Interview: Ara

by Brett Stevens
April 22, 2013 –

ara-band_photo

Music is never in stasis. It is composed of two parts, a form and a content. The two are related; in the best of situations, content causes the musician to innovate a new form. When the content changes, the old form is not relevant. However, some things are timeless and those forms persist.

Such questions emerge at the front of the mind when we look at Wisconsin’s Ara and their latest album, The Blessed Sleep. Whatever the changes that have been wrought in metal over the past 20 years, Ara roll back some of the tendencies toward excessive form and pointless technicality, and return the focus to songwriting. (See our review of The Blessed Sleep.)

Ara presents a challenge to what metal has become and to what many conceive of as metal. We figured we would go deeper for the whole story, and were fortunate to speak with guitarist and band cofounder Jerry Hauppa, who helped clarify the situation and told us about the inspiration and musical vision behind Ara’s latest, The Blessed Sleep.

You approach metalcore/tech-deth with a stripped-down style that focuses more on songwriting. What made you decide to do this, against the conventions of the genre?

None of us are really thrilled by the theatrics of sweeped scales masquerading as riffs in extreme metal nowadays. To the casual fan this can superficially be interpreted as sounding crazy and chaotic but we all come from older metal backgrounds where the riffs and arrangements had to have creativity and personality in order to express deviation between songs and moods. Cluttering up a song with a ton of parts can be an effective way to display chaos at times but we are trying to make sure each part serves the song well enough where nothing seems to be either filler or extraneous.

What do you think separates “modern metal” (metalcore, tech-deth, indie metal) from the older extreme metal like death metal and black metal?

The Blessed Sleep seems to have indirectly caused quite the argument about this in the comments section of your review for the record, but in my defense of death metal I clearly differ from the opinion of your readers in terms of what I feel falls under its umbrella. I think that “modern metal” is less a genre and more a statement that tries to separate any current take on the genre that threatens the ethos created in the early 90s. I agree that most of what I hear nowadays doesn’t resonate with me, but I’m not going to invalidate it by claiming it isn’t death metal or black metal because I’m afraid of what that means for me as a listener.

What I will say, is that I feel I have an uncanny ability to hear motive in music, and what I think you are getting at with the title “modern metal” is the unfortunate actions of -core acts that clearly resemble marketing ploys and the inhibiting crutches present in their writing, which throw at the listener a sense of immediate gratification through the aforementioned sweeps and of course, breakdowns. What we are trying to do is not throw the listener a bone so I feel we have more in common with the rebellious aspects of the early death metal movement than what people are considering to be “modern.”

In your view, what are the founding acts that influenced this style? What influences do you as a band have in addition to these?

The style shown on the record, or in modern metal? As for the latter, I have no idea really. I know that it seems many young bands don’t understand the history of metal and are trying to emulate a band that has emulated another band and so on, and that’s a shame with the ease of resources we have nowadays.

I guess as for the aspect of a more chaotic form of death metal, you could probably say that Cryptopsy’s Whisper Supremacy took the idea of a metal song arrangement and turned it upside down- at least for me, when I heard it, nothing really sounded like it. Today’s bands probably are really far removed from that record but the bands they ripped off might be familiar, I don’t know.

As for the influences of the band, for me, I’ve always been drawn to more complex music because I like to hear something new in a song each time I hear it. I’d say Gorguts, Anata and Cryptopsy are definite influences, as well as Theory in Practice and maybe the early explosion of Unique Leader bands. As far as how the record sounds, I could probably say I was drawn to the feel of Sinister’s Aggressive Measures record in terms of their atonal leanings and not having the guitars be tuned super low. The rest of the guys in the band have a huge list of influences, but I can say I know Erik worships Discordance Axis, Adam loves stuff like Fleshgod Apocalypse and Jim listens to everything under the sun.

How did you get the crisp sound on The Blessed Sleep? It sounds like you played it live, but somehow got a nice digital snap to each track. Where was it recorded?

We recorded with Shane Hochstetler at Howl Street Studios, and we are extremely happy with the sound. We have recorded there numerous times with other projects and he is a blast to work with and everything he does sounds amazing. I don’t really care for the sterile production of modern metal bands and really wanted this record to sound tight yet savage, so we deliberately left it without too much polish to give it its own atmosphere. As for how we got the sound, I know there are tons of guitar tracks going on all the time so it has a wall of sound that gives it the heaviness that I think a lot of technical bands are lacking.

What prompted you to found Ara, in the style you’ve chosen, and what additions do you hope to make to the genre?

I always wanted to do my take on death metal since I was a teenager, and only now am I lucky enough to be around the musicians that can make it happen. The style is I suppose an amalgamation of all of my influences in extreme metal, but as I get better at writing music I really feel as though the compositions are inherently mine and don’t directly emulate any particular band.

As far as the second half of your question, I don’t have any lofty goals where I think we can be flagbearers for any kind of genre movement, I just hope people check out the record and like it. If I had any wish that we could influence anything, I do hope the riff can come back. I miss and mourn for the riff.

Where do you want to go after The Blessed Sleep? It seems like you’ve reached a peak within this genre; are you going to grow in a new direction, or refine?

As of today I have written 11 songs for a full length and am really excited to see how the new material will shape up. The rest of the guys know four of the new songs and I would say it is decidedly different from The Blessed Sleep. There is a much greater focus on melody but not in the At the Gates way, probably more in an Anata way. I am trying to make the songs complex but with very few themes explored per song because I want each song to be its own entity. You can hear one of the new songs in the live set on the youtube video you posted, it’s the last one we played. I’m trying to balance melody with discordance in each song. Some of the newer stuff is way faster than anything we’ve done and we have some doomier stuff as well. If you like The Blessed Sleep I think you’ll be excited for the progression. Also, we are very much hoping for label support for future recordings.

What do you think draws people to your music?

The band is very new so I don’t really know yet. People like speed and we have and love lots of blast beats. We also try to be atypical so I assume people that like weird metal will hopefully like it. Time will tell.

If fans wanted to explore your music, where do you recommend they start, and what should they do next?

You can stream the whole record at arawi.bandcamp.com, so there you go. Then I suppose you should follow us on Facebook to find out what we’re up to and where we’re playing.

Will you be touring for this album? Will we see you in Texas?

I absolutely want to get on the road for this record and hopefully we can do so later in the year. Erik and I play in another band called Northless that is in the studio next month so after that is wrapped up we can get our scheduling straight and play outside our home town. We would love to play in Texas if everything works out and if so we will definitely let you know! Thanks for your time and the support!

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49 comments

  • Blake Jugg

    You went so far as to interview them…

    However, from a musicology standpoint: You’re spot on. This should be exposed for what it is.

    I’m not trying to detract or further isolate the readers of this site. This site should gain prominence and be as strong as it could be. A strong voice in the metal world.

    I honestly believe this band shouldn’t be featured at all. They’re metalcore/tech death. I know you don’t like this music. I don’t like this music. The regulars don’t like this music. Is it even music? If my defiance of this band isolates me, let it be. I am embarrassed to read about this band.

    Should they gain more recognition? No. The genres they stole from shouldn’t exist at all. Put some lite jazz and mindless unpredictable riffs together and mix it with “death metal” (not even death metal, but the kids that got into death metal and didn’t get it), and you have something like Ara.

    If metal was a cluster of riffs, then put into a blender, then consumed, then vomited up, then put back into the blender, then presented as an actual drink, you might have something like this.

    End result: wankery

    1. Aleister Crowley (The Bisexual Sadist)

      Unfortunately, since Metal Maniacs, Pit Magazine, and the like started featuring deathcore bands, these genre add-ons have taken on the name death metal from being pushed by musically illiterate writers. That continues to this day with sites like Metal Injection spotlighting bands like Job For A Cowboy (for further evidence of incompetence, see what their writers say here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyNrgNN4vLM). Gorguts, Anata, and Cryptopsy have shed their death metal past sans the technique part of the genre. Whisper Supremacy was a confused mess, and it wasn’t because “I didn’t get it”, it was just random song bits with no association to one another in theme glued together for the sake of hitting the 4 minute mark and having feats of instrumental dexterity as well as mosh parts.

      Listen to the Cryptopsy song Loathe from Whisper Supremacy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZaT4-Ei8Fc). Then listen to something from Cryptopsy’s deathcore album The Unspoken King (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB_wCYF4BCM) followed by their latest “return to form” self-titled album (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RazGbZSb_Yo). This is all metalcore, doesn’t matter how old Whisper Supremacy is, it’s clearly different from death metal’s method of communication and yes, that includes their own first 2 albums. Random bursts of gravity blasts and grind riffs are just gimmicks in these songs, not part of a flowing sequence.

        1. Metal Command

          Cryptopsy had an average first album, a great but rock n rolly second album, and after that, a deluge of shit which knows no shame or conscience. I think after hearing the suicide-by-train album I stopped listening to everything they did.

    2. Brett Stevens Post author

      I’m not trying to detract or further isolate the readers of this site. This site should gain prominence and be as strong as it could be. A strong voice in the metal world.

      Thank you. That’s our aim.

  • Steve Brettens

    With all due respect Ara (otherwise Brett will censor me), I know you’re wrong.
    .
    Death Metal IS… without the need of your or mine (or anybodys´) interpretation:
    Death Metal is. It is what it IS. It already exists. Therefore, there is Death Metal and there are things which aren’t (regardless of anybodys’ interpreteation).
    .
    .
    I’m not going to pretend that my interpretation of what Death Metal is, is closer to the truth than your own interpretation. What I will say however, is that I know “where” Death Metal is… it’s on my album rack, and I just need to reach for it to know, again and again, what Death Metal is.

    1. Metal Command

      I don’t know what’s so wrong with a band not being death metal.

      By the same token, I don’t know why this band insist they are death metal, while slagging old death metal as one-dimensional out the other side of their mouth.

      You wanted to be different… you’re different! I think they just don’t want to be called metalcore, and that’s probably entirely worthy of sympathy.

  • bitterman

    VERY LONG SIGH… This should be innate. Listen to Autopsy, Demilich, Immolation, or Cadaver’s In Pains album. I mean, Demilich is probably the most technical, sure, but those weird, discordant contrapuntal parts are all shared across these different death metal bands. Did Ara learn anything from these albums beyond the wacky and weird riff part? Can you not hear how they’re utilized in the context of death metal songs? Even Gorguts would later utilize some of these riff styles but in a post-hardcore context. Discordance… Ion Dissonance uses some of that in a different way as well as blast beats, some growls, trem picking… Are they death metal? Why is it so hard to accept that this is another genre of music? Korn’s Ball Tongue stole a riff from Angel of Disease by Morbid Angel and everyone called that out. They boasted about supposedly covering God of Emptiness. No one called them a death metal, and they never considered themselves to be one either. Opeth sometimes growls and has trem picked parts. They’re still just a gimmick (fake progressive/Amorphis Elegy/hammond organ interludes) rock band. Entombed claimed Wolverine Blues was a death metal album. It is not. Rotten Soil or a song like Eyemaster may have 15 seconds of Dismember esque riffing in the middle after the first chorus, but it’s still Corrosion of Conformity’s the redneck years. Maybe, because they got popular so fast, were at the forefront of a movement/scene, signed to a major label, and said they were going to include hard rock riffs on that album, people were quick to call them sellouts, posers, death n roll, whatever. So, they defended their career and legitimacy by saying it’s “more death metal than Clandestine” or it was “more like old school death metal”. Now, since Same Difference everyone knows the truth (if their Helmet shirts during 1993 promos didn’t already clue them in), they stopped bullshitting, the band aint going to play Drowned anytime soon, but their current Clutch shirt wearing stoner rock fan base can accept that. Please, understand you aren’t growing the death metal genre, you’re just cherry picking techniques from it and other genres to throw into your music. Nothing wrong with doing what you want with your music, but it doesn’t make it death metal.

    1. Blake Jugg

      It’s understood, but isn’t worthwhile as a whole.

      There should have been others to choose from.

      Go for the bigger hamsters, not the small ones.

      1. bitterman

        I wish there was a way to beam history, facts, and evidence straight into these deathcore myspace/facebook generations heads. Unfortunately, Nachtmystium will keep saying they’re black metal and sell Joy Division albums while Gorgoroth’s unsupported by controversy second album remains in obscurity. Death’s Scream Bloody Gore will get all the credit while Possessed is relegated to cult status and Sepultura to being the flag bearers of nu-metal instead. Bloodbath sells more than Dismember, Entombed, or Grave’s earlier works combined by member’s band associations (and chugga chugga riffs)… it never ends. I feel this site makes a lot of observations others probably overlook, like Nihilist initially bearing a lot of similarity to Motorhead and Discharge, bands maybe death metal fans don’t consider as having a connection to this music. But, with Cannibal Corpse being regarded as a “founding father” of the genre, I guess a majority of the truths found on these pages will be outright denied or just fall on deaf ears.

        1. Blake Jugg

          Right, but those that reported on Cannibal Corpse before they were big were silent voices, perhaps the same.

          Instead of wasting one’s time with maybes and what ifs, perhaps the clear sight is in both barrels. What is true, then what has succeeded in not being true – instead of what hasn’t succeeded with not being true.

      2. Brett Stevens Post author

        I think that’s a tactically intelligent reply. There are many bands out there which are making weird metal hybrids and they need to be brought to light, discussed, analyzed, named and popularized. Thus the vocabulary grows.

    2. Metal Command

      There aren’t enough bands like Imprecation and Disma making death metal that people can identify, and the audience has moved on, so the money has moved on. It’s just like how once Metallica made it big, the metal magazines dropped all their interviews with NWOBHM bands and went full-on interviewing every last shitty Metalliclone on earth, even if all those bands did was soak up my oxygen and put out two-note retard demos.

  • Ara

    If we guys really think we don’t understand the lineage of death metal, you are wrong. I am doing my best to keep the gloves on but the pretentiousness of this site is insane. So far this is the only site out of any review we’ve gotten that does not call us death metal. I’m sorry, but you guys are wrong and I will continue to defend our stance on it.
    Death metal has the ability to change. It is unfortunate that your collective understanding of music in general does not. 1991 isn’t coming back, and the bands that are celebrating it are doing a hollow job of doing so. It is not our fault that you can’t hear how the composition of a song like “Loathe” works. The funny thing is, the “pop” arrangements you seem to accuse us of relying on have far more in common with the early death metal movement. No pop music has progressive arrangements, and the frill free, verse chorus verse stuff you guys need in your death metal? That’s on the radio.
    Chuck Schuldiner would be spinning in his grave to know how close minded fans of his genre can be.

    1. Blake Jugg

      Your mockery of “death metal” is blatant in your sound.

      As I stated in a previous thread: please stop.

    2. bitterman

      Morbid Angel had some intricate songs on their first 2 albums. Hell, even Entombed’s Drowned isn’t verse-chorus, or Autopsy’s Dead. I guess Sinister’s first truly bad album has clouded your perspective. Cryptopsy 1998 and beyond is just a distraction fest that throws random melodies, grooves, and breakdowns at each other and calls it a day. Maybe some people need to mull over life’s great mysteries while jumpin da fuk up and gettin down, but death metal doesn’t, and Cryptopsy put in quite the effort to wiggerfy their sound at that point. What about the second Atheist album? Rush is a progressive band, and they’re on the radio too. “2deep for u bro” music is on the radio too without the need to pretend to be death metal. Also, you called death metal Chuck Schuldiner’s genre when his music was clearly inspired by Possessed, who released an album 2 years before any Death album. What about Repulsion, Master, and Sepultura, who predated Death, stylistically and release wise? You can blindly ignore history, but at the end of the day, death metal has long been an established genre. Face it, you aren’t a death metal band. You have more in common with the Burnt by the Sun or Deadguy bands of this world, and you play this style of music better than most. Nothing to shy away from.

      1. Brett Stevens Post author

        I think one way to look at this is: what influences inspire a band?

        Ara have mentioned Discordance Axis and later Cryptopsy. At some point in this discussion we’ve also mentioned Human Remains. At some point, this needs to be tracked back to the early post-hardcore bands and what made them sound the way they did.

        To me it seems clear that death metal is a musically distinct thing, and grouping other bands under the label will just make fracture. However, I don’t know what all the genre and subgenre names are beyond that. “Modern metal” seems to describe fairly well the mix of post-hardcore, progressive-ish hardcore, tech-deth, alternative rock, math metal and powerviolence that has sort of emerged from the ferment.

    3. Brett Stevens Post author

      For me, these are the archetypal death metal albums:

      * Incantation – *Onward to Golgotha*
      * At the Gates – *The Red in the Sky is Ours*
      * Dismember – *Like an Ever-Flowing Stream*
      * Morbid Angel – *Altars of Madness*
      * Hellhammer – *Apocalyptic Raids*

      Although there’s some verse-chorus action in there, there’s also a lot of song variation and use of multiple riffs to create a narrative. You can even trace that back to Slayer and possibly, Iron Maiden’s second album.

    4. Metal Command

      I think you understand the lineage of death metal. I’m just not sure your music is death metal.

      If you don’t want us to call it metalcore, because thanks to some people around here metalcore is like an insult, that’s fine too.

      Just don’t ask me to call it death metal, ’cause it isn’t. Sorry.

      I don’t think it’s bad at all however. People who are complaining about the quality are off-base. I think it’s better than the last Autopsy by miles.

  • Ara

    We’ll get right on that.
    Brett, we look forward to you reviewing our full length next year. I’m sure it will single handedly come to each of your houses and burn your Autopsy records, piss on your denim vests and steal your girlfriends.

    1. bitterman

      I’ve dealt with block parties before homeboy, my Autopsy albums aint going anywhere. Don’t trip on your Ion Dissonance sweatpants on the way over. Oh well, time now to sing along to my simplistic verse-chorus radio music…

      Zombie!
      Ritual!
      Zombie!
      Ritu-aaaewwwwlll!

    2. Brett Stevens Post author

      I’m looking forward to it as well. The instant I post the review, I’m making popcorn and going to sit back and watch the flame war. All of you (Ara, regular users, trolls) are welcome to come and by and celebrate the chaos.

  • Steve Brettens

    I remember a guy in a public bathroom told me something about a “glory hole” and that I should be more open-minded or somethin’. That sticking to my heterosexuality was being close-minded and stuff. That nowdays everybody’s trying it both ways or somethin’.

  • Erik

    Hello all. Erik, drummer for Ara here. First off, let me say that I appreciate the review. I appreciate that people see us, despite many shitty comments, as a band who is talented, good at what we do, but simply not your musical taste (to which there is no accounting, I hope you would agree). I appreciate the Human Remains comparison, as Dave Witte (their drummer) also played in Discordance Axis, and he is the reason I picked up drums in the first place. I also have appreciated those who have tried to actually remain civil in this discussion, albeit while beating the same dead-horse point dozens of times: by your rigid definition of what death metal circa 1984-1994 is, Ara is not a death metal band. What you mean to say is, we don’t sound like death metal from that time period. I actually agree with y’all on this point, though to deny that our sound is influenced by those bands comes off as more defensive posturing by trying to distance your perception of what death metal is from what we do. That’s fine, if you need that to feel safe. It’s kinda silly, but whatever. Everyone has weaknesses.

    Where I disagree with many of you, however, is that our music is stylistically similar to Korn, Entombed, Rush, Tool, and whatever other mainstream bands were mentioned between the two threads. We do not have pop structures. For the most part, those bands do (even Rush has choruses and condensed versions of their songs to fit in pop formats). We also have no interest in “jumping the fuck up” (Korn obviously did, we do not sound like them), despite what other bands you think we sound like (Cryptopsy, for example) may have. The “urban” aspect of our music is non-existent, and that is an incredibly inaccurate and inane interpretation of our music, obviously inspired again by your perception of our backgrounds as people, not musically. The insinuation that our music is “wigger” music is just plain fucking ignorant, and the use of that term is racist. Are you a racist? If so, you’re a total fucking idiot, and your opinion on the matter is based on personality defects (i.e. bigotry) and subjectivity, and not an objective stance on the music itself.

    It certainly seems like most of you are preoccupied with the following: 1) lumping bands like us in with some sort of “mainstream” or “hipster” sound, and viewing that sound as some kind of threat to your close minded, rigid, and inflexible interpretations of music, 2) letting your personal biases produce subjective definitions of genres, based on stereotypes you associate more with the individuals playing the music than the actual music itself (hate on Cryptopsy for their music, not how they dress), 3) making very broad assumptions about the songwriting elements and techniques that MUST be present in a band’s music in order for it to fit into a specific genre (you have already created several “genres”: “tech deth”, “modern metal”, “wiggercore”, etc.), while conveniently avoiding the fact that this approach to musical definition is an inherently slippery slope, which could actually isolate bands INTO THEIR OWN GENRES…which would be only a bit stupider than some of the pretentious comments, opinions, and attitudes I’ve seen here.

    I want to touch on the “hipster” thing for a moment- do any of you know us personally? If so, please enlighten me as to what *specifically* about any of us qualifies us as “hipsters”? What is the definition of a hipster anyway? Some guy in this thread actually used a common, logically vapid argument for death metal (“I can’t really define it, but I know it when I hear it cuz it’s on my CD rack and I make the rules about what death metal IS and ISN’T”), so I’m intrigued to see how much longer and to what extent some of you will follow your delusion that your own self-definitions of musical styles is actually deductive and not inductive.

    And then, to jump to another topic (you know, jumping around like our compositions do, to your ears), some guy up above tried questioning 1) if Ara/whatever genre Ara is should even be considered music, and 2) if whatever genre Ara is should even exist, which is easily one of the most profoundly uneducated things I’ve ever read anywhere…Seriously. I’m going to assume you’re not a musician and have no ear for music. Anything that makes a sound is musical, friend. Develop some pitch and rhythm and let’s see where you go from there. As for existence of the genre, well, tough nuggies for you, champ- it already exists, and its legitimacy is justified by its creation. You may hate what we do, fine. I hate what Korn does. I hate what deathcore bands do. They still exist and have every right to.

    Another point: someone on one of these threads called us “sell outs”. Ha, really? By making a record we’re all proud of and enjoy entirely of our own money, released DIY by our own initiative with no label, upon which we’ve made quite literally less money than I make during a regular work day at my day job? If that’s selling out, then please, lead me to the real payday here…We do this because we love it. Even if we got on a label, toured, sold records, etc., do you really think the metal genre is really economically viable (outside of the Big 4)? None of us would want to do what Megadeth or Metallica or Korn did, and again, insinuating otherwise is a personal, unwarranted attack on us as individuals…So whomever thinks that, fuck you for real.

    The bottom line is this: not speaking for Jerry, I could care less if the likes of y’all consider Ara death metal. I really don’t care. We are influenced by death metal, obviously. You know it, we know it. We have no desire to create a proxy of death metal circa 1985-1994. I’m willing to bet a bunch of you probably play in bands that do just that, offering nothing new to music or any genre covered on this site, which is fine by me…There is enough room for everyone’s expression in this world, despite belief to the contrary. What bothers me most is that this is deathmetal.org, a site that should be a solid foundation and introduction for those who aren’t initiated to this style of music, and most of you are doing a shit job of presenting yourselves as intelligent diplomats of the genre. All I’m getting here is a lot of cynicism, elitism, subjectivity presented as fact, arrogance, and intolerance. It’s sad and, frankly, really fucking pathetic, considering that my NYDM and other metal friends (of which I have literally hundreds, if not over 1000) worldwide are nothing like the lot of you. 100% shame on all of you.

    I’m sorry to say that this has been my first exposure to this site, and will surely be the last, as I have no interest in following along with a site that espouses these kinds of attitudes towards music. Flame away, call me some ignorant shit, talk shit about my bands from behind the safety of your keyboards, whatever you want. I’m not going to respond. I made my points. If you want to continue this ridiculous discussion, follow us on Facebook.

    1. bitterman

      “by your rigid definition of what death metal circa 1984-1994 is, Ara is not a death metal band. What you mean to say is, we don’t sound like death metal from that time period. I actually agree with y’all on this point, though to deny that our sound is influenced by those bands comes off as more defensive posturing by trying to distance your perception of what death metal is from what we do.”
      “I’m intrigued to see how much longer and to what extent some of you will follow your delusion that your own self-definitions of musical styles is actually deductive and not inductive.”

      By that logic, I suppose, not using the established past of recorded death metal as a point of reference, we can safely assume that Korn plays death metal because they stole a riff from Morbid Angel and were inspired by them. If Morbid Angel plays death metal, and Korn has 1 riff that is played by a death metal band on one song, with no other riffs resembling that one riff, they must be death metal. Then, if Limp Bizkit is influenced by Korn, who had one death metal riff on one song on their first album, we can also say Limp Bizkit is a death metal band, even if they came out half a decade later. They just don’t sound like death metal of that time period. EXTREMELY LONG SIGH… You’re not death metal, deal with it. It’s not an issue of the quality of your music, it’s just not death metal. Entitled Ascension sounds like Deadguy attempting a mash up between Brutal Truth’s Sounds of the Animal Kingdom and something from Cryptopsy’s And Then You’ll Beg, for example. More to do with a band like Burnt By The Sun (who by their music and own admission, aren’t death metal, also occasionally use Covenant era Morbid Angel doomy passages sometimes and blast). There are death metal “elements” in there, but there’s also math rock and post-hardcore. The same way Cynic’s Focus has “Death” riffs every now and then, it’s mostly a melange of jazz/fusion and prog. rock. Not death metal. Pestilence Spheres has riffs that resemble something from the previous album at times, it’s a fusion and metal crossover with death metal vocals. These bands admit it themselves to not be death metal bands at these points in their career. Tiamat used to play death metal. On a recent album, there is one doomy riff that sounds like something that could have been on a past album. Unfortunately, it’s on a gothic rock album. Doesn’t make it super evolved, “2deep 4 u” NEW, modern death metal. It’s a playing technique derived from another genre used in the context of something different, in their case gothic rock. Calling your music death metal is false advertising. Grrrr….

  • Cargast

    To Ara: I’m currently listening to your record, and there are two things which stop this from being Death Metal: firstly, your senses of melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, and structure are more reminiscent of music derived from hardcore (unless you want to define hardcore in a different way); secondly, there is no thematic cohesion in your songs, primarily because there are no recognisable themes, leading to a distinct lack of flow (this is why classical music is good).

    I’m not saying anything about the composition itself, simply how it sounds to me on first listen. Also, you got fucked over on your production if you want to be a Death Metal band: the vocals are unmistakeably ‘core (get a singer with power, this guy does a lot of that grunting that sounds like inhales/inhales; it sounds bad), the guitar tone is ‘core, and the drums lack personality (only the bass sounds good, and I like what you’ve done with this instrument, given the senseless chords flying all over the place).

    I think the overall criticism to be made, viewing this as an attempt at a Death Metal record, is that it just isn’t evil. It’s not awesome, it’s not sublime, it’s not inspiring, it’s just structured dissonance with an unappealing production (speaking as one of those guys stuck in the ’80s). It sounds like someone standing on a soapbox yelling about his schizophrenia, rather than the Ancient Ones tearing space a new one. Instead of rising above the human, this seems firmly rooted in human concerns and emotions. You can see this in the Fugazzi chords and emo melodies littered all over the place (both hallmarks of post-hardcore).

    OH GOD, I JUST GOT TO THE BREE BIT, YOU GUYS CAN FUCK OFF. No apologies: this sucks balls. You might want to listen to Seven Churches (technique), Morbid Tales (attitude), and Infester’s “To the Depths in Degredation” (EVIL) as a primer in real Death Metal.

    By the way: long, rambling melodies =/= good composition. I can find no anchor in any of these songs: all of the constituents simply float off into the heavens, falling apart from each other as the songs unfold.

    Mr. Stevens, I think this is example enough of what happens when you give people the terminology with which to describe their music as we describe ours: they produce something pitiful, and expect to be rewarded simply for being a “part of the genre”. Regardless of how justified it may or may not be, I blame the next ten years of this crap on you ; )

  • Concerned Citizen

    I’ve approached listening to this with an open mind and THIS SHIT SUCKS! I’ll take my timeless, mainstream Left Hand Path and 2112 over this Fugazi chords and dissonance bullshit. It’s lame and those bree vocals are so MYSPACE, like, oh my gawd. I have a genre name for this: afterthought metal.

  • fallot

    What would qualify you as hipsters is appropriating the outward form of something while ignoring its essence. I do not think you guys are hipster but this seems similar, funny enough, to what you have done with death metal. Why is it important that your music be called death metal anyway? The primary difference is your music is not fundamentally `melodic` like death metal is, not composed of musical phrases that evolve from each other and are used to create a cohesive song with definite goals. Your music on the other hand is a catalogue of difference, and primarly `rhythmic` to boot; a simple difference is that you might be able to whistle the essential musical `ideas` in an Incantation song, but not really in any of yours.

    The veiled insults and shaming language, along with the faux outrage (shame on all of you… seriously?) may lead people to call you hipsters however.

    What is your music about? What do you believe in? I am quite disappointed that the interview did not bring up any of this stuff. The motivations behind the music should be questioned, so we can gain an understanding of what drives people to make it. The talk about influences was interesting, but I would have liked to know what the band thinks The Blessed Sleep is even about? Why are your songs called what they are? Why do you use the `death metal` sounds that you use? Does the aesthetic match the content?

    1. billhopkins

      “a simple difference is that you might be able to whistle the essential musical `ideas` in an Incantation song, but not really in any of yours.”

      That’s it.

      1. Downs Comforter

        True, but I think that musicianship can bring a not-so-compelling essential idea to life. Example:

        http://www.values.com/inspirational-stories-tv-spots/100-Concert

        The pianist’s virtuosity takes the edge of a crowd ready to mercilessly sodomize the boy’s ass. Ignoring everything from 0:38 on, is the part the pianist is playing just a bunch of wank? Perhaps it adds atmospheric structure and harmonizing structure but not any essential structure?

        I’m going to go with this: The skeletal lack of “wank” in death metal is both artist choice and a necessity arising from a few factors, mainly the heavy distortion of the guitars. As we know that frees the artists up to focus more on the essential composition and makes death metal the beast it is. That being said, I defend “wank” in two instances: 1) when it is skilled and adds positively to the emotional landscape and 2) **when it creates a harmony with the “essential” melody which altars it essentially. In this case, you would not be able to whistle the essential musical idea unless the essential melody is matched with different harmonic scales over the course of the song.

        TL;DR: Not all wank is bad.

  • Ara

    Not only do you guys not know what death metal can be, you clearly don’t know what hardcore is either. It’s like when people think every Muslim is a terrorist because you’re so terrified and threatened by what can be a foreign concept to you that you have to pigeonhole it to further get up your own asses and thereby separate yourselves from what to you is a flawed way of thinking. We have to be hardcore because, well there’s no way it can be metal. And yes, you can’t hear the melodies BECAUSE you don’t understand the music. It IS deeper than you. And apparently, depth is the enemy of the death metal genre. Thank all of you for presenting the genre in the worst possible light and somehow appearing like the cro-magnon inbreds that outsiders think death metal fans to be.
    You guys are fucking retarded.
    Metal, a FORWARD THINKING genre, doesn’t want or need you.

    1. fallot

      Why are you seeing this as a denial of your metal status or whatever because of our personal tastes? It is very possible for you to be metal and sound way worse to this audience than you currently do…

      Where did the mention of depth come from? The depth of the music has not been discussed at all (to my personal chagrin). What is forward thinking? Is it different from backward thinking?

    2. bitterman

      Keep overlooking any facts on what was discussed here. Death metal is an established form of music already, has been for a long time. You can’t outright sound like Burnt By The Sun (metalcore), change the vocals, add some discordance grooves ala Immolation and call it death metal. The music being “2deep bro”? This is more like what people refer to as post-sludge metal but with trem picking and blast section inclusions. Doesn’t make it death metal. I’m sorry you can’t handle the truth. “Thank all of you for presenting the genre in the worst possible light and somehow appearing like the cro-magnon inbreds that outsiders think death metal fans to be.” I think your idiotic ‘composed’ music does a good job of doing that already. You can’t revision history and say, Cryptopsy Whisper Supremacy, Amorphis Elegy, Opeth Blackwater Park and beyond are death metal because it has death metal parts (bands would even disagree), etc. You are extremely ignorant of what anyone here is saying in a lame attempt to present your band under false pretenses. You trade sweep arpeggios for the wall of contrapuntal dissonance approach for what is another superficial display to lure the unwise who would be impressed that 2 instrumental tracks are harmonizing each other unconventionally. All the depth you add to the sums (parts) doesn’t amount to the whole song. It has a lot of low brow, tasteless discordant grooves (you can see the spin kicks, if not Oceano conventional, happening). “Metal, a FORWARD THINKING genre, doesn’t want or need you.” Maybe your easily impressed Pitchfork reading fans will be impressed by this “FORWARD THINKING” material that sounds like what Relapse Records was starting to churn out in 1999, but experienced music fans can see right through this lame parody of genre techniques. The first At The Gates has melody and depth. Anata has plenty of melody and can run At The Gates into the ground in terms of instrumental prowess, but the compositions themselves are stupidly simple even if overloaded with technique, existing only to hold the ideas in a neat “suite”-like package of flashy displays meant to check off easily conceived juxtapositions of emotional logic like items off a grocery list. About not wanting or not needing, well your style of music has been churned out since over 1997, and if nobody is buying into this bullshit nowadays, it’s because it’s still the same old bullshit as it was then. Don’t expect metal fans to be impressed with this stuff, much less death metal fans.

  • billhopkins

    “And yes, you can’t hear the melodies BECAUSE you don’t understand the music.”

    I think you yourself can ‘hear the melodies’ in a way similar to the way someone who composes a highly modernist piece of writing can ‘understand’ sentence x, despite sentence x violating the syntax/grammar of the language.

    E.g. x: The cat wears blue words all over lotion.

    Suppose the writer of this sentence knows what it ‘means’ (HE wrote it after all, with a private meaning in mind), but to communicate the meaning of this sentence to someone else by simply presenting the other person with the sentence is impossible because it does not conform to the rules of english grammar. The meaning is essentially private, and not reconstructable from the parts of the sentence (which is what grammar essentially facilities).

    Perhaps we can’t hear the melodies because the music is simply not hooking into any deeper ‘syntactic structures’ of music that enable it to be reconstructed by us from its parts. It’s just disconnected fragments of data. So the lack of understanding on our behalf may not be, if this admittedly wanky-sounding analysis is anywhere close to capturing the situation, our fault.

  • billhopkins

    “And apparently, depth is the enemy of the death metal genre.”

    If depth refers to the act of using a *particularly challenging* and *’unorthodox’* system of musical syntax to enable the construction of musical meaning in different brains, then no, depth is the essence of DM. My (perhaps our) point is that you guys perhaps don’t use any such system with sufficient understanding, or that your system is a different one to the one the best death metal bands use (phrasal/motif-based/thematic/narrative-based).

  • billhopkins

    To “enable the construction of musical meaning *across* different brains”, I should say,

  • Steve Brettens

    quote: “Thank all of you for presenting the genre in the worst possible light and somehow appearing like the cro-magnon inbreds that outsiders think death metal fans to be.”
    .
    You should know, you’re an outsider! Furthermore, why would you assume that we would care about what outsiders like you think of US? Thanks for the Cro-mags reference “The Age of Quarrel” is an awesome album!
    .
    Metal is a “forward thinking” genre??
    I’m sorry I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I’m old fashioned and stuck in the past. I still believe Classic Greek Literature is the best, I still believe old traditions/customs carry a wisdom not found in modern times and I still believe in the ancient classical death metal period as the best and one I love.
    .
    I believe in intolerance, arrogance, elitism and violence to protect and promote that which I love. The classic death metal period (even if unconsciously) strived for something worth preserving, something that was powerful/beautiful, something that is lacking in what “fans” now call “death metal”.
    .
    I will denounce the fake, false, ugly because I can, because it’s my duty, because that goal is more important than me.

    1. IAMHESSIAN

      Perhaps this is uncircumcised. The stuff that should’ve been cut off for the health as a whole, but instead it wanted to stick around and make things more prone to infection.

      I would go so far as to state this band as post-infected. This is where it’s pus-filled; about ready to bleed out, and quite possibly fall off.

  • TXFANBOI

    Please let me know when Ara tours to Texas! Both Brett and I will be there to support/or not support/or whatever! Do you guys like Shiner Bock? Howabout Lonestar?

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