Story by Maddy Howell
As the saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy, and truer words have never been spoken in the case of British band Bury Tomorrow.
Since the release of their second album, The Union of Crowns in 2012, Bury Tomorrow have become a force to be reckoned with, grounded by a distinct underdog mentality that has seen them through countless shifts and changes. From their progression towards more technical flourishes with the introduction of guitarist Kristan Dawson’s on 2014’s Runes, to the unrelenting fury of Earthbound and the more commercial metal sound of their 2018 Sony Music debut Black Flame, each album in Bury Tomorrow’s repertoire has proved an extension of a hard-fought battle for scene domination, fully actualized in their explosive live shows.
Through personnel shifts, record label uncertainty and having no one to fight their corner except the fervent fan base that has long stuck by them, Bury Tomorrow are no strangers to adversity. A band who have never had a huge breakthrough single, and for a long time were given no look by the music press, they’ve fought for every opportunity in their path, making the impact of 2020’s Cannibal all the more glorious.
Released in the summer of 2020, into a world gripped by confusion in the depths of global lockdowns, from the outside – it seemed like a triumph. Against all odds, Cannibal skyrocketed into the UK Top 10 charts, championed by fans clinging on to its stark exploration of mental health and overcoming. Despite the crisis raging on around them, Bury Tomorrow appeared to have the world at their feet, but as the music industry slowly emerged from its enforced hiatus through 2021 – Bury Tomorrow were actually preparing to draw the curtains on a 15-year upward battle.
With founding member, co-vocalist, and guitarist Jason Cameron announcing his departure from the band in July 2021, the remaining members of Bury Tomorrow had two options: Call it quits or make some serious changes. Opting for the latter, these changes have resulted in the creation of the band’s most vital album to date, The Seventh Sun, radiating with a renewed perspective from a band with reignited spirits.
A bold journey fuelled by passion, determination, and sheer will, KNOTFEST sat down with guitarist Kristan Dawson, drummer Adam Jackson, and the band’s two newest recruits - clean vocalist Tom Prendergast and guitarist Ed Hartwell - to delve deep into Bury Tomorrow’s latest chapter.
Rewinding back to the hell year of 2020, despite all the world’s chaos, Bury Tomorrow managed to put out a vital record in the form of Cannibal. As cruel fate would have it, it felt as though everything in Bury Tomorrow’s camp was ramping up right as the planet was shutting down for the foreseeable future. What was it like to release an album of such power and ambition into a world of static and uncertainty?
Kristan Dawson - Cannibal achieved the type of commercial success that we'd never seen prior, and whilst we’ll never know if that was down to COVID, the songs, or how they resonated, everything happened at the right time. It’s interesting though because whilst everything was stepping up a gear musically and commercially, internally it was quite the opposite. It felt like we were reversing and smashing into a bastard wall. It was becoming increasingly difficult for us to navigate our way professionally.
Adam Jackson - In some ways, it was easy to accept that we couldn't tour because ultimately there were far bigger things going on in the world, and everyone was in the same boat. It was actually a relief because it meant that we didn't have to deal with a lot of situations that were becoming quite negative. Although it was frustrating, it was actually easier to accept because our band had become something that wasn't particularly fun for us to do.
That's not a great place to be in at all, and when we were confronted with that situation, it made things very clear. If we were going to carry on doing this, we needed to make some drastic changes. The pandemic gave us an opportunity to sit back and reflect because we've never been a band to take time off, we just keep going cycle after cycle. We’ve never felt like we were able to take a year off, and honestly, we’ve never wanted to do that, but we were put in a situation where we had to. It gave us the much-needed clarity to figure out how we move forward, and what that actually looked like. That ultimately led us to make the decisions that we did, so COVID was a blessing in disguise for this band.
Kristan Dawson - COVID put everybody on an even keel. It gave everyone an opportunity to understand what makes them tick, and the things that hold true value, purpose and meaning. Bury Tomorrow as a whole had become quite disenfranchised with the end goal, and in order for any band to work, you have to be aligned. For the four of us at the time, it made us see where the misalignments were, and we're all grateful for that. It gave us a new perspective and further opportunity to do things for the right reasons, which is the only reason why we're still here.
The four of you at that point consisted of Kristan, Adam, Dani
Kristan Dawson - We could have decided not to play Slam Dunk, or to have those as our last shows before we called it a day, but it gave us an opportunity to address why we do this. We’re a collective of individuals who have a sincere passion for heavy music, and to be able to contribute to a genre that we've loved has given us so much. That is the only reason why we're in a band. It's because we love this genre of music, and it is such a blessing to be able to contribute to that in our own way. Once we knew why we were contributing to this scene, we had to ask ourselves what we were contributing. We’d long subscribed to the blueprint, and a lot of it was to avoid argument. We’d rehash certain elements of a song just to get the job done in a way that meant Bury Tomorrow would survive, but it felt like we were just existing. Those Slam Dunk shows gave us a chance to live.
Whilst the dynamic internally was completely floored, on a musical level we respect every part of the line-up that we had prior to this. We respect the legacy that chapter of the band had, so it wasn't a case of wanting to replace anything, but we didn't want to do the same thing again. That’s why we became a six-piece, and Slam Dunk felt like a make or break. Thankfully, the universe provided enough alignment with our goals to make it work, and that’s testament to our resilience and our patience. Stepping onstage at those shows was the most nerve-wracking experience in life, but once we stepped off? I've never felt relief like it.
It must have been a slight baptism by fire for Tom and Ed, but those shows seemed to provide proof that Bury Tomorrow is more than the sum of its parts. Whether it’s the music, the fans, the community, or the legacy, everything felt undeniable at that point…
Adam Jackson - Before we agreed to do Slam Dunk and brought Ed and Tom in, it was about doing justice to what the band had been, being able to step on stage, play a show and do it to a good standard. We spent a lot of time working, practising, and getting ready for that. However, it became clear very quickly that this could be more than just us stepping on stage to fulfil obligations that we already had… it was fun again.
We were all scared to play Slam Dunk, and it was really daunting. We put in so much practice to get ready for it, but it was really fun. That was a feeling that we hadn't experienced for quite a while as a band, and it renewed our passion for it. We quickly realised that Ed and Tom could become more than just two guys stepping on stage and playing other people's songs, and there were already new song ideas being bandied around. They were not only capable of playing the songs that we’d written, but they were contributing to a new era.
Ed Hartwell - For me, the first show that we played during Slam Dunk made me the most nervous I've ever been before, to the point where the nerves transcended normal nerves and approached extreme unpleasantness. When we were walking to the stage I was like, ‘Why did I agree to do this?’ I hadn’t played a show for around seven years, and I didn't really have any thoughts about doing it again. There was a lot of pressure to live up to the situation, but there was a lot more pressure on Tom as the new vocalist.
Tom Prendergast - Yeah, I was shitting it. The weirdest part was when the three-minute-long intro to the set was happening, and I was just standing there feeling like such a dick. It’s only a few minutes but it feels like a year filled with pure anticipation. Up until that point I could warm up or walk around, but standing backstage with in-ears on listening to the crowd was the worst.
Kristan Dawson - That stress went away when we saw the crowd reaction though. With live shows back, the chains were off, and that went for both crowd and band. It was a unified even playing field, and we were feeding off of one another. It felt like this could truly work, and as soon as we stepped off stage, we knew Ed and Tom were in the band, and it was going to be better than ever before.
Those shows kickstarted a new era of this band that very nearly didn’t happen, and now it’s here. Your seventh album, The Seventh Sun, is rooted in the idea of change and renewal, and that rejuvenated spirit feels more alive than ever before…
Adam Jackson - We've been doing this for a long time, and to have the energy to write, record, and tour seven albums is a lot. Many bands don't ever make it that far, and there's a reason for that. It's very difficult, and it’s hard even if you don't have internal conflict. For us to be able to write and record an album that is better than anything we've done before, we had to mix it up and bring new energy to the table, but that was going to be difficult.
Bringing Ed and Tom in was crucial. We put in more effort than ever into writing and recording this, and that's quite a neat position to be in seven albums down the line. You would expect us to start getting a little more repetitive and tired now, maybe relying on some of the stuff that we did historically, but we’re ready to surprise people. We have the energy to go again, and we’re feeling a passion that we haven't had for a long time.
It was a fun experience, but during the studio recording process and the mixing and mastering process we pushed ourselves and obsessed over every element of the album. You can hear that renewal in everything we're doing now, and it’s in this record. When people come and see us live now, they can see a difference. We're playing some of the same songs we've been playing for years, but people are not only hearing a difference in it, but they're seeing us happier on stage. Everything about our band at the moment is very positive, which is manifesting itself in bigger and better songs and bigger and better live performances.
Kristan Dawson - None of it feels forced or like we need to do this, because we don’t. This is a huge privilege, and to treat it like it's a chore is ridiculous. We're not saving lives, we just want to play music, and it should be fun. We needed to be doing it for the right reasons, and that is exactly what this is. It’s just a great coincidence that the number seven brings renewal, change and prosperity.
The clarity that comes from that change is evident in how complete this album feels too. Each song is stitched together into a complete product, and it plays like a seamless journey from beginning to end. Was it important that the storytelling on ‘The Seventh Sun’ felt truly cohesive?
Kristan Dawson - That sonic storytelling was the whole intention with this album. As the main songwriter, I've always had a vision for each body of work, and there's always been an intention with each album. Runes was a traditional metal album influenced by the metalcore that we grew up with. Earthbound was written when we were on tour a lot, so we wanted to write an album that was genuine metalcore with no frills. Black Flame was commercially inspired, and by Cannibal the internal workings of the band were so tired, and I can hear that in the music.
This time around, it was quite the opposite, and when Ed wrote the title track, I knew we had the album opener. He also wrote "The Carcass King", and I knew that had to be the closer. When Tom brought in the initial demo for "Begin Again’" I knew we had our track three, and "Majesty" had to be either sixth or seventh. One we had the start, end, and middle, it was about moving in a direction that sets up each song. There are a number of links on the album to help with that, The Seventh Sun goes straight into "Abandon Us", "Begin Again" goes into "Forced Divide", and "Wrath" goes into "Majesty" which then speeds up into "Heretic". I've wanted to do that since I first got involved with this band, and this was the first time that it felt right. We’d been liberated musically, and we had an opportunity to bring in two extra creative minds who are passionate about the same genre of music but inspired by different things. It allowed us to set aside our blueprint and just work from a genuine, inspired outlook. It's not like the album wrote itself, but we were all pushing and pulling in the same directions. It was the most fun, cathartic, and rewarding writing experience I've ever been a part of.
I imagine the process was a little daunting for you two especially, Ed and Tom. Coming into an established group of four guys - some of whom had been playing music together for upwards of 15 years - what was it like to get stuck in and bring some ideas to the table for this album?
Ed Hartwell - It’s a lot of pressure. I knew that I didn't have to contribute music to the band because everybody else does their fair share. It would have been possible to make an album without my contributions, but for me it was quite important that I got my stamp on it. The majority of the songwriting on the album is still Dawson, but I wanted to do my bit with the demos. I’m always nervous about sending them through because I worry about whether it’s actually good. If it passes my vibe check, I usually send it to Dawson first, so if he likes it then he'll send it to the other guys. It's cool to be able to have some music on there, and that definitely helped me feel like I was properly in the band. They’d already told me I was an official member, but having music that I had written make it onto the album was what made it all feel real.
Tom Prendergast - It's a testament to the four original members of Bury Tomorrow that they made us feel like a valued part of the creative process. It didn't matter who came up with the idea, it was just about what got us to the best end product. At first, it’s weird to put ideas across, but by the time we got to the album we’d thrown some demos about and got a little bit of an idea. We got to spend a month together just creating and getting to know each other whilst living in each other's back pockets. It felt like we were all moving towards the same goal.
Often new members coming into a band can cause disruption, but the changes Bury Tomorrow has gone through on The Seventh Sun seem only to amplify its sense of cohesion. Does it feel like the last couple of years have strengthened the brotherhood that exists within the band?
Adam Jackson - 100%. We've been through many years of a declining state of happiness and wellness within the band. We weren’t even aware of how bad that had become until we had the opportunity to sit back and assess whether we really could carry on doing what we were doing. For the four remaining members, it meant that we could enjoy each other's company without there being a constant negative. That's led to us having better relationships, and more fun than we’ve ever had.
Before, it felt like I couldn't have my cake and eat it. I couldn't be in a big band and have fun while doing it, so that was the compromise. You get to experience all these mental things that other people don't generally get to, and you work hard while doing it, but there's going to be a lot of it that’s not really fun. To be able to create quality music whilst still having fun has changed the game for us. I didn’t think this was possible, but it's transformed every element of being in a band.
We’ve channelled that happiness and positivity into creation, and that’s why it was so important for us to have the right people onboard if we were going to continue. I suppose it's kind of crazy that we didn't do some long extensive search for members and try them out on different tours, but we stuck with the first two guys that we picked for a reason. We haven’t skipped a beat, and it was crucial. At this stage of our career, we can’t afford to take a couple of albums to figure out what we’re doing and find our feet. The Seventh Sun is our first creation together, so we’re now asking ourselves, ‘What can we do when we know each other even better?’ It feels the sky's the limit, and to be seven albums in and still feeling like that is so positive.
Bury Tomorrow have been underpinned by an underdog mentality for a long time now. It’s how you’ve been described in the media, it’s how fans have referred to your journey, and at times you’ve embraced it yourselves to outline the long, winding path it’s taken to get to where you are. Being in the position that you’re in now, knowing that you’ve built up a strong community over your careers and are still releasing music that feels fresh and rejuvenating - do you still feel like the underdogs?
Kristan Dawson - I definitely don't, but even if this is what being an underdog is, how lucky are we? To be an underdog almost feels like we have something to prove, or a chip on our shoulder, and we've been guilty of that in the past. Honestly though, I feel like that has been a prior reflection of our internal dynamic. We’ve always felt like there's something better, and that we deserve more, but really, we just deserve peace within our camp to appreciate where we are, what we do, and why we do it.
We've had so many great opportunities, and off the back of this record we've been presented with a year of travelling the world and touring these songs. That to me is a reflection that the universe will provide you with the right things at the right time if it's for the right reasons. I think that everything about this album, the choices we've made, the people within it, our team, and everything else is super authentic. The inevitable result of that authenticity is peace, and I feel like we've finally got that. We can only benefit from that moving forward, so I no longer feel like the underdogs. I feel like we're exactly where we need to be.
That mentality allows for a brighter future, and as you were saying earlier Adam, it really does feel like the sky's the limit for Bury Tomorrow now. Looking back on where you were just a couple of years ago and how much possibility an album like ‘The Seventh Sun’ now represents, how do you feel?
Adam Jackson - We're all collectively excited about what the next step looks like, and I’ve always felt this band has gotten better with every record. We want to be a better band every time, and that happens naturally the longer you do it and the more experience you get. ‘The Seventh Sun’ is our best record, and the feedback we're getting only confirms that. It’s almost a little scary to think about what we can achieve as we become more experienced together, but we're all excited about it. There are going to be some things achieved in the next couple of years that we never believed were possible for this band, and to still be ticking off new boxes this far into our career is a fortunate position to be in. We're very lucky, but we don't take any of this for granted. I hope people can see that.
The Seventh Sun is currently available via Music for Nations. Order the album – HERE
Later this spring, Bury Tomorrow will embark on their first US tour since 2010 in support of The Seventh Sun. Teaming with Hollow Front, Afterlife and Siamese for the run will span from Los Angeles to New York and showcase the band’s first performances on US soil in more than a decade. The band will then continue for a European festival run that includes Rock Im Park and Rock Am Ring in Germany, Tons of Rock in Norway and Hellsinki Metal Festival in Finland to name just a few.
Bury Tomorrow will cap a whirlwind year with a trek to Australia that will see the band performing dates in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle and Brisbane. A complete list of live dates can be found - HERE
Get tickets – HERE