(Andy Synn brings us another episode in his series about lyrics in Metal, and today the responses come from Stephen Jones, vocalist and lyricist of the UK Death Metal band Ageless Oblivion, whose latest album is out now via Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings)
Anyone who knows me… hell, anyone who’s been reading NCS for any significant amount of time… will be able to tell you how much I love the work of Progressive/Post-Death Metal maestros Ageless Oblivion.
In particular, I’ve gone on record, multiple times, about how highly I rate their second album, Penthos, whose signature blend of mechanical precision, organic biorhythms, and claustrophobic atmosphere is a big part of what makes it, in my opinion at least, one of the best (and most underrated) albums of the last decade.
So it shouldn’t really surprise anyone, especially in light of the rave review I gave their recent “comeback” album, Suspended Between Earth and Sky, that I was eager to bring the band onboard for an edition of Waxing Lyrical, if only to satisfy my own curiosity about what it is that influences, informs, and drives this particular aspect of their sound.
Thankfully they were extremely amenable to my overtures, and sent forth their vocalist Stephen Jones (who has performed on all three of the band’s albums thus far) to offer up some insight on the group’s past, present and future, as seen through the prism of their lyrics.
So, without further ado…
I’ve been doing vocals in various bands since I was 17, and writing the lyrics naturally comes with that territory, so when Ageless Oblivion finally came to fruition, the lyrics became my role.
But they weren’t solely left to me, as each band member has had an input into the lyrics over the years, and we still promote the same tactic to this day.
It’s a great way to keep the band members involved with what each song is about, which makes it much easier to fall into the tracks when performing.
Being inspired to write lyrics is actually something I find extremely hard, simply because I don’t want or like to write about any old nonsense.
They really must be purposeful with soul and meaning behind them for me to become passionate about what I am writing.
With Suspended between Earth and Sky David and I always knew that we wanted this album to sound more “organic” with the instrumentals being far purer and more atmospheric than our previous albums and – with that in mind – the lyrics really had to follow suit to flow with the music.
Volcanism was the prime breeding ground for the lyrical concept – it’s something both me and David are passionate about, so the words came quite naturally – and it honestly just grabbed us and took off from there!
My main inspiration for this album was based in and around events of ‘The year of no light’ and I just became overwhelmed with everything I read about this astronomical event.
The poem ‘Darkness’ by Lord Byron was also a source of inspiration for the concept and sparked some ideas.
When I’m working on lyrics I have to surround myself with silence, absolutely no distractions, because of the way I write.
I tend to immerse myself deeply into what I am writing about, to the point of closing my eyes in order to really put myself into the lyrics and imagine what I see, feel and hear.
It may sound a bit cliché, but I find this method brings out the best in my writing and adds that extra depth which allows me/us to stray from that 2-dimensional verse-chorus structure while also adding a far more emotive atmosphere to each song.
Generally I need the instrumentals completed before I can write and structure the lyrics, as I grab inspiration from the music as well – whether it’s the tempo, tone or pitch – it always helps to listen through whilst writing. Especially when I hit writers block!
I will stray back to my previous answer here, where I referred to Lord Byron’s ‘Darkness’, as the very last phrase of that poem “She was the Universe” resonated through my skull throughout the writing of the album.
I found those four words incredibly powerful and felt they could be depicted in so many ways, literally and metaphorically, and I attempted to infuse that method into my writing and expand on it which ultimately became the backbone throughout this album.
I also remember listening to Ghost Reveries by Opeth a lot whilst writing too, it’s a clever album and the vocal structures are quite unique.
Thinking back, maybe not purposefully but perhaps sub-consciously I was incorporating the same method into my writing?
I guess any song writer purchases influence from what surrounds them and what they are listening to at the time
Both myself and the band have naturally (and massively) matured, and I think that’s readily apparent if you listen to our albums side by side.
We wrote Temples over ten years ago now, which is crazy to think about. Back then it was exciting to write on a purely fictional basis. Aliens, machines, Satan, with a few Fucks thrown in here and there. Basically, I think we were far too obsessed with Terminator.
I remember we actually named one of our tracks ‘Detachable Faceplate’ after a car stereo head unit for fuck’s sake, and that track was obviously about bio-mech machines infiltrating the human race with the aid of removable face plates… sigh.
We are progressing, naturally becoming more influenced and intrigued by what is around us, why we are here, why are we alive, and purely mesmerised by the Earth, the universe and how it all works.
Writing with emotion is much more important to me now as I want to feel it when performing. And I really do.
When you get goosebumps whilst performing your own songs, you know you have done something right.
I think I’ll return to Penthos and the song “A Crawling Ingression”.
I wrote these lyrics purely by myself, I was going through quite a hard time and wanted to filter that energy into something, so I focused that misery into this song.
If you think about it, it’s quite apparent as it strays from the rest of the album somewhat.
The song is based on a real-life story of two Indonesian girls who were brought up feral for many years of their early life, and the line that resonates clearly is “Shed your apocryphal skin”.
This is directly aimed towards the two girls to shed their past life and rehabilitate into humanity but also indirectly aimed towards their guardians. Those who fought to protect yet prey on vulnerability, to the point that their greed leads to their dependants’ demise.
The song has so much misery and sadness, and I used to love playing this track as the vocals actually made me feel uplifted.
Without a doubt this it has to be “Anvil Chorus”, it’s such an emotive track, and thus was the hardest song I have ever had to write lyrics for.
Carrying that emotion through the vocals and music was an incredibly hard thing to accomplish, a task I could never have completed years prior. I actually re -wrote the lyrics about 4 times.
The whole track sums up what me and David have been through over the past 7 years since Penthos – David far more so than myself actually – and I remember when we were tracking vocals at the studio it was the first time he had ever heard them.
David was reading through the lyrics whilst I was in the booth and I heard him come through my headphones “Steve… these lyrics are amazing”. They really hit home for both of us but David really picked out from them a reflection of what he had been through personally.
Listening back over “Anvil Chorus” still gives me goosebumps, it’s crazy to think I wrote that, and it just proves that writing from pure emotion, stemming from your own life experiences, is such a powerful means of song writing.
And I really hope anyone listening to the album gets that too.
Well firstly a thank you goes out to everyone involved in making this album happen.
Apocalyptic Witchcraft have been amazing throughout the release and we can’t thank enough those who have patiently waited for us to complete it. We hope you aren’t disappointed!
As for the future, we aim to get back out there and start playing live again as soon as possible and ride that wave as long as it will take us.
And in terms of writing new material, it is already happening in the background, but we are in no rush to write and release album four any time soon.
That being said…. 7 years was a bit excessive, so it hopefully won’t take that long!