The Stage of Dreams releases ‘The Duality Conflict’
Daniel Butch realized his Dream. Now he needs a stage big enough to handle it.
The Stage of Dreams releases its concept album “The Duality Conflict” to streaming services Friday, and CDs are available at Record Connection in McKinley Heights.
It’s a project Butch has been thinking about and working toward for a decade.
Most of that time Butch was lead singer for Haymaker, a popular area band that played hard rock and metal covers.
“Honestly, I always wanted to be in an original band,” Butch said. “The cover thing just happened more out of necessity.”
The origin of The Stage of Dreams — Daniel Butch and Janelle Lawless, lead vocals; Dion Pomponio and Jim Carsone, guitars; Chris Marriotti, bass; and Shaun McConnell, drums — and “The Duality Conflict” dates back to a period of unemployment.
“I just got barraged with all these ideas, and I’ve just wanted to do this ever since,” Butch said. “The ideas kept evolving and evolving. It just took a long time to get like-minded people who wanted to be a part of it. Once that happened, things came together pretty quick.”
Butch drew inspiration from some of his favorite metal concept albums — Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime” and Savatage’s “Dead Winter Dead” and “The Wake of Magellan” — to create the story of a soldier whose wife is abducted. When he is unable to find her and gets a court martial from the military, he attempts suicide. He wakes up in another realm with an executioner, who hires him to track down evil souls.
“Of course, first he searches for what happened to his wife,” Butch said. “He finds the person who took her, and the executioner tries to kill this guy in his usual way, but he can’t do it. It’s a vampire, and a vampire’s soul can exist in two places at one time. That’s where the duality conflict comes from.
“When you listen to the album, you get a piece of the puzzle. You come to see the rock opera, and it completes the puzzle. It’s not super straightforward.”
Some of the background for the story can be found on the band’s website thestageofdreams.rocks.
The band spared no expense on the album, which was recorded at The Vault in Pittsburgh and produced by Dave Hillis, best known for engineering Pearl Jam’s multi-platinum debut “Ten” and Alice in Chains’ “Dirt” demos.
“He’s got a lot of experience working for dozens of large record labels,” Butch said. “Obviously the fact that he was on platinum records with Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam and Temple of the Dog, even though Pearl Jam is not along our lines, he just had a vast amount of experience, and we were like, `Well, let’s try this.'”
To do the mastering, they turned to someone with a much longer heavy metal resume. Maor Appelbaum’s credits include Rob Halford, Dream Theater, Voivod, Yngwie Malmsteen, Armored Saint, Sepultura, Sabaton and Faith No More.
“Dion Pomponio, one of our guitarists and songwriters, did a lot of research on just who we could get and reached out online to several different companies ,” Butch said. “We settled on Maor Appelbaum. He was fairly reasonable, and he’s renowned for mastering metal albums.”
The band self-financed the project.
“As a collective, we really want to do things at a high level,” Butch said. “It takes a lot to stand out. A band that’s signed to a big label, they’re spending a million or more on their album. We’re not even close to that, but it takes a lot to compete, so we wanted to put our money where our mouth is basically and see how great of an album we could make. We believe 1,000% in the songs, but to have the production as high as we could, that’s why we went to The Vault, that’s why we got Maor Appelbaum to do the mixing.”
The band is taking a DIY but equally ambitious approach to how it will perform “The Duality Conflict” live.
“I had a giant vision. It started off so huge, it wasn’t something I was able to afford to do, so I kept shrinking the idea down to something we could make happen.”
It became a family affair. His son, Caden, who Butch plays with in the band Loud Hailer, helped him build the first platform. His daughter, Jennuhlee, painted the backdrops. A friend made them a giant cross. Lawless built a tower of skulls that will be featured on stage and in the band’s upcoming video for “Killingback Woods.”
The rock opera production of “The Duality Conflict” made its debut last September at the Freeport Events Center, which is northeast of Pittsburgh. Butch wants to do the show closer to home but is struggling to find a place that can accommodate it.
“We’d really like to do it in the Youngstown-Warren area, so it’s not too far for people that we know and have been playing for throughout the years to come see us and help us make a big splash,” he said.
While performing the full rock opera is the dream, the band also is embracing the reality of needing to do smaller shows to build its fanbase and gain more exposure.
“I’ve gone through a couple of different philosophies,” Butch said. “At first I was very hard line — all originals, no covers at all. I’ve changed a little bit. In order to get more shows we’re going to do a bar show called The Beast and Priestess. We’ll do our Stage of Dreams original songs, and we’ll do some covers — Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Queensryche, Dio, stuff like that. We’ll throw in some things like that and make it a little more enticing for people, hearing something they already know, when they come to see us.”