Maybe it's the weather, which seems to be the one constant source of upset we can rely on here with one season dribbling barely noticed into the next. Maybe it's the economy, as money accumulates and evaporates like stale air and jobs wither on the vine. Maybe it's the endless corruption of priests and politicians that paint our world-view in ever-deepening shades of black.
Whatever the reason, there seems to be a relatively constant supply of varied and interesting Doom bands bubbling up out of our local cess-pool with satisfying regularity.
From the stately old guard of Mourning Beloveth, Graveyard Dirt and even the brief blaze of Arcane Sun to the more recent likes of twin-bass Sludge primitives War Iron, the Titanic heft of Slomatics, the rotten Doom/Death of On Pain of Death or the hybridising Grind/Doom violence of De Novissimis, there has rarely been a shortage of low down rotten noise for local masochists to be flattened by.
A few new noxious bubbles have surfaced in the swamp lately, coughing up more dark and dismal weirdness for us to wade through.
From the most recent likes of Funeral Doom oddballs Abbotoir to the mind and body crushing Sludge hell of Nomadic Rituals, from the soaring astral Goth-tinged Doom of Venus Sleeps to the primal and pounding otherworldliness invoked by Tome and from the obscure harsh noise of íweriu to the granite hewn might of Occult Stoners Weed Priest, there is some fine and filthy exploration being undertaken of late.
I slipped into my waders, grabbed a sharp stick and went poking into the gloomy, lightless crevices of our little Doom scene to see what oddities stirred in the darkness.
Nomadic Rituals are a new name on the local scene. What's the background? Who are you guys and what drew you to make this sickeningly heavy filth?
At the end of last summer we were all brought together by bassist and vocalist Craig. While we had all played in different bands in the past, none of us had played together before.
We came together with a vague idea of what we wanted to do and how we would achieve it, but right from the start we knew we wanted it to be as slow, low and heavy as possible; it really just progressed from there.
It would be fair to say we collectively have a huge range of musical influences, but we’ve certainly taken a lot of inspiration from the likes of Conan, Sunn0))), Mastodon and local giants War Iron.
There seems to be a lighthearted approach taken towards the naming of songs. What themes or band philosophies do you have?
By that you are probably referring to the song title Don't Fuck with Giants. We started out with a somewhat mythological theme (a bit obvious, we know) inspired by old myths and legends and occult fantasy tales of huge, heartless Giants and Titans. The only thing we can say about it is that it was at least going to be slightly more vague than straight up chain mail and dragons.
'Don't Fuck with Giants' was the first song we wrote and we laughed about the idea of it sounding like “BIG things crushing little things” so Giants seemed appropriate, Giants that hate humans for the stupid shit they do, that is… It was somewhat satirical.
We do have other songs which attempt to address subjects like life, atheism, a general despair at humanity, the state of society and modern culture, however vague and obscure that perspective is presented.
As individuals we would certainly consider ourselves lighthearted; we can only take ourselves seriously to a point. Some bands have this need to put on a front to whatever cost by presenting themselves as something they most likely are not.
We get it, but what fascinates us is seeing how the listener interprets a band on how that band presents itself, musically and visually. We believe that certain actions should have an underlying purpose or meaning, and alternatively at the same time, certain actions should be meaningless. Interpretation can be very subjective.
Atmosphere is an important consideration when creating nasty, dark music so are you concerned that jokey lyrics might be a turn off for people or is sonic bludgeon the most important aspect?
We don’t view our lyrics as particularly “jokey”, especially not compared to other bands such as Weedeater. Some stoner and sludge bands tend to focus on 70's horror movies or fantasy writers like Robert E Howard or HP Lovecraft and we don't view ours as a million miles from these, so far at least anyway.
However, there’s enough ambiguity there for us to acknowledge that someone might interpret them like that.
If it turns people off, so be it. We aren't trying to win any music awards, we just want to do what we want.
Generally it is something we have moved further away from on later unreleased tracks. As we continue to write more songs, the lyrics have certainly progressed to reflect the maturing of the band. We promise to be more serious in the future.
As for sonic bludgeoning, it isn't the single most important thing but it is certainly a defining factor, however, we do try to keep the delivery of lyrics as caustic as possible as well as keeping the riffs heavy, nasty and free from groove. We enjoy trying to write music that has a physical presence which is to be felt as well as heard (especially live).
We may not have perfected our art yet but it is something we constantly think about while trying to progress. If we like it ourselves, it is usually a good start.
What have you guys got in store for us next?
First off, we are desperate to get recording our first album. It was intended to just be an EP with a re-recording of the demo, but we added a couple more tracks to give people something new. We plan on releasing it on CD with some nice hand printed packaging and digital download. We do also have something very special planned for a (very) limited edition multimedia run of the album, more info will be revealed in due time.
Next up, we have been talking with Matt Salters from Tome about doing a split, but other than that we have no more details to give but it is something we will be looking forward to doing.
In addition to all this, we will be staying with our DIY beliefs and will be screen printing some long awaited merchandise and finally, we will be doing more gigs, maybe some more “secret” gigs, and hopefully manage to venture out of Belfast if anyone would have us.
Abbotoir is the latest rotten visage to emerge from the gloom of Irish Doom. Give us a bit of background to the project and what the main impetus was to play this bleak, desolate sounding racket?
We formed Abbotoir on the first day of 2013, with the aim to push the doom that most of us were familiar with to a harsher, malicious and more punishing level.
The name is odd. It’s a bit silly, if I'm honest, and there is also the issue of the pre-Hexxed band Abattoir to consider. What does it mean to you?
Abbotoir symbolises the destruction of established structures and norms that surround us as human beings. The actions of others outside the band do not affect any decisions made by us. If the phrase is to be taken literally, we’re a slaughterhouse for abbots.
Your single song demo 'Cutting the Latter' is a hefty piece of Funeral Doom, the likes of which hasn't really been displayed much in recent years. What bands influenced you? Do you feel that this type of ultra-bleak Doom has been overlooked in recent times?
A large proportion of what we write is written compositionally as opposed to a rehearsal room environment, within complete isolation. As such, the music relies more on feeling than any particular individual influence. In particular, bands such as Swans, Portal, Black Sabbath and Disembowelment have a substantial influence on our overall creative process.
Is it important for a band this dark to have a philosophy or unifying theme to work with or is it the music that matters?
Within Abbotoir, the voice functions more as an atmosphere. Directing individuals with lyrics is not our primal aim. Nevertheless, they are important for Abbotoir’s continuing work for illustrative purposes. Musical and lyrical themes are centred on the total malevolent destruction of the human race and all its creations.
Tome have lately been building a presence in the local scene. Tell us a bit about how the band came together and why you want to play this atavistic sounding Blackened Sludge.
We started Tome at the beginning of 2012 after a few years of playing in bands of one form or another. At first the drive was to play longer, less complex songs than we were used to; something primitive that would allow us to take a step back as musicians.
I don’t think there was any real intent to incorporate a black metal influence but I suppose it naturally crept its way into our sound because we’re all fans of the genre. It’s probably much more noticeable in the newer material.
Your song titles and artwork hint at interesting matters from 'beyond'. Give us a bit of background on your themes and what gets the creative juices flowing for you.
I enjoy reading about primal mysticism and ritualistic scenes are generally what we go for in terms of the atmosphere of the music, lyrics and art.
Your sound is huge but mercifully you don't just rely on pure amp power and actually manage to write riffs too. What is your aim with the band? The subtle BM influence would suggest there is more to the band than the bludgeon factor.
Thanks, we definitely aim for as dense a sound as possible when we record and play live; the kind of sound that just devours everything around it. There’ll always be bands who can play louder and slower so it’s never been a goal to out-do anyone else in terms of ‘amp or riff power’, it’d be useless to even try when you’re in a local scene with Slomatics, War Iron and Nomadic Rituals.
I’d like to think we create a semi-hypnotic feeling, with a tower of noise subsuming everything while the riffs twist and pull people who are listening; a ceremonial atmosphere. Those are definitely the qualities I enjoy in a lot of doom and black metal songs.
What can we look forward to from Tome in 2013?
Faster songs. Hopefully a new demo or EP, as well as a split with another local band and gigs dotted throughout the year.
Íweriú have a difficult enough sound to pin down, one that flirts with a few different genres. What was the impetus to start this project and what are you trying to capture with your unusual music?
I think the initial plan was simply to make some nasty noise and to vent certain emotions through the expression of sound. Although that is an ideal that remains strongly within the band today, it has progressed quite a bit. We strive for a certain feeling or atmosphere when we create music as we all come from different backgrounds so we attempt to forge our own sound that we can each connect with on some level.
There is a very apparent sense of unease and grittiness in your song titles and also in the sound and aesthetic of the band. It speaks of physical and mental degradation, debasement and possibly a search for ablution. Am I in the right area there?
Indeed you are!
There are a lot of esoteric themes woven into the lyrics. Often they have double meanings but mostly tend to dwell on areas which strive for cleanliness or purity through encroachment in an attempt to expand consciousness and gain spiritual empowerment.
These topics are often confronted with something of a schizophrenic nature. The problem with expanding your consciousness is that you can expand easily into the more hostile, dark and unknown territories of the human psyche, and it's easy to get lost there. The strive for empowerment is rampant, but it is being pursued through malice and revulsion.
You decided to release the demo as a digital download. For me it is a shame as the physical artefact lends a certain authority or fixedness to the finished work. Why have you decided to veer away from a tape or CD release? Will you work this way again in future?
It is something we considered but our wallets wouldn't allow us at the time. We still might do it at some point but I think for now our main focus will be on the next release which should definitely see a physical release of some form this year.
What can you tell us of any new work you have under way? Can we expect a further descent into the crippled, decaying depths of the human psyche?
Our second demo has been recorded and is currently in the mixing stages. I think it should show a slightly more evolved band. Probably more demented too! At the moment we are writing new material which is sounding more pissed off than anything we've written so far but we'll hold off a while before subjecting anybody to it.
Weed Priest have been on the go for a couple of years now. You recorded a demo but it never got a proper release as far as I can tell, yet it is an impressively heavy slice of Reverend Bizarre, Electric Wizard and Cathedral inspired Doom with a nod to Celtic Frost noticeable, too. Why not release it? Tell us a bit about those songs and how they came together.
There were eleven songs uploaded to Reverbnation and Youtube. Two of them were covers (Led Zeppelin and Kyuss), the rest was original material. Most riffs were written by Adam even though we all contributed to the creation process.
We recorded all of them (and more) during rehearsals mostly as tracks we can practice to individually and also to have set structures (as opposed to improvisation / jamming that we do a lot of too). People kept asking us if we have anything recorded, so we uploaded some of it online, and later burned a few CDRs.
Six of the above mentioned songs were later properly recorded and made it to our self-titled debut album (available on Bandcamp). We took our time with it, experimented with different equipment, recorded in different locations (including a Franciscan church in Limerick and Dysert O'Dea castle in The Burren) and only released it when we were all happy with the result.
We already have new material – enough for a second album. These new songs are co-written by Adrian and Adam and depart even further from the usual Stoner/Sludge genre standards. We're polishing them now in rehearsals, will soon play them in gigs, and hopefully release them as another album before the end of 2013.
All of our songs (especially new ones) were born out of very eclectic pool of influences, from Blues to Black Metal, but mostly we follow aesthetic traditions of down-tempo psychedelic Stoner Sludge Doom Metal.
What is the story behind your name? It suggests something more Stonerish or Sludgey, belying the sheer dense weight and darkness you muster, particularly in the live setting. Who/what is the Weed Priest? Tell us about the ideas you explore in your lyrics. Is it important to have some kind of message or even to have an outlet for the darker aspects of your lives and personalities? Maybe it's all just cars and bongs?
Cars and bongs kick ass! So does Weedeater and Bongzilla. But Weed Priest is more of a dark beast spawned in Lovecraftian depths by three very different individuals.
The way people describe things and express themselves through music, and art in general, was always important in trying to understand humanity itself. Religious experience (“revelation”) and psychedelic experience (“tripping”), esoterics, mysticism, meditation, shamanism, the occult, the supernatural, the transcendent, the non-ordinary states of consciousness, the attempts to overcome the feeling of separateness with the universe – all of these concepts are very closely related, one can say these are just different sides of the same coin.
Also these particular fields of interest were strongly reflected in the musical and lyrical creations of giants on which shoulders we stand (Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Electric Wizard, etc.). Having all that in mind both name “Weed Priest” and the themes of our lyrics, ie. occultism, magic, witchcraft, necromancy, psychedelic experience, death etc., seem to be logical choices in our creative course.
It can be said that we treat both music and use of certain substances as a ritual, a ceremony, a gateway to another worlds.
We also follow another tradition of taking a band name that is also a tribute or a “nod” to other artists' work (e.g. Paradise Lost – J.Milton, Dopethrone – Electirc Wizard, Boris – Melvins, Burzum – J.R.R.Tolkien, Acid King – D. St. Clair, etc.) – “weed priest” is mentioned in Sleep's epic “Dopesmoker” and High on Fire song “Baghdad”.
Sometimes we refer to the creation of both music and lyrics as channeling, as in channeling messages from entities beyond our physical world, or being in certain states of mind in which we can close our eyes and hear the music and words as if played and uttered by somebody else. The composing then becomes only a process of writing it down and structuring it. (It could be appropriate to mention here that modern neuroscience actually refers to the “self” as just an illusion).
All lyrics are written by Ragas and Adam – both non-native English speakers, and we often use what our friend Luther 'Finlay' Veldmark calls Metal English instead of a proper grammar and such.
Venus Sleeps recently emerged with a strong, unique two-track demo. Your sound draws from a pretty wide range of influences as far as I can tell yet it still retains cohesion. What was the main impetus behind the creation of the band?
The force which drove the creation of Venus Sleeps was a need to hear the songs which I'd written completed. I've always written the vast majority of my songs with the sound of a full band in mind, they are not songs which I could ever sit down and play unaccompanied on an acoustic guitar, they could only ever sound complete with bass, drums, and all the guitars and sounds that I imagined and wanted them to have.
When it became apparent that I was pushing the band I was a member of in directions that they didn't want to go I found myself alone with the songs so to speak, so I accumulated the gear and software I felt was required and gradually the pieces of the puzzle came together.
Completing the demo as a one man project released me of any expectation or consideration for others so to speak, and maybe this added to the cohesion of my influences, but the aim had always been to be part of a band and as such I chose a band name and hoped that the recordings came across as such.
I would like to think that there is a wide range of influence at work within Venus Sleeps. I enjoy most genres of music, Blues, Folk, Rock, Electronica, Ambient, and of course Metal and nearly all of its sub genres, especially Doom.
I would hope that Venus Sleeps is, or eventually becomes a sound which contains elements or influence from all or most of these, as diversity is important to me in the creation process, it can only breed more ideas.
What ideas are at work in your lyrics? Do they have any specific themes or personal meaning?
The lyrics are extremely personal, and I see them as an extension of the emotion I am trying to convey through the music. It's not a particular decision I made nor do I set out to do so, I just find it impossible to write and form lyrics or ideas about subject matter which I have not experienced, witnessed, or had impact unto.
Depression, frustration, anger, lust, love, these are the themes that seem to crop up any time I put pen to paper. Life provides all the Doom subject matter I could ever want, people and life interest me far more then fantasy and death. Playing guitar & singing has always been about expressing my feelings in hope of expelling them or at least getting them out of my conscience.
I also aim to and would hope that the lyrics are loose and vague enough to be completely open to the interpretation of the listener, that they may and can be applied to the experiences and circumstances of others and thus contain personal meaning for them.
You are putting a full lineup together at the moment. How is the search for members going and what are your plans for gigs? Have you considered how you would ideally like to present the band to the public?
Currently the search for a full lineup is on hold whilst I complete the next set of recordings. I feel it would be an advantage to have an amount of material in place that could be utilised straight off by any new collaboration.
There is certainly a want within me to try and put together a full lineup, fueled by a several desires. From the exchanging and cross pollination of ideas, the spontaneous happenings and full sound of jamming in a rehearsal space, the addition of focused bass and drums and the advantages and talent that can be applied in those areas that I do not have to better the sound, not to mention the amount of time saved in having those roles filled.
The reaction to the demo within MI & Bandcamp and the queries about gigs is also a major factor, I have always loved playing live but had never considered the possibility that there would be an interest in hearing this music live.
In this respect I don't need to be pushed, there are so many great event organisers and so many great Irish bands to playing at the moment that the gigging scene is something I'd love to jump into and be involved in at some stage I'd be lying if I said I'd thought about how to present Venus Sleeps to the public, the music comes first and foremost and it's through the music, be it on tape or hopefully the stage that I wish Venus Sleeps to be presented to the public. Any imagery or artwork which I use will only be there to support what's contained within.
You have left yourself with plenty of possibilities for further exploration in future. Have you any new songs in the works?
Exploration is key to the sounds and songs which we hope to record in the future. For Venus Sleeps to have, maintain, and expand, an original sound is not only important to us but it's fundamental to the core enjoyment of the music process for the band. Thus our aim is to follow as many possibilities and paths as possible to enhance the songs and music whilst maintaining the cohesion you referred to by applying basic core band tonal values.
We've four new songs in progress at the moment, and I would say they range across a mix of influences again whilst very much remaining in the accessible category. It's hard to pin down exactly what they may end up sounding like at the moment as I am constantly accumulating new pedals and equipment and hearing new bands and sounds that have influence on me.
Our aim would be to have a new release composed of six or seven tracks recorded before the end of the summer and hopefully have the capacity and opportunity to get up on stage around the country to play them sooner rather than later.
– Interviews by Andy Cunningham ::: 25/03/13