The pandemic scuttled the release of the third album by Pennsylvania rockers From Ashes to New. Done by early 2020, the band watched weeks turn into months, with the assumption that eventually they’d be able to let the record, Panic, into the wild and hit the road. Five months later, last August, they decided they couldn’t wait anymore.
“Once we realized that nothing was really going to change for 2020, we decided we had to put it out,” drummer Mat Madiro said.
But something else changed along the way. Through the isolation and uncertainty, the title track began to take on a new meaning as many tapped into depression and despair.
“The anxieties, the depressions, it all just fit so well,” Madiro said.
From Ashes to New made it the record’s lead single, shooting a mask-clad video just as New York and Pennsylvania were moving into initial lockdown.
Even though Madiro initially took quarantine opportunities to write, he soon began to feel more isolated from his bandmates, friends and even his instrument—which was at a studio 40 minutes away.
“As it prolonged into our current reality, it really started to tear away at my mental and emotional state,” he said. “I really started to notice my productivity and creativity start to pull back a lot. … “If I had a really cool chord progression, I’d have to find a way to translate it and get somebody else on the same page, it made me take a back seat.”
One of the ways From Ashes to New tried to stay engaged was by performing fan-requested covers on YouTube, playing songs by Linkin Park, Panic at the Disco and collaborating with Skillet’s Jen Ledger on a Papa Roach cover. Madiro, formally with metal band Trivium, said his favorite was Avenged Sevenfold’s “Nightmare,” in part because someone online doubted his ability to pull off the song’s thunderous double-bass drum parts.
“Honestly, it’s a difficult song because it’s an Avenged Sevenfold song, but it’s not one of their harder songs,” Madiro said, laughing. “Obviously, they forgot who I played with before.”
Madiro played the song on his stripped-down Travis-Barker-style kit; a much smaller setup than the track would normally call for, while adding a few extra stick tricks for good measure. He said the band would usually shy away from adding these tracks into its live shows, but may reconsider it once shows eventually resume.
Madiro said he’s conflicted about what the future holds. He pointed to a recent festival in New Zealand (which handled the pandemic much better than the U.S.) where 20,000 people attended without any COVID-19 restrictions.
“Not to get political, but I feel like the U.S. is doing something wrong with this whole thing,” he said.
And once concerts finally get the go-ahead here, he’s said he’s worried people will be nervous about attending.
“I think that a lot of people will be weary about letting themselves loose,” he said. … “When you go to a show it’s about letting yourself go and just being in those moments. … At a rock show it’s sweaty, it’s gross, everybody’s bumping into each other, you’re just losing your mind.”
The band is now working on its next record, bouncing ideas back and forth over email.
The record isn’t the only thing From Ashes to New have been up to lately. The band will appear, alongside others artists like Tommy Lee, Five Finger Death Punch and Papa Roach, in a horror film called “The Retaliators.” The move, which was filmed pre-pandemic, will be released later this year. The band’s role is playing in a performance scene, a job that proved unexpectedly challenging for Madiro. In the movie, the band plays a B-side from the Panic sessions that still hasn’t been released.
“I hadn’t even recorded the drums yet, so I basically had to envision how I wanted my drums to be when I went to go record them,” he said.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.