Escape The Fate Push Their Own Limits on ‘Chemical Warfare’

Escape The Fate are not just used to change, they thrive in it.  

Adapting and embracing several shifts within the group since their 2008 formation, Escape the Fate has pivoted through lineup changes, an industry impacted by a pandemic and now they are evolving once more—this time with their assault on Chemical Warfare, a record that illuminates their transformation as they welcome new lifestyles.

“The way the album came out feels like a natural evolution for the band,” guitarist Kevin Thrasher tells American Songwriter. “Every time we just push ourselves to make better songs than we have in the past. And we’ve kind of achieved that sort of thing on this record and experimented with a lot of sounds that you maybe wouldn’t typically hear.”

A pillar to the new material and style on Chemical Warfare are singles “Unbreakable” and “Invincible,” featuring violinist Lindsey Stirling, from the horror film The Retaliators, which vocalist Craig Mabbitt is also cast in. Stirling’s role in the song not only offers new instrumentation but also confronts the band’s past as they struggled with sobriety while living a harsh lifestyle on the road. “Our state of mind during this was different, we have matured a lot as individual people which came out on the lyrics,” Thrasher said. Like many young people the felt invincible as they pushed their minds and bodies to their limits. Now in their thirties, sober and healthy, the band reached back to those years with a new perspective of perseverance.

“We felt invincible since we had been through so much going on the road, having really low points in our career, and having drug addictions and getting through the darkness,” Thrasher said about the songs. “We came out stronger than ever before from these experiences and it formed a feeling of empowerment in the song.”

A band that typically writes more abrasive, anger-fueled lyrics completely transformed by adding a positive spin on their songs which was only further supported with Stirling’s violin parts. “She totally brought a different dynamic and it kind of made it a little more epic and maybe expanded the fan base in the genre of the song. We can kind of crossover and I think her fans can appreciate that. She’s like a rocker at heart so she really brought it.”

Stirling’s violins were paramount on the record which included a widened instrumentation palette and wealth of guitar style and gear. Thrasher even changed guitars from song to song while also acting as co-producer with John Feldmann. “I brought some different energies on my guitar playing for the record, as well as picking up different guitars for each song and messing with tones that maybe I normally wouldn’t mess with before,” Thrasher shares.

As a hardcore band Escape The Fate was susceptible to shredding guitar solos, heavy breakdowns and over-production on the past records. The new record and particularly the song ,“Not  My Problem,” featuring Travis Barker (Blink 182), sees the band moving away from that formula to a more dynamic song structure. 

“We’re in a more tasteful way and not over playing and soloing over everything,” Thrasher said. “There’s a good, large dynamic and the tones. ‘Not My Problem’ started out with the standard tune and single coil pickups. And I picked something to do a heavy chorus and then a bridge with. By the end I was playing a baritone guitar and Craig (Mabbitt) was singing at his top of his range, hitting the highest notes he could ever sing.”

Mabbitt’s peak in vocals and Thrasher’s guitar experiments on Chemical  Warfare were pushed by Feldmann (The Used, 5 Seconds of Summer, Panic! At the Disco), who the group had worked with previously. But arguably more so the increase in quality in Thrasher and Mabbitt’s performance was due to a heightened focus in the studio from a sober mind, which proved more productive than previous record sessions.

“I think it’s just elevated our focus and drive in the studio and recording,” Thrasher explained. “I recently quit drugs and alcohol. And over a year or so of doing that my life has completely changed. Having that hyper-focus has helped me make better music.

“I’ve heard that from a few different artists and rappers that we’ve seen come through the studio have stopped smoking weed while they’re in the studio,” he adds. “Because they feel like their flows and lyrical concepts are better. They’re also a little more patient on developing their words. So the industry has kind of shifted into seeing a healthier lifestyle as a positive thing.”

Escape The Fate is meeting the evolving industry at its level and growing with it in real time not just with their lifestyles, but equally with their material. And they are ready to ditch whatever preconceived ideas and reputations listeners had about them with the new album. “Throw out everything you thought you knew about this band,” Mabbitt says. “Chemical Warfare is a new beginning for us.”

“I hope fans can just dig in and maybe listen to the entire record front to back,” Thrasher adds. “It’s an album with hills and valleys. And every part of it tells our story.”

Chemical Warfare is out via Better Noise on April 16. Get your copy here. To see what else Escape the Fate and Mabbitt are up to, follow Mabbitt’s Twitch channel here.

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