(This week the Australian band Hadal Maw answers Andy Synn‘s questions about lyrics.)
How is everyone enjoying the “Waxing Lyrical” series so far? Hopefully you’re all finding it as interesting and enlightening as I am, and hopefully you’re all still curious as to which artists I might have lined up for future editions.
Today we’re lucky to be receiving a message all the way from Down Under, as Sam Dillon, vocalist/lyricist of Technical Groove titans Hadal Maw, joins us with some intriguing thoughts about his tenure with the band, and what their music, and lyrics, mean to him..
I started writing lyrics in my late teens and, unsurprisingly, they were cringeworthy imitations of the bands I was obsessing over at the time.
Thankfully I’ve since expanded my pool of influences and broadened the palette for writing and researching themes to give more of my own voice to this vicious music I am passionate about.
Time has sped on and through failures and successes I fronted various bands along the way. Currently I’m part of the Sludge Metal genre here in Australia with Lo! and now, after moving interstate, I’m also part of Hadal Maw, who already had a sterling reputation within the local Death Metal scene before I joined, but who were without a vocalist after the release of their first album, Senium.
The band actually had an entire second album on the boil musically and upon my official welcome as their new vocalist I had to write an entire record’s worth of lyrics and have them recorded almost immediately in time for touring.
It was an intense boot camp of writing and ultimately led to the creation of Olm, which was recently followed by the release of our latest EP, Charlatan (with myself again as the sole lyricist).
I am constantly gleaning ideas from films, books, podcasts, etc, and winnowing through articles for facts and poignant lines to help form the basis of my lyrics.
There is an absurd amount of theatrics in modern politics and its use of fear and ignorance as control. Our relationship towards the environment is a horror film in itself.
Writing Death Metal lyrics therefore isn’t so much of a creative challenge these days as it is a bounty of inspiring immoral compost we’ve created as a species waiting for a Metal anthem to narrate it.
Well written film monologues, a sinner’s confessional, or even the tantrum of a fascist on the airwaves can end up triggering me to jot something down in my lyric book for future use. I carry one with me wherever I go and being open to that lightning strike of inspiration has been invaluable leading up to recording.
Recently Television productions like Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Young Pope” with its characters scrambling for power and preservation of myth provided fantastic fodder for the lyrical themes I explore on Charlatan.
I also pawed through the book “Why Do People Hate America?” and found more than a few arguments that helped provide an atmosphere while penning the songs.
When writing for an album I settle on a focus word as a release title to help keep the themes rooted in the same vision. A thesaurus within reach is also useful for help sculpting phrases, and though the genre of Extreme Metal/Tech Death etc is not particularly known for decipherable vocals I strive to pronounce lines as clearly as possible while also adding a theatrical delivery to them, not unlike a rabid preacher at the pulpit spewing out his sermon.
As a whole I take my lyrical styling and phrasing more from non metal artists. I had romanticised about bringing the snide clarity and social commentary of their mainstream releases to our underground and overlooked sound. I don’t want to compromise on aggression but I do want to create anthems for the apocalypse.
Roger Waters’ lofty paranoia and sarcasm on albums such as The Final Cut and Amused to Death are flawless in their conception and catchiness despite being focused on betrayal and war mongering.
There is dry humour in the horrific and a mounting dread in the narration, such as during the title-track to Amused to Death:
And when they found our shadows
Grouped ’round the TV sets
They ran down every lead
They repeated every test
They checked out all the data on their list
The alien anthropologists
Admitted they were still perplexed
But on eliminating every other reason for our sad demise
They logged the only explanation left
This species has amused itself to death”
In my own work I find myself stumbling and returning to the central themes of extinction, religious hypocrisy and man as a mere ape in power by sheer dumb luck.
Sin and the fear of our own haunting pasts also feature heavily.
I’ve noticed the way I approach writing lyrics over the years is a refining one. With every record you undertake the same exercise of creating over the top of the music, and it refreshes your confidence to know what you’re capable of and what you might want to experiment with.
Being genuine in what I’ve created and knowing I will be playing it live with conviction… that it potentially may outlive me as a recording… means I take the task on with pride and have fun with it.
When writing Olm I had walked into completely new territory in terms of both musical style and stringent deadlines to deliver vocals. I was eager to do justice to the band’s music but also wanted to add my own take on Death Metal by addressing themes that meant something to me and that would shape the tone of the human element of the release.
The state of our natural world and the widespread apathy towards it is something that enrages me on a daily basis, and “Simian Plague” is one of those tracks which touches upon these issues and my observations of our strained relationship with nature.
You can’t see the excrement through your sentiment
Malnourished remorseful when Eden rotted
We humans shall embody parasitic appetence
An artless age descends one stratagem
Made you more grotesque
Indifference to our annihilation
We organic iconoclasts
Farrowing deaths caste
Decimating mass defacers
Snap portraits, celebrate failed youth
Narcissism, meat cocooning an ego
Capsulate, knuckle dragger
Indifference to our annihilation
Accept nothing survives in this farce called life
No end to our condition
Feed, suffer, spread
Birth, feed, suffer, spread
Birth, feed, suffer, spread.
Just over a year out from Olm found us returning to the studio with a new EP, whose title and lyrical content had time to be combed through and crafted before recording, this time focussing on the world of laughable leaders and the backwards progress of society laid out before us.
We become very apathetic when exposed to horrors on a daily basis. We also are easily distracted, and indeed kept distracted, by technological devices designed to keep our heads downward so that this daily roll-out of atrocities can proceed without resistance.
I’ve touched upon this lyrically – the use of fear and paranoia as a banner under which you can commit acts of hate and violence – several times, and I like returning to the imagery of a screaming mad priest at the pulpit that at first seems insane and irrational to the crowds below but whose words, if spun the right way, can be made to flourish to deadly effect.
A charlatan is a snake oil salesman, a gifted liar that claims to have powers that they simply don’t possess. And political and religious figures are our modern snake oil salesmen that feed off the fearful and ill informed.
You wanted a clown? you got it!
laid out fat in the sun while the serpent rules Washington
Shit on your future, flame throw paradise
Speed up our steep decline and our vile worm replied…
I am the mole
We fear the broken
We fear the different
They’ll come for your pretty little souls
Tears of the hopeful wasted on the entitled
Embracing monsters renounce each ounce of morality
Fly a flag of shit
White washing brutality
I am the mole
The better killers,the slicker lie,franchising genocide.
Careful what you wish for
hidden in plain sight
too numb to listen,luxury of gripe.
Fly a flag of shit
White washing brutality
Safer among the weeds.
Wanting to perform and create something that is true to me and evokes a response in the listener/viewer is important to me. I don’t buy into the idea that “close enough is good enough”.
Why, when given the chance to lay down your words would you want to reside behind mediocrity?
I genuinely get excited about the process of writing new material and the journey of happy accidents which leads to the discovery and creation of new songs. Performing the finished tracks live is cathartic and I would prefer to not play them at all if that feeling waned.
There’s plenty to be stimulated, angered or depressed by in this turbulent world of ours. You just have to look beyond the veneer and find the flesh in it.