(We present Comrade Aleks‘ interview of Philip Howlett, guitarist/vocalist of the Australian doom band Lucifer’s Fall, whose newest album is out now on Sun & Moon Records.)
Finally I return to the doom-laden path and partly that’s because of a new Lucifer’s Fall album, III –From the Deep, released by Sun & Moon Records two months ago. That’s right, here we have their third official full-length but there are a dozen other releases in Lucifer’s discography. The band keep this old-school ongoing ethic so their followers have an opportunity to support this quintet from Adelaide on a regular basis.
Philip Howlett (guitars, vocals) knows how to make doom great again and leads his band towards the highest point on the Australian Doom Metal pedestal. III –From the Deep is an excellent example of traditional doom metal with some punk attitude and imagination, and thus our conversation with Phil about Lucifer’s Fall stuff turned out to be pretty constructive.
Hi Phil! I have a feeling that you spent your quarantine in very productive ways — you’ve uploaded the Live at Doom in June 2019 album in April 2021 and now the band’s third album is out. How do you evaluate the 2020 – 2021 period? Was it that bad in the end?
We haven’t actually had that much quarantine here in South Australia as we’ve been relatively virus free, but we have had some kind of restrictions operating for most of the time, meaning we’ve only played two shows over that entire period. To be honest, especially lately, the whole thing has been getting me down, so my mental state in regard to making music is not 100% at the moment. Aside from that I guess we’ve been reasonably productive. We have another 5 new songs that we’re working on with a view to recording and releasing an EP ourselves sometime next year. It will consist of some of these new tracks and perhaps a couple of redone tracks from the first album.
Live at Doom In June 2019 was uploaded out of frustration at how slow everything was going in regard to Covid slowing down release schedules, etc. Over the last two years we’ve had a bunch of shows cancelled including a couple of big ones that could’ve really helped us out. But I guess that shit has happened to everyone, so it’s not a really unique experience. Ha ha.
Also we have a split with Eldritch Rites with the extra songs recorded during the From The Deep sessions supposedly coming out sometime this century…. So that’s something to look out for. The songs continue the subject matter from the album. Tracks are titled ‘The Mesmerist’, ‘The Furthest Shore’ (an old Rote Mare number), and ‘The Asylum’ / ‘Graveyard Rising’. We’ve also almost completed a new video for the last track mentioned to promote the split.
Overall as a band I think we’re a lot stronger unit then we were two years ago. The Hammer (“new” drummer) has brought an extra level of professionalism due to his high work ethic. Him being an active songwriter and having ideas to contribute has also made the band stronger and more diverse.
Eldritch Rites… I remember them of course. It’s good that Lucifer’s Fall isn’t as famous as Eldritch Rites and that you have found time for this interview, ‘cause I’ve waited for those guys to answer my questions since February 2020. I truly believe it’s some kind of misunderstanding and one day their message will drop into my mail box. Well, I want to believe… But okay, dash it! So you say the songs from this legendary must-be-released split continue the line of III – From the Deep, how did it happen?
Haha. Ok I’ll ask Shayne of Eldritch if he remembers the interview and if he’s still got the questions. It happened this way because we had 10 songs all written for the album but we didn’t want the album to be longer than about 45 minutes. If it’s longer than 45 it’s much harder to get a label interested in doing an LP version as the length makes it need to be a double. So what we decided was to record the 10 songs and then select the tracks for the album after they’d been recorded. This was always with the intention of using the leftover 3 tracks for another release or releases. As I’d been talking to Shayne for a while about doing something together and we had about 20 minutes of extra material, the split seemed like a good solution. We played around with a bunch of combinations of tracks for the album. I don’t consider the three left-out tracks inferior. With the album it was more about getting a flow that felt right. That was the main criterion for the selection of the album tracks.
Phil did this quarantine experience change your attitude toward the band and its role in your life?
Not really. Music making has always been the most important thing in my life in many ways. I think lately I have been feeling more negative due to the amount of work involved for seemingly little result. This is purely an individual personal feeling. I get on well with everyone in the band and the band is better than ever. I guess I’m just frustrated at what Covid has done and how difficult everything is at the moment.
I’m still surprised how bands and labels continue to release stuff despite this situation… Did you hear a doom album released in the last two – three years which impressed you and maybe even inspired you to add something to your own stuff? Cardinals Folly doesn’t count, it’s an obvious choice.
Probably the one that I find the most interesting is the latest Caskets Open (Concrete Realms Of Pain). I guess in some ways it mirrors us in the mix of aggression and doom, although we don’t really sound at all alike. As to inspiration I don’t find much in doom to add something to our stuff apart from the solid influences we’ve always had. I guess hearing things like Purification, The Lone Madman and Fimir direct me back to the more Reverend Bizarre sound occasionally. To be honest, that mainly Finnish style is the sort of doom I like the best. We incorporate some of that but also we have a lot of heavy metal and punk aggression in our music. So we take a lot of influence outside of doom.
There were five years between III – From the Deep and its predecessor II: Cursed & Damned, and you’ve done a lot of stuff between the albums. However, have you fulfilled all your ideas in the new material?
That’s a difficult question. If you mean is there anything that we didn’t use in that period that we worked on, I guess the answer is no. We pretty much used everything we came up with ha ha. If you mean in the context of are there areas of influence we haven’t explored yet, then the answer is yes…. There are definitely other places Lucifer’s Fall can go.
Speaking about lyrics – you said that you’ve been toying with making a more conscious effort with the third album and thinking about basing the album around various ideas that spring from the epic title track. Did it happen in the end?
Yes it did happen. All the songs are based on the same subject. The songs are not ordered in a story telling sequence however. It’s more that each song is a different separate snapshot of a part of the story. Some overlap, some are entirely separate, and others are more “historical”. Of the ten songs recorded for the album and split, the only song that sits outside of the subject lyrically is ‘The Furthest Shore’, due to it being written years ago. Even so, the lyrics fit with the tone of the other songs in a more abstract way.
It’s not a rule but a lot of doom bands, especially today, approach Lovecraft’s legacy, and Lucifer’s Fall isn’t an exception. Your label mates Gargoyle have it, it’s cool. So how much of Lovecraft is in your new songs?
There’s a great deal of Lovecraft in the new songs. The whole concept is a kind of Innsmouth story. It’s not actually the Innsmouth story but it does have a lot of similarities. Ha ha. I threw in a bunch of zombies, insane asylum inmates, a “good” priest, an evil risen from the dead Reverend, and a Mesmerist…. among others. The main theme revolves around a Cthulhu type beast and an army of fish men/zombies.
Why didn’t you just retell the Shadow Over Innsmouth story? Actually Italian Bretus already did a whole album based on it, but it’s always cool to have new musical vision of same exciting events.
I find it kind of boring to just retell something. There’s not really enough freedom to do whatever the hell you want. Not that I’d ever not do it, but I would be more likely to do it in the context of an individual song rather than a whole album. Also I can’t be bothered to read and re-read the book to try and get everything accurate. It just doesn’t interest me really and it seems like too much hard work. With music and vocals I like to write quickly. I don’t really spend a long time writing music and lyrics for songs. They usually come out in quick bursts. So I’m not really made by nature to spend a long time reinterpreting a story into lyrics. I do spend a much longer time on recording vocals though. I will redo things over and over and change words here and there to make things sound smoother. I’m very particular about recording ha ha.
By the way, what’s your favorite interpretation of Lovecraft’s legacy in metal?
I haven’t really thought about it much to be honest. I’d probably just go for some Lamp Of Thoth or Arkham Witch tracks. Because nothing springs directly to my mind I could spend several hours trying to work out which songs and albums based on Lovecraft appeal to me the most. But, I’m not gonna do that. Ha ha. In some ways for a singer I’m not much of a ‘pay huge attention to lyrics’ kind of guy. First things for me when I listen to a song is do I like the riffs/music and then do I like the sound of the singer. If I don’t like the sound of the vocalist I usually can’t listen to it. The lyrics are kinda the last consideration for me unless they are embarrassingly bad ha ha.
Doom metal was serious stuff most of the time — the first bands from US and Europe set this grim (tri)tone and their followers have kept it ’til nowadays. But there are a bunch of bands like Lucifer’s Fall, Cardinals Folly, The Wizar’d and The Lamp of Thoth / Arkham Witch who have nothing sacred and do it in their own way with that reckless, pretty wild delivery. How do you see the role of this attitude in your band now, when you have three albums done? Is it still a necessary piece of your stuff?
Oh yeah for sure. Even though this album is slower and doomier overall, by contrast my vocals have gotten harsher, weirder, and more aggressive, plus there is still the one punk rock number included (‘Doom ‘n’ Roll’). The fuck-you attitude will always be very important for Lucifer’s Fall mainly because basically the music industry sucks and is full of bullshit artists and shit talkers. And it makes me angry ha ha ha. Out of the five new songs we are working on there is one thrash metal song, a punk rock song, a doom ballad, a very trad doom number with a slight black metal tone at the end, and a kind of weird-arse melodic doom number (but actually strange). I like to think that Lucifer’s Fall has its own unique sound. We do a bunch of different stuff but it all sounds like us.
Where and how soon will we be able to hear this collection of curiosities?
We are hoping to have the tracks recorded by the end of the year or early next year. The Hammer is recording his drums for a couple of the songs next weekend (end of October). We’ve decided to record this one ourselves outside the studio as an experiment. Obviously whether we continue on this path for the next album depends on the quality of the recordings in comparison to past high-budget studio recordings. As touched on earlier, the release will be an EP of 4-5 tracks hopefully coming out around the middle of 2022. It’ll maybe include a couple re-recordings of tracks from the first album. The selection will depend on the recording results.
Did you record the new songs in a studio, in an old school manner, or did you record it partly at home as it was with II: Cursed & Damned?
It was all done in the studio apart from my vocals which once again were done at home. It was basically the same set up, same studio, same person at the desk as with II: Cursed & Damned. But this time I think Jarred really got what we were aiming for. I think it’s a much better sounding album, at least production-wise. The main reason I do my vocals at home is that I change a lot of them while I’m recording them (even lyrics). If I was to do this in the studio we’d be there for weeks burning money with studio time expenses. So we get a lot better result if I can work on the vocals by myself at home.
Phil it was your third recording with Jarred Nettle, right? How did you collaborate with him in order to find the right sound, the right solutions in general? Or were you totally aware of what you wanted to achieve and how?
Yep, that is correct. There wasn’t really much collaboration to be honest. I guess we said at the start we wanted a bit more of an organic or more natural sound which I think he achieved quite well. He just did his stuff, and I think this time because it’s our third release with him he got much more of a feel for what we’re about than last time. He’s very easy to work with. Occasionally he might make a suggestion or two but we had pretty much everything worked out before going into the studio.
Phil, will you switch on Solemn Ceremony now that the new Lucifer’s Fall album is out?
The second Solemn Ceremony album is done and will be released early next year on CD. The label announcement is due very soon. It’s called Demise. The track listing is Unknown Horror, The Furthest Shore II, The Mark, Lullaby (The River), In Satan’s Name, Demise. There are two bonus tracks from The Chamber EP included at the end (The Chamber & Sorcerer)
Damn, the songs’ titles sound like a new Lucifer’s Fall album! Why not to put it out under Lucifer’s moniker?
I guess because Lucifer’s Fall is not just my songs these days. I only wrote the music for 3 of the 7 songs on III – From The Deep. Solemn Ceremony is 100% Phil songs. Plus, on the Solemn Ceremony I only had Kran (from LF) helping me out with lead guitar. No one else from the band is involved. There are definitely some songs that would be fine as Lucifer’s Fall songs but overall it’s definitely slower than Lucifer’s Fall are these days. Ha ha.
Well, I believe we’ve covered all the key topics for now! Thank you for patience Phil! I bet we’ll find something to discuss next year!
No problems. Thanks for the interview. It’s always excellent to have a chat about what’s going on.