There is a way that quality music weaves its riffs and motifs to derive something substantial – almost more than just being audio. The lesser men would be satisfied by pop or some trend that’ll always be surpassed by another trend, but those with taste always look for the most compelling of journeys. One could hope to journey outside his comfort zone for an experience unlike any other. Perhaps it’d to be to go down such a hellish level and then be picked up again as a riff or storytelling changes. What if it never picks you up? What if it’s continuously challenging? What if it defies that which makes us human and throws our psyches into the unpleasant, but does it in such a way that it feels rewarding? That’s what I look for in music. I look for something that ignites the torch of uncertainty and makes it certain.
Ataraxy are very proficient musicians that market their music as old school death metal. It holds up to most of those standards, but their formulaic style will make it rather mundane and overlooked. One of the best qualities of this album is that each riff flows into the next almost perfectly; almost as classical music does, but I feel as if I’m wanting something more challenging — something to set it aside from other bands that mimic their influences. Revelations of the Ethereal isn’t anything that hasn’t already been done, but when Ataraxy molds a riff to extend into the next they do it at a very high level proficiency.
The vocals are directly derived from Asphyx. The drum patterns are predictable but solid. The backing keyboards insinuate the mood, but only act as a supporting instrument that could’ve given Revelations of the Ethereal a much needed additional element that would’ve set this aside from Asphyx and their other influences. To keep it short: this album doesn’t delve much further than the surface level and leaves the listener wanting something more than well-executed generic death metal.
The best parts of this album are great, but the great moments are lost in the formulas that Ataraxy constantly utilizes. Overall, the first listen was very entertaining, but there was no replay level to it because it never bestowed a challenge. It was predictable to the point of being monotonous. The slow to mid-tempos are over-utilized, but well-played. This band could stem to be something great if they focused beyond than their influences. Overall, I’d recommend it for one listen.
That which makes us human is the most of inhuman qualities… It’s that which takes us beyond the tried and true and brings us to a new standard.
Many metalheads enjoy a nice brew. It was only a matter of time before a beer company was founded by fans of metal.
Being from Texas I have noticed a new brand of beer that has infiltrated my local corner stores. I observed a common face-painted figure on the label. It piqued my interested to purchase my first ‘Black Metal Imperial Stout’ beer. It was dark. It was strong. Oddly when I drank this beer I was listening to Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, but the alcohol enhanced it; almost gratingly. Some may perceive this as Black Metal further being commercialized, but that already happened in the 90′s. Jester King is operated by metal fans, which assists in promoting metal in commonplaces. In the scheme of things, this may further bring attentions to the genre.
Jeff from Jester King has offered some of his time to answer my questions.
Howdy Jester King! Thank you for your time. First off, what started Jester King? Did it start as a micro-brewery?
Jester King was started by my brother Michael and me. We began working on it in 2008 and eventually opened in 2010. We started and still are a micro-brewery making beer in the Texas Hill Country.
The main reason I am conducting this interview is to inquire about metal. What started your Black Metal beer? Are you guys Black Metal fans? How did you come up with the mix for this beer?
I listen to Black Metal and thought there were some similarities between the music and the beer. The beer is dark and punishing, but it also has some more symphonic notes from its fermentation with farmhouse yeast. I thought the musical style fit the beer. As far as the recipe, it’s a hybrid between the English and Franco-Belgian brewing traditions. The malt and hops are all English, but the fermentation is with Saison yeast.
Outside of Black Metal, what other types of music do you enjoy?
I also enjoy crossover thrash, blackened death metal, third wave ska and western swing
I noticed a lot of rather ‘morbid’ or ‘twisted’ themes with your beers. How did this come to be? Did you want to make a statement with each new recipe?
We try to make beer that’s a reflection of who we are and what we believe. We want what we do to have meaning, and that meaning comes from within. We try to put out work that has authenticity and character. We’re confident that if we be true to ourselves and do good work, there are others out there who will embrace it, even though we know mass appeal is something we’ll never have. We’re comfortable with that.
Some of the imagery, artwork and language we use can be somewhat dark and disturbing from time to time. Again, we try to be true to ourselves knowing full well that it’s not going to be for everyone. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
How has the response been to Jester King? I’ve noticed that grocery stores carry it now. Are you continuing to gain momentum? Will you eventually take on Shiner Bock? Do you even like Shiner Bock?
It’s been good. We’ve been really flattered in many cases by the reception it has received. We put a lot of thought, trial and error, great ingredients and time into our beer, so we’re grateful that it’s had a good reception. Right now we’re focused on unique flavors from wild yeasts, barrel-aged wild beers with fruit, and 100% spontaneous fermentation using our coolship.
I doubt we’ll ever make much more than a few thousand barrels of beer a year. By comparison, the Spoetzl Brewery that makes Shiner Bock is over 500 times larger than us. We’ll never come remotely close to their production volume. I actually haven’t had a Shiner Bock in quite some time, but I’m sure I’ll revisit it at some point. When I drink locally usually I’m having beer from Texas breweries such as Live Oak, Real Ale and (512).
Since we’re on the topic of Texas beer, I have always thought of Lonestar tasting like the dirty convenience stores that it’s often bought in. What are your thoughts on Lonestar? They do have a rather great marketing slogan of “The National Beer of Texas”.
The last I heard was that the Lonestar brand was owned by a hedge fund in Connecticut. I would hope that most people see that slogan as no more than hollow marketing rhetoric. I actually don’t have a problem with light lager. If someone loves light lager, that’s great. What I have a problem with is the companies that produce light lager (and their distributors) propping up laws in Texas that make it more difficult for small breweries in Texas like Jester King to sell beer.
When your team brews beer is metal allowed in the workplace? Is it part of the process of making your beer?
Metal is encouraged! My brother Michael listens to metal too. Lately he’s been playing Nile and Gortuary. Metal is definitely part of the beer making process for me. I can’t envision doing my work without it.
If I were to visit the brewery can I receive some extra beer for conducting this interview?
Were you one of the nerdy kids that wept a little bit when Boromir fell to the orcs? If so, you’ll be very excited for the new Summoning album Old Mornings Dawn. It appears that the album has already been leaked, but I encourage you to pre-order Old Mornings Dawnat this location if you like the music.
For those that are unaware of the Toba catastrophe theory – it’s based on a supervolcanic event in present-day Indonesia that changed the world. Around 75,000 years ago one volcanic eruption bottle-necked the human species and put the Earth into a decade-long volcanic winter. The human species was rendered to less than 10,000 breeding pairs and the planet was cooled. These volcanic events are nature’s way of bringing a balance back to the planet; something that modern civilization doesn’t pay any heed to because most people pigeonhole themselves in mundane routines.
How do volcanoes transpose to metal? Well aside from their “bad” nature, the Earth reclaims its shell by cutting out the fat on its crust. This is something that needs to happen in the metal community.
How often do you find yourself at a show and every band on the bill are generic rehashes of the past or common variations of pop formulas? The scene is infested with hundreds and hundreds of boredom inducing clones that mimic their favorite bands – not extending upon the concepts that were previously founded. They are imitations. The prolegomenon of mediocre bands doesn’t leave much room for more quality music to thrive. Perhaps a metaphorical influx of lava and ash clouds would keep the weak at bay and let true metal flourish.
The robotic cover band Compressorhead recently played their first ever shows in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and Melbourne. Their mission statement is to overtake the world of meatbag (human) metal. These metal purists cover Motorhead and Led Zeppelin more precise than some of their human cover band counterparts.
Compressorhead consists of the guitarist Fingers with 78 hydraulic actuated appendages, bassist Bones, and four-armed drummer Stickboy.
According to their website there are no more shows on their schedule, but the novelty of this band will most likely continue. I would personally like to see them play some Nocturnus songs.
Perhaps we can envision a day when lackluster cover bands are replaced by robots.
Tom Stevens has been providing technical extreme metal since the 80s. Known as a virtuoso on guitar and owning the distro/label Nokturnel Eclipse, he’s been a supporter of the old school since it began. Though Nokturnel has gone through numerous line-up changes, Stevens has defied odds and kept the flame burning with an indomitable urge to shred.
Nokturnel is what I would deem “old school technical blackened thrashy death metal” (OSTBTDM).
DeathMetal.org is proud to present an interview with Tom Stevens about his music and businesses.
Howdy Tom. Thank you for your time. What was the mentality that drove you to form Nokturnel? Was there a frustration that you had to unleash? Why did you spell “Nocturnal” as “Nokturnel”?
Nokturnel was not something I really intended to do, my first band Savage Death fell apart and black metal was “out”…. the Satanic thing took a dive and believe it or not it was considered uncool. I had only begun to take Savage Death into what was considered technical metal at the time, and when it fell apart I wanted to take technical to a new level. The drummer of Savage Death was cool with that and he went on to meet Martin O’Connor. By then I was beyond frustrated with generic sounds, so the three of us made Nokturnel as different as we could; we chose to spell it that way because we knew many other bands would appear with the same name.
What are your thoughts on religion? You have previously stated that you believe in aliens. Do you believe that aliens created the human species? How about a mutual collaboration of humans and aliens to further each other? Have you ever seen any UFOs?
Religion is too complicated for things that must be valued with “faith.” It never struck me. The song Force Fed Fear is about the fear knowing you were told there’s a price to pay for not believing in religion. I do believe in Aliens and think they have been part of Earth’s history forever…. I could accept the facts if they were proven; easy for me to have faith in believing in the existence of life other than here on this planet yet I cannot have faith in religion…. I think there will be good and evil Aliens… some will wanna help, some will want us for our worst nightmares… I have no trust in government and think it is a long established fact Aliens have already played their role in where we are now and we were are heading…
I haven’t heard much on Nokturnel since your last recording ‘Ancestral Calling’. What have you been up to?
I managed to get that single recorded right before we played MDF. I had a lot of fan support at the time. It was amazing and heartfelt to be in the position I was in as an independent with no label support and I took it all very seriously. I had a lot of problems I would rather not get into but my stress level was at an all time high. I made changes as best as I could for Nokturnel. It was beyond maddening to be on the verge of taking things ot the next level and not have a stable lineup. I did two more shows which were clusterfucks for me…. the last one killed my drive to be on stage again until I have whoever is playing for me sounding exactly as I intended it to sound. With that mindset I chose to go into the studio alone for the third time to record “Shadows Alive,” I used Kevin Talley this time and it is my favorite Nokturnel song. It was redemption for my self…but unfortunately it did not get half the coverage “Ancestral Calling” received.
I am so fucking fed up with what the younger generation considers metal I feel obligated to carry on…Not enough people have heard any of my music. Many who do pick it apart and have no idea what I am going for. The truth is I have never done the same song twice, and I am working on several new tracks now, far beyond anything I have ever done. I don’t know how I am ever going to complete this project, but I am glad I began a few months ago, I always give it my all but this is going to be the most shocking work of my life… mark my words. It’s 666% Nokturnel!
You’re an avid snake breeder. How profitable is this trade? What are your favorite breeds of snakes? How many do you own right now?
Being a snake breeder is a lot like being a musician. You see bands selling records and touring like crazy and they bitch about being broke as fuck. Snake guys have expensive animals listed for sale on web sites and drive fancy cars and they too swear they are broke. Snakes have been very good to me. I am a hard-ass and price ‘em high and tell people my animals are too good for them if they want to haggle. Like any business it has its ups and downs. After 10+ years into the game I have a solid customer base. Some are people you would never think would pay attention to a psycho like me, I take an online bashing once in a while for being that evil metal guy. It is fuckin’ funny!
But snakes are animals that require care. It is low maintenance but I insist on them being in above average condition or they are not for sale. You have to put a lot into to get anything out of it. I think I have about 100 here now. My favorites are Southern Pine Snakes, Bull Snakes and Florida Kingsnakes… that is what I have the most of.
You played with Incantation for a while. What was it like touring with them? Any highlights that you’d like to share?
It was like most tours bands do where a lot of it is kind of bad but as soon as you get home you cannot wait go back out. Highlight show was in Santiago Chile with Cannibal Corpse and Death… I met many cool people during my time in Incantation but it all soured for me. I did meet my wife because I toured through Texas back then so that is something I do associate with the band as of course a great thing that came of it. Musically I am not meant to play for other people. I should do my own thing. More than one Alpha in a band is bad news… it could have been something, probably should have been but fuck it all…. was not meant to be and I lost interest in that band a long time ago
I’m curious to see which genre you regard Nokturnel as. Is it Technical Metal? Thrash? Death Metal? Black Metal? Or all of the above?
I now prefer to call it death metal but I really do not care anymore. People have been trying to label me since ’85 and they are usually wrong and it is not worth my time to argue. Nothing But the Hatred era material is harder to call death metal especially due to some of the humorous lyrical content but I saw that as a mistake and left that behind. People should realize that the extra track on Fury Unleashed, “A Collision of Dimensions” was a song in between Nothing But Hatred and Fury Unleashed and it showed the direction I was heading…. more death metal. People talk so much shit… too many solos, the vocals should be this way… it is not death or black…. blah blah blah…. I have watched the “scene” turn inside out several times over the years. Very few people have my respect anymore. Therefore… I do not care what anyone calls it if they happen to like it. That is good enough for me,
Nokturnel Eclipse has been supplying metal warriors with leather and spikes for over a decade. How did you come to crafting leather? Have you always been talented in this field?
I was seeing the need for a product and had a business that could easily carry it. My wife had made herself something that we felt we could take more into a typical metal armband. Osmose/Moonfog Black Metal was everywhere and people wanted Spikes. After some trials we introduced a few designs. Nokturnel Eclipse started by selling CDs which was destroyed by the digital shit we have today and now Nokturnel Eclipse focuses on Spiked Leather and Leather Masks.
Working with leather for yourself is one thing. Being able to sell it to customer after customer and build a reputation is another. We are now well known worldwide and have taken the whole process of creating what we offer farther than we ever thought. Years of experience make a big difference but making every single order perfect for every customer means a lot of hard work on our behalf. We are extremely busy which is great but it is delaying other new items we hope to add to Nokturnel Eclipse soon. We started in 1999 but things really took off for us in the past few years.
Please detail your contributions to Ripping Corpse. Are you still friends with Erik Rutan?
I became friends those guys early on in the Nokturnel demo days. We all got a long really well and were great friends, When they had shows booked out of state they did not want to miss and needed a bass player I was the go to guy. They knew I was capable of learning all their songs in a short period of time and I did just that including unrecorded new songs. They also stayed at my house during the recording of Dreaming With the Dead, I was there from the first note to final mix. I got to sing on all the backing vocals on the record and one other small part for half a second in “Glorious Depravity.”
I am friends with Rutan and consider all of them friends but it is Shaune Kelley I keep in touch with, I am a fan of almost any band any of my friends are in, of course that includes Hate Eternal but Shaune IS Ripping Corpse. The list of people I know in established bands is ridiculous. I do not speak to anyone on the phone often and do not go out of my way to keep up with any of them any more than any random person on the internet. I consider tons of people friends and we are happy to get together when they come through my area but I am a busy person and prefer the company of my family. My closest friends in bands get the invite to stay with us…. Rutan and Kelley would make that list.
You and King Fowley appear to be the best of pals. How many times have Nokturnel and Deceased played shows together? How long has your friendship been? There must be some crazy stories with you two in the early days of extreme metal.
Yes, we are. We agree on many things more so than disagree and know us older underground guys are a dying breed. I have known him and a lot of people since 1990 or earlier. Nokturnel and Deceased did quite a few shows together in the early 90s and I went to many shows down south where they were from on my own just to hang out. King and I are a lot alike but we are not by any means carbon copies of each other.
He is a unique personality and I would like to think people see me that way as well… One time I was with Deceased in Maryland we all piled into one hotel room. Long after everyone passed out I woke up to what I thought was a fucking gunshot. When I jumped out of my skin only one other person in the room woke up… I think it was King.. I looked through the curtain and saw some guy hauling ass through the parking lot, it was freezing during winter at the time. It turned out that some guy had bought a can of soda from a machine and smashed it through the window of the room next door. He was freezing out there and just had a freakout.
There’s some good babble [on this topic] in the book Glorious Times…One time in Cleveland we both played a show called Splatterfest. King misunderstood me and during their set invited the entire show to MY hotel. When I said see you there with everybody I meant Deceased… not half of Cleveland…. no fun telling carloads of people to go away that night, good times
You originally lived in New Jersey and relocated to Texas. I have noticed in previous statements that you have a disdain for your prior homeland. Why do you prefer Texas so much? Is it because Texas has the ability to secede if the US keeps twirling into nonsense?
Some people would consider leaving the area they grew up in a nightmare, for others it is a nightmare to stay. I much prefer the people of the South, not meaning metalheads…. they are the same no matter where you go, but people in general are easier to live with. NJ is a place I look back at knowing life for me got a whole lot better when I left. Some people refuse to leave and look for something better in life. I am not one of them. I moved to Florida around the time I joined Incantation which was no fun with the extra travel but even that was a massive upgrade for me.
Texas is fucking awesome. Great people, open minded and tolerant. Great weather, amazing food. When I met my wife she was living in Austin and it was a no-brainer for me to come to Texas instead of us staying in Florida. This is where we both want to stay. After living here and seeing almost everywhere you can think of…. I cannot see myself living anywhere else.
How long have you played guitar? You’re quite an amazing musician. What type of equipment, guitars, strings, etc do you use? What type of equipment would you recommend to new guitarists that are just starting out?
I began about 1980. I had experience playing piano when I was very young, which I blew off… I used to read complex sheet music and all this crap. I do not remember ANY of it. Matter of fact I only know the names of two guitar strings and one scale. All of my guitar [playing] is natural.
I took some basic lessons and was taught a few basic things before I was told I did not need any lessons and not to return. My teacher showed me “I Don’t Know” by Ozzy in the most retarded way imaginable. I showed him the right way; he was not mad. He made sure I knew how to tune the guitar and said I pick way too hard but I would be a great player some day… I was furious as I wanted to learn how to play lead. I figured it all out on my own. To these schooled modern shredders, they seem to pick me apart and explain everything I do in terms that mean nothing to me. “you don’t come all the way around on a this and don’t finish a that before you go into a….”…. I am thinking if I did that…. I would sound like you, and Nokturnel fans do NOT want that… so take your shred knowledge and tell someone who is easily impressed.
I am happy where I am in my own realm of demonic possession and appreciate others way more than they appreciate me. No sleep lost there. I am most known for using the Washburn EC29, but I currently play a Halo Inverted and having a Kahler Pro Series tremolo is mandatory. I only have one other V and am in the market for a new one now. I would appreciate it if you would link the Tremolo Torture video I did for Kahler. I talk a lot about why I need a Kahler tremolo.
I am a gain maniac. Crank a dual rectifier with active pickups and add more distortion and gain and noise and you are ready to create some noise, I think the two things a new player needs to help them gain confidence is proper reverb and a little delay effect. Best advice I can give anyone who wants to learn how to play… begin with Iron Maiden Piece of Mind, learn the riffs, learn the solos… you are now metal
How well was the single “Ancestral Calling” received? What inspired you to write it? The riffs don’t seem to differentiate much, but the technical ability is amazing. How did you approach this song? What was your mindset? How will Nokturnel top this song in the future?
Overwhelmed with it really. It was incredible for me. I set out to do something I had not done in 20 years. A song based off only a few simple parts like Savage Death did in the 80s. I also wanted a song where the vocals and storyline dominate and that it did, Playing that song at Maryland Death Fest was the greatest moment for me in all of Nokturnel history. Seeing the crowd respond and even sing the words with me was just unbelievable. I was worried I kept it too simple, had feared Nokturnel fans would just not be into it. I was wrong, they fuckin’ flipped over it and I gained a ton of new fans. I feel I did top it.
The followup was “Shadows Alive” which is completely different. It is also based on real life paranormal experiences I was cautious about sharing with anyone. It is a very personal song for me and also much more furious than “Ancestral Calling.” Finding myself standing alone again after the last show I played and passing on other opportunities I chose to turn my back on everything and go back into the studio.
That song for me is a personal triumph. Not content with the few offers I got to play in 2013 and all the hassle to get the line up going I am now doing the same thing. Back in the studio alone, writing. “Shadows Alive” surpassed “Ancestral Calling.’ The new stuff I am working on now is way beyond that material, and believe me when I say I love all my music. This is why there are only so many Nokturnel songs as opposed to 10+ CDs worth. I am striving to make the best music…. not the most.. Every song counts.
Thank you for your time. If you have anything else that you’d like our readers to know, please share.
I think you did a great job with these questions. I managed to keep it short for a change, Thanks for that! I do intend to play shows again but I have a lot going on and much more work to do on new material. This band means more to me than anyone could understand, I have a lot more to offer and will fight to the death to make it happen.
Feel free to check out Tom’s businesses and music:
I would assume that living in Salt Lake City, Utah would drive one mad. I’ve spent some time there last year, but I wouldn’t be able to maintain my sanity living around Mormons. Salt Lake City also has restrictions on alcohol content, with most beers having 3.2%. One way around such an obstacle is to sneak onto Hill Air Force Base (granted, if you have a military ID) and utilize one of their shoppettes to obtain normal booze. In my scenario of having a moody woman dictating my time while there, much booze was consumed. At least the mountains in the area are beautiful and I had the opportunity to go hiking away from the dreadful Mormons.
During my stay there I was acquainted with Dyingnysus from the bands Iconoclast Contra, Gravecode Nebula, Odium Totus, Krieg and others. I was invited to go to the recording session for the Odium Totus EP Nullam Congue Nihil, but I was unable to attend (conflict: moody woman mentioned in the previous paragraph). However, Mr. Dyingnysus sent me the cd after it was finished and the final product is quite good. It’s a nice strain of meditative black metal with a rather militant concept behind it.
After hearing this release I figured that it’d be suiting to pick Dyingnysus’ brain about his exploits.
Howdy Dyingnysus. Thank you for your time. First I’d like to inquire about the city that you reside in. How horrible is it to live in Salt Lake City being that it’s the Mormon capital? Is Black Metal well accepted there? What about the lackluster alcohol content in beer? Do you disappear to the mountains or salt flats when the Mormons drain you of your sanity? Or do you wage war with them?
Howdy to you as well and thank you for your time and efforts with the interview. Well, to start off obviously living in a place like Salt Lake City presents certain challenges that can seem difficult to handle. I know some folks who cannot whatsoever and have fled and never looked back. I’ve grown up in Southern California personally, so I know what else is out there of course, and of course I have come to realize in my travels just how really different Salt Lake is from other cities in the country. Honestly the reason why I stay here, well besides the obvious; family/friends, work and the bands etc, but there is some other reasons, cost of living is reasonable, I don’t have to worry about traffic, crime or other things I consider in other bigger cities to be quite substandard; the absence of ghetto’s/projects here is a big plus. I mean we have shitty neighborhoods but nothing like what you see in other cities. The liquor laws are a bit strange here, I’ll explain. The beer alcohol content is 3.2% by volume per can (which Utah is not the only one with 3.2% beer, there are 18 what they call “controlled liquor states” out there). So, in other states they measure by weight and if you were to measure Utah beer by weight it is actually 4.3% per can. Our local micro brews here are quite good too. All in all the beer is not as drastically weak as people are lead to believe. I mean you can get drunk drinking it. Another quirky thing is that if you want to get hard liquor or an out of state style beer, you have to visit a Utah State Liquor store and the prices are marked up quite a bit, especially on brands like Jack Daniels etc. Plus they close early, around 10pm and are closed Sunday, although you can visit a bar to get a strong drink on Sunday, last call is 1 am.
I don’t have too many dealings with Mormons or LDS people as you would think really, a lot of them live out in the suburbs and I live in the city, which only the wealthy Mormons live around the Salt Lake City proper really. I mean yes, they are all over the place though, and you’ll see them that is for sure. They are some of the most diluted happy go lucky idiots I have ever had witness to. I mainly just steer clear and don’t care to engage them often, or at least seek to. It is strange living in a religious capital at times, but that being said, I think if anything it benefits the music as we really have something to rally against. You are right in some of your assumptions that it can make you fairly agitated and pissed off to deal with the LDS influence and church here and some of the other quirks. I do not seek direct aggravated confrontation with Mormons typically like I said but I do try to make them uncomfortable in public, like in social situations hahah, that’s really about it. Black Metal is not a huge part of the music scene here really too much, and there have been bands come and go over the years. Still there is a small, albeit dedicated scene.
Congratulations on your Odium Totus EP Nullam Congue Nihil. I was rather enthralled by it when I first heard it during my commute to work. How did the concept of this project start? What are your goals?
Thank you, it is much appreciated! I’m pleased you were able to get a good connection with the music even whilst doing an activity we all do mostly every day, the morning commute! Odium Totus pretty much came into existence after a few rehearsals with the drummer Rick and me in May of 2011. At that point I believe we were at an impasse with other bands we were playing in, so the idea to just start something new seemed intriguing and I had some material that was sort of in the back of my mind and I also wanted to play in a band that owed more stylistically to the traditional black metal I grew up with, but also mixing in some of my more untypical influences, which basically includes a lot of classic, psychedelic, progressive and death rock stuff. I was also interested to start singing in a band as well, because I had a ton of lyrics written that I never got to use for anything and that sort of kicked the whole thing off more or less. Soon after these initial rehearsals we had gotten a few songs written. At this point my wife Kate joined on rhythm guitar and our bassist Micah as well. Overall goals are to keep playing live shows, and in fact taking our music to the people and to be a tight live band is a actually a very big goal as well as develop some more visual aspects to the show and to keep challenging ourselves to come up with darker more spacey tripped out music. Other goals include more shows; especially in other cities, more new music and records etc. We’ll see where the road takes us basically!
I noticed that the riffs on the EP are somewhat primitive, but have a meditative quality to them. How did you approach the song compositions?
I like that you take notice of that particular approach, in so much as keeping things simple in a sense. It is usually the best way for me to compose riffs on the guitar keeping that principle in mind. I think when you are more concerned with virtuosity as opposed to the moods and feelings that you are trying to convey with your music, the more the music loses that sort of atmosphere. So with that in mind, a lot of our riffs seem pretty straightforward in some respects yes. I mean, typically I just pick up a guitar and start strumming chords, sometimes I have an idea I am trying to get out of my head, but sometimes not, and whatever seems to work; if something particularly catches my ear I’ll file away for use in a song we are starting or working on etc. If it doesn’t seem ready though but has some quality I still think is worth pursuing, then I’ll work on it some more. Typically I will have at least 2-3 riffs prepared, before I work with our drummer. Although in some cases I have brought in fully written songs. Now at this point, usually it’s just me and the drummer at first to write the core of the song and then we bring in the rhythm section and flesh it out more. Some of the riffs come from that process as well, improvised or on the spot.
As of the genesis of this band, I have written a good deal of the guitar riffs, although our drummer is starting to come up with more in the newer material, which is always welcome. I am a very willing collaborator with the other people I play music with. I do not always want to be the one writing etc. I think the meditative quality you speak of comes from some of the stranger chords I am using these days, certain jazz chords as well as ideas in chords that were used by some bands in the 60’s and 70’s. You notice that in those decades, bands like Pink Floyd, King Crimson or Hawkwind for example had to figure out a way to build a big space with their music with the limited boundaries of the equipment they were using. Now you can have a lot of that with a push of a button, but we try to approach it the way those bands did. It seems you just do that by layering the instruments in such a way that it comes across strong and full of dense atmosphere. Of course a lot of echo/delay helps too don’t get me wrong!
I sense a rather nihilistic underpinning in Odium Totus. What are your thoughts on Nihilism? Do you think metal is the best weapon to encompass nihilistic themes?
Oh for certain, there is a common theme along anything I do creatively and Nihilism is always at the heart of it. It’s hard to characterize my thoughts on Nihilism in a sense, since when you think of it as a concept, it’s hard to wrap your head around really overall as it is quite multi-faceted. Does Nihilism mean for some people that, anything goes? For certain it does, and does it also mean that you do not believe in one simple tangible thing? Possibly!
I think one of the facets of Nihilism I value the most is that is pretty open ended and doesn’t need answers unto itself to be defined. I was talking with someone about how it is pretty hard to offend me deeply and truly, I mean other than my own petty selfish things that I get offended about, but I mean on a much larger scale with I guess just existence in general and the bullshit we have to deal with day to day. I don’t get too offended by the actions of a great number of people, past and present. Sure, I can certainly laugh or be disgusted with the absurdity and effrontery of such things, but usually I just shake my head though. It’s like the only way to keep my sanity, because if I started to care too deeply or to take it all at face value like many do, I’d go absolutely fucking nuts! That also helps in regards to people around me; I don’t care too deeply for what other people think of my outlooks and such, just as I don’t really care too much for theirs a lot of the time.
Philosophically, Nihilism is rooted in skepticism overall. For some, it means a total break from what is real or not real for that matter. Truth is not an absolute. So that part of it appeals to me too. When considering a Nihilistic view point in society, meaning all structures, organizations, whether they are religious or socio-political in nature are meaningless, or at least are rejected outright, that is kind of like a comfort in a way too ya know? It’s basically saying fuck everything, and everyone! No one has gotten it right. Also you can come at Nihilism from a destructive angle as well, like senseless destruction is considered to be nihilistic in nature right? At least we are kind instructed to think that way. Overall, it’s stark, strong and its cold, it’s really almost too realistic, without caring about reality. It’s really the only salvation for humanity, and thus, not a salvation in itself at all. Why care? Why concern ourselves with Utopian discourse? There is no point. I certainly do think that any sort of thoughtful music can convey Nihilistic messages and musings, philosophically or hatefully in the manner. Whether it be metal/rock, blues/jazz, classical, noise/electronic music, (I omit popular, hip hop and modern country music as I think it is counter-productive to include them as musical art forms).
You’ve done session work with Krieg. How would you define the American Black Metal scene? Which are your favorite bands?
I have done several live performances with Neill and Krieg now yes, even a short tour down the west coast (which Odium Totus did some dates as well) but no recordings yet, we are working on that, eventually we will do a EP. Hmmm, hard to define the scene overall, as some days I don’t even care to be associated with it. I don’t look at “American Black Metal” as phenomena stylistically unto itself as you could with say Norwegian or Finnish Black Metal for example etc. Still, it doesn’t matter on a level to me, when some people are interested in saying “the scene.” Really, truthfully, like everything in America, it is but a melting pot, a hodge-podge of several different musical styles, death, thrash, doom, heavy metal. It all came from Europe first, the basic heavy metal right? That much is true! That is what I find pretty ironic is that the Europeans, the British especially, took all this great music that was originated in American heritage and folk tradition, and just fed it back to us a little heavier and with fuzz pedals! It all comes from old Country, Jazz, and the Blues right? The rock and roll, and metal music, the blues especially was the catalyst for all of that music. The first doom metal is the blues jack, and that is the truth. Anyhow, bands I like from America (and none of these are blues and/or neo-psychedelic bands) are (the) Krieg, Ritual Combat, Nightbringer, Evoken, Grave Ritual, Velnias, Icon Of Phobos, Kommandant and many others. I can’t keep going on naming bands, because someone gets offended if I miss them. I’m sure I’ll lose friends all the time, so sad really (yes, being sarcastic)
Your other band Iconoclast Contra is reminiscent of War Metal more than Black Metal. Which genre is it? How would you place in juxtaposition the themes displayed to your personal beliefs? Do you believe humanity is worthy of extinguishing through war? If so, why?
As of now, I have resigned with Iconoclast Contra. We can get into all the reasons why, but it is nothing sensational, I just lost interest in participating, and truth be told it really wasn’t active enough to keep me interested anymore. Musically you are right; it is the war metal sound, with elements of thrash/death stuff. While a lot of that music is great and I dig a lot of bands of that style no doubt, it’s just not what I am into playing anymore. I just think I am more partial to playing my best when I do stuff like Odium Totus or the other band I am in, Gravecode Nebula, which is like the music that I think identifies me personally much better. The whole concept and ideas with Iconoclast Contra, for my part certainly, was a sort of heretical diatribe against humanity, and cleansing humanity with destruction, total and utter destruction, which goes back to a lot of the nihilistic beliefs and outlooks I possess.
As for humanity being extinguished completely? I think a catastrophic event is necessary and around the corner probably! War is probably what will happen, but be it war, or more of a natural phenomenon as long as it has the chance kick human beings back into their place or to eradicate them completely I’m fine with it if that is how it goes down, nothing can prevent the end of something if it is set in motion to happen. I will say that it would certainly make us more respectable beings if we survived a great catastrophe I would think, can’t be certain on that either though. Time will tell.
You previously played with Ibex Throne and released two albums. Why did the project stop? Was there a line-up issue, or did you conceptualize something new that you wanted to unleash? The original vocalist of Ibex Throne killed himself. Did this change your outlook on the band?
Ibex Throne was my first main band that really consumed a large part of my life (little shy of 10 years) we released two demos, and two albums. It was like my boot camp and where I cut my teeth ya know? The group towards the end was musically and ideologically/philosophically all pointing to different directions, and to me, it was time to move on especially. I didn’t have anything more to offer those guys, and vice versa. It wasn’t personal issues that came into it too much; I mean not that I can say. I think we all were just tired of that band. It was good while it lasted, and there were some memorable times for certain. I don’t care to comment too much on details of the member who committed suicide. It’s very old news for me now, and I’ve moved on. I will just say that it didn’t affect the band with our music or lyrics at any point, we never used it is a selling point and/or gimmick, and it is not in any way a reason as to why we are not together now; he killed himself very early on in the beginning of the group when we are all very young.
What’s ahead for your projects in the near future? Will Odium Totus come out with a full-length album?
Gravecode Nebula has an album coming out on Baneful Genesis Records this year called “Sempiternal Void.” We also are playing the Denver Doom Fest III in Colorado with tons of killer bands, and I think after that, it will either cease to exist or continue to create, I can’t say as of now. Odium Totus has time booked in May to record for a 7” EP called Let It All End. We hope to have released this summer, which will feature two new songs. Right now we are currently working on a full length record as well, we have about 3-4 songs in the works, and 3-4 on the way after that and we are currently on hiatus from live shows so we can focus on songwriting and rehearsals for the next few months, then it is back to the stage this summer, looking to get some shows setup right now, you can always keep an eye on our exploits via our Facebook pages:
Thank you for answering our questions. Anything else that you’d like to share?
Hey no problem, thanks for taking the time to prepare an interview for us, we appreciate the support and the chance to spread some awareness about Odium Totus, Gravecode Nebula and The Flying Burrito Brothers etc. Keep an eye out for more new records, and more shows from Odium Totus, we will be coming to play near you, in the near future! You can fucking god damn well be assured of that!! Diehard and kill!
We previously posted an article about Mike Browning being disgruntled over some happenings with David Vincent and his wife. DeathMetal.org has offered to give Mr. Browning an outlet to shed some light on the happenings of the early days of Morbid Angel, as well as clear up any confusion that may be encircling the metal underground.
Not many people have such an extensive resume when it comes to being involved with innovative bands in Death Metal. Mike Browning helped mold Morbid Angel, then he helped to create Nocturnus. He has also played and recorded with Incubus, Acheron and After Death.
We are fortunate that Mr. Browning has given us his time to answer these questions.
Hi Mike. Thank you for your time. I have often thought of early Morbid Angel as Slayer on steroids. Why did you guys decide to take the music in such an extreme manner?
It was really what was just coming out of us naturally. Back then we weren’t trying to do or be anything other than an evil chaotic band that was real. We literally did Necronomicon rituals before we played invoking the Ancient Ones and then with that energy we would start playing. We even did it for rehearsals as well as live shows.
There have been confusing recounts of the Abominations of Desolation recording session. Was this Morbid Angel’s first official album? If so, why has the band referred to it as a demo?
Abominations of Desolation was the first Morbid Angel album recorded. We signed to David Vincent’s label Goreque Records and we went to North Carolina to record and David even hired the legendary Bill Metoyer to engineer the record. So even though it was not released until later, it really is the first Morbid Angel record and not a demo.
I don’t know why the band says it’s only a demo. You would have to ask them that. They also claim that Sterling Scarborough played bass on the recording, which is not true either. It was John Ortega.
After Abominations of Desolation was recorded you returned to Florida and Trey stayed with David Vincent in North Carolina. Why did he stay there?
Yes the rest of the band went back to Tampa after we recorded while Trey stayed alone with David to do the mixing. It was told to us that it would be cheaper to just keep Trey there for the mixing, but when Trey came back he acted like a completely different person. He said we had to fire John Ortega and that David had found a new bass player for us which was Sterling Scarborough.
What was the actual reason for your departure from Morbid Angel? I heard that there was a physical fight with you and Trey.
Yes that is what happened. I stopped by his house one afternoon on my lunch hour from work and saw my girlfriends car there so I kicked the door in and found them on the couch kissing and I beat up Trey pretty bad. We were all pretty young back then so that is how I handled it by kicking his ass, but by doing that it caused the band to split up and that is when Richard and Trey moved to North Carolina and started playing with David, Wayne Hartsell and Sterling. I got Gino Marino and reformed Sterling’s old band Incubus.
Morbid Angel appear to be twirling into Skrillex influences more than Death Metal. Their last album Illud Divinum Insanus has been mocked by fans from all over the world. Why do you think they recorded such a weird album?
Well from what I heard that most of the music was written by Trey and he let David do all the lyrics. I’m not really sure if that is the truth, but it came from a pretty reliable source.
David Vincent has signed on to be in a film about pornstar Vaness Del Rio. What are your thoughts on this?
I don’t even want to have any thoughts about it!!! Seriously though I think it will only damage his reputation with Morbid Angel, but hey I am sure all he cares about is that he will make money and maybe turn it into a new career for himself.
Gen Vincent (David Vincent’s wife) has gotten you banned from the nightclub ‘The Castle’ in Ybor City. Why has she gone to such measures?
It’s because I made fun of David and their last album, but of course I didn’t start it all. There were so many people already making fun of it before it even came out that when I finally heard some of it I started making fun of it too. But I guess since I live in the same town and actually just a few blocks away from his house and that I was actually in the band that it was me that started all the jokes about him and the last album. So I guess Gen thought she would try to get back at me by having me banned from the local Gothic club because Gen is very personal friends with the owner of the club. I rarely go there anymore. Just once or twice a year when they have the bigger yearly events there, so it’s no big deal being banned. It was more about the point of it.
Thank you for clearing up some of the confusion that has been encircling the metal community. What are your plans for the near future?
Just staying busy doing both After Death and some live Nocturnus shows. There has been so much interest in people wanting to see the old Nocturnus stuff live that my band After Death has learned the whole The Key album and we are doing these shows and playing the entire album straight through. Then we’re throwing in some old Morbid Angel songs from Abominations of Desolation versions for the encores.
I also want to say THANKS to everyone who has supported all the music I have done over all these years and hopefully I will be able to continue the chaos for many more!