First of all, what prompted the shift from the primal death metal sound of ‘Descent Into Putridity’ to the atmospheric black/death metal approach used in ‘Of Despair’? Did it have anything to do with the recent line-up changes the past few years?
It didn’t have anything to do with line up changes, it was much more to do with external circumstances that had an influence for the album’s conception. Drastic changes to my own music taste and outlook on music also had a huge impact for my overall musical vision, which is represented on Of Despair.
The accompanying press release cites Sacramentum, Unanimated, and Dissection as influences to the sound behind ‘Of Despair’, but I can’t help but pick up on a clear Death influence, especially on “Chasm of Nihrain” and “Amidst the Darkest Depths”, and perhaps some early Vehemence on “Infernal Lands” from a technical angle (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). What other influences helped shape the album?
I’ve listened to Death since I was 16 and they were one of the first death metal bands I got into, they were a much bigger influence on me earlier in my musical career and I guess they will always have an influence on my music in some way. I’ve never actually listened to Vehemence haha, I guess different listeners pick up on different things when they try to sum up the influences involved on the album they are listening to. I do think it’s pretty obvious the bands in the press release were a huge influence, as well as that scene in general they were involved in back in the mid 90s. Edge of Sanity are my favourite band and my biggest overall influence in terms of making death metal as rich and musical as possible, whilst still retaining riff heavy guitar work and such. I will stress that the music for ‘Of Despair’ was not just influenced by other bands. What was going on for me at the time and literature had a big part to play. Melody lines, riffs and sections of music would spontaneously happen in my head at points and I was reaching for my guitar and turning on my computer ASAP working them out.
I must say, the Dissection style album art is top notch. Who did it, and how did that very imagery come about?
Thanks man, so far everyone has loved the art and I’m real happy with how it turned out. Raul Gonzalez drew the art, I asked him to emulate Necrolord-style art and sent him some lyrics from the album, “Palace of Defilement” and “Infernal Lands” to help him get the imagery for the art. I think he did an insane job!
While Of Despair is heavily atmospheric, there’s also a notable amount of technicality not quite on display before. What was the writing process like for this one, and did you find the writing process this time around to be a little harder compared to the band’s more straight forward and aggressive debut?
The writing process for Of Despair was actually a lot easier than the début as I felt much more inspired. I used to play in tech death band Plague Rider (which Matt and Rob are involved in now) and we’ve all been playing our instruments in bands for a long time, so we do have musical chops. I guess some of the riffs just turned out more intricate than the début, but no part of the album was written for the sake of being technical or progressive for its own merit.
I do want to inquire about “Funeral Pyres” and its depressing doom metal conclusion. Is that style one you and the others are interested in incorporating further into the band’s sound? Also, how did Bruce Turnbull of Starborn end up adding guest vocals to that track?
That’s really cool you picked up on that, I do love doom, of the epic variety mostly, as does Rob (our new guitar player). Yes, it is something which is going to be much more incorporated next time round, with a crap ton of more melody also. Bruce is a great friend and my fellow band member in Starborn, he oversaw the entire process of the material and lyrics for this album, and I thought it would be cool to have him guest on the album, as I like clean vocals in death metal (like Edge of Sanity, mentioned earlier). He also wrote the lyrics for Infernal Lands and we co-wrote the lyrics for this song in question! I think his vocal part at the end of that song gives it a really epic conclusion and it will be a surprise for a lot of listeners, I feel the end of that song is a big highlight of the album.
It seems the deeper you tread into ‘Of Despair’, the colder and slower it becomes. Does it by chance have some kind of theme to the album’s progression, or is that just the way you guys wanted the album to flow?
I did spend a lot of time working out the track order in my head. It was obvious for a while which was going to be the opener (“Palace of Defilement”) and the closer (“The Ruins That Remain”) for quite a while after the music was finished. When I was recording the guitars for the album, I got the sense where each song was meant to be, like “Oh this song needs to be about halfway in the album” or “this is an early track” etc. etc., after the opening and closing tracks had been decided for a while. I did pick up on that fade out in “Dreamer of Ages” would roll really well into the title track then into the closer, as I was working out the flow of the album. I have to disagree partially about it being all slow towards the end though. The closing track, whilst still having plenty of melody parts over slower tempos, does have some fast moments as well. But to summarize, I did intend the album to have a certain flow and make sure the album’s dynamic was reflected with the track order. I’m pretty pleased with the outcome in that regard.
Of Despair was mastered by Damian Herring at Subterranean Watchtower Studios. How did you guys end up working with him on this one instead of going back to Javier Felez, and do you feel he managed to really pull the atmosphere or emotions behind each track to the forefront the way you guys saw it when writing?
I’ve been a big fan of Horrendous since their début album and they were a big influence for our new album. I never knew that Damian did mixing work, until I researched who worked on The Chills, as I loved the production at the time, admiring it as a great metal production whilst I was studying music production at university. I gave him an add on Facebook and we exchanged messages for a while, I thought he was a really cool guy and we shared a lot of musical influences and outlooks on music. Once I heard Ecydsis, I knew I wanted Damian to do the post production for ‘Of Despair’. I could talk a lot more about how I admire his work (especially his more recent, rich and dynamic productions) but I’ll cut it short. He did an amazing job making the album sound rich and dynamic, pulling it sonically towards the production jobs of our aforementioned influences. There was nothing against Javi, who did the mastering for our début. It was just pretty much confirmed that our previous label wouldn’t like this album’s musical direction and Memento Mori paid for the mastering for that album. We’ll pretty much be using Damian in this aspect for the rest of our time as a band.
It was mentioned on the band’s Facebook that Stormspell Records will be handling the CD version of Of Despair. Are you guys hinting at the possibility of other formats available in the future, such as a vinyl pressing or even cassette version?
We already have a tape version sorted. Till You Fukkin Bleed will be releasing a cassette version for ‘Of Despair’ after the CD release, around April time. Me, Rob and Dan are vinyl enthusiasts and would love nothing more than to find a label who would want to do an LP version for ‘Of Despair’. I’m contacting labels nonstop to try and secure a vinyl version of the album.
So, what’s next for Horrified at this point in the game? Are you still making arangements for the album’s distribution in different parts of the world, lining up tour dates, or just taking it easy until Of Despair drops?
We will be taking an active part in promoting the album online as well as gigging, we have a local gig coming up in Feb then a 4-date UK tour with Skelethal and Decrepid in April, which is greatly timed to promote the release of the album on the live front. Me and Rob are already working on new material which we are extremely excited about. As mentioned before we also trying to find a label for a vinyl release, we hope to do some more gigs in the UK and hopefully abroad again this year also! [Check out April, 2016’s live dates HERE!]