(Comrade Aleks helps us begin hell week with a fiendishly entertaining and perhaps surprisingly wide-ranging interview of guitarist Ricard of the Spanish death metal band Proscrito, whose debut album will be released on January 27th by Memento Mori, as well as by Discos MeCagoEnDios.)
Proscrito is a tough and ugly death doom outfit from Sabadel, Spain (referring to the music, to be clear). It was formed as a trio in 2016, not long ago as you see, but their progress from the demo El Calvario released in 2017 to the forthcoming full-length Llagas y Estigmas is remarkable. It’s straight and hellish, truly macabre and slow torturous doom, so I didn’t expect such an in-depth conversation from one of Proscrito’s crew. However, their guitarist Ricard provided a great interview that I’ve truly enjoyed.
Hi Ricard! After some time of practice Proscrito has its first full-length album Llagas y Estigmas done – accept my congratulations! But I’d like to start from a point when Proscrto was founded. How and when did it happen?
Hail and kill, Aleksey, and thanks for your kind words. Proscrito began its road to ruin under the Calvario moniker like 8 years ago, with Dani taking care of vocal and bass duties and with Joan, a different drummer. We existed with (even) less musical skills but the same determination and influences, although with longer interpretations of some songs that made it into our debut MLP/MCD that sounded (even) less dynamic and felt like the slower the better.
After some kind of hiatus, I asked Óscar, who was drumming with me in Arropiero, to reassemble the band. If memory serves well, a year of rehearsals followed before we got our shit together to record El Calvario at Moontower Studios, under the Proscrito banner already, due to the proliferation of different Calvarios around the world. Our focus has always been the same: honoring our influences while trying to portray with personality the same unique feeling of inexorable dread and metallic pureness that surrounds us each time the pungent fog of classic songs like “Dawn of Megiddo” or “Into the Pentagram” invades our nostrils.
Your first recording was the EP El Calvario (Iron Bonehand Productions, 2017), and I guess it sets precisely the band’s direction: powerful straightforward sound balancing between death and doom plus Spanish lyrics dealing with themes dark and macabre. Do you agree with such definition?
Sounds fine. We are boneheaded traditionalists who couldn’t care less for life metal with self-help pseudo-philosophical lyrical bullshit. When we don’t feel like listening to those dark and macabre motifs we are rather spinning some heavy metal, hard rock, old rock ‘n roll and whatnot.
What formed your vision of Proscrito? What are your general influences, both musical and non-musical?
First and foremost, the stamp of Celtic Frost/Hellhammer remaining indelible through our DNA chains from the very first day and until we die. Some direct influences like Cianide, Winter, Autopsy, Necro Schizma, Asphyx, Master, Death Strike, early Bolt Thrower, Slaughter, Corrupted, maybe some Samael’s Worship Him, Bestial Summoning and SadEx/Profanatica’s slow parts, and obviously all of their (our) ancestors who play a major role in a different manner, plus some miscellaneous stuff like garbage bins and general filth, abandoned factories, violence, processions, whips, cilices, Conan the Barbarian flicks and Robert E. Howard stories, leather, spikes, bullet belts, smoke, Frank Frazetta, old westerns, instincts, war atrocities, roadkill, women who lied to me, Hieronymous Bosch, excess, alienation, concrete, broken glass, Francisco de Goya, plenty of books and bizarre, deranged movies, urine…, you name it.
Proscrito – Persistendo
What made you turn towards the Satanic aesthetics you follow on El Calvario and the full-length Llagas y Estigmas?
I wouldn’t say it’s Satanic per se but ugly and immoral for sure, and all those elements you’re talking about work as a charm in a context of general madness and referential depravation ‘n debauchery that the first collage embodies. I mean, our might is right and we follow our own path without the helping hooves of horned deities taken from the same books that most of those occult wimps tend to disdain, just because loneliness is hard to bear and everyone needs a muse for his/her lyrics and goatfuckin’ cover artworks.
As for the Llagas y Estigmas cover art, maybe an inverted cross has lost its value of transgression by now, but one can’t deny the strength it can achieve in a monumental form made of stone with a flagellant kneeling and praying in front of it. Also remember: you can always choose to be nailed to the inverted one if you’re undeserving of a regular cross, and that can be linked to some of the lyrics and themes of self-deprecation, guilt and bodily/spiritual corruption that in some way or another we (and penitents, in fact) focus on.
Nice explanation! I didn’t expect such a turn, and it’s interesting that you have mentioned Francisco de Goya, as most of his macabre works demonstrate his attitude towards the horrors of the Inquisition and the church in general (as I’ve read). How deep is the Spanish cultural spirit in Proscrito’s image?
Goya was such an interesting personality and one of the greatest Spanish figures culture-wise, no doubt. His somber paintings, once he got deaf, speak volumes in terms of suffocating despair and excruciating agony; you may think of his classic Witches’ Sabbath but also some of his lithographic work remains some of the bleakest material that nightmares are made of. A visit to El Prado museum is almost a religious experience. Without straying away from the question, just take a look at Rizi’s Auto-da-fé in the Plaza Mayor of Madrid and tell me if that doesn’t convey almost the same ceremonial and funerary strength as, let’s say, Courbet’s Burial at Ornans.
And, now that we’re at it, of course our cultural upbringing always shapes ourselves in some way or another. Spanish culture comprises a whole spectrum of interesting topics surrounding death that can speak through our creation in different tongues, mainly channeled in musical rather than lyrical form – superstition, penance, religious cults, rites and sects, devotional forms that try to catch the moment before maggots come to feast… Also, the fact that Spain is a country that ranges from arid steppes and wastelands to humid mountainous landscapes or overpopulated cities with syringe-fueled junkies and AIDS-ridden whores may have a very strong and personal effect on our sense of mortality, loneliness and frustration. Not to mention all those magical (in spite of a better term) escapades where some walls held screams and wood hath burneth underneath, indeed – but I ain’t writing a historical essay for now.
Maybe I’m speaking for myself: I think it’s much more exciting to imbue our imagery with some of those personal motifs that we can call our own instead of drinking mead from the tree of Yggdrasil from a horn (well, Dani is the exception to the norm for he is the closest to Vikingness you’ll see here). If I’m to choose, I’m more akin to brandy like Soberano, Terry Centenario, Veterano, Carlos III, or Cardenal Mendoza if some extra bucks are there.
As for the Spanish hexenhammer and myths around such horrors, it’s no mystery that some biased sources, propaganda and whatnot helped them grow stronger through foreign countries. Anyway, since we are no humanists either and we ain’t pleading amnesty for hipster instawitches worldwide, I’ll just say “if it floats, it’s a witch”. No remorse, no repent.
Also, how much of real-life shit experience is in your songs? You mentioned it above, though not directly, so does Proscrito offer you a method to work out your frustration from the world around as well?
As much as rehearsals sound tighter after a shitty day at work, we are no angry punks making exclusively sonic war or sexually frustrated kids crying against the prom queen through power chords. Personally, I think this is much more serious than a pastime to make life more tolerable and, although life comes first and music will follow (that is, we are not what we play but we play what we are), it goes beyond that. It may sound a bit abstract and pretentious to some, who cares, there is something acausal (not necessarily goetic spirits roaming and fucking around when we’re playing on ten) that, oddly enough, spits forth impurities in a nobler way than everyday life does.
Of course, I’m not talking exclusively of Proscrito but also of all the albums that make our blood boil in the (death) metal realm, which is the path we have chosen, for it speaks in a more understandable manner to us. Yet I fail to see how anyone could play in a band he or she couldn’t call his/her favorite one. So, in short, it’s a much more important endeavor than therapy for therapy’s sake.
Ricard, you and the band’s previous drummer Oscar also play in the sludge doom band Arropiero. Do you see conceptual bonds between it and Proscrito?
No conceptual bond other than some slow rhythms and two members in common. What Arropiero offered was less poisonous and much groovier, and I’m really proud of the CD we recorded because it showed some inspired tracks that still ROCK HARD in my brain. Of course, I for one am more drawn to the beast that spits forth black bile that is Proscrito, but Arropiero really paved the way for me, jamming with much more experienced people than me and learning the usual tricks here and there, always in a collaborative environment (in fact, this time the band was already founded when I joined them, first as guitarist and then as bassist after being unable to find one, yet still I had complete freedom of ideas).
That band remains buried for now, and I’m content to focus all my energies on Proscrito solely – but some day it would be nice to see the old Arropiero rising from the grave, at least to record a couple of killer tracks we had been crafting and play some gigs, which were always sheer enjoyment.
The Proscrito EP was released on tape, CD, and 12” vinyl. Was it just a kind of fluke, or did this record really deserve such noise?
The Iron Bonehead offer (MLP and MCD) came to us as unexpected and we were really grateful for it. Afterwards, our old friend Iñaki from Discos MeCagoEnDios wrote us stating that he enjoyed the record a lot and wanted to issue a tape version of it, and for us it was an instant go-to because, you know, the more copies and availability of formats the better. I’m not sure if it sold well or if it’s well-known through the underground – I’ve read a good bunch of (mainly positive) reviews, so it seems it has gotten its good dose of distribution, and for that we’re thankful to the usual suspects.
I see you put some posters on Proscrito’s Facebook page. How long ago and how intensively do you play live?
During our very first formative days we played very few gigs and now it seems the wheel turns faster than before, which is great because live shows are absolutely the best cathartic frenzy/ possession/high for us. And now, introducing a “new” deformed opus to the underworld with a new and malignant line-up, it’s quite an exciting endeavor. For now, in a couple of weeks we’re playing again in Zaragoza (20/12) and for the first time in Madrid (21/12, with Simón del Desierto) The 14th of March 2020 we’re back to Barcelona along with Atonement and Omission. As long as travel expenses are met and we have a place to crash in, we’re up for our cavemen delivery onstage.
What do you think about the influences which Spanish lyrics have on the band’s popularity outside your country? I appreciate it when bands use their mother tongue, but I know what not all people share this point of view.
Nowadays lyrics don’t play such a decisive point when spreading popularity for a band, methinks. Also, Spanish lyrics may keep us away from the politically correct crusades if some day anything goes too pointy for the lobbies that demand safe spaces in metal, haha. Not that we’re singing for a brighter future for blond children or anything like that, but still, you all know how anal metal is getting nowadays.
On a much more serious note, we speak Spanish and that’s the language in which we regularly think, so it just feels natural to use it. Nothing against our countrymates singing in English, we’re used to reading lyrics in English, and some may feel it more natural when choosing this output in terms of phonetics, metric, or what do I know. Personally, when Calvario began, my first lyrics and song titles were already drafted in Spanish because they sounded rawer and therefore more fitting to our primitive and raunchy offerings – also, this gives me plenty of freedom to use archaisms that have fallen into oblivion for the everyday speaker and grant our lyrics an ancient feeling that suits the overall result.
I think the effect of phonetics through different languages is very interesting and, every time I’m asked a similar question, I praise bands and albums like Master’s Hammer, Kat’s (original) 666, Turbo’s Kawaleria Szatana, Törr, Dorsal Atlantica, Holocausto, Debustrol and our very own Barón Rojo, Muro, Ángeles del Infierno or even recent bands like Oniricous. Not to mention foreign accents singing in English, which are always a cool identifier mark, like with early Sepultura. Also, as Sacrificio answered in a past interview, it could be deemed a tribute to those old bands that sent a big middle finger to popularity contests and commercialism by avoiding a hegemonic tongue.
I see that Óscar left the band in 2019, and now you have a new drummer (Gusi) in the lineup. When did you meet? I see he plays in a bunch of heavy bands, so I bet you’ve known each other for awhile.
We’ve known Gusi for about 15 years, so you can tell we’ve undergone quite some crazy shit together. I’ve been watching him perform live since I was a kid and Dani has also shared the stage with him under Voidkush. He’s always been very supportive to us and he was the logical substitute for Óscar once he called it quits. No bad blood, by the way – all the best with his future endeavors with Inanición, his new powerviolence band along with Pedro (Voidkush) and our old acquaintance Dani. And yes, Gusi is a non-stop musician who thinks in terms of riffing maelstroms 24/7, beats his drumkit like a maniac, breaks drumsticks, and also beats people up when he’s in the mood (which seems to be quite often).
Did Gusi take part in the recording of Llagas y Estigmas?
He recorded guests vocals for the opening track, “Persistiendo”, showing off his best Tardy/Grewe impersonation. No wonder that one is our premiere track; I personally crave that amalgamation of reifertesquerie (Óscar and Dani’s moans) and vandrunerism. Now our newer efforts are getting a much more collaborative approach with his inclusion – and, since I wholeheartedly trust in his wretched cosmovision, it’s a given that we’re getting stronger than ever.
What are your memories of this recording session? The material sounds hard, rough, and focused — how did you achieve this result?
Maybe focus isn’t the word here, for it was such a haze. Anyway, we had rehearsed for a long, long time – we try to push further the envelope even in our simplicity and at least we wanted to know our stuff by heart. However, Javi also helped with his wizardry and endless knowledge of sound production. With a couple of references he got the sound damn straight for El Calvario and, although Llagas y Estigmas shows a rather metallic approach instead of that sludgish former outcome, partly due to a higher tuning, it keeps a coherent line of agonic granulated screams, reverbed monolithic drums, piercing rhythm guitar headaches, wah soloing pain, and disgusting bass lines that will satiate anyone who truly enjoyed our debut MCD/MLP.
Proscrito – El Calvario
What’s your vision of the perfect death doom album? Can you name a few?
It must place its stress in metal and death, sp. the right old influences, and not the lovelorn emasculated violin-fucked and keyboard-raped side of things. Slow decay, rottenness, the crunchy taste of worms, greenflies, the noise of crepitating flesh at the crematorium, and the stench of formaldehyde are needed, too. Of course, the reigning glory of the (sub)genre is Winter’s Into Darkness, the sloppier offspring of Celtic Frost and Amebix. Some of my personal favorites would include Paradise Lost’s debut (and Autopsy’s Retribution… MLP for that matter), Asphyx’s Embrace the Death and s/t, Goatlord’s Reflections of the Solstice, diSEMBOWELMENT, Unholy’s From the Shadows, Cianide’s first two (nothing but worship to their whole discography, but we’re focusing on the slower side of the spectrum, right?) and, as always, the shadow of Incantation’s Mortal Throne… lurking from behind.
I for one am also really influenced by minor releases that show the early stages of bands that somehow got mellower and even changed style drastically, sometimes with unfortunate attempts at gaining a bigger audience, attracting fat goth chicks or what do I know, like Anathema’s They Die 7’’ EP, My Dying Bride’s demo, God is Alone 7’’ EP and both MLP’s (although I like them up to The Silent Enigma and really like later stuff of the Bride respectively). Those people really knew what Tom G. and Martin had going on, just take a look at the first Anathema shows taped on video; their outfits and even early corpse-paint and that screams of the “Circle of the Tyrants” videoclip. Those Cavanagh cunts would love to have them erased from history, I’m deadly sure.
Add both of Rippikoulu’s demos to the list. And everything by Thergothon, Evoken, Skepticism, and Worship’s Last Whatever Before Doomsday if you’re feeling contemplative today (won’t use the “funeral doom” tag, it all belongs to the same game for me).
You’ve mentioned all those names… Would you tell us whether you’re motivated partly by a feeling of sentimentality following the sound of all these bands?
Keeping in line with a previous answer, those bands resonate with us completely. As a friend of mine said, music is like travelling, and different genres could give you different outputs – but I add that there’s always a place to call your own and no place like home. Death metal, be it faster or slower, is my personal Ithaca and, ironically, all those sounds of hopelessness are like a memento mori (no pun intended), like a catalyst to give me fortresse. It’s something like, to paraphrase another friend of mine, “life’s a bitch, odds are always against me, it’s a hard-uphill road, but I’ll live it with strength and willpower”. And, hopefully, with broken bones of my enemies behind me when I’m finally witnessing upon my own Jewel Throne of opprobium.
Okay, I think that’s all for today Ricard! Thanks for an excellent interview! Would you like to add a few more words in the end?
Thanks for your interest, it’s always a pleasure to talk about some of my fondest issues. I just wanted to add some of the typical shameless self-promotion: Watch out for our upcoming album Llagas y Estigmas, coming out on CD via Memento Mori in January 2020. Discos MeCagoEnDios will handle the vinyl edition later this year. Check our virtual presence if you will, stay safe, listen to Funeral Nation, and worship Voïvod. We persist, like the filthy hounds of Hades…