Margin of Error, the third full-length album from Meridian, demonstrates how rock can be simultaneously heavy and melodic.
Danish hard-rocking metalists Meridian have taken some musical and strategic risks in the few years since the band’s last full-length release. First, the quintet changed personnel, with the addition of new guitarist and producer Marco Angioni. Angioni’s reputation preceded the musician so much, that legendary metal wailer David Reece recruited him, as well as guitarist Martin J. Andersen to write, record and tour in support of 2018’s stellar solo album, Resilient Heart. (Read the interview here with Reece, in which the former Accept singer praises the pair’s contributions.)
Available Mar. 22 on the Mighty Music label, Margin of Error’s title is fitting and signals Meridian’s ability to produce a captivating rock record which stands out among a vast competition in the international rock scene. The group certainly stepped up its game delivering 11 filler-free tracks, while running the gamut of hard rock and melodic metal. Note four of the songs were first released in 2018 on The Fate of Atlantis EP.
The thumping beat of “The Devil Inside Us All” starts off Margin of Error with a bang, signaling that some dark territory will be explored, though not getting mired in ultra-downtuned guitar tones. “Fragments Of A Life” opens with a bluesy, David Gilmour-esque solo before launching into a layered hard rock assault that gives way to Lars Märker’s strong, alto vocals. The closer, “Scream for Me,” is a fun homage to Iron Maiden, with lyrics comprised of the trailblazing metal band’s song titles.
An Interview with Meridian’s Peter Bruun
How strategic was Margin of Error’s release, considering the band’s external music commitments?
We started writing for the album in 2017 and planned for a late 2018 release. About a year ago, Martin and Marco got involved in the Reece project, so we just took a break, while they wrote and recorded that album, which they did pretty quickly. Then, we recorded our album last summer. Resilient Heart came out in November and Reece has been touring since then, so we postponed the release to March. We just got a few months delay.
How did working with David Reece influence the final product of Margin of Error?
Not much really. At least half of the album was written before the Reece project and we knew how we wanted the album to sound, so it didn’t reflect on the song writing. I think Martin and Marco were good at keeping the two things separate. If anything, it kept them in good shape, so when it came to recording our album, they were pretty sharp.
In the early days, we all got together on a regular basis and everybody brought in bits and pieces that we just jammed into songs. These days we all live far apart, but still get together for dedicated writing sessions and work that way. It’s a very creative and fun way to work and everybody chips in and gets a vote on everything. We’re a very democratic band and we don’t have any ego issues.
But lately we also work in other ways. Sometimes Martin or Marco delivers riffs and arrangements for almost finished songs. And on this album we kept writing while we were recording, so a couple of songs were written in the studio and recorded without us ever rehearsing them.
And after the music is done, Lars [Märker] works on the vocal melodies and then the lyrics are written last.
As you were writing and recording, how prevalent was the concept of album-oriented rock?
Not at all, but then again, it actually might have affected the final result. The Fate of Atlantis received reviews mentioning the AOR tag. That took us by surprise, because that’s not at all where we come from. I have nothing against AOR, but our main inspiration comes from 70s hard rock and 80s heavy metal. Personally, I come from the new wave of British heavy metal thing and that is the foundation we build the band on. And first of all, we’re a live band, so everything is written for playing live. But of course, Lars’s voice and melodies always take it in a more melodic direction and maybe that applies for the AOR association.
So, if anything, facing the AOR tag might have pushed us in a slightly heavier direction, because the last bunch of songs we wrote for the album was the fastest and heaviest of them all.
How do you feel Margin measures up to the previous albums Metallurgy and Breaking the Surface?
At the risk of sounding cliché, I would say this is our best album so far. It’s very varied. There’s melodic hard rock with catchy choruses, fast and punchy metal anthems and some slow and heavy stuff. But still, I believe it’s the most coherent set of songs we’ve made. It’s all very melodic. We always keep focus on writing songs with strong melodies. Compared to the first two albums, this is the first produced with a stable lineup. Everyone was on the same page and shared the same musical vision. The songwriting has improved over the last couple of years and I think it shows.
How did the dynamic change when Marco joined the band?
Quite a lot, actually. His predecessor, Steffan Pedersen, was fine, but he was more of a 90s guy. He wrote some great songs with us. He had the ability to write music that suited the band even though he really wasn’t into that type of music.
But when Marco joined the band, everything just clicked immediately. He comes from the same musical background as the rest of us and we all like a lot of the same music, so all discussions about musical direction just disappeared. Having different inspirations can sometimes result in something new and magical happening, but in our case I think it was just narrowing down the things we had in common, so it prevented us from expanding our sound.
Now that we all share the same viewpoint, it’s a lot easier to experiment and broaden our sound. And then Marco is also a great producer and his production approach is a bit more old school, which I think suits our sound.
Meridian’s strengths lie in the ability to play in various sub-genres of rock and metal. Do you consciously aim to tackle various styles when writing and recording?
It’s not something we think about that much. We just write stuff that we like to listen to and play. But having said that, we’ve been around for some years now and we all have a pretty good sense of what makes a good Meridian song. We need a good riff but we also need to make room for Lars to do some good memorable vocal lines. Melody is always in focus. We don’t focus much on different subgenres, but we try to write songs in different moods and tempos to add some diversity and dynamics to our live show.
“In Nothingness” is a standout with musical elements of thrash and prog. How did the song come together?
Martin came up with the riffs and the basic arrangement. Then we jammed and tried out different ideas. This one is a little bit different from the more straight forward songs, so we spent some time trying out different drum parts over different riffs until we all felt it was just right. Marco added the melodic guitar part in the chorus, which I love, and Lars wrote a wonderful melody for it. The music is quite hard, so I didn’t expect him to come up with such a catchy melody. I really love that chorus. And drummer Klaus Agerbo wrote the lyrics about traveling through space, which to me suits the mood of the song just great.
“Disconnect” explores the need to break away from technology and digital relationships, against the backdrop of a full-on thrash assault. How did you approach the composition and chaotic lyrical theme?
The music came first and the lyrics were written to match the intensity of the music. It was one of the last songs written for the album. Marco wrote the music. I think he had the riffs for some time and we were looking for something a little bit out of our comfort zone to broaden our style. We all like some good old thrash metal, so we gave it a go and tried something a bit thrashy. We had already talked to Steve Smyth [Testament, Vicious Rumors and Nevermore] about him soloing on the album and this song seemed like the perfect one for him to do some serious shredding.
Might there be plans for a grandiose, epic track on a future album?
We don’t have any plans yet about future musical direction. It’s certainly something we all like and Marco especially is a big prog fan, so we might try out some longer and more epic songs in the future. The Fate of Atlantis was Marco’s first contribution to the band and it has a bit of a prog feel to it. It’s definitely something we would like to explore more in the future. Not as a total change of direction but on a single track or two could be interesting.
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