(In early July, Andy Synn reviewed the 2011 debut album by the UK’s Ageless Oblivion — Temples of Transcendent Evolution — and today he follows that with this interview.)
Ok, so recently I conducted a back-and-forth email interview with David Porter (guitar) of current NCS faves Ageless Oblivion, where we touched upon everything from the line between atmospheric/brutal death metal and the joys of chasing cattle, to the perils and pitfalls of hanging around on abandoned military bases!
Because you might be something of an unknown quantity to a lot of our readers, let’s start off with the basics: Who are you, where do you come from, when did you first come together?
We are a five piece Death Metal band from Basingstoke in Hampshire UK. The band has existed 5 years or so with countless numbers of guitarists and bassists contributing over time. The band was started by Rich, Steve and myself from a mutual love for old school extreme music and a general tiresomeness of hearing the same two dimensional bands at every show we went to. We wanted to play something fast, aggressive and with no obvious breakdowns.
At the moment the band consists of:
Steve Jones – Vocals
David Porter – Guitar
Richard Wiltshire – Drums
Fahad Sperinck – Guitar
Sam Chatterton – Bass
Sam joined just after the recording of our album and Fahad was added to the fold only a month ago.
How would you describe yourselves to a new listener?
In terms of sound we are very much a Death Metal band with a fetish for atmosphere and general dirge. You could say we’re on a mission to blur the line between Death Metal and Neurosis style avant-garde soundscapes… How successful we are at that endeavour is entirely up to you.
You just released your first album via Siege of Amida records, how did that deal come about?
Rather unexpectedly! We went into the studio mainly under the desire for a recording of our songs that we could be proud of and to just see where that might take us. We had spent nearly two years writing the album and didn’t want to waste it with an amateur recording so decided to shed out and record the album in a professional studio. The attention from Siege of Amida was a definitely a surprise!
We do owe a lot to our friends in Dyscarnate. Rich and I had gone to see them at a show in London a month before we visited the studio to ask them what their experience was like and we ended up getting on with them really well. They were interested to hear the results of our session and forwarded one of our tracks to Jamie and Darren at the label. It really was surprising as we did not have a website or any kind of presence in the metal underground yet! The guys seemed to have faith in us though and enjoyed the album. We’re honoured to be a part of their roster.
Where did you record the album, and what was the recording process like for you?
The album was recorded at Foel Studio, Wales, by the undeniably talented Chris Fielding. Foel Studios is located in a rural area of Wales which meant there were absolutely no distractions (except some hilarious sounding sheep and some cows to chase around and swear at) and we could focus on the job at hand. The recording process itself was everything you could imagine it to be – Exciting, knackering, stressful, phenomenal, but above all rewarding.
It’s funny as you hear a lot of bands state in interviews that recording an album is the worse/most stressful aspect of playing music but every one of us that took part in the recording process can say with certainty that it was one of the best two weeks of our lives; nothing much compares to hearing your songs recorded professionally for the first time. We owe a lot to Chris Fielding in that respect and to the studio’s owner Dave Anderson for making the experience an enjoyable one and for providing a perfect atmosphere.
What was/is the writing process like for you as a band. Is it a full-band jam situation, does one member bring the majority of the material, etc?
At an average it takes about two months for us to finish a song. This isn’t us being half-assed about it though! We have written whole sets of songs before that we thought were not adequate by our standards and subsequently dropped them. We’ve also had major problems finding places to rehearse that wouldn’t kick us out or tell us to turn down. Thankfully we now have our own rehearsal room at an airfield so we imagine the writing process of the next album should be much quicker.
As for the writing process itself we generally put everything together in the rehearsal room. I will write a basic structure of a song to which everyone else will spit their venom on to and add sections which they think would work well. Lyrics and vocals are generally done by Steve and Rich once the song itself is completed.
Our approach to writing the album was a bit different than our previous efforts. We tried to think of the album more as a song in itself than a group of songs put together. We wanted to write something that expanded and contracted, was emotionally suffocating as well as fast and brutal. We did not want to write another standard Death Metal album… Instead we opted to see how far we could push the boat out when it comes to atmosphere/emotion.
Would you like to talk about some of the themes of the record? The sort of thing that is carried by the lyrics, and how they’re designed to suit the music you write?
The general theme of the album has a lot to do with the negative side of transhumanism and man’s general disregard for its own well-being and that of the planet. The music called for the lyrics to convey a sense of hopelessness and fear. Humans are after all a violent, ignorant and destructive sub-species of ape, yet we are still capable of using our compassion and intelligence to do very amazing things.
Let’s talk about your influences. Where do you pull the most inspiration from, and how are your influences now different to when you first started?
When the band first started we were generally influenced by old school extreme metal bands such as Morbid Angel, Deicide, Exodus, Mayhem, etc etc. In the band’s early days we hadn’t really settled on a genre we wanted to play, which resulted in us playing a more Blackened Death kind of metal. It was only after a while that we found ourselves being influenced by bands that weren’t afraid to shun the status quo and be brave enough to create music that you could tell THEY wanted to play (Akercocke, Decapitated, Nile are the best examples). That aspect seemed to connect with us a lot more than just wanting to be fast/brutal all the time.
When we came to write the album we found ourselves being influenced more by atmospheric bands such as Cult Of Luna, SUNN, Isis and of course… Neurosis. We thought it would be interesting to write a record that could mix the general speed and punishing riffs of Death Metal but also manage to incorporate the soundscapes and general terrifying atmosphere of these bands.
And what influences do you have in mind for the future (if you’ve thought that far)?
As for our influences at the moment and the future, it’s safe to say that it is constantly expanding. Lately we’ve found ourselves becoming more and more influenced by a lot of Doom/atmospheric/aggressive bands (Slabdragger, Latitudes & Converge to give you a few examples).
While we’re on the topic, are you already thinking about the next record and, if so, where would you like to go with it?
We have in fact already started the next record. So far the songs have been a lot more focused on creating a mood and a vibe of tension/release. We’re focusing a bit more on melody, although this doesn’t necessarily mean melody as in Iron Maiden twin-guitar style harmonies. We like melody in the hypnotic or generally claustrophobic sense.
Of course this is going to very much be a Death Metal record. We have written a couple of very technical songs and there is a general consensus within the band to add a bit more groove to the equation… but generally we’re aiming to write the darkest and most vicious record we possibly can.
You released a video for “Reclamation”, what was the shoot like?
Absolutely incredible. We started shooting the video at around five in the afternoon and kept going till one in the morning. As you can probably guess, by the end of it we were undeniably destroyed but we wouldn’t have had it any other way!
The video was directed by our now good friend Tom Cronin. Even though we hadn’t actually met before filming begun, we clicked instantly. It was an absolute pleasure to work with him.
I think the best thing about the shoot, however, was the location we were using. We managed to rent out an abandoned military base near Bournemouth for the night. The location is mainly used to film for TV and such. I think we were the first to do a full band video there.
I’ll always remember the owner of the studios coming up to us literally just before we started shooting to tell us that if we were too loud, that there was a pissed off old man across the way that would set his dogs on us!
Moving on to the live arena, what have been some of your favourite gigs?
Any one where things go well! We have a general curse in this band where if we are playing an important show then something will have to go wrong. Snapped strings, faulty kick pedals, busted monitors… You name it!
We always seem to enjoy playing in Cardiff though. You generally get treated very well in Wales and we always seem to get a warm welcome when we play there. We also played an insanely good show in our hometown back in March. And any show with Dyscarnate, Ancient Ascendant, Dead Beyond Buried or The Bridal Procession is likewise always going to guarantee some shenanigans.
Ok, so last two questions: what does the recent future hold for you guys ?
We’ve actually got a few pretty exciting months ahead of us. We’ll be sharing a stage with Decapitated this October on the Winchester date of their upcoming UK tour. Not only is this an opportunity to play a show with one of the bands that got us into this sub-genre but the venue in which we’re playing with them is only 150+ capacity! It will probably be one of the most intimate shows they are ever likely to play so we’re obviously really excited about that.
We’ve also got plans for a few shows in November with Latitudes and we’ll be touring the UK and Ireland in January with our friends in Dyscarnate and unholy death metallers Aeon! All of this while simultaneously trying to complete the writing process for the next record. Plans are to go into the studio to record that next year but we want to get on the road a lot more before then. So keep your eyes and ears peeled!
And finally, something I always try to ask bands at the end of their interview, what other bands would you personally recommend we check out?
I think collectively we would have to say these guys: Dyscarnate, Latitudes, Eagleburner, The Bridal Procession, Ancient Ascendant, Slabdragger, Cult Cinema, Dead Beyond Buried, Altar Of Plagues, Saturnian, Dragged Into Sunlight, and Light Bearer (there really is a shit load more but these are the first ones that came to mind).
Have a good listen to any of these guys and we promise that you will not be disappointed.