(Comrade Aleks brings us this interview with Andy Clarke of The Crawling from Northern Ireland.)
Lisburn-based death/doom outfit The Crawling have been philosophizing on the themes of depression and misery since 2014, yet their debut full-length record Anatomy Of Loss, released by Grindscene Records in 2017, sounds like a full-scale anger-management course. Seven songs with an ideal total running time of 45 minutes will draw you in to an aggressive and bitter mid-paced death/doom nightmare. The Crawling are pretty melodic, but these melodies are razor-sharp and effective as a knife; besides that, the lyrics are quiet realistic. There’s not anything unnecessary on this album.
Do The Crawling have something new? I’ve asked Andy Clarke (guitars, vocals) about it, and thanks to him for the time he spent answering this.
Hail Andy! How are you? What’s going on in the band’s camp?
Hails! I am very well thank you, and all is going pretty good in The Crawling camp.
Anatomy Of Loss was released in April 2017, almost a year ago. What kind of feedback did you get? What kind of changes did this past year bring into The Crawling’s life?
Yeah, a year wasn’t long going in! The feedback was extremely positive, and we were totally thrilled by the reaction. The critics seemed to like it, as all the reviews scored very highly, along with the odd album of the month here and there, not to mention Irish album of the year by Metal Radio Ireland, which was amazing. We’ve also reached the final of the Terra Relicta Dark Music Awards, up against Chelsea Wolf and Paradise Lost; some fine company to be in.
On the ground level it sells well at shows, and I know people are listening to our Spotify and downloading digital albums, etc. Overall we’re very happy.
It has brought about huge changes from the previous release. We have secured much higher profile shows and fests, such as Metal Days, Incinerationfest, Shellshockfest and supporting Satyricon in Ireland. It can be very difficult to get noticed amongst the plethora of bands out there, but I think the album has certainly given us a voice. Metal Hammer were also kind enough to stream the album as well prior to its release, which was pretty cool. Our shows are more strongly attended, and we sell a decent amount of merch at gigs now as well. Obviously all these things are relative, but definitely changes have happened.
By the way, what’s your original concept for The Crawling? What made you start the band?
In short, the concept was a simple one — a group of aging metal heads who wanted to bang out some death metal a couple of times a month in a practice room. Once we started it became clear we really enjoyed it, wrote a couple of decent tunes, and then decided to make a real go of it. It’s kinda escalated from there.
Anatomy Of Loss has a very clear-cut sound — how did you come out with it? Actually this strict manner in which you deliver songs like “All Our Failings” better suits death metal bands. What was your musical background? How hard is it to go further from your roots?
Basically we’re a doom/death metal band. For me that simply means death metal played with predominantly slow drum beats, (i.e., no blasts), a guttural vocal, and a miserable theme. It’s a fairly basic approach, but it allowed me to write the type of tunes I enjoy listening to the most.
“All Our Failings” is a bit of an anomaly on the album, as you say, it’s a bit more straight-up death metal, but it gives the album a nice rattle and breaks it up a bit. It works well live too.
I don’t really have a musical background per se. I picked up a guitar at 15 years old, learned a few Metallica and Slayer songs, then got to work forming a band and writing basic death metal. I’ve always danced around the same type of music and lyrics, just variations in presentation. As a result I can’t really push myself too far from my roots. I do try to bring innovation and new ideas into the music, in order to give us some identity.
The Crawling – All Our Failings
How did you record the album? Did you have special requirements for equipment in the studio? Did you face any difficulties during the session?
I personally recorded, produced, and mastered the album on my own. I have an excellent audio interface, a decent imac, and a couple of decent mics; that’s it. I don’t have a studio, so the drums were recorded in our rehearsal space (which is ok), the rest was recorded and mixed in my home office space. It was a very simple affair, in theory…
Yes, I faced many, many difficulties and wanted to kill myself on a regular basis! Ha, ha! It was such a monumental task doing it alone. It was so hard to distance myself from it, and listen unbiased to decide what needed to be adjusted and when: such a difficult thing to do. The whole thing is documented on our YouTube channel; it gives a fabulous insight into my misery!
There are some strange influences in the album; for example, it seems that you have a share of post influences in “Acid On My Skin” as well as traces of early Katatonia sound in it. How do you see the range of your influences on the album?
I have some very definite and strong influences. I’m a huge fan of My Dying Bride, Katatonia, and Anathema; they form the basis for my reason for playing the music I do. I listen to lots of other music of course, and it all has an effect on my writing, but those are the main players for me. I like a hook in music, and a strong chorus; bands like HIM and Sentenced do it really well; that is certainly on my mind when writing. A good death metal chorus is hard to beat! Ha, ha!
Lyrics for such songs as “The Right To Crawl” and “End Of The Rope” could be described — subjectively — as “anti-weak”. At the same time, it seems that some of your other songs deal with depressive stuff, told from the first person. So what kind of message do you really put into the texts?
I think that’s a fair statement. We live in a time where coping mechanisms are at an all-time low. I regularly see people who seem incapable of dealing with the simplest of difficulties, but at the same time it makes me realise that everything is relative. As a result I watch how others react to situations, then compare it to something I have gone through personally and attempt to empathise. I guess overall the lyrics are just a story of emotion, either experienced first-hand, or by someone close to me. When I see people important to me in pain, due to tragedy or loss, it can make me frustrated when I see others appear in the same distress over the most trivial matters.
The Crawling has existed for about four years. How often did you play gigs during this period? Do you feel the necessity to perform your music live?
We average about 12 gigs a year. Playing live is my favourite part of being in a band, and if we could facilitate playing more often I would. The live experience is just fantastic. I love hearing my guitar up loud, the sweat in my eyes, head banging, and most of all making a connection with other metal fans in the room. Heavy metal music has been bringing like-minded people together for years, and I think it’s most pertinent in the live setting between musicians and fans.
The Crawling – An Immaculate Deception
What’s your progress on a second album? Do you already have a general idea how it sounds?
We have four songs in the rehearsal room that are finished, and in the process of being integrated into the live set. I have one more at demo level, and started another today actually. Sound-wise, it has simply moved on from the debut. I’ve focused more on song structures this time around. On reflection I realised I have a very definite process when writing, and I have deliberately stopped using the same formula for the new material. It’s been a challenge, but it has certainly created different sounding songs. It’s unnerving moving outside my safely trodden territory, but I need to push my song writing to move the band to the next level. So far it sounds like I’m on the right track, but it’s a scary new road for me. I can’t wait to let people hear the new tracks!