we played a few shows, but only released one recording, which we now consider extinct due to changes in direction. The one thing that's remained constant is the epic, symphonic sound paired with metal, but current and future music has naturally taken a darker and more brutal/technical turn. Our current lineup solidified not much longer than a year ago. It's as if everything has finally clicked, and we've been writing, recording, and gigging ever since, trying to make the most of our strongest lineup yet.

 2. Where is the band based out of and what is your music scene like there?Are there any local bands you could recommend?

Joe: We hail from the suburbs of Philadelphia where, like elsewhere, many bands are based on the trendiest of "-core" aspects. A few of the bands that stick out to us by trying to rise above that are I Am the Trireme, Spawned (formerly Abraxas), and Assayer, all of which have been very supportive of us.

 3. Please tell us about the history of your band and its members.

Joe: Much of this is covered in the first answer. We're five guys who love the music we're playing, and that's our strongest bond. Since the lineup has changed so many times, we're all thankful to be a part of this incarnation of the band - easily the most productive one yet.

 4. How and why did you want the name Seraph in Travail?

Joe: We think it has a nice ring to it, and it's something that no other band would have thought of. It's origins are based on an offhand comment long ago about Jon sounding like "an angel giving birth." It's open to interpretation.

 5. How would you describe your style? Which bands influenced your music?

Joe: Overall, we consider it symphonic death metal with some obvious black metal elements. Each member brings a slew of influences to the table, from old school melodic death metal to more straight-up brutal stuff, progressive to classical. Definitely too many influences to name.

 6. What lyrical theme do you guys use in your music? What message do you want to send?

Joe: We touch upon a variety of subjects, and Many of the lyrics play out as narratives. We encourage listeners to give them meaning. While we do have some dark/gory/sinister lyrics at times, we present many of these ideas with a hopeful, positive tone.

7. Why did you want to self-produce your work? Do you hope to eventually get signed to a label or do you prefer the whole DIY approach.

Joe: We had the means and the equipment and decided to go for it. Jon's production skills are always improving, so we're going to continue in that direction until someone approaches us offering to do things for us that we can't on our own.

 8. So tell me about the song and video for "The Dawning Night".

Joe: This is the first song we wrote after the "Achieved in Flatline" EP. The time spent between that recording and the writing of "The Dawning Night" was mainly focused on finding the members we needed. It's probably the heaviest, most straight-forward song we've got at this point. Lots of blast beats, heavy symphonics, brutal rhythmic outro, no clean vocals. Note that we're not moving away from the singing, we just did what suited the song best. We kind of decided to shoot a video on the fly once it was recorded. So, we threw up some black tarps and rocked out in a basement. I used my basic video editing skills to make the most of it, and we think it came out pretty well for a first effort. It was nice to finally give a face to the music.

 9. You released your debut EP "Achieved in Flatline" can you tell me about it?

Joe: Jon and I wrote the four songs over the years, constantly changing, re-writing, and scrapping old ideas as our lineup continued to evolve. The two of us released a rough version, drum-machine and all, to use as a glorified advertisement for new musicians. It worked quite well, and we quickly found Tim Carey (guitar), Steve Schaffer (bass), and Alex Kobylkevich (drums) with whom we re-recorded a final version.

 10. How will this release differ, compare, and evolve into your newest single "The Dawning Night" and yet to be released full-length debut?

Joe: Achieved represented a darker and heavier step in our musical progression as compared to our oldest material, and I think The Dawning Night took that a step further. One thing that will always be constant is melody and musicianship presented in a death metal format. You might say that the Dawning Night is a little more tense and dramatic than previous songs. As more songs are written for the album, it seems like we're just doing what we do naturally - taking what we've got and building upon it and refining it so it sounds less like anything anyone else has ever done.

 11. Where are you in the process of your upcoming full-length?

Joe: The writing process is in full-swing. We also have a couple of rough demos which is something we haven't done before. We've already played two new songs live ("I Am Annihilation" and "Don't Tempt the Dark") which were very well received. We have a lot of great ideas that are slowly but surely blossoming into songs.

12. When can we expect to see you guys hitting the road in forms of a tour trekking across the U.S. or even overseas?

Joe: Whenever the right opportunity presents itself, it will happen. We still have a lot to do as far as getting our name out there. Releasing the album next year will probably be a big step in that direction.

 13. You guys have played live of course so how's your live activity so far?

Joe: As anyone in a band will tell you, you have your awesome shows and your not so great ones. I'm speaking more in terms of turnout. We've played for 10 people and we've played to packed rooms of people chanting our name as we set up. You have to make the best of every show, no matter the situation. Another thing - we fully acknowledge that really putting on a show is more than just playing your songs, so we try to play with energy and conviction every time.

 14. What can the fans expect to see from you in the future?

Joe: All we're promising for now is years of great music to come. We will continue to develop and evolve and push ourselves, and openly welcome whatever comes of it.

 15. What is it you’d like a listener to remember the most when hearing your music for the first time?

Joe: Whatever positive feeling they may get from it. Epic, symphonic, heavy, gnarly stuff isn't everyone's cup of tea - but for those who enjoy it, let them remember us for those qualities.

16. Where can we listen to your band and where can we buy your stuff?

Joe: All of our music is conveniently available on our social media sites. Music can be downloaded for free on our ReverbNation page. And if you love it, share it.

 17. Any final words of wisdom?

Joe: Denounce false metal.

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