(In this new interview Comrade Aleks brings us an extensive discussion with Kat Shevil (ex-Blessed Realm), the vocalist/drummer of the British death-doom band Uncoffined.)
Uncoffined was raised on the ruins of the traditional doom metal outfit Blessed Realm in 2011. Blessed Realm existed as Tears from 1993 ’til 1994 and then the band acted under its blessed name ’til 2002. It was split without even a full-length album in its discography, but in July 2017 At War With False Noise released Doomography 1993-2002, a collection of demos and unreleased tracks.
Besides that, three ex-Blessed Realm members — Kat Shevil (drums, vocals), Gory Sugden (bass), and Jonny Rot (guitars) created the horror-movie-influenced satanic death-doom metal outfit Uncoffined together with guitarist G.Hall. Well, how much of death is in their doom? Do they still hold on to the traditions? Kat knows better, let’s give her the floor.
Hi Kat! How are you? What’s going on in the Uncoffined crypt?
Hell-o Aleksey! Things are ok here, just currently preparing and rehearsing for our first live show in 3 years which is next month (25th March) at Dreadfest in Leeds, a city a couple hours or so away from here.
It’s said that Gory and Jonny left the band in 2017. Have you found replacements yet?
The brothers both had to unfortunately and reluctantly step away from the band for the foreseeable future due to a death in their immediate family only a month and a half after our second album was released in late 2016 which affected them both immensely, and also has resulted in their mother needing a lot of care and help on a daily basis as a result, so they cannot dedicate the time needed to rehearsing, writing, playing live etc…
Myself and Glynn (Hall-guitar) decided to continue the band and start and write the third album as a two-piece. We have both contributed a lot of riffs so far to both albums, so the music style will not change at all and we decided to leave the door open for the brothers to return when they are ready to and use live members to replace them at shows, and we have enlisted the help of Daniel Hughes (Winds Of Genocide and Lucifer’s Chalice bassist) and a girl called Nicolete on lead guitar who hasn’t been in any name-bands so far and is a university student here who is into doom music and early Sabbath etc.
The first show with this line up will be the one I mentioned before at Dreadfest which will be our first show since the 2nd album Ceremonies Of Morbidity was released in October 2016 and the first live appearance of Uncoffined since May 2015 when we played at the Doom For The Doomed Fest in Birmingham with Moss and others.
How does the work on the third album go? I’ve seen that you’ve returned to rehearsals — what has driven you back to the rehearsal room?
So far we have one new song written which continues in the style of the two previous albums and it is just under 10 minutes long, so another doom/death epic has already been spawned by us working as a two-piece! I have plenty of new lyrical, song title, and riff ideas but I don’t want to reveal any of those at the moment. That will be more appropriate to do so closer to the time of the third album being recorded and released.
What drives us back into the rehearsal room? The overwhelming urge to craft more Doom Death Darkness!! We could have easily just split the band up after Gory and Jonny Rot had to step away from the band and it very nearly happened, but we decided to forge ahead as there is still much more I personally want to achieve with this band.
I felt that we were really just starting to come into our own on the second album and really are developing quite a unique style within the Doom/Death scene…which to be honest is mostly death metal bands playing slow, whereas we are a DOOM band with mostly traditional doom or early Sabbath-style riffs with morbid harsh death metal vocals and the odd burst of deathly Frostian / Winter style speed — mid tempo crushing morbidity! Hence the term we have used since the debut album – DOOM METAL OF DEATH.
Our riffs have much more in common overall with ’80s Candlemass, early/classic Trouble, Saint Vitus, Revelation, Dream Death, early Penance, early Cathedral, early Solitude Aeturnus, early Black Sabbath, Thy Grief Eternal etc…as well as early Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Winter, Hooded Menace, early Paradise Lost, Eternal Darkness, the doomier parts of Runemagick and Autopsy.
Back in the ’90s you played in the traditional doom metal band Blessed Realm. What drove you to create a death-doom band after its split?
I’ve always loved Doom/Death – Death/Doom since the early ’90s when I first heard the likes of Winter, Thy Grief Eternal, early Paradise Lost, Eternal Darkness, early Anathema, early My Dying Bride, etc… As have the other guys, especially the brothers who were in Blessed Realm, those guys are huge fans of early Paradise Lost, Winter, etc…When forming Uncoffined I wanted to play doom but in a much more sinister and morbid way. But like I said, 98% of our riffs are basically traditional doom metal style riffs anyway. If you put clean-sung vocals over most of them it would just sound like traditional doom metal.
Why don’t you want to incorporate some Blessed Realm songs into Uncoffined’s play-list? It would be a good example of how Uncoffined are close to the traditional doom scene.
Both bands have a lot of the same traditional doom influences but the sound of Blessed Realm was more hard-rockin’ and bluesy and more Doomrock in a lot of places overall (The Obsessed, Internal Void, Iron Man, Wretched, Unorthodox, Pentagram, Revelation, Trouble, Lost Breed, and Saint Vitus being some of our main influences), plus we were writing songs about very different subjects which have nothing in common with the overtly dark, morbid, satanic horror lyrics of Uncoffined.
The vocal styles of both bands are also COMPLETELY different. I couldn’t death-growl / scream over Blessed Realm songs and I have always said there will NEVER be clean sung vocals in Uncoffined, as I want to keep the vocal style in Uncoffined as dark, extreme, and deathly as possible. If I want to do full-on clean-sung vocals again in a band it will be with a different band or Blessed Realm.
I think A LOT of the riffs on both Uncoffined albums already show how close we are to the traditional doom scene. Like I said elsewhere, if you put clean-sung vocals over 98% of the riffs on both Uncoffined albums it would just sound like traditional doom metal. I dare say Uncoffined sounds more trad doom musically than a lot of these newer modern “doom” bands, who in my opinion are not that closely connected to traditional doom in how their riffs sound, how they write songs, how they utilise tempo changes (or in a lot of cases with modern doom, how much they lack in tempo / riff changes), whereas we approach songwriting in a VERY traditional doom way with Uncoffined. There’s plenty of riff and tempo changes for example, and we use the same kind of riffing approach.
Uncoffined – Ritual Death And Funeral Rites
Also, have you thought about returning Blessed Realm to life? I see that the Doomography 1993 – 2002 compilation, released in 2017 on At War With False Noise, has drawn people’s attention to the band’s legacy.
Well, it has been discussed between myself, Gory, and Jonny in more recent years about recording the full-length Blessed Realm album that was planned before the band split up and to record a bunch of songs that for one reason or another we didn’t record properly back when the band was active (including “Before My Eyes”, which appears on the Doomography 1993-2002 CD as a rehearsal recording), and it was also discussed that I would handle the drums as well as the vocals.
We all agree that those songs deserve recording properly, and there are some other older songs that never made it past the demo stage that we feel deserve a better quality recording. But as long as the brothers can’t commit to Uncoffined then the idea of recording a full-length Blessed Realm album will remain that, just an idea, but I do hope we are able to make it happen at some point. It is on the table, and when/if the time is right it will happen. It won’t happen in the immediate future, but the core members of Blessed Realm all agree that a full-length should be recorded. Now it’s just a case of waiting until the brothers can commit. I am still totally into the idea of recording a Blessed Realm album.
Uncoffined’s debut Ritual Death And Funeral Rites is a damn dark, distorted, and disturbing album. What was on your mind when you and the guys started to write the first tunes for it?
PURE DARKNESS AND EVIL!!!! I said at the time that I wanted to create the most MORBID sounding British doom recording since the Thy Grief Eternal On Blackened Wings demo from 1992, which to me sounds like a darker, deathly morbid, very early Cathedral!! We wanted to combine the heaviness, riffing, tempo changes, etc., of traditional doom metal with the total morbidity of classic doom/death with an old Hammer horror film type atmosphere, as some of those films from the ’60s/’70s just OOZE sinister dark atmosphere! And I think both aurally and visually we realised and achieved that vision.
The sound of these songs brings a heavy oppressive vibe. It’s sheer underground stuff in a wide sense, but it seems that it was planned though. In the end, the tracks look pretty natural… I would like to say “organic”, but your songs rather deal with the dead… However, how did you work out this sonic message?
We recorded the debut album with Bri, the guitarist in crust punk legends Doom, at Studio 1n12 in Bradford in Feburary 2013, and he really knows his heavy music and knows how to get a FULL and HEAVY CRUSHING organic sound in the studio. He played a BIG part in making that album sound as it does, as did Javier Felez who did the mastering; he was recommended to us by Raul the Memento Mori label boss when we agreed a deal with him to release Ritual Death And Funeral Rites via his label, and I am glad we trusted Raul’s opinion. Between Bri and Javier we came out with a great sounding debut album! Which is why we worked with both of them again for the second album Ceremonies Of Morbidity in 2016!
We already had a VERY CLEAR vision of how we wanted the recording to sound, too. It had to be HEAVY AND CRUSHING….like an old headstone falling on top of you and crushing your head!!!!
How did you collaborate with Bri and Javier in the studio? How much of their ideas and offerings did you put into both albums?
Well, Bri contributed his recording experience, he’s been around recording for a long time both with his own bands since the ’80s and recording bands over quite a few years. He’s VERY honest and will tell you if something sounds wrong or if he feels something needs redoing. He doesn’t just settle on a first take… if he feels you can do a better take then he will say so, and he pushed us a bit in places to better ourselves and do a better and tighter take.
Javi really knows how to bring out depth and the bottom end via mastering. He really has a keen ear for heaviness and his mastering technique really adds a CRUSHING end result to the final mix of a recording — it’s like “BOOM!” a brick in the face.
Speaking about the lyrics… they deal a lot with horror movies and abuses some satanic / ritualistic cliches. How much of you is into it? Why do you tend to tell these violent stories?
Our lyrics deal with a mix of old horror film influences and my general interest and fascination with traditional satanism, occultism, old sinister folklore legends and ghost stories, death, darkness, and horror. I have been fascinated with folklore legends and ghost stories since I was a kid, so songs such as “The Devil And The Old Cursed Tree” on the debut album and “Ill Omens Of Death And Disease” on the second album deal with that subject.
“Ill Omens Of Death And Disease” is about a headless horseman that rode on a black horse and which appeared out of a pond to forewarn of impending death and disease in the village next to the town where I grew up. Once they had slowly walked around the village they would return back to the pond until the next time they were to forewarn of death and disease. Quite a few villagers in olden days claimed to have witnessed these harbingers of death.
“The Devil And The Old Cursed Tree” on our debut album was about another sinister old local legend/story from the same village, one that I’ve been interested in for years.
It’s about an old oak tree near where I lived when I was younger that was struck by lightning in ancient times ( nicknamed “The Blasted Oak”) and locals back then in a time when superstition was rife feared it, saying it was cursed by the devil and that if you walked around it 9 times on a moonless dark night the devil would appear, and if you walked around it another 4 times (making it 13 in total) it was said that the devil would speak to you and tell you your fate after death and where you would be headed for the rest of eternity….
The tale goes that a lot of people have attempted it but generally wavered at the 8th time before they have a chance to see if the story about the devil himself appearing at the old oak tree is true or not. The whole thing had to be carried out in silence though, without any speaking…. the less brave avoided it completely and wouldn’t even dare walk past it… so the story/legend goes.
“The Horrors Of Highgate” is also based on various ghost stories and legends of Highgate Cemetery in north London such as The Highgate Vampire and the story of ghostly tolling bells being heard from the chapel in the middle of the night, as well as various specters and ghouls being seen in and around the vicinity of the cemetery years ago when it was mostly untended and overgrown and before it became the cleaned-up tourist attraction it is today.
Songs like “Twisted Shape Of Creeping Terror”, “Plague Of The Uncoffined”, and “Awakened From Their Dormant Slumber” are more about zombies and the dead returning to life and seeking human victims, definitely strong influences from films such as The Plague Of The Zombies, Night Of The Living Dead, and Burial Ground in the lyrics and concepts of those songs.
Then songs such as “Ritual Death And Funeral Rites”, “Blasphemous Execration Of Holy Ground”, “Night Of The Witch Childe”, and “Ceremonies Of Morbidity” are very influenced by black masses, ritual murder and sacrifice, clandestine covens of witches and devil worship, and traditional satanism.
I read a lot of satanic and occult literature in my spare time too.
What draws your attention to satanic concepts? How do you differentiate for yourself this aspect of Uncoffined’s songs and the one which deals with movies, the one which is rather entertaining? What kind of answers does satanic and occult literature gave to you?
My personal interest in satanism and the occult is very personal. I am constantly educating myself about those subjects via reading books and via a close friend and mentor in the black arts who is a master magus and a longtime member and initiate of the O.T.O. and who practices black magic and rituals on a regular basis. He has kindly gave me access to his vast personal occult library, so I am indulging in some heavy and intense reading about real rituals and rites.
I’ve always been interested in such subjects and been interested in learning more about different aspects of satanism and the occult and its various currents and branches. Anti-cosmic / chaos satanism is a current I am very interested in, as well as traditional satanism and demonology and reading about occultism in different cultures.
Dennis Wheatley knew about his subject, but that came from a meeting with Aleister Crowley and apparently The Devil Rides Out is based on him and the knowledge he gained from Crowley about the black arts. Wheatley also met other experts on the subjects he wrote about, but his meeting up with Crowley is the most famous of those.
Uncoffined – The Horrors Of Highgate
By the way, how much of Blind Dead is in your lyrics? It looks like you’re really into that series, though I know that some songs are based on the Devil Rides Out movie and The Plague Of The Zombies.
As I said “Twisted Shape Of Creeping Terror” is based on the old Hammer film The Plague Of The Zombies, which is the only zombie film Hammer made in their classic horror years, and we used samples from that film before and after the song. A great film with such a dark, morbid, and sinister atmosphere. A very spine-chilling film. “Ritual Death…” is based on The Devil Rides Out and the subject of black masses and satanic sacrifice in general. I love the Blind Dead films, but I haven’t based any lyrics on any of those films. I did use a sample from Tombs Of The Blind Dead before the song “Ill Omens Of Death And Disease”.
Cathedral and Hooded Menace have already written songs and lyrics based on the Blind Dead movies, but I wouldn’t rule out basing a song on one of the movies too with Uncoffined in the future.
The following album, Ceremonies of Morbidity, appeared in 2016. What’s the story behind this record? Did you intend to add something new this time in Uncoffined’s sound?
The album followed the same musical and lyrical direction as the debut album, as you can see from the lyrics on both albums discussed above, but I think we really honed and developed our style a bit more on the second album and really took things up a level in terms of songwriting, morbidity, and epicness. We didn’t intend to write a 60-minute long album and make every song over 10 minutes in length, that is just the way it naturally turned out, but it shows a marked progression in overall songwriting and playing whilst staying 100% true to the original musical and lyrical concept of the band. We wanted to create a very strong follow-up, as the debut album was so well-received, and I definitely think we achieved that.
What’s the best recognition you have ever received as Uncoffined?
Just having our albums out there worldwide and available in different countries is great recognition, but also having people in bands such as Hooded Menace, Runemagick, etc., being into our music and albums is also some of the best recognition. Also, Karl Willetts (Memoriam, ex-Bolt Thrower) regularly wearing our band shirts onstage at festivals and gigs with Memoriam in the past two years is also some of the best recognition we can possibly receive, as well as getting good reviews in magazines such as Kerrang!, Terrorizer, Iron Fist via well-respected journalists is also great recognition.
Also John Brenner giving us his seal of approval for our cover of the Revelation song “Frustrations”, which appeared on our debut album, is also great recognition. It actually doesn’t get better than that..
There’s a lot of movie samples in this album. Can you name these films? And can you tell us whether Ceremonies of Morbidity is a conceptual release?
Ceremonies… is not a conceptual release as such, but it does continually deal with the theme of HORROR, but in its different forms… from old ghost stories via zombie apocalypse scenarios to macabre satanic black masses and murderous devil worshippers! The samples used on this album are from Twins Of Evil, Night Of The Living Dead, The City Of The Dead, Tombs Of The Blind Dead, and Burial Ground (a.k.a The Zombie Dead). All personal favourites of mine, and the samples fitted nicely with the songs… in a very morbid way.
Why did you choose old school horror movies as a fundament for your lyrics? There were not-bad movies in ’80s, there’s the expressive Italian horror cinematography… and some people dig the sadistic stuff like Hostel or Saw. I remember there was a crazy abstract movie Society in 1988 or 1989, and a bunch of new movies (The Void, Witch) are heavy things, too.
I have a HUGE love and passion for ’60s/’70s horror movies and the basic but effective way a lot of those Hammer films and other horrors from that period, etc., were made… they created a sinister dark atmosphere that is lacking in a lot of modern horror movies in my opinion.
There’re some great early ’80s horror films too, but my inspiration and influence from horror movies doesn’t extend beyond then. Old school zombies, vampires, ghouls, witches, satanists are still the best!!
Those old films are timeless classics, very “of their time” but that is what makes them so appealing… they lack an overuse of special effects, instead relying on creating a dark sinister creepy atmosphere which makes your spine tingle. Sometimes less is more. Those ’60s/’70s/early ’80s films are a good example of that.
What do you feel performing Uncoffined’s songs? Do you see yourself just as a narrator or as one side of the conflict?
I channel my inner Chris Reifert and bring out my dark side! I see it as just telling dark and sinister stories overall, although I am deeply into and interested in satanism, black magic, and occultism and spend many hours reading books on such subjects, but our songs are not based on specific rituals or advocating human sacrifice.
How do you value the band’s prospects? Do you feel yourself comfortable in the underground?
It will be interesting to see what happens after our third album is released…. I was hoping to play live more after the release of the second album but so far that hasn’t happened due to some very unfortunate and valid reasons… it’s not because we have been lazy and not bothered about playing live… so now we are playing catch-up on promoting that album in the live environment…. and along with writing for the third album, that is very much an immediate focus.
With what kind of bands have you already shared the stage? Moss officially stated that they’re disbanded, so who else could help you on future gigs?
We have so far shared the stage with the likes of Hooded Menace, Moss, Solothus, Bonesaw, Coltsblood, October Tide, Forgotten Tomb, Khost, Deviated Instinct, Spartan Warrior, Risen Prophecy, Horrified, Iron Void, Dragged Into Sunlight, The Wounded Kings, amongst others.
I’d love to play more shows with Hooded Menace; a tour with them would be a perfect pairing in my opinion.
Also sharing a stage with Candlemass, St. Vitus, Trouble, and Runemagick would be something special! Playing outside of the UK is something I’d also really like to do with Uncoffined, but the conditions and logistics have to be right.
Okay, Kat, thanks for the interview. I hope that you solve all the issues soon and find some time to deal with the third album. Good luck with Dreadfest in Leeds! Any final words for our readers?
Thank you for your interest in the band Aleksey! We are ready to rise from our dormant live slumber and spread our black wings further and unleash our DOOM METAL OF DEATH to more audiences and unsuspecting ears.
DOOM OR BE DOOMED…TO DEATH!