(Wil Cifer delivers to us this interview of Chris Grigg — founder, vocalist, and guitarist of Woe, whose new album Hope Attrition has just been released by Vendetta Records.)
Woe is one of my favorite American Black Metal bands, right along side Liturgy and Nachtmystium, though Woe stuck closer to more conventional metal, even after their move to Brooklyn. With their fourth full-length Hope Attrition, the band continues to plow into fierce territory, blending in flourishes of death metal and hardcore. I recently caught up with main man Chris Grigg to discuss the new album and the state of black metal in America, and the results went something like this.
I heard that in the process of making this album you guys scrapped almost an entire album’s worth of songs in order to settle on what became the final product. What determined what made the cut?
It might not have been a whole album, but pretty close. We got rid of everything that sucked. We just kept reworking the songs and if there was a transition that felt forced, a riff that didn’t feel just right, we scrapped it. We demoed this intensely, so at the end of the day what would be left going into the studio were the best that they could be.
Lyrically, does this album focus on the grim turn taken in the past year of the world around us or is it more of an emotional response to it?
Both. This is our most political album but I didn’t want it to be too topical. Could you imagine if death metal bands had been writing albums about Kanye West at the height of the hatred against him? It would be nonsense now, it only has value or meaning right then. So I didn’t want it to be like that.
Themes of oppressive fascism are timelier now than they might have been before, but that never goes away. I wanted a response to the world around me. There is no way for it to not be political.
Which is more constructive than crying on social media about it…
In two years we might see things a little differently. We will wait and see, but it’s both what is happening and how I feel about it.
I have detected a hint of hardcore on the new album and your other releases. Is this an influence of yours?
I got my start in South Jersey’s DIY scene, with more metallic hardcore bands influencing us like Cave-In and Dillinger Escape Plan…
I didn’t get into Converge ’til later but my friends were into them. It was that type of music that I was listening to when I was learning to play guitar and drums, so it stuck with me even though I haven’t listened to it in years.
What are your plans for touring Europe?
The whole thing pretty much revolves around Roadburn. We got that gig first, which will be great, and then we began booking some smaller shows around it. We are playing with Ultha, who are amazing and also really cool guys. We have been in touch with them online getting to know them. So, making music with positive people — what else could you want?
What did you learn from touring with Mayhem?
Well, that was a while back so I might be a little fuzzy on it. In some ways it was just like every other tour in that you show up on time, load in, hang out, and play music. The scale of the stages we were playing on was different. It was also the only really big package tour that we have done. We are used to playing more intimate stages. It was cool seeing Mayhem play every night.
Photo by Charnelle Stöhrer Photography
What are your thoughts on the current state of black metal in America?
I am not really as plugged into it as I used to be and try not to engage that much online. I try not to really invest too much mental energy in it, as it is something external that I can’t change, so I don’t have many opinions on it.
I think it’s cool that the scene doesn’t have to be a strictly underground secret anymore. There are people out there who probably think I am a horrible person for saying that but there’s nothing wrong with becoming more accepting of black metal being other things. It doesn’t have to look the same to everyone because it just doesn’t matter. I do have opinions of the direction it’s heading and I think it will be interesting to watch what happens over the next couple of years.
Something I do have some opinions about is the crossover between metal and politics. There has always been this contingent of metal that is conservative and thinks liberal politics are a sign of weakness, which is absurd. I wonder when and if these people are going to back-pedal once they see they are part of the system and have been supporting it all along. These guys, the right-wing metal fans who have been opposed to social change, they are going to have to come to terms that they have been supporting Christian fundamentalists this whole time, they have been pushing the conservative values of old men simply to be rebellious. They have always been part of the system, it just didn’t seem like it during the years of the Obama administration. How are they going to retract that in order to keep rebelling against the system?
So… I guess I do have some opinions about this after all.
Any plans to tour the States?
Right now there are only a couple of album release shows booked, but we are looking at what makes sense in regards to the other responsibilities we have with our lives and families as a band as a whole.
Hope Attrition on Bandcamp:
Woe on Facebook:
WOE ON TOUR
WOE with Inter Arma:
3/25/2017 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
3/26/2017 Saint Vitus Bar – Brooklyn, NY
WOE with Ultha:
4/13/2017 4/13/2017 Het Bos – Antwerpen, BE
4/14/2017 Hamburg Is Droneburg Festival @ Hafenklang – Hamburg, DE
4/15/2017 Vendetta Fest @ Tiefgrund – Berlin, DE [info]
4/16/2017 Conspiracy Of The Damned Festival @ Baroeg – Rotterdam, NL
4/17/2017 Nexus – Braunschweig, DE
4/18/2017 Club Famu – Prag, CZ
4/19/2017 Escape – Vienna, AU
4/20/2017 Doom Over Leipzig Festival @ UT Connewitz – Leipzig, DE
4/21/2017 Dudefest Festival @ Jubez – Karlsruhe, DE
4/22/2017 Roadburn Festival @ O13 – Tilburg, NL
I would like to be the first to state, unequivocally, that Woe are great, but Liturgy are fucking awful.
One of the best , If not THE best current American Black Metal Bands. I have grown to love this band more and more with each listen. I hope they continue their artistic ventures as I see them only getting better with each outing. Great interview!
Very much looking forward to seeing these guys with Inter Arma!
Really liked his final statements on black metal. New albums amazing. Best album of the bunch.
Woe with Inter Arma is gonna slap so hard. Sheesh. Envious!
I like these guys quite a bit, but this guy is walking a pretty thin line when it comes to discussing politics. I’d argue this interview pushed him past that line a bit with his odd remarks about what he feels “conservative” metal fans think or are rebelling against. He doesn’t quite seem to know what he’s talking about. Musicians are people too, and people have opinions, but the smart bands/artists are the ones that focus on their music and eschew the caustic world of politics.
Setting aside the issue of musicians commenting on politics, I actually thought his point was somewhat cogent. I have noticed a lot of people in black metal and metal in general that come from a conservative viewpoint and express it publicly, see that viewpoint and current associated political movements as counter-cultural and subversive – regardless of how dominant they are – because they see it as opposed to collectivist ideas or normative moral / social viewpoints. I think it’s valid to criticize that perspective, as neither viewpoint is intrinsically more conducive to the ‘sovereign individual’ and eschewing a movement that criticizes biases and systemic oppression won’t create ‘more freedom of the individual’ but instead perpetuate existing systems of power that limit those freedoms.
At least that’s how I understood what he meant, and I think it’s a very good point. At the very least, I appreciate the sentiment of ‘black metal and liberalism / social justice aren’t ideologically incompatible.’ For instance, if you have determined moral beliefs that align with social justice it’s not a weakness of self-conception to act on them / espouse them, nor is it even intrinsically collectivistic.