While Heaven Wept Biography
Last updated: 09/28/2003 02:07:55 AM
"Let the joyful organs be silent, and the lute of mourning ring, in weeping and sorrow, tears and sadness, we begin our decent into the darkness of While Heaven Wept…"
In the melancholy of November 1989, guitarists Chris Galvan and Tom Phillips joined together under the moniker Dream Wytch to explore new avenues of _expression, following the demise of their previous band Polaris. Intent on musical diversity, their earliest compositions incorporated elements of new age, classical, doom, progressive rock, and thrash unified by a climate of utter despair – a fusion omnipresent throughout the bands’ existence. In the dark months between 1990 and 1993, numerous line-up changes ensued, ultimately leaving Tom Phillips the sole founding member remaining. The moniker While Heaven Wept was insurrected in 1991 following several personal tragedies that would change Tom’s life forever. At this point, the music took a hopelessly depressive direction, becoming a vehicle for coping with bereavement.
After years of fluidity, the line-up stabilized in the bleak midwinter of 1993, with the induction of bassist Gabe Funston and Jon Paquin. With all of the members sharing common musical interests and being aligned emotionally, this proved to be the most productive line-up to date. Following several months of rehearsals, the sadness descended upon Neptune Studios in January 1994, beginning the catharsis – The ongoing session at Neptune eventually produced two 7”s, “Into The Wells Of Sorrow” and a split with California’s Cold Mourning, as well as the MCD “Lovesongs Of The Forsaken,” all self-financed by the band along with a handful of fellow mourners. These releases captured the essence of While Heaven Wept – feelings of sorrow, reverie, faded memories of joy, hope, and faith combined within the atmosphere of romantic melancholy.
Unfortunately, Gabe Funston, disillusioned with music and life itself, left the band in April 1995, unable to further express himself through While Heaven Wept. New members D. Clayton Ingerson (bass/viola) and Kevin Hufnagel (guitar) were recruited from the avant-garde/ modern classical project Grey Division Blue. With their addition, the band set out to explore the darkest chasms of their grief once again at Neptune Studios in the autumn of 1995 tracking songs for the “Sorrow Of The Angels” album. Frustrated with the inability to capture a suitable ambience, these sessions were aborted and the tracks left unfinished, while Tom Phillips went on to record Twisted Tower Dire’s debut demo and then join the epic doom band Solstice in the UK. At the same time, guitarist Kevin Hufnagel began work on a solo release. Upon returning to the USA in the summer of 1996, with some newly completed compositions, Tom, rejuvenated, began pre-production work for “Sorrow Of The Angels” a second time. With Kevin still working on his solo material, the group was again reduced to a trio, this time consisting of Jon Paquin, D. Clayton Ingerson, and Tom Phillips, and it would be another year before the band could begin recording the dirges that would become “Sorrow…” Finally, after a year of tape trading, travel between 3 states (D. Clayton had since relocated to Philadelphia permanently), and intense rehearsals, the band returned to Neptune to record their debut full-length in August 1997. Undoubtedly inspired by several of the magic moments captured on tape between August 1997 and June 1998, While Heaven Wept crafted an epic of monolithic proportions “Thus With A Kiss I Die” which would open the album. Developing an agreement with longtime friend Mauro Berchi, the album was released on his newly formed Eibon Records label in Milan, Italy during the autumn of 1998. The music contained therein was enhanced by a fuller production, a beautiful graphic presentation, and absolutely captured the brooding hopelessness of While Heaven Wept.
A new line-up was developed with the intention of performing this material live, with members who lived in the local Washington DC area and this consisted of Scott Waldrop on Guitar and Jim Murad on bass (both of Twisted Tower Dire fame), along with longtime members Tom Phillips and Jon Paquin in August 1998. With Twisted Tower Dire preparing to record their debut album, this line-up only lasted for 3 months before it became clear that a different path had to be taken, beginning with the addition of October 31/ex-Revelation bassist Jim Hunter in December 1998. The line-up was rounded out by the brother/sister duo of Scott and Michelle Loose, both members of the acoustic-oriented Arise From Thorns (Scott had been a member of WHW briefly back in 1993). While Heaven Wept performed live throughout 1999 with the likes of Pale Divine, Penance, Internal Void, Solace, Arise From Thorns, Drag Pack, Las Cruces, Spirit Caravan, and Revelation to name a few.
By the summer of 1999, internal tensions were tearing at the core of the band, and by then Tom had become involved with Arise From Thorns, at first as a consultant in the studio during the recording of “Before An Audience Of Stars,” then eventually joining them as a second guitarist. This, coupled with a series of relocations and legalities led to an unanticipated, but necessary hiatus for WHW. During this time, Tom worked with Michelle and Scott in the band that evolved out of Arise From Thorns, Brave, who went on to perform over one hundred live shows between 1999 and 2001, as well as producing the 4 song MCD “Waist Deep In Dark Waters” which included Tom’s contributions “Lost (In Retrospect)” (co-arranged by Jon Paquin in 1993) and “To Search A Soul.”
After suffering crippling personal losses, combating a major illness, and frustrations created by internal tensions within Brave, Tom felt the need to resurrect WHW from its dormancy and once again purge himself of the darkness consuming him. Tom parted ways with Brave in April 2001, and sought to piece together a line-up for WHW; bassist Jim Hunter and guitarist Scott Loose from the live line-up of 1999, stayed on board, whilst the drum position rotated several times. WHW began 2001 with Trevor Schrotz of Brave handling the drums, then longtime drummer Jon Paquin returned for a brief period of time until irreconcilable differences eliminated this option, which lead to the addition of Phil Bloxam (from the legendary 80’s DC metal band Hellion), who handled the funereal marches from April through October 2001. The turmoil in the line-up was nothing new, as by this time the band had already undergone over 50 line-up changes in 12 years, and on one hand, it always hindered the swiftness of progress, but ultimately Tom always has managed to piece together an even better line-up, the current being no exception.
With the death/doom band Forty Days Longing now defunct, Tom turned to his former roommate, drummer Jason Gray thinking that he would be ideal for the job considering he was not adverse to playing what the songs required, which was often a plodding, slow beat (that is generally not gratifying for most drummers). Within days of bringing Jay into the doom cult, a random encounter with keyboard player Jake Bodnar lead to his immediate induction as well, being the missing piece WHW for years had sought; a classically trained pianist, that was also deeply involved with electronics, analogs, and extreme metal.
The new quintet have spent most of 2002 recording the “Of Empires Forlorn” album at Assembly Line studios, and as evidenced by the lead-off single “The Drowning Years,” the latest endeavor is clearly a progression on all levels. The new full-length will first be released in a limited edition digipak format via Italy’s Eibon Records in January 2003.