KOBRA AND THE LOTUS - Feel The Venom, Taste The Victory
May 18, 2017, a year ago
Launched in 2009 by vocalist Kobra Paige, Canadian once-upon-a-time hopefuls Kobra And The Lotus have travelled a long and bumpy winding road consisting of line-up changes, extensive touring, label offers and broken promises in reaching 2017. The release of their third album in 2014, High Priestess, should have been their all-important breakthrough but fate had other ideas as the record seemed to fade from sight after only a few months, touring opportunities seemingly drying up with its disappearance. A tragic position to be in given Kobra And The Lotus' penchant for going on the road and staying there in previous years, but rather than wallowing in self-pity the band regrouped and issued Words Of The Prophets in 2015, a covers EP that made a noteworthy splash with KATL's rendition of the Alannah Myles classic, "Black Velvet". Sparked and rejuvenated by the experience and accolades, Kobra and her bandmates knocked out a whopping 21 songs for a double album assault under the titles Prevail I and Prevail II.
Somewhere along the way the band signed with Napalm Records, a label that has become a consistently stronger presence on the world stage since their 1992 inception. Also a label that has been trying to sign Kobra And The Lotus for years.
"It's one of those amazing things that happens and I feel so blessed that Napalm was still interested in us," says Kobra. "Every time we were getting ready to release something they were always there looking at us. We always went somewhere else and it was never a good choice (laughs). Okay, it was a good choice in how we needed to grow, but Napalm is the best label we could have hoped for because they're dedicated and they work really hard. There's a lot of young energy at the label and that's a blessing compared to other deals we've had. I don't think we ever knew what it meant to be supported by a label until we signed with Napalm. Before it was like the labels couldn't keep up with us, and now we're having a hard time keeping up with all of Napalm's plans for us (laughs). It's awesome."
"I have to admit that High Priestess didn't do as well as I thought it would, but we were on a brand new label (Titan Media) that didn't really have an infrastructure. They were trying really hard but there weren't any people to help push us. It felt like everything got dropped because we didn't get the same exposure we had for the (self-titled) second album. Like in the UK, for example; they didn't really get High Priestess and I don't know what that was all about. It was strange and it was a challenge. It went over well as far as the people that heard the album, but I don't think it got us any further than our second album. I have to be honest and say I didn't really notice a shift with regards to people knowing about us until last spring, in 2016. Even if they didn't know the music people seemed to know the band name, and that was the first time in the eight years of the band that I felt we were being recognized. So, things shifted for us not too long ago; we're starting to creep up on people a little bit."
Prior to Prevail I's May 12th release - Prevail II will be unleashed later this year or early next year - Kobra And The Lotus issued three songs online to give fans a taste of what was to come. The tracks "Gotham", "Trigger Pulse" and "You Don't Know" were perhaps darker than what some people expected, definitely tighter and even more diverse compared to High Priestess with a much fatter sound. Kobra credits the new sound to a new way of working and producer Jacob Hansen
"We went to Denmark for a couple months without having written very much material. We wrote almost everything there in the studio like artists did in the '70s, so that the whole band was there and the album happened all in one place. It was amazing and that's how it needed to unfold, but I didn't know why until we got there. I just felt really strongly about it. We wrote for the first month-and-a-half that we were there, and the experience with Jacob opened our minds to songwriting compared to how we did it before. It was brilliant and we needed that. Once we could see how things were working and how we could add so much
more colour to the songs we started to feel comfortable with the process. Jacob would point out things that were typical for us and made us expand our points of view."
"It's one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I have to say I was pretty miserable the whole time we were in the studio because I just felt so pushed. We were barely sleeping, making music all day and all night, and I remember Jasio (Kulakowski/gutars) said 'I feel like there's a hurricane outside but I haven't looked at it yet because if I do I'll lose my shit...' (laughs). But, we're so proud of this, more than we've ever been about anything we've done together."
Kobra reveals that about 85% of Prevail I and II was created in the studio on the spot.
"There were some unique things that happened because we were all there together," she says. "At one point Jacob told us he thought we should tune down to punch up the sound, and I was freaking out because the songs had been written for my range. That pushed me to expand my vocals dramatically when I realized could do it. It was frightening at first but that opened a lot of doors for me vocally. I needed to step things up in my singing and colour the canvas a little more. There was a whole new level, whole different vision for this album. I didn't know how this was going to turn out; a lot of the stepping stones came from my intuition."
She credits Kulakowski for giving Kobra And The Lotus more musical depth and diversity. He joined the band in 2012 for the second album but didn't contribute any serious musical ideas until High Priestess. Prevail I and II are primarily a joint effort between Kobra and Kulakowski with additional input from outside as needed.
"Jasio is my main writing partner now and he's a creative force. We lock in with one another beautifully when we write. You can tell where Jasio was involved in writing on High Priestess because there's a difference in the sound compared to the other songs. We wrote 'Hold On', 'Lost In The Shadows' and 'Soldier' together, and he was involved with writing 'War Horse'. 'Lost In The Shadows' and 'Hold On' are my favourite songs on High Priestess, and I think we got closer to the stuff we were looking for individually by writing together through writing those songs. The riffs and guitar work on Prevail is predominantly Jasio. Vocal melodies and arrangements are all mine except for 'Light Me Up', which was also Jasio."
Kobra agrees that working together on Words Of The Prophets EP - a ballsy effort in that is also features Rush and Triumph covers, which are rare and rarely done well - strengthened her working relationship with Kulakowski.
"I think it helped. Working on the EP was awesome and in fact, that's where I got the idea that we needed to be in the same room to make Prevail. It worked so well. We were able to bounce ideas off each other and encourage each other. I'm really proud of how the album turned out. At this point I don't think I'd even care how the album does because I'm so overjoyed with it (laughs)."
As for christening their Napalm Records debut with a double album, it wasn't a case of having visions of grandeur or wanting to join the ranks of heavy hitters Ayreon, Stone Sour and Soilwork, who have all reaped success with the risky format of offering more bang for the buck in a age of shortened attention spans.
"The idea of doing a double album started with my father," Kobra reveals. "He suggested we do it because nobody in our generation of metal does that anymore. I thought it was an insane idea, that it would be career suicide. A week after that little comment I couldn't get it out of my head because I didn't see any reason why we couldn't push ourselves to do it. We could at least try, and in that way make a bold statement that Kobra And The Lotus is still hanging in there. When we signed to Napalm they
decided to split it up because it was too much material all at once, that it would go over people's heads."
She promises that Prevail II will be as strong as Prevail I, claiming "it has the same energy and vibe. We wrote more songs that we needed, but have 21 songs between I and II. There will be an acoustic version of something on Prevail II, and a really mashed up cover of something else (laughs). There's the same kind of diversity and blend on Prevail II that's on Prevail I. The songs were all written at the same time; we just had to figure out which ones would go on which album."