Next To None

There's been a strong feeling a while now that Next to None are stretching progressive metal into fresh areas. And the band's second album. 'Phases', will seal their reputation as individuals who are making a mark on the scene in their own right.
Formed in 2012, and based in Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, the foursome released their well received debut 'A Light In The Dark' during 2015 on InsideOut. But if this set a template for the band's style, then this has now been excitingly stretched.
“We actually began to write songs for the new record as soon as we finished the first one,” explains drummer Max Portnoy. As previously, this involved the duo of Portnoy and vocalist/keyboard player Thomas Cuce collaborating in this part of the process. And, also to some extent mirroring 'A Light In The Dark', there's a partial concept here.
“On the previous album we had six tracks which were lyrically linked. But it did not stretch throughout all the songs. This time, we have four tracks which deal with the idea of grief. However, that isn't reflected on the entire record.”
The songs in question are 'Answer Me', which was the first song written, 'Clarity', 'Denial' and 'The Wanderer', with the piano instrumental 'Isolation' linking 'Clarity' and 'Denial'.
“'The Wanderer' is nearly 20 minutes long, and is the final track on the album. We wanted to record a very long piece that incorporated ideas from all the other songs here. It's was great fun to do something like this, and a real challenge.”
While Cuce is responsible, as previously, for most of the lyrics here (including the notion of writing a cycle of songs about grief), there are several other songs where other band members had their hands at lyrical ideas as well. One is titled 'The Apple', which sees Portnoy getting involved. And this is something very personal for him.
“Everyone knows that my dad is Mike Portnoy. Because he produced our first record and is so famous, we've had a lot of people claim he's given us an unfair helping hand on the way. The title comes from the idea that an apple never falls far from the tree. While this may be a compliment when comparing my drumming, it's a little frustrating when talking about the band and people assuming we’ve gotten a free ride. We have worked very hard for what we've achieved so far, and played a lot of small clubs to learn our craft and get noticed. So, this song is about the accusation of nepotism and is our way of replying to all those critics who've knocked us back because of who my dad is.”
Another collective lyrical track is titled 'Kek'. And this is where they show a sense of humour.
“We needed one more song for the album, and as the new King Kong movie ('Kong: Skull Island') had just opened, Thomas thought it would be a good idea to write a song based around this!”
The new 12-track album (including two short instrumental passages) also marks the recording debut of new guitarist Derrick Schneider who replaced Ryland Holland last year. (the line-up is completed by bassist Kris Rank)
“Ryland wanted to go to college, and is now going to Berklee College Of Music, whereas the rest of us wanted to be in the band full-time. So, there was no way that he could carry on with us. And we were very lucky to find someone immediately to take over. He was recommended to us by Bumblefoot (the ex-Guns N Roses guitarist who guested on the first record) and he was the only guy we tried out that fit perfectly. Musically and personally he fit straight in with us. One of the things he does so well is shred on guitar but he also has great voice and plays very heavy which has made a difference to our style and sound.
“I feel this time we are a lot heavier than on our 1st album and this is more of the sound and style we want. Sure, we still have the progressive element to what we do, with odd time signatures. But through Derrick we have a lot more shredding, and our shorter songs are more obviously metal. However, there's still a balance between the various influences we have.”
Although the album was mixed by the Grammy nominated Adam “Nolly” Getgood (Periphery), the band have produced themselves this time, a decision Portnoy insists has been of immeasurable help.
“It's a collective production, with all of the band having their say. We had strong ideas as to how we wanted this album to turn out, and if we'd brought in an outside producer, then this could have changed. So, it was best for us to stick together and follow our own vision.”
The recording process started early last October, with the drum parts being recorded at Neal Morse's Radiant Studios in Nashville; these sessions were engineered by Jerry Guidroz.
“We then spent about four months at Thomas' home studio (Battery Powered Studios) doing the rest of the work; Thomas was the engineer for those sessions. We were in there every day until 3am. I don't know how Kris coped, because he was going to school after we'd finished in the studio and getting just a couple of hours' sleep.
“It seems to us that the process took ages, because I recall that when recording began in Nashville Korn had just released their new album 'The Serenity Of Suffering', and by the time we'd completed work that was already old, ha!”
The album title is clearly based to some extent on the grief concept here.
“It represents the different phases we go through in life. And you'll also see this on the album cover, which was created by renowned artist Travis Smith's (Opeth, Devin Townsend, Anathema).
The artwork has a flower which, at the bottom, is blossoming into life, and as we get to the top it is seen to die.”
Portnoy believes Next To None have become a sharper and more challenging band with 'Phases'.
“I suppose you could say that we've done here is do more of everything we did before, but the greater experience we now have has helped us become better at what we want to do. This time around, there are no guests featured, as was the case on 'A Light In The Dark', and as it's just the four of us you are getting more of what we want to express to everyone, musically and lyrically.”


Latest Release

Next To None
Special Edition Digipak, Digital Download


Max Portnoy
Ryland Holland
Kris Rank
Thomas Cuce
(Vocals & Keyboard)