Interview: Tyler Anderson (Gatekeeper / Odinfist)

After we presented you an interview with Jeff Black last week, we follow up with a very informative chat with Tyler Anderson in our little Gatekeeper special, who not only talks about his new band, but also about his other group, Odinfist. And of course there’s a lot more!

André: Hi Tyler, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. What was the last album you listened to before this interview?

Tyler: Thank you for having me! The last album I listened to was Phobophilic’s Enveloping Absurdity. Great nasty and “gross” sounding death metal, just the way I like it. As I answer these questions I’m listening to Gargantuan Blade’s debut from last year. Some of the most solid doom metal I’ve heard in a long time!

André: You won’t be bored in 2023: Odinfist and Gatekeeper are releasing their new albums in a few weeks. Let’s start with Odinfist: your band has been around since 2006. Please tell our readers something about your style – some of them might not know you yet.

Tyler: I’m very excited for both of these albums to be unleashed upon the world! It’s always hard for me to pin down what exactly Odinfist sounds like. I can say that we draw most of our influence from NWOBHM and old school power metal bands. But there are a lot of different sounds that make their way into our melting pot of metal, haha. There’s some thrash influence and even a bit of melodic death metal influence too. Harsh vocals pop up in our music every now and then. All of these disparate ideas do always somehow manage to come together though! So, you’ll hear trad metal with some twists and turns and always a fun atmosphere. I think we’re often regarded as a “party band” in our local scene. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we always try to make the best music that we can while keeping things lighthearted and fun.

André: Remade in Steel is a very diverse album – with a colourful cover. Please tell us something about the artwork. Why did you choose it?

Tyler: The idea for the cover came about because of two songs from the album, “Riffmaster” and “Metalmancer”. These are both very character-driven songs, and we decided to have both of these characters face each other on the album cover in an over-the-top heavy metal show down, in space. On the cover you can see the Metalmancer (a wizard made of metal, of course) casting his heavy metal spells at his archnemesis, the Riffmaster (who wields his tome of riffs upon his heavy metal steed). We sent this idea to Angela Grimuzza who did an amazing job of bringing our absurd idea to life. We reached out to her because of the incredible work she did on Greyhawk’s Call of the HawkEP. The colour scheme was inspired by the Watchmen graphic novel. We figured it would match the over-the-top vibe we were going for, and I think it turned out absolutely amazing!

André: Is there a song on Remade in Steel that you particularly like? I loved “Masquerade“ right after the first listen!

Tyler: Man, “Masquerade” is such a wild ride of a song! We’ve actually had the bones of that song laying around for over 10 years. Our guitarist Justin wrote and rewrote it a few times and we resurrected it for this album, it finally came together the way it was meant to be. His lyrics for the song are both epic and hilarious. It’s about aliens masquerading as humans to conquer Earth and eradicate humanity, then an epic chase through outer space ensues. As I was singing it in the studio, our producer/engineer Shane was howling with laughter after every take. My personal favourite is probably “Riffmaster”. It’s also on the epic side, but with a bit of speed metal flavour in there too. I think it’s the only song of ours where the title is just repeated for the chorus, but man does it work well in this one. It’s catchy and it hits like a truck!

André: Let’s move on to Gatekeeper. Jeff already told us something about how you came to be the singer. An important part was your ability to sing “Blade of Cimmeria“ very well. Is the number as difficult as I think as a non-expert?

Tyler: It’s one of the tougher Gatekeeper songs to sing for sure, in my opinion. Mostly it’s an endurance test. There’s a lot of lyrics packed in there, and the high-pitched wails are way up there. It’s definitely within my range, but it takes some concentration to pull off. I remember Jeff told me that a big part of what the boys liked about my take on the songs was the attitude that I brought to it. While hitting notes is of course important, I try to bring some character and “Oomph” into my singing. 

André: I wrote to you before the interview that I like your Jon Oliva screams very much. Since when do you use this stylistic tool? And is it a homage to Jon Oliva at all?

Tyler: Well, high-pitched screeching is pretty much the coolest thing in metal to me! I’ve “borrowed” all sorts of vocal inflections from my influences, and Jon Oliva is definitely one of them. He has such a unique powerhouse of a voice. So, it is totally an homage to him! I’ve started using this style more recently, because I feel like it really fits with the songs I’ve been working on for both Gatekeeper and Odinfist. Used sparingly, t’s a great way to accentuate the riffs and have something going on with the vocals that’s a bit unexpected.  

André: Which song on From Western Shores do you particularly like? When I interviewed Jeff, “Nomads“ had just become a favourite of mine. At the moment I’m really into “Desert Winds“…

Tyler: I love both of those tracks! I think “Desert Winds” might be one of my favourite songs from the album to sing. I just love the vocal melodies that Adam wrote for that song, especially in the chorus. “Nomads” rocks pretty hard, and then slams into full-on power metal madness when the bridge hits. It’s really hard to pick a favourite, but “Exiled King” is such an epic song and feels very quintessentially Gatekeeper. It just has a bit of everything that makes up the Gatekeeper sound. When the boys sent me the instrumentals to start working on lyrics, I was blown away by that one! I feel like all the songs on the record maintain the “epic” feel while being very tight and immaculately constructed. You can tell the guys really stepped up their writing and arrangement. The musicianship is also fantastic across the whole thing.

André: Now you are the singer of one of the leading epic heavy metal bands in the underground. So now we have to ask you as well: How do you define the term “epic” in relation to music?

Tyler: For me, the term “epic” is all about the mood and atmosphere the music creates. It’s a vibe, and you know it when you hear it. In Gatekeeper we seem to strike a mood that is equal parts heroic and melancholy. As a vocalist and lyricist, it’s my job to try and match that vibe with my lyrics and delivery. It usually means lyrics that revolve around storytelling and imagery, and using differing vocal inflections to bring these epic tales to life.

André: We know that you are a big Manilla Road fan. Therefore 2 questions: 1. Are you interested in contributing to our big Manilla Road Special in the near future, for which we have already interviewed 46 people, including Jeff Black? 2. Which Manilla Road song has the best lyrics in your opinion?

Tyler: Yes, I’m definitely interested! As for best lyrics… that’s a tough choice. I’ll go with “Dreams of Eschaton“, which has some of my favourite lines of all time in it:

Before the Gods of Hell sentence you to die

Remember well my friend a warlord never cries

André: Do you also like Manowar? And if so, which album do you prefer?

Tyler: Manowar is a band that I feel has made some of the coolest music, but also some of the most unhinged decisions with their music that I have ever heard. For every “Blood of My Enemies” there always seems to be a “Black Arrows” if you get my meaning. That being said, either Hail to England or Into Glory Ride would probably be my favourite. Combining the truly great songs from both of those albums would result in one of the best heavy metal albums of all time. They have a lot of great material though.

André: Which albums released in 2022 did you enjoy the most?

Tyler: I’m going to sound like I’m just parroting Jeff from your interview with him, but I also loved the new Iron Kingdom and Eliminator albums. Both got a lot of spins from me. I also loved the latest Saxon record. I never heard a lot of buzz about it, but I think it’s great. The aforementioned Phobophilic and Gargantuan Blade albums are also great. I just recently got around to listening to the new High Command, and I’ve really been digging that one too!

André: Last question: What is your opinion on streaming? It’s often a very controversial topic here.

Tyler: I use streaming to check out new music, but I’m the kind of guy who still likes to buy the record in some physical format if I can. It’s hard to beat the convenience of streaming for the listener, but we all know it doesn’t really do much for the artist. That being said, if you want people to hear your music, you don’t have a lot of choice but to play the streaming game, unless maybe if you’re already very well established and can move a ton of physical product. But then you’d also be able to pull in a lot of streams, so… basically I don’t have a good or clear answer for you. I will say that Odinfist is going digital only (for the time being at least) with Remade in Steel because we’re doing it independently and that’s the way we’ll get the most people at least hearing the album.

André: Tyler, thank you for the interview and I wish you all the best for 2023!

Tyler: Thank you for having me, it’s been an honour! And all the best to you, too!

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