Death metal veteran Frank Costa needed a change. So, following his heart and the music he’s always loved, he quit the band he was in at the time, Entheos, and started Realms of Vision, drawing on influences of classic metal bands from the ‘70s and the dark, brooding nature of ‘90s acts like Alice in Chains and Type O Negative. Following the 2016 EP “Unrevenged,” Realms of Vision’s full-length debut, “Through All Unknown,” was released March 30, 2018, via Creator-Destructor Records. (Read Live Metal’s review here.) Powered by doom-laden riffs and easy-on-the-ears melodic vocals, it’s a record that, with the right exposure, could make waves in the world of heavy music. Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently caught up with Costa to discuss the album, the band’s beginnings and more.
LIVE METAL: Your background, at least that we know of, was in a couple death metal bands, and your drummer comes from a pop-punk band, and I don’t know too much about the other two guys. So how did Realms of Vision come together?
FRANK COSTA: Well, I used to be in a band called Animosity for years. We were a death metal band. That’s when I met Mike—our drummer, Mike Ambrose—and he was in Set Your Goals, which was kind of a pop-punk band but kind of coming from the hardcore scene. Animosity, though we were a death metal band, we were coming from the hardcore scene, too, pretty much. So we were always playing hardcore shows, and we would play with Mike’s band all the time, and we went on little, short tours together. So we knew each other from back then.
And then I was in Entheos, which is a band that’s still going strong. After leaving that band, pretty much that week I left I started Realms of Vision, which was basically what I wanted to do for the last 15 years. I always wanted to be in this kind of band. I tried to inject a little bit of this style into the death metal bands but never got to fully go for it and explore it.
So yeah, I started that band the week I left Entheos and wrote our first EP in like two weeks, and we just did it right then. Called Mike, and he was on board. (Guitarist) Corey (Largent) and (bassist) Brandon (McCubbin) are friends I’ve known since I was in high school—great friends—and they’ve been in local bands and have played music for a long time. So it just worked out really perfect.
The sound is very different from other things you guys have done, so how did you get to this sound?
Well, this sound is what I’ve always loved. I played in death metal bands because I love death metal, too, but I don’t listen to it like I used to. I still have love for it, but we were all in the extreme mode back then. I’m a huge Hendrix disciple. Hendrix is my number one. Robin Trower—shit like that. King’s X, Alice in Chains, Sabbath. I always loved rock from the ‘70s—like real, true heavy metal, which I guess kind of sounds like classic rock now. And then all the grunge stuff. All the dark shit. Type O Negative was a huge influence. I was just kind of tired of always loving that stuff, including with my band members of the death metal bands—we’d always love that, and I was just like, “Well, let’s just play that. We love it, let’s play it.” It started to feel like I had become a slave to death metal, just ‘cause it was the thing to do. I was like, well, fuck it, I’m just gonna do what I love, and it may be a smaller audience or this or that, but I don’t care. It feels good to be there now. (laughs)
Everything I see has you and Corey credited with guitars and vocals. Are you doing the leads for both of those?
Yeah. Actually, the album was recorded by me and Mike solely. I do all the guitars and the bass, and Mike did the drums. It was just basically a thing for time. I had written all the songs on “Through All Unknown,” and we just kind of went in with our friend Donald Scully and recorded with him. And we’ve known him for years, so it was just a really chill atmosphere. We could just get it done and bang it out really quick on our budget. So the guys learned the songs as we were recording, then we’re gonna be playing them live now. Hopefully by the next album, we’ll all be in on it together, but yeah, that’s just kind of how we rolled. That’s how we did “Unrevenged,” as well.
How do these songs come together for you? Does it start with a riff?
Yeah. I just start writing riffs, and those kind of bleed into each other. I kick around riffs for a long time, plug ‘em in here or there. I come up with vocal melodies that I like, and then when I have vocal melodies, I start writing lyrics. I get into some deep shit or stuff that’s going on in the world—usually have a nice smoke before I do that (laughs). It’s a process, but it’s fun. I don’t know how to really explain it. That’s the best I can explain it (laughs).
As you’ve mentioned, the album is called “Through All Unknown.” There’s a song on there with the same title, but why did you choose that for the album title?
Our first EP, a lot of the songs are really dark and about a lot of really dark feelings and bitterness and all this crazy stuff with addiction that I was going through, and then (I was) feeling in kind of a different mode for this album. The lyrics all seem to be kind of exploratory of the inner world and different sort of—I know this is gonna sound super corny, but spiritual searching. And then our song “Deception Mask” is about all the governments and new world order shit. (laughs) I don’t know how in depth I want to go on that, but I have a whole library of stuff on that subject. Seeing what’s going on in our current situation, globally, kind of inspired that song. So a lot of these songs were just kind of more in the searching vein, and I guess that kind of tied in. Plus it sounded badass. (laughs)
What is “Two Wolves” about? That’s probably my favorite song on the album.
Oh, cool. Thanks. “Two Wolves”—I heard this thing. It’s a Native American fable or story that inside of every man, there’s two wolves—one of greed and revenge and anger and all these dark things, and then there’s one of honor and peace and all this other stuff. So whichever wolf you feed is the one that will be victorious, I guess.
There’s an instrumental track, “Communion at Dusk.” Whenever I hear an instrumental, there’s always two things I wonder about. First, was it intended to be instrumental from the start? When did that decision get made?
Well, I had this little acoustic part. The song starts with this acoustic riff, and I had that kicking around since before we did “Unrevenged.” And I never really had a way to use it. I plugged it in with a bunch of different stuff, and it didn’t really work. I tried to do some stuff with lyrics, and it sounded corny. I had this Crosby, Stills & Nash-type thing with all these vocal harmonies, and I was like, I don’t know, man, this is a little too hippie. So I just had that part and then with it going kind of heavy, like an epic, triumphant part on the end. I just didn’t think it needed lyrics. I like a lot of albums that have an instrumental track in the middle or somewhere on the album. High on Fire does great instrumental tracks. A lot of other greats ones I can’t think of right now. But I had never really done one on an album before, and I just thought it was cool, a good chance to kind of trip out for a while before the next heavy song.
The other thing I always wonder about is how do you come up with a title for an instrumental when there are no lyrics, no words?
It’s just a feeling I had. I had kind of this experience a couple years ago where I was going through shit and getting clean off of things, and I was hiking a lot. I know this is completely corny, but (laughs) I would go up to hike on this mountain—I live out in the sticks. I would go hike up on this mountain all the time after work, and it would be dusk, and I would have these really great, cool experiences up there that were able to help me change my life. So it was cool.
It’s not really an issue, but the only issue that I have with the album is that it’s kind of short, with only eight songs and one of those is the short intro. So why is it so short?
Believe it or not, it’s actually the longest album I’ve ever been a part of. When I was in Animosity, we had like 22-minute albums, because every song was like two minutes. But I had more material. I cut two or three songs just because I felt like they were good, but they seemed like fat. I wanted to trim that fat. Instead of making songs I felt like were cool but a little less than, I would rather make it a lean, good album, and then just put my focus into the next album. I kind of like albums that don’t go on forever, too. Maybe in the future, if we have more fans and stuff, we could do that, but I figured we’re a new band, not many people know us, and I figured let’s just get in there and get it done.
I agree, yeah. I think once you get up to like an hour long, it’s hard to sit through it, even if it’s really good.
Yeah. If it’s Iron Maiden “Book of Souls,” I’ll listen to that thing. (laughs) We’re not quite there yet. (laughs)
How did you get hooked up with Creator-Destructor?
Ben (Murray), who runs Creator and is also in Light This City and Wilderness Dream, he’s been a friend of ours for years, too. Me and Mike have known him from back in the day in the hardcore scene in the Bay area. Light This City, his band, used to play with Animosity and Set Your Goals and stuff all the time. So we’ve known each other for 15 years, as well.
We were searching around with no luck, trying to promote ourselves and email labels and shit. It was just like, this is a losing battle. We don’t have any people representing us or anything. Not many people like to return a band’s email, like, “Hey, OK, we’ll sign you.” That’s not the way to do it, but we didn’t really have another way.
When we thought of Ben, I was like, man, it’s perfect. He’s got an awesome label, and it’s up and coming. It’s got great bands, and we like the dude, so maybe we can work something out with him. So we recorded two demos from “Through All Unknown” that are not on the album that were just pre-demos of “State of Silence” and “Two Wolves.” We sent those to him, and he loved them. He gave us a handshake deal, and it’s all good, man. We’re thrilled, for sure. I’m just so happy every time this band takes a new step forward. It’s great.
I’ve talked to a bunch of musicians over the years or read things where they talked about how hard it was to come up with the band name. So was that hard for you, and how did you come up with Realms of Vision?
I, of course, had sheets and sheets of paper with different variants. (laughs) It just kind of sounded cool, and you can kind of put whatever concept you want on it. It’s three words, which is cool. (laughs) A lot of my favorite bands have a three-world title. Eventually, everyone’s gonna hate their band name, so I figured I might as well just choose one and get it over with. (laughs)
The album came out just over a week ago. The only thing that kind of bums me out a little bit is there’s so few actual stores left where you can buy albums. How do you get your music these days? Are you Spotify like so many other people?
No. I, for the most part, buy every album on iTunes or there’s one little record shop out here where I live in Santa Rosa, California. It’s actually called The Last Record Store, and it’s an awesome place. They don’t make them like that anymore. It’s really cool. They’ve got a great metal section, great used rock section. So I go there once in a while, and I’ll still buy a CD. But for the most part, I just buy an album on ITunes. I just bought 13 Iron Maiden albums the other day. (laughs)
Nice. You can’t go wrong there.
(laughs) I’m on an Iron Maiden kick right now.
I just saw there was a show announced on April 20 in Oakland. What plans do you have as far as taking this band out and playing live?
Well, we were thinking about trying to set up a West Coast run to begin with, maybe with some Creator bands or with a couple of our friends from the Bay area. We’re not sure yet. We’re trying to book some stuff and just hoping we can get it together and figure out how to get on the road, and just work until we can develop something and get out there. We definitely want to tour. We all work.
Makes it difficult, I guess.
Yeah. We all have day jobs. Our guitar player lives in Portland, so he’s some hours away. But yeah, we want to go, and we’re hoping for the best, man. Hopefully, we’ll get out there this year.
I think that’s about all the questions I have. Is there anything else you’d like to say right now?
Not really, man. I’m honored that you liked the album and you’d want to interview me. It’s awesome to see people that like it, man. It’s really great.