After a few weeks of rehearsal and a couple of warmup shows, we were ready to take on Blackstump with the new lineup. It was the usual level of excitement for an east coast trip. I couldn't wait! We printd up some shirts and kept rehearsing and before we knew it it was time to fly over.
We decided to arrange a gig pretty early on with Richard. This gave him a chance to get straight into it and learn the setlist. He worked really hard and did a good job. I felt we had a strong lineup that would be able to perform well at Blackstump. With Simon and Richard in the band the setup felt quite different to what it had been just a year or so before. But these things happen in bands, it is a continually changing thing.
The departure of Dave meant we needed a new drummer. Luckily, Matt had a friend at work named Richard who was a Christian drummer. We eagerly suggested he bring Richard over for a rehearsal. From the first song Richard played well. His style was hard rock, not too different to the way Tim played. On that first night, we certainly saw enough to convince us he would do well at the upcoming Blackstump gig. He ended up being the first and only drummer we rehearsed with. I was relieved we had found a drummer so quickly and we soon got down to the task of teaching Richard the setlist.
With Dave leaving the band we needed to find a new drummer pretty quickly. We did have the option of Simon switching to drums but he preferred guitar. Furthermore, I was enjoying doing vocals without playing guitar. So we all agreed we needed to concentrate on getting a new drummer in.
Even though Dave had left the band, he remained committed to finishing the album we were working on. I was really happy about this because I rated his playing very highly and he added so much to our sound. It was good that he was staying involved in the project.
The process of recording "Fight To The Death" was very enjoyable. We would try to get to the studio once or twice a week and it was a lot of fun. I was getting a great vibe from the music and I truly felt it was an improvement over the first 3 albums. Every album has it's own unique feel and I remember these sesisons just being a lot of fun. I felt like we had learnt a lot recording the first 3 and it was all coming together on this one.
While all this was going on, we had started work on the follow up to "This Day Forth". Elias had written a bunch of songs and I wrote a couple myself. We were going for an even heavier thrash sound on the next album. The working title for the album was actually "Mutilator", after one of the songs we were working on.
Around this time I was trying to work out the logistics of a Blackstump trip. I was keen for the 5 of us to go, but after an extensive chat with Dave we came to the conclusion that he wouldn't be able to make it. He had a lot going on and it just wasn't going to be possible for him to make the trip over east. An unexpected consequence of this conversation was the decision for Dave to leave Grave Forsaken altogether. Dave and I were close, so this was difficult for both of us. I didn't want him to leave but we both realised it probably needed to happen. I still look back and wonder how that whole time could have been handled better by everyone. In his 2 years with the band, Dave made a lasting impression on our sound and style. It was terrific working with him and I truly value his contribution. Thanks Dave.
We were able to fairly quickly confirm our trip to Blackstump. It was really exciting to be going again. With a new album out and a killer lineup we couldn't wait to get rehearsing and get the trip arranged! Once again however, there would be some more changes.
Around mid 2009 I started having some conversation with Matt Brown from Fearscape about doing another Blackstump. We were keen, and looked like a few other bands were also keen. Once the seed was planted, it quickly became inevitable that we would be heading over. Another exciting mission coming up!