(In this new interview Comrade Aleks spoke with Clemente Escalona, drummer for the Méxican melancholic death metal band Matalobos, who have a new album coming out soon.)
We had a conversation with Matalobos about three years ago (published here). Back then these guys from Guanajuato had released the EP Until Time Has Lost All Meaning, which was the follow-up to their debut full-length Arte Macabro (2016). And though there weren’t changes in the lineup, Matalobos took their time and meditated over new melodic doom death tunes for some time. Now they’re ready to reveal the result of their work to listeners, and the release date of their new album The Grand Splendour of Death is set for December 4th.
We’ve discussed the new album with the band’s drummer Clemente Escalona alongside a few other topics. Covid-quarantine is at the first place, as always.
Hi Clemente! How are you? What’s going in your camp? Were new quarantine restrictions announced in Mexico?
Hey! We’re doing pretty fine, still under lockdown, numbers are quite controlled but high, no considerable reduction in contagiousness has been seen, no new restrictions, just still the same, keeping distance, wearing masks and using sanitizer, and sadly not all people are following.
How grim is this situation for the local music scene? And how heavy is it for common people?
Here all the scene is dead, no concerts, no massive shows, some pubs or venues started to open but with controlled entrance, so no regular shows are really suitable at this point. As elsewhere, a bunch of festivals were cancelled, but on the other hand there has been an embrace between most of the bands and some brave promoters who took the initiative to create a lot of streaming events and festivals. We got the opportunity to participate in one of them during September, called Moshfest, and that’s all that we have right now, but bands are getting together to still be alive and present.
Speaking of common or general people, it’s been tough. Fortunately some of us are working from home, but in the worst situations a lot of businesses are broke. For so many it’s hard to feel isolated, to be just alone at home, without going out to public places. Most people are afraid to be with themselves and their thoughts, they don’t know how to deal with it. In my case I feel ok, sometimes just bored, but you know having internet, movies, books, comics, there’s always a way to get distracted or learn something new.
You made the decision to release your new album The Grand Splendour of Death despite all the difficulties the scene suffers from nowadays. Why did you choose to do it right now?
I think it was just necessary. It has been three years since the last time we released material, and four years since our previous full-length album. This new production was pulled back many times, first since we were evaluating the possibility to record outside Mexico during last year, and eventually that wasn’t possible, and then recordings were on hold due to this pandemic. Finally in July we made it to get into the studio, so we just had this objective to release the album this year, no matter what the circumstances.
We planned this album to be released since mid-2019. The music was ready, but this delay was nice since it gave us the chance to continue sculpting the songs, rehearsing and arranging. Also, on the other hand, music is one the most effective soul medicines, so during these dark times new productions are needed. Seeing it that way, people are open to listening to new things, upcoming releases, since well, there’s not too many distractions out there.
Matalobos – Swallowed By The Earth
Do you have any opportunity to support the release with live shows? How long ago did you play the last time?
For this release we don’t have any plans for support it with shows so far, maybe could be some streaming or so, we haven’t talk about that, it’s a hard investment for independent bands like us. We will be doing some interesting videoclips as visual support for the album and also a special limited edition will be out; all details will be published in our social media. The last show we did was in the beginning of the year, February 15th in the city of San Luis, México. Actually the plan was to have no shows this 2020 until the album was recorded and released, so the plan did not change a lot. Hopefully something could be done next year. Since the album goes out in December, that will be fine.
Your debut album Arte Macabro (2016) was tightly connected with grim daily experiences and horror stories as well. Have you continued developing this concept through the new songs as well? No Santa Muerte again?
Concept is kind of connected between all our releases, with their different veins and touching each one, but in essence they keep the horror specter — Death image’s is always present — maybe more in these last ones than previously. It’s a combination of many faces and rituals to Death in many regions and cultures all over the world. Also we talk about the death of nature and places, how curious it is that many people die or commit suicide during the night. And about the Santa Muerte subject, I think that in one of the songs there’s a brief idea inspired by this entity. In the song “Ignis Spiritus Morte” we sing about a prisoner who summons an evil spirit in order to escape his fate, so there’s some grim reaper/Santa Muerte elements in there.
I remember that Eduardo said in our previous interview how he’d like to integrate progressive elements in Matalobos’ songs. Did you have a chance to work through this idea during the recording of The Grand Splendour of Death?
Yes, actually I think we did. It’s not really a protagonist element in the whole album, but for some songs we liked to play with metrics and arrangements a little out of “normal”, some unexpected changes here and there. It gives an interesting and dynamic touch, and it’s an element we enjoy since we’re followers of progressive bands, like Porcupine Tree, Camel, King Crimson.
How much time did you spend on recording? What are your memories of The Grand Splendour of Death session?
We entered the studio in the second week of July. I along with our producer Rubén took one day to set up all the kit, tune, check audio, and so on. The next day I made it to nail down all the tracks — I already got all very rehearsed, hahah. After that we jumped to record all the guitars, so Eduardo and Germán came into the room for a whole weekend, and the last day bass was done by Carlos. We took a two-week break for some personal reasons and then vocal recording by Dante took place in another weekend. Finally, during the next week just solos, acoustic guitars, and other arrangements like a chorus were added. So it was between a month and a half until we were able to track everything, and close to another month for mixing and mastering duties.
This time was completely different from previous studio sessions. First of all, we got plenty of time to dig in arrangements, what was needed and what not. We tried and removed lots of ideas, but other great ones came and stayed. Also for the sound/mixing we were very persistent in checking every detail. Speaking of the dynamics, we are used to being all-band in there when someone is recording their part, just giving support or ideas, or just drinking and having fun, but this time that was not possible. We were asked to be only 2-3 members per day, which was logical, so the rest got private live-streaming from the studio to check out what our fellows were recording.
The instrumental “De Fantasmas y Lamentos” and the acoustic intro for the following track next to it, “Swallowed By the Earth”, bring a bit of that Spanish spirit in their tunes. Can you name other songs on the album which have this authentic vibe from your point of view?
This acoustic feel and touches we like to give have become a kind of trademark for us. It’s something we enjoy a lot to always include in our productions, maybe to keep a reminder or an indicator of our roots, our culture, and our musical background. For this album, tracks like “Ignis Spiritus Morte” and “The Midnight Caller” also have a decent dose of it that hopefully people will identify for those arrangements at first hearing.
Matalobos – Derelict
May you name a few canonic doom death bands for you? Which bands have remained your beacons through the years? Or do you see Matalobos as “melancholic death metal” still?
Doom Death is the reason why we started this project, along with a bunch of melancholic music we love. For us, the pillars and bands we appreciate are My Dying Bride, Anathema (early and a few later), Swallow the Sun, Daylight Dies, Slumber, Rapture, Novembre, and in the melancholic side, Katatonia. About our sound, we now feel a bigger Melodic Death influence than in the past, but still with the Doomy vibes definitely. Melancholic Death fits fine, I like it.
What are your plans for the rest of 2020 concerning Matalobos?
Right now, we will be working on the new videoclip, which will be the most artistic we have released. It’s very ambitious and dark. We are also releasing the presale of the special Limited Edition that we’re putting out, you’ll love it. And well, waiting for the release of The Grand Splendour of Death next December 4th, and maybe we will do some Facebook live to have a nice chat or so — we like to take advantage of the media tools we have regardless of the situation we’re all living in.