V.O.T.E. ELIXIR! – guitarist Phil Denton on the band’s reformation, and their voyage with the eagle…

V.O.T.E. ELIXIR! – guitarist Phil Denton on the band’s reformation, and their voyage with the eagle…
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Many fans thought they’d heard the last of Elixir when, after an eleven-year second wind, the band spilt up in 2012 for the second (and presumably final) time. Vocalist Paul Taylor and guitarist Phil Denton went on to form Midnight Messiah and released two albums (‘The Root Of All Evil’ and ‘Led Into Temptation’) with them. But the much-missed Elixir are back with a new album ‘Voyage Of The Eagle’, a new face on bass and a renewed enthusiasm, as Phil is happy to explain. It all started, as it often does, with a handful of new songs…  

“I’d started writing some new material that I thought would be great for Elixir to record and so I asked all the guys if they were interested. Paul, Stormin’ Norman [Gordon – lead guitar] and Nigel Dobbs [drums] were keen, but Nigel’s brother Kevin wasn’t; he’d decided to call it a day in 2012, and felt that our 2010 ‘All Hallows Eve’ album was a strong record to bow out with. He didn’t feel that he wanted to be involved in a new project, but gave us his blessing to look for a replacement bass player. Luckily, we found Luke Fabian, who has a driving energy and is a finger player like Kev. He’s very talented and has a rather unique style, but still has a similar feel to Kev. In fact, Nigel played Kev some early mixes of the album, and Kev remarked that Luke played the bass parts as he would have done them. That’s a good endorsement for us and we are glad that Kev is happy. So, Elixir 2020 will be with Luke on bass, with the exception of one special show – when Kev will make a final appearance with us – at Burr Fest in London on 7 March, as it’s for a special cause and will be a good show to thank the fans for their past support.”

Many people might not know yet that ‘Voyage Of The Eagle’ has a concept running through it, which links it – quite neatly – back to the band’s 1986 debut album. Furthermore, it actually started life as an EP. “Well,” starts Phil, “I had an idea to write some songs expanding on the story of ‘Dead Man’s Gold’ from the first Elixir album ‘The Son Of Odin’. The first four songs I wrote were ‘Drink To The Devil (The Tavern Song)’, ‘Press Ganged’, ‘The Siren’s Song’ and ‘Sail On’. I then approached the guys asking if they were interested in recording an E.P. Paul is always pushing for more out of me – which is a good thing! – and suggested that if we are going to record an E.P. then we may as well make it a full album. As a result, we started working on more material and did indeed make it into an album.

“Meanwhile, as I said, the storyline for ‘Voyage Of The Eagle’ was inspired by ‘Dead Man’s Gold’. I thought that it might be cool to expand on the story of that song, but as the E.P. grew to become an album the storyline took on a life of its own. It was Paul who suggested we called the ship in our story The Eagle – we’ve had a kind of affinity with the eagle since one appeared on the cover of our debut album. And the lyrics for the final track, ‘Evermore’ were inspired by Duncan Storr’s album cover artwork.

“But the songwriting process was a little different for this album. As we hadn’t been active for a while, most of the songs on this album started with my demos. Nigel came up with his own drum patterns to my riffs, Paul adapted my lyrics and vocal melodies to suit his voice, and Norms added lead guitar parts, guitar melody lines and changed a couple of things. He also came up with the intro parts and main riff to the final song ‘Evermore’ – quite a different approach to previous albums, as when we were active previously, we would all pitch our ideas in and develop the songs in the rehearsal room. This time around though this just wasn’t possible.”

News that the band had reformed led to offers of more dates, and things are looking healthy on the gig front. “We’re all grateful to have another run at it,” Phil admits, “and want to continue for as long as we can and are able. It turned out that, except for Kev, we were all missing Elixir. Now that we have a new bass player who is enthusiastic, we look forward to writing, recording and playing live as much as we can. Whilst we were trying to keep a low profile making the album, word got out and offers for gigs started coming in. As a result, we have Burr Fest, Keep It True Festival in Germany and some shows in Belgium coming up in spring 2020. We have also had invitations to play in Athens and Amsterdam later in the year. [See the gig pages for more details] I’d like to try to organise a headline show in London for the summer, performing most, if not all, of the new album.

This kind of pre-empted my next question which was to ask how much of the new album will feature in the live set. “That depends on the gig. When we play at Burr Fest, because it will be our last show with Kev, we will play the old material that he played on. When we play at Keep It True I have been told that they like to hear the old Eighties’ songs, so we are planning to play a set to suit. The other gigs on the European trip in April will feature three songs from the new album, as the album will have only just come out. I hope, though, that once ‘V.O.T.E.’ has been out a while and the audience will be familiar with the songs, we can perform the album in its entirety. That would be really good, as the album is a nautical adventure story, so it would be cool to take the audience on the entire adventure with us. We have a guest female vocalist, with a fantastic theatrical voice, Katie Alys Barton, playing the part of the siren in ‘The Siren’s Song’, and it would be great to perform that track with her.

In the meantime, talking of the Eighties, although Elixir will probably always be known for ‘Treachery’, their debut single, I wondered if Phil thought there was one song in the band’s catalogue that best sums up what the band is all about. After a moment’s though, he replies: “Whilst I like to think that we have enough variety in our material as to not have a typical song, I think that the title track of our second album ‘Sovereign Remedy’ comes close. It has the dual harmony guitar intro, a lead solo from both Norms and I, and a thunderous rhythm that is quite common in a lot of our songs. I think that the version from ‘Elixir Live’, with the Dobbs brothers on bass and drums is the best version to typify what we are about. And the lyrics to that song were based on the dictionary definition of Elixir.” 

And, finally, a recent feature in Metal Hammer online listed ‘The Son Of Odin’ as one of the Top Twenty-Five Power Metal Albums Of All Time, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Sabaton, Kamelot and Nightwish. That must have been quite a buzz… “I felt very honoured! It was especially great to be included alongside Queensryche’s ’The Warning’ album, as this was a very influential record to us when Elixir was starting out. And back in 2011, ‘The Son Of Odin’ was listed by Terrorizer as one of their Top Twenty Power Metal Albums Of All Time, alongside bands such as Judas Priest and Helloween, and that was amazing too. It was very surprising to be included in this new list, and came right out of the blue. The first I knew about it was when I read a post on Facebook. I guess that it is now official: we are a power metal band! I didn’t realise that!”

It’s great to have Elixir back in business once more. Britain’s ‘newest power metal band’ will be releasing ‘Voyage Of The Eagle’ in March. Click the link below to pre-order a copy. In addition, the band’s back catalogue with also be available later in the year, both on CD and vinyl. Watch this space for more details.