Austin, Texas is one of the greatest cities in the United States. Being the world’s live music capital, it is home to some of the best venues, coolest music festivals, and hottest new artists. Bridges Ablaze is the most recent and greatest new band to emerge from this broad and unique environment. Brien Allen and Ruben Zamora, two outstanding guitarists who do not conform to any one concept, conceived the band. This band is heavily influenced by jazz, death metal, and other genres, despite being heavily influenced by heavy metal.
On Friday the 13th, Bridges Ablaze released their debut single and music video for the song “Hellbent.” We have not heard a more beautiful and heavy song in in some time. This song’s foundation is metalcore, but the addition of rap and a powerful chorus make it an earworm worthy of repeated listenings. Not to note the neck-breaking collapse at 2:44 and the guitar solo that puts the “cherry on top” to this incredibly epic tune. When questioned about “Hellbent,” the band responded as follows:
The song Hellbent is about overcoming adversity. This song depicts the challenges we’ve faced in pursuit of this lifelong ambition. This song specifically considers those who have used, misled, and betrayed us. The lyrics contemplate the perseverance necessary to move forward in the face of such unpleasant occurrences. Especially if you are pursuing your life’s goal, you will encounter greater difficulty than anything else. Others will mistreat you at every turn, and you will incur scars as a result of sticking to your purpose. But the best stories are written when individuals who are knocked down rise back up and continue regardless of how much they want to give up. When those who dare to dream do not allow anything to stop them, their dreams become a reality. Hellbent is a manifesto containing this untamed and resolute fire. Check out the song and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how it all got started?
BRIDGES ABLAZE: Well, Brien is from San Antonio/Austin, and Ruben is from El Paso. They met at the Guitar Center off of Anderson Lane in Austin in 2014 right when Ruben was preparing to move to Austin and when Brien was preparing to graduate from the university. Their meeting began with an iconic “shred-off” as they demoed guitars. Eventually, Brien shut off his amp and looked around the corner and found Ruben. Years went by as they both developed, and eventually, after being in several failed projects, they decided to do one together in 2019.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
BRIDGES ABLAZE: They are both mostly self-taught, with some sparse lessons sprinkled in. Brien started getting jazz lessons in 2019 with three different jazz teachers, and was also in school band and took piano lessons also. Ruben took classical guitar lessons in high school, and began jazz lessons with two of Brien’s teachers in 2021. For the most part though, both of them are largely responsible for developing their own sound.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘BRIDGES ABLAZE’?
BRIDGES ABLAZE: Brien’s first was AC/DC, and Ruben’s first was Lynyrd Skynyrd. Their strongest influences to date are Bullet For My Valentine, Escape The Fate, Linkin Park, Metallica, Pantera, Iron Maiden, Trivium, Avenged Sevenfold, Ozzy Osbourne, Polyphia, Periphery, Animals As Leaders, Erra, Northlane, As I Lay Dying, Incubus, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chon, Dance Gavin Dance, Killswitch Engage, Falling In Reverse, Tesseract, Tantric, Nickeback, Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, Five Finger Death Punch, and the list goes on and on… As far as why they chose the name “Bridges Ablaze”, it is essentially a homage to the difficulties of being a musician. The industry is full of snakes, liars, and cheats. In order to pursue this path in life, so much has been sacrificed. “Bridges Ablaze” signifies that the failures of the past will light the path into the future. “Bridges Ablaze” is, in a way, Kylo Ren’s argument from Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. “Let the past die”, Kylo says. Our past has been extremely painful, and “Bridges Ablaze” signifies moving on from those struggles and emerging in a better, happier life. It’s about never giving up. It’s about a hard past leading to a better future. It’s about gaining lessons from every mistake. It’s about outlasting the darkness until light prevails.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
BRIDGES ABLAZE: The most resonant traits of their music would be their guitar solos and their lyrics. The message is relatable to people who have experienced similar struggles, pain, and hardships. Whenever artists sing about their pain, they give the listener a safe place to process those feelings, even if only for a handful of minutes. And let’s just call it like it is – everyone loves a flashy guitar solo! The fact that they can sing and shred separates them from usual standard, and the uniqueness and variety of their songs makes them stand out as well. Their sound is a fusion of rock and metal subgenres, older and newer. Some songs are alternative metal, some are djent, some are math rock/alternative rock, some are pop punk, and some are metalcore. A couple songs feature screams and one even features rapping, but most songs feature singing.
5. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style?
For Brien and Ruben, there definitely was a phase of learning and emulation. They both started playing in eighth grade. For Brien, the learning/emulation phase was about 7 years. For the last 11 years, he has been developing his own style from there (total of 18 years of playing). For Ruben, he had started with learning off of guitar tabs, was then placed into a guitar class for Church and after the first lesson he requested for his parents to buy him a book to learn better and adapt. During his second semester of his Freshman year, he enrolled into classical guitar lessons. After graduating High School he focused on searching for his own unique sound, which he has been developing for the last decade (total of 16 years of playing).
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try to affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative, and entertainment?
Their music, if anything, is an emotional and spiritual vehicle. Connecting with one’s soul and reflecting on current life events and sharing with others is their primary purpose. Regarding politics, given the climate, Brien and Ruben keep their beliefs towards themselves. “Bridges Ablaze” is about the raw expression of self, pain, and narrative. Technical expression and emotional expression are two sides of the same coin.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfillment as the amount of work you are putting into it or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
Brien and Ruben both feel that they are definitely getting back what they put in. Everything feels very proportional to them. The gain makes the cost is worth paying. Their eyes are angled upwards, but they realize that it ultimately comes down to “you get back what you put in”.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do you usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
Their creative process varies from song to song. Some songs have been written from the drums up, or from the vocals down, or from the guitars outward. Or even something else, like from a cadence or an electronic/MIDI idea. There is no limit to creative stitch-work with their compositions. Although more often than not, songs usually start from the guitars. Also, songwriting varies between Brien, Ruben, and Robby (their producer/engineer).
Sometimes, Brien or Ruben will write a whole song with little alterations/additions, and sometimes it’s truly a creative collaboration between the three of them. Sometimes even Robby will pitch a song idea that Brien and Ruben develop from there.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
BRIDGES ABLAZE: For Brien, the loss of his father and family, as well as the loss of some close friends and romantic partners, and even some bands that he *heavily* invested in. For Ruben, it’s been a similar process with losing friends and family, as death is part of life. Not having a father figure in his life for the first part of his years left a huge hole in his heart but when his step father and brothers came to be, healing began. Both Brien and Ruben had situations where they thought they had children, only to have paternity tests show otherwise. These situations were very stressful and painful in a certain, unique kind of way.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
BRIDGES ABLAZE: For Bridges Ablaze, they’d say the release of their cover of “The Kill” (originally by 30 Seconds to Mars) was their first enormous milestone. With their new original single “Hellbent”, they were added to a VEVO top ten playlist for metal. This is an unprecedented milestone in their career and artistry. For Brien, his debut release of “Illumina” from his previous band “Altermind” featured singer Lauren Babic, and that was a big milestone for him as well, as well as being Elixir Strings Artist of the Month for June 2020. For Ruben, being recognized by the United States Achievement Academy for guitar is one of the bigger significant points in his career and artistic endeavors.
11. With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters, and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
BRIDGES ABLAZE: For Brien, he is a survivor of fairly bad bullying, as well as alcoholism and narcissistic abuse. He tends to struggle with haters because of underlying PTSD. For Ruben, he tends to laugh at the hating comments as he’s also been a victim of bullying. Laughing is a very natural response for him as he just doesn’t tend to care what other people think of his ways of life.
12. Creative work in a studio or home environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excites you most, and why?
BRIDGES ABLAZE: For “Bridges Ablaze” both artists find comfrom in all of the above. Creating music in the studio with Robby Joyner is a pause in life as nothing else matters besides creating and pouring out their souls into each note that is recorded, which is then turned into a song. Live performances are equally as exhilarating as fans respond quite emphatically and this energizes both Brien and Ruben.
13. Do you think is it important for fans of your music to understand the real story and message driving each of your songs, or do you think everyone should be free to interpret your songs in their own personal way?
BRIDGES ABLAZE: For Brien and Ruben, both are vitally important, although perhaps it is more important for the fans to have their own emotional process first. That said, Brien and Ruben both benefit immensely from their own self-expression too. When fans interpret their own meaning, however, they have an opportunity to process painful emotions safely and to heal themselves.
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