(In this interview Comrade Aleks talked with members of the Polish death/doom band Haunted Cenotaph, whose debut album was digitally released last fall and was released on tape by Redefining Darkness Records in December.)
I don’t remember how I found Haunted Cenotaph over a year ago. Back then they had just a raw self-titled EP with Lovecraftian death-doom from beyond the grave… But a year has passed and the quartet from Rzeszów returned with a debut full-length named Abyssal Menace, which is few levels higher than its predecessor.
Brewhammer (bass), Golem (guitars), Coffin Crawler (vocals), and Abyssal Conqueror (drums) present us quite an entertaining experience through straight old-school stuff with reverence towards Celtic Frost and Asphyx amongst others. Golem, with some help from Coffin Crawler, reveals the history behind Haunted Cenotaph‘s rising.
Hail Haunted Cenotaph! How are you? What’s going on in your lair?
Golem: Hailz! Everything’s fine at the moment and I hope that it continues in the future haha. All the band members stay safe.
How hard are the restrictions in your area concerning the pandemic? Are you locked down with only an opportunity to write new songs full of anger and blasphemy?
Golem: At the moment there’s no lockdown, but it’s impossible to predict what our fucked up government will come up with and what’s gonna happen in the next two or three days. So far, all the clubs, restaurants, and gyms are closed, meetings are limited to 5 people only, 99% of gigs are canceled, which means that the opportunities to have fun are limited. Yes, definitely! It’s a perfect time to write new stuff filled with all the feelings and attitudes you’ve mentioned. During the total lockdown in March/April, I spent a lot of time writing the new tracks and some of them will be placed on future records. I can tell you that one of the tracks written at that time will be one of the most blasphemous we’ve written so far.
What pushes you to blasphemy? Poland is known as a pious country, but I suppose “organized religion = hypocrisy” in every country, who are they able to surprise?
Golem: The aversion, disgust and hatred towards religion in general. These factors push us to blasphemy. We can see that shit everywhere around us in Poland. The church is another form of authority here. It is something like an extension of a political party that rules in Poland, which mixes with the aforementioned fucked up conservative party and makes it a true explosive. Priests seem to be above the law and no matter what they do they won’t go to jail or be sentenced by the court (courts are, by the way, are also under control of the party) for the criminal activities that they do ‘cause they’re protected by the government. It’s much more like a legally operating mafia thinking exclusively about how to steal and cadge more and more money from the “believers”.
You can see that there are some reasons to hate that crap haha. As you’ve mentioned, organized religion stands for hypocrisy, but I’d add much more very, very pejorative expressions to that equation when it comes to these fuckers. Despite my personal views towards religion, I don’t care if someone wants to believe in God or something like this — it is their lives, their feelings. and their views. If they’re not trying to persuade me to convert to their religion, to do what has been written somewhere in the bible, or to make me change my ways or change me, it is fine. I have my views and they have theirs.
By the way, when did you play live the last time and how soon will you have a chance to play your new album Abyssal Menace live?
Golem: We managed to play only one gig in 2020. It was in Katowice (Poland) in late July at the mini-festival named “Black Plague”. This was the very first open-air we’ve played as Haunted Cenotaph, as well as the very first open-air I’ve played since the beginning of my journey with Metal. Playing in the middle of a pandemic forced the organizers to face various limitations, sanitary regulations, etc. We also had to sign some kind of form that to the best of our knowledge we had not been infected by the virus at the time the gig took place. Despite all that, the gig was awesome. It was one of the best, if not the best, gig we’ve played so far. The audience was fantastic and we had a blast on the stage.
There were a few gigs scheduled for the autumn of 2020. The first of them was supposed to be in Warsaw in October and the second for Kraków in December. The gig in Warsaw had to be canceled and probably the same is going to happen to the gig in Kraków. I hope we’ll have an opportunity to play some more shows in 2021. I hope so!
You started Haunted Cenotaph just three years ago and the demo Nightmares From Beyond (2018) demonstrated your interest in grim, old school doom-death metal. What was on your mind back then? Did you aim to perform such cadaverous stuff with reverence towards Lovecraft and Hellhammer from the start?
Golem: Haunted Cenotaph started its rotten existence in November 2017. From the very beginning, we aimed to play the heaviest, the grimmest Doom/Death Metal with more very slow parts and few speed-ups. My mind when it comes to the band was the same as it is now. It hasn’t changed haha. When it comes to the references to H.P. Lovecraft, that was and still is one of the most important lyrical themes that we want to present in our lyrics. We think that this kind of lyrics fits perfectly to the atmosphere, a general overtone of the tracks as well as the riffs.
The situation looks quite different when it comes to inspirations. Hellhammer/Celtic Frost were among our inspirations — we adore everything that Tom G. Warrior has created. Our version of the “Reaper” placed on Nightmares from Beyond is to some point a tribute to the legend and also a good way to finish the demo with something that inspired us. In our music, Hellhammer could also be seen in “Sabbatical Vengeance”. The roots of this track go back to 2014 when I and Coffin Crawler were in a First Wave of Black Metal project named Sepulchral Spirit. The track was rearranged a bit to fit the Doom/Death style of HC. It is the same with the title track from the demo tape. Its roots also go back to Sepulchral Spirit, and the track was transformed to fit into the Doom/Death metal stuff that we started playing.
Although both the aforementioned bands are very important for us, there were plenty more that were inspiring us at that time and are inspiring us now and will in the future. I mean bands like the timeless masters Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Cathedral, Autopsy, Asphyx, Cianide, Pentagram, Trouble, and many more.
It’s hard to forge an individual sound or image when you already know such bands as mentioned above. How do you see the chances of Haunted Cenotaph crawling out of the underground, as bigger labels prefer to work with bigger names which guarantee some incoming revenue to keep the industry alive?
Golem: It’s very difficult to answer that question to be honest, because it’s impossible to foresee what the future will bring. So far we managed to record 1 LP, 1 EP and a demo tape, and the plans are to record something new as soon as possible. With each of these we have been receiving more and more feedback, mostly positive, which I perceive as a good sign. It was especially to be seen after Redefining Darkness Records from the US released Abyssal Menace on tape. We started to receive reviews written in the languages that we couldn’t even figure out, which meant that the album got much more attention than the previous materials. We hope that with the next albums or EPs it will be the same, and we will continuously be getting more and more feedback among the metal maniacs around the world. Anyway, we don’t think about crawling from the underground, we just wanna do what gives us fun and to play what we like to play.
Which factors formed your musical tastes? What drew your attention to the doomy side of metal?
Golem: Me and the vocalist, Coffin Crawler, wanted to play something different than we used to play in our previous bands, which means Thrash or Black/Thrash metal. The choice to play something much slower and doomier was kinda obvious because we’ve been fans of Doom, Death, and Death/Doom metal for a long time, and one day we sat together and said, “why don’t we try playing something extremely slow and heavy in the vein of classic doom metal bands mixed with death metal classics?” Haunted Cenotaph is kinda the result of that friendly chat.
After that, we invited Brewhammer as a bassist, then Scholomance as a drummer, and I started writing the tracks for the very first stuff released by the band. Since the beginning, we wanted to play as heavy, gloomy, and slow as possible. Also, that kind of music is extremely unpopular in our country. I can name only a few bands that either perform that kind of music nowadays or used to play it in the past.
You kept on creating morbid and raw death-doom with a self-titled EP (2019) and now you’ve embodied the distilled Haunted Cenotaph vibes in a full-length album. Do you feel this is exactly what you wanted to express through these songs?
Golem: I think yes. The songs that we put on each of our releases always reflected what we have in mind and what we wanted to play or release on the album. If we don’t like the riffs somebody has just brought to our rehearsal room we simply throw them away and forget about it. However, in most cases the riffs have fit the music that we wanted to play and we kept them. When it comes to the EP Haunted Cenotaph all the tracks had already been written at the time we were at the studio recording our demo. The same situation was true with the LP, because while recording the EP Haunted Cenotaph almost all the tracks were written and ready for preparation during the rehearsals.
I think that this model of working on the new stuff works well, because you never run out of tracks or riffs as well, as they can be ready for playing live or recording much faster. As I’ve said before, all the songs on each album give an idea of what we wanted to express through our music. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be on our materials hehe.
You recorded Abyssal Menace at Roslyn and Antisound studios in January, 2020. Why did you record the instruments in different studios? Didn’t you want to record the album live at the studio together? I bet it would fit its essence… Actually it sounds quite alive anyway.
Golem: It was even more than two studios haha. We recorded drums at Roslyn, Guitars, and Bass at Antisound, and vocals were engineered by the old friend of ours “Peter Krieg” from the band Excidium, which gives three different studios for one album haha.
The reason why we chose to split the recording sessions like that was that we didn’t want to be in a hurry while recording all the instruments. We had experienced that feeling while recording the EP, and when you hurry and the time is tight you can’t do everything 100% the way you’ve wanted because the time in the studio is limited — which means that there is no time left to polish your parts, correct, or simply improve, as you would be able to do if you had more time, and the feeling that it could’ve been done better remains.
Anyway, to avoid an experience like that, we decided to split the recordings into a few sessions which simply gave more time for each of us to record the best parts that we could do. And I can tell that it worked well because the recording sessions of Abyssal Menace went smoothly, with no rush or hurry, and I can tell that everybody in the band was satisfied with the results of the sessions; it is the best album we could record at that time. We gave 100% of our abilities, hearts, and dedication to record our debut album the way it sounds.
To be honest, we don’t like recording albums live in the studio. It’s too much hassle because if one of us plays some part wrong we have to repeat the entire song from the beginning. which makes that recording last much longer and more nervous, and you get tired of it at last. We wanted to avoid those feelings. For us it is also important to have fun while recording and playing our stuff, and recording sessions which can ruin that fun are not the factor that we would want. I don’t think that it’s that important whether the album has been recorded live or not. What is important is whether it sounds all-right or not.
There are two tracks inspired by Lovecraft’s novellas The Music of Erich Zann and Outsider on the album. True to tell, the doom scene seems to be overfilled with these kinds of influences. Why did you focus on these stories?
Coffin Crawler: Yes, that’s true! There is a huge amount of Lovecraft inspirations to be found, not only in doom metal but in metal in general. To me, his output perfectly fits the music that HC plays. Especially the morbidity, mystery, sick atmosphere, and blasphemy, which are present everywhere in his works. To be honest I cannot think of an author whose works would fit better to the style of the band. The Music of Erich Zann and Outsider are among my favorite horror stories. They are loaded with mystery and understatements.
I always wanted to put literary inspirations into the lyrics of the band, and at the same time I treated them as a kind of tribute to the loner from Providence. On the earlier stuff released by Haunted Cenotaph there are also many Lovecraft references. For example, on the demo there is a track named “Ritual of Evocation” which was inspired by The Dunwich Horror. On the EP the title track is a reference to the Cthulhu Mythology. In the future I’m also going to write lyrics inspired by Lovecraft’s works.
And there’s also a song ‘Seed of Belial’ inspired by the old black-and-white Nosferatu movie. Can you name some modern horror movies which inspired you as well?
Coffin Crawler: Nosferatu is an eternal cult movie! In my opinion, the way it was executed, the quality of the recording, and the old school scenery made the movie even more frightening. It depends what you mean by “modern horror movies”. If we are speaking about movies which were released within the last 10/20 years, I must confess that I don’t watch them. I’m not a huge fan of the new production. They lack a frightening atmosphere and in general I think that they’re just too “nice” and “modern”. The only exception that comes to my mind is VVitch: A New-England Folktale. That movie has an awesome background history, amazing atmosphere, and of course Black Phillip haha!
I do prefer the old school horror movies like Evildead, Hellraiser, Exorcist, Omen or The Thing (of course I mean the 1982 version here). I can tell you that, on the newest release, there will be a track which is inspired by the last of the mentioned movies.
How do you see Abyssal Menace’s features? What are the album’s strong sides from your point of view?
Golem: It’s very difficult to assess the music that you’ve created yourself, which makes it tricky to answer that question haha. I’d say the strongest side of the album is that we’ve managed to expand the formula known from our previous releases. In my personal opinion, Abyssal Menace shows the progress that the band has made since its origin. It presents the development in every aspect possible. For example, we did the tracks and some arrangements that we wouldn’t have been able to do two or three years ago. I hope that that path continues in the future and that every new release of the band will be showing the development and progress we will have made as a band.
Thanks for the interview guys! Have we missed something?
Golem: Thank you very much for the interview! Spasiba! Yeah, probably we missed some greetings, so here they are: Hailz to all the Metal Maniacs, drink booze, smoke weed, worship Metal and Stay Doomed! Hailz!
Coffin Crawler: Hailz and thanks for the interview! Remember what Warrior said: “Only fukkin death is real!”