"Patrick Kinneson is more concerned with spreading unity through the noise." - Jesse Davidson

Posted: April 18, 2024
“The concept thing is great and ambitious but it’s like eating a six-course meal” Kinneson said. “Sometimes, as an artist, you just want to get your felling captured and not have to put them organized into a story. Let’s call it a concept album that never was.”

Photo credit: Michael Weintrob

In a world going through a radical shift brought on by AI, the human element can be left behind in the conversation. Anytime society goes through change or turmoil, regardless of the cause, rock music always has a response. Contributing to that dialogue, the hard rock band Heaven Below hopes to bring humanity back into the discussion with their upcoming 4th album, The Majestic Twelve, set to be released in late July 2024.

Formed in 2009 by principal songwriter Patrick Kinneson, formerly of Union Underground and currently touring with Lita Ford, is joined by drummer Shad Wilhelm, bassist John Younger and guitarist Nikki Stringfield (The Iron Maidens). With sharp lyrical commentary and their intense brand of melodic heaviness, the group has garnered millions streams online. They have also featured several prominent guest artists including William Shatner performing vocals on their cover of Rush’s “Subdivisions.”

Being fans of a diverse array of artists like Rush, Judas Priest, and Radiohead, Kinneson and his musical counterparts love dramatic story telling and epic thematic elements.

“Initially, there was talk of The Majestic Twelve, before it had that title, to be a concept record. In 2016, we put out an album called Good Morning Apocalypse and it featured cameos from people we know like Lita Ford and singers from other bands. That was going to be a double album with 24 tracks and out drummer (Shad Wilhelm) said, ‘This is madness, draw the line’ so we did twelve songs on that album. We released it and it got excellent reviews especially overseas.”

Fast forwarding to the present day, Heaven Below wanted to release the previous songs that didn’t make the cut. However, new songs had emerged that didn’t quite fit the pretenses of a concept record. Instead of adhering to a rigid theme, The Majestic Twelve embraces lyrical and aesthetic themes throughout the album without being overbearing.

“The concept thing is great and ambitious but it’s like eating a six-course meal” Kinneson said. “Sometimes, as an artist, you just want to get your felling captured and not have to put them organized into a story. Let’s call it a concept album that never was.”

Throughout The Majestic Twelve, certain aspects of our modern day, technological dystopia are explored. “Like most people, we’re inundated with AI and talk of alien life and intelligence, which I’ve always been a fan of.” Kinneson explained. “One of my favorite movies is of all time is the Alien franchise. We’ve aways wanted to put that into songs. It has some of that and the artwork reflects that. The album opens with an ethereal intro called Zeta Reticule, which is an outlying constellation. Then it goes into the first song called, ‘Nightmare Rising’, which is about the angst we all feel being inundated by media that divides us and being driven to division with our family and friends with what we believe and who we are. It’s not that we give an answer to that, but it lays out where we are coming from.”

Putting political affiliations aside, Kinneson is more concerned with spreading unity through the noise. “People forget about individuality and that’s a part of the message on Nightmare Rising. I come from a big family and there’s a lot of division on the political fence and where people are. You can respect and love someone even if you don’t have the same ideals as them if those ideas aren’t meant to hurt people. It’s funny because rock music is the most embracing of that. You would never think a rock concert would have one type of person there, we see all types of people. It tells you, “We are individuals, and we embrace each other” and I’m not even trying to promote a social message. It’s just the energy we write songs with now.”

Along with a lyrical focus on humanity, the production side of the album allowed for this as well.“Technology is amazing and most of us are old enough to appreciate it. I remember I recorded on reel to reel as a teenager before things went digital. I feel like in music there’s what I would call sonic abuse. We went the other way. Instead of programming more, why don’t we get other people to come in and play like a horn section, a cello player, a piano here or there.

When I listen to the rough mixes, I think people will be able to feel like, “Wow, this sounds like a person playing this. I feel like there’s a person coming from that speaker.”

Kinneson’s main songwriting partner is guitarist Nikki Springfield. The two are not only partners in music but in life becoming husband and wife in November 2022. “It’s important to say her and I were friends for a long time. We had a strong musical bond first before becoming a couple. We were always the people after a concert or after a show, we would be talking about our aspirations and what kinds of music we liked. That is our foundation.”

Just as the human element is their primary focus, the connection to their craft continues to fuel their songs. “When we collaborate, it’s not about showing each other up or let me take over this aspect. It’s truly two people chartering the seas of creativity. Looking for those moments in our music like we talked about in our favorite albums. If we can get even a small percentage of that energy we feel from our heroes, that’s what we’re looking for in our songs.”

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