Emerging Texas-based crew Fire From the Gods substantiated their hype with the release of their 2019 full length effort, American Sun. A deft combination of dynamic songwriting, skilled instrumentation and compelling lyrical content - the album's ethos was a weighty as it's delivery. It was the kind of release that worked well in satiating the hunger for heavy groove while prompting the listener to follow along lyrically. It was the kind of album that scored a direct hit in terms of style and substance while asserting a message reform that rarely loses relevance.
Given the social and political climate of 2020, in combination with a global pandemic, the 13-track effort from Fire From the Gods managed to resonate on a different level - songs like "Break The Cycle" and "Right Now" went from existing as an articulate take on heavy music to capturing the collective sentiment of the streets. Particularly with the album's title track, "American Sun," an unwavering message of identity, integrity and self-awareness could be found within the lyrical bars that nurtured a sense of stability in what was an increasingly unstable world.
For Fire From the Gods frontman AJ Channer, the album's enduring relevance is anchored in it's message. Intent on crafting a soundtrack that captured the tone of the era, the band now finds themselves nearly two years removed from the inception of the project and yet the album resonates as applicable as ever.
As a testament to the kind of shelf life that the album has enjoyed, the band is now revisiting a handful of the most emphatic tracks with their American Sun Reimagined EP. The four-track project presents a stylistic shift, while reasserting the still timely messages packaged into the anthems like "Truth To The Weak (Not Built To Collapse)" and "Break The Cycle". The reintroduction to the album serves well in showcasing the versatility that exists at the nucleus of Fire From the Gods but also works on a much more substantial level - in ensuring that the album's essential themes remain tip of the tongue and part of the constant conversation when it comes to social change.
AJ Channer explains it best.
American Sun feels as relevant as ever and the album yet for all intents and purposes, is almost two years old. Does it make you feel especially proud to be able to get this kind mileage out of one album?
Channer - Yeah, definitely. Typically a touring cycle is 18 months but we only did two real tours on the record. We were fortunate enough to have done well with "Right Now" so it kept the record relevant in terms of listeners. As far as the message and what the record meant, until certain things in the world change, especially in this country, I think the words of American Sun will always be relevant.
In revisiting some of the standout tracks from American Sun on this reimagined EP, what prompted you to narrow down the track listing to ‘American Sun, ”Right Now,” ” Break The Cycle,” and “Truth to the Weak” - given the message in each of those songs, there seems to be an obvious theme.
Channer - The record itself is about change and self-awareness. In today’s social climate I think those are very important tenets to live by. Referring to American Sun as a soundtrack of the times, it only felt right to bring those songs back and essentially reassert the message.
Turbulent times and aggressive music often go hand in hand. There is a reactionary quality in the sound but more than that, your music seems to have a air of optimism - a subtle sense of hope and empowerment for the future. Do you feel like people are paying attention to the sense of light ]at the end of the tunnel in your songs?
Channer - Yeah. As I’ve always said, I never write lyrics intending to say one particular thing but as we craft the songs the theme starts to take shape. Fans, and even first-time listeners, really get that and I think that’s what keeps bringing listeners back- that idea of hope. I think it’s something subconscious because people can relate to my story, my trials and tribulations. I’ve been at the bottom and I know what it looks like. It’s not somewhere I ever want to exist. I write these songs with the intent of inspiring myself and with the hope that it inspires others.
The reimagined version of "American Sun” especially is a big stylistic departure for FFtG and yet it feels authentic, organic. Was there ever any concern about veering so far left of center and going in such a drastically different direction?
Channer - I think it’s natural for us, especially myself and Ritchie. I grew up in an environment where reggae music, hip-hop music and rock music overlapped each other so it was very natural for us to be able to reimagine American Sun in that manner. We draw a lot from hip-hop and reggae when crafting rock songs. The original version of American Sun started out as just a hip-hop beat and vocals.
The mesh of genres and subcultures within heavy music, now more than ever, seems especially welcomed. Do you feel like heavy music has finally come along to the idea of being less purist and more receptive to blending styles and influences?
Channer - I do feel that we’ve come a long way as rock fans in terms of “genre-bending.” There are still the purist holdouts and you see the comments everywhere. You know, the “keep rap out of rock” or “the only real metal is “XYZ” 80’s / 90’s heavy band.” They are as annoying to me today as they were when I was younger. I’ve always said that our generation was exposed to so many forms of music so it was only natural that the lines between genres would be blurred and now are a little more seamless.
You have been especially vocal about the current social climate and the ongoing call for reform. What’s your assessment of the last year and how do you feel the songs on the ‘American Sun’ EP are reflective of that?
Channer - It’s no secret that change is necessary. It’s no secret that last year exposed the negative divisions in our society. No matter where you stood- right, left or center- we were all at fault and fell victim to ignorance. American Sun, the song itself, was about leaving the past behind and changing yourself in order to reap the benefits of a better future. If last year taught us anything, it’s that if we want a better future we have to change and heal those wounds of division. There is still so much work left to do.
Considering how you value your creative platform, how has the events of the last year and a half permeated in your music? Have you felt compelled to write more or have you found it difficult to find focus?
Channer - Honestly there have been times where I’m like “Do I need to continue writing the soundtrack to the revolution? Are people really listening?” as well as “Does it make sense to the public?” but it wouldn’t be me and it wouldn’t be FFTG if I didn’t write about self-doubt which is a massive part of the message and theme of our music.
The band is currently scheduled to hit the road fo a slew of festival dates and in support of game-changers Korn. Can you describe the kind of anticipation you have given tat the rollout for American Sun was cut so short? How has the lack of fan interaction impacted you thus far?
Channer - I’m just eager to be able to get out there and sing these songs again because people need to hear them. I can’t allow myself to feel hampered by what happened. In order for the band and for me to survive, we just have to keep on keepin’ on.
American Sun (Reimagined) from Fire From the Gods is currently available via Better Noise - HERE