(In this interview Comrade Aleks spoke with Chainarong Meeprasert — bassist, vocalist, and co-founder of the Thai death/doom band Shambles — about the band’s past, present, and future.)
As a tireless doom metal researcher I was surprised when I found that Shambles had been hidden from my radars.
This Bangkok-based gore-thirsty outfit was founded in Thailand back in 1997. The guys tried to express their addiction to Satanism and Darkness through brutal death and black metal, but in the end they chose a path of heavily death-influenced doom metal with huge influences of Incantation and like bands.
After a series of demos and splits Shambles recorded the Realm of Darkness Shrine full-length in 2016. They didn’t stop, and new releases like the Primitive Death Trance EP (2017) and a split with Japanese Anatomia, Abyssal Doom Oriental (2020), followed.
Recently we talked about Shambles’ past, present, and future with one of the band’s founders, Chainarong Meeprasert (bass, vocals).
Hi Chainarong! How are you? How strict is the Covid-quarantine in Bangkok nowadays?
Hail to you! It is true that all countries are bad affected by this epidemic, like economies, transport problems… etc. But we all have to die one day. It would be great if I could choose a suitable death date by myself.
Really? Don’t you think you will face all the things you sing about after crossing that final line? How serious are you concerning your lyrics?
All life arises and dies. I am the only body capable of doing many things while I am breathing. This body just came to live on earth and created a corruption of the earth. On behalf of the body, which would be evidence of the truth in metal music. Without inspiration, this spirit will return to its original world. All the lyrics come from studies in the dark arts by me. I’m just one life going on to study it.
True to tell, Shambles is my first encounter with the extreme metal scene of Thailand, so let me start with some general questions. The band was formed back in 1997. What was on your mind back then? What drove you to gather the band?
We had many metal bands in the 1990s, but only Heretic Angels and Surrender Of Divinity achieved some fame and international stuff. I respect that moment/activities so much. Everything was so cruel and bestial in its own way. Paper fanzines and letters and flyers were great things. About Shambles’ first era during that time, there was only one thing that allowed us to come together. Because of the metal music. And as you know we formed in 1997 but after only 5 years of underground activity we disappeared after 2003. Meantime it was so hard to keep the former members of the band working for the future of Shambles. We were so young and after two original members [Supawat and Chatchai] got into their bachelor degrees they decided to stop joining in the music of underground. And similarly Patiwat moved to a new house, and there’re far away from me, so then the band was on hold. Then I went on to make Pure Holocaust zine [RIP] and joined in Zygoatsis meantime.
It’s said that you started as a brutal death / grindcore band in the early years. What kind of influences shaped Shambles’ sound?
’90 metal music was great for us. At the first time of Shambles, we took inspiration from old school metal styles like Incantation, Immolation, Slayer, etc., and many black metal bands then. We were sharing and mixing, and all of it affected our style in making Shambles’ music and arrangements, and by various opportunities you can hear some parts fast and some parts as slow as Doom Metal too.
And what made you switch to doom-laden death metal in the vein of Asphyx and Coffins?
Asphyx and Coffins are great bands, but at that time we were influenced by old school bands like those mentioned above and many black metal bands, like Bathory, Dissection, etc. Also heavy metal bands were so great for us too.
So which bands inspired you to add some doom-vibe to your songs?
Incantation, Black Sabbath, Candlemass… etc.
Shambles – Primitive Death Trance
There are three split-releases in your discography, and you accompanied usually more extreme bands performing purer death metal for example… Probably only the Abyssal Doom Oriental split where you took part with Anatomia (Japan) demonstrated something similar, musically and concept-wise. So do you feel Shambles is a part of the death scene nowadays or do you consider your stuff to be doom-oriented?
We released stuff step by step, from rehearsal Demo, to pro Demo, split stuff, Tape, and on to CD and vinyl, and those plans were the right way for us. We release stuff, share a stage for shows in the local area, plan for an international metal fest, and do a tour. We worked from smaller things to bigger things. We gained experience for the next step with many bands we have shared stages with and working with great bands/killer guys in their own style. We looked for ways to work together with an Underground attitude, with a favorite band who were friendly and who it would be possible to work with together. We knew Anatomia for a long time but this split, Abyssal Doom Oriental, happened to be good timing for both bands.
How did you organize tours back then? Did you play outside of the country?
Personally, I organized many metal fests in the past. Both shared with other comrades, and lately they’re holding an event called Salvation Metal Fest in Bangkok. About Shambles‘ tours/shows outside the country: Of course I had a lot of contact with my comrades and talked about the possibilities of bringing our music to destroy in other countries and meet with friends/fans there. But unfortunately, we are stuck with visa approval issues. Therefore, we can only go to countries where we are visa free in Southeast Asia and Japan.
What’s the extreme metal gig culture in Thailand? I mean pre-Covid times. Was it easy to find a club to play? How often did you play, etc.?
In the past, we have had many good events. It is divided into smaller groups in types of music like Thrash Metal, Black Metal, and Brutal Death Metal, but Brutal Death Metal has the most fan base. As I know, they have small events very often, but after the Covid situation things have looked quiet about events like Black Metal. Unfortunately, after the departure of our dear friend Avaejee (SODivinity, Zygoatsis), everything seems to be silent. About places for shows, we only have 2-3 small places which can provide underground events. Shambles received 1-2 invitations per year from Thai organizers for shows in Bangkok and other provinces, and we play outside Thailand every year.
Shambles’ debut full-length Realm of Darkness Shrine was released just five years ago. What has slowed you down in recording new material?
Actually the second full album, we finished writing and recording two years ago (the signing of the contract has been completed too). But the vocals have not been recorded yet. Because I moved to my new office and have been hard at full-time working, and we all work regularly. And other band members run many bands too. Hopefully the vocals recording will be finished before this summer.
Okay, I mean the band was formed in 1997 and the first album only appeared in 2016. Even taking into account a period of inactivity, it looks like a really big gap.
Yes bro, as you know we disappeared after 2003, and meantime it was so hard to keep the former lineup of the band working, as I have explained before. And I was going to do the Pure Holocaust ‘Zine between 2000-2003 (RIP with issue 5) and after that I joined in the way of unholy war with the Zygoatsis horde (2003-2006). I left the band ‘coz I had to establish my work and several of my family, but I turned to form Angelholocaust in 2010. I do many things in the underground scene, but it split-up after 2012, and then I talked with Thinnarat to re-form Shambles again.
Actually Thinnarat had joined me as drummer of Angelholocaust to record a new demo in 2013, but me and Thinnarat left Angelholocaust after the guitarist did several shit as fuck things in our Thai metal scene. After that we sent an invitation to a guitarist, Issara, to join us in Shambles. We played with three members for the Black Candles Magnetic Doom Demo and for a Malaysian mini-tour and Singapore shows. About Thotsaphon – yes, he has been our comrade for a long time and we decided to invite him to join us as second guitarist ‘coz we wanted to develop our music into an atmospheric and darker form and to do it in a more complicated way. Also Kairudin played as bassist later for our first show in Japan at the death metal fest Asakusa Death Fest 2016. It looks like after 2015 Shambles has turned out to be stronger and can make good plans for the future.
How long did you work over the album’s material? What kind of ideas did you aim to express through it?
We separately composed many songs in our homes and join together to rehearse later. There was no specific time limit for guitar lines to be completed. But the guitarist sends a file to the drummer to compose a drum line later. In the end I’m a writer of all the lyrics.
Shambles – Realm of Darkness Shrine
It seems that Eastern bands easily use satanic imagery in their songs. What about you? What’s your lyrical message? What drove you to pick up this one?
My lyrical inspirations come from many sources based on Satanic Knowledge & Gnosis, Ceremonial Magic, Sacrifice, Evocation…etc. All unholy lyrics that I integrate between knowledge and imagination. I’m just a learner, and basically a long time ago I began learning and reading from the history of many religions. I mean Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hindu… etc. And I really like to learn about the ancient history of Greek-Roman civilizations, Egyptian Gods, the Left Hand Path, Mysticism, Daemonologie, Hermetic Philosophy, Occult Symbols, the Lesser Key of Solomon and the 72 demons, Western Esoteric …etc. Absolutely now I revere the method of knowledge from many occultist/esoteric authors like H.P.Lovecraft, Anton Lavey, Thomas Karlsson, Franz Bardon, Peter J.Carroll, Joseph H. Peterson….etc.
Looks like a mix of nearly everything, so what’s Shambles’ most clear, distilled message besides lyrics?
Satanism and Darkness.
How do you see your national identity in your songs? May you sum up features of the local extreme metal scene?
Maybe we do it in a guitar accent, but not all is related to Thai art or culture., We like to learn about our ancient history, but we don’t put it in our sound.
Where and in which kinds of conditions did you recordRealm of Darkness Shrine? How much time did you have for a studio?
I’m not sure about time, but absolutely this release was delayed due to our capital until Jan [Lavadome Prods.] supported us to pay a budget for finishing it. At first we were doing all the processes for recording this album by ourselves and paid everything with our own money, and between that I was making a lot of contacts for someone to help us release it. Meantime, Jan of Lavadome Prods decided to release our first full-album, but after he sent me some budget to pay for the recording/mixing/mastering cost he decided to stop everything for one year to clear his working/office/personal problems from his business. Unfortunately then we did a self-release and sent back some CD copies to him for royalty. We respect him! And later we released a vinyl version through Nero One Records [USA], and a cassette double-tape by Witchery Records [MY].
Your next EP Primitive Death Trance (2017) was released by the Swedish label Blood Harvest. Did collaboration with that label help you to reach more people abroad?
Blood Harvest Rec. was such a great label. First of all, we were excited to sign with them and I was just hoping they could release 200-300 copies only. But they did a huge support for us. He (Rodrigo) offered us to do a digipack MCD and three colors for vinyl! That’s beyond expectations, and a hugely perfect release for us! In the same time we get in contact with Von Frost Rec. from Canada for a cassette version too. It is all broadly spreading our music. We really respect them all.
Do you feel Shambles is a part of the world metal scene? Or do you feel yourself rather isolated?
We are certainly part of the world’s music and the times of this universe. But we didn’t expect to be famous. We are just working out our approach, all from our own idea. We are working in the direction of the band, and are not inclined to others. But with some members, I think that they and I are quite different from normal society. Personally I love and respect isolation.
Okay, Chainarong, just one final question. What are your plans considering a new album and Shambles in general for 2021?
Try to release the second album The End’s Begin through Transcending Obscurity Records and release compilation stuff later. Maybe all will be released within this year. And thank you for the support and the interview.
What a pleasant surprise to come across an interview with SHAMBLES! Talk about underground, this is as underground as it gets. A Shambles concert is like a trance-inducing ritual. Well i saw them once and that’s what i felt anyway. Maybe death-doom generally does that when its live. (I fvcking miss those days.) Hope to see you guys again sometime soon. Carry on Shambles, power to you.