(Comrade Aleks has a knack for finding people to talk with who have the right spirit and whose conversation is both humble and inspiring, and he’s done it again here with an interview of Pat O’Hara from Chicago-based Voimaton, whose debut album is set for release on June 10th by Personal Records.)
Voimaton is Finnish for “powerless”, but this band from Chicago will knock out the spirit from you with their primal death-doom metal. Well, to tell you the truth, the doom-component doesn’t play an equal role with the death-component, but if you think about Cianide then you may have an impression.
Being founded in 2018 by Dave Tibbets (bass, vocals), Pat O’Hara (drums), and Henry Fordney (guitars), they started with a nameless demo (2019) and two EPs before making the effort to record their first full-length album and here it is! The release of Profane Vestige is scheduled by Personal Records for June 10th. I was lucky to have a talk with Pat, and we discussed everything about Voimaton, so hi Pat!
Hail Pat! So Profane Vestige is almost released, how does it feel for you?
Hails and greetings to you! It’s great to be speaking with you today. Yeah, I’ll say… It’s quite a momentus occasion for us, to say the least. This band has had more hiccups than shows we’ve played, and it’s really nice to see this band come far enough along where we could produce a full-length album.
For those who loosely know our origin story, Henry (our guitarist) was the glue to congeal the band into being, and once that happened we started working on material in earnest, then started looking for shows. While we haven’t been able to play out as often as we’d like due to fucking Covid-19, we WILL be having a release show to celebrate and showcase the LP. We’ll be opening for the mighty Demilich on June 7th, 2022 at Reggie’s (Chicago, IL) and we’re quite stoked to preview all the new material as a part of such a killer lineup.
The band was founded four years ago and you used these years to develop your sound from the rawness of the first demo and two promo EPs towards that we hear on Profane Vestige. How much did you change the original songs before you recorded them for the album?
We certainly did. We took a lot of time and produced the best material we possibly could. Had nothing but fucking time with all the sitting around and no ability to really play out, haha. While all the songs that appear on Profane Vestige were subject to small changes here and there, the first song we ever wrote as a band, ‘Erudition’, went through the most changes of all. You can follow its growth from the demo all the way to PV and the changes vary from quite stark, to very subtle.
Quite proud of it, to say the least, and we’re happy to include it amongst the LP’s song list. Most of the remaining material on the LP which we’ve released previously hasn’t undergone anything as vast as ‘Erudition’, and more or less have been in their final forms for awhile now.
Do you have some songs left after this recording session?
No, we don’t. The only songs we prepared are what you see on the final track list for Profane Vestige.
I saw that your music is tagged as death-doom though the doom influences aren’t that obvious and you rather lean towards aggressive and faster stuff. What were your influences when you recorded the first songs?
Great question. We play on them subtly while occasionally diving into full-blown plodding, haha. The big ones for us are Cianide and Saint Vitus, but along with Saint Vitus and the off-kilter slow doom/death influences of the Finnish scene, we’ve mostly pulled songwriting structures and the atmosphere from doom metal (but that’s always subject to change).
For example, our vocalist/bassist, Dave, took influence from Scott Reagers‘ vocal cadences, along with chord voicings and atmosphere from various songs from the Reagers-era when writing riffs and lyrics. Trouble is another big one for us and most of their material is more akin to the Sabbath-style mid-paced aggression with a doomy, oppressive atmosphere. Black Sabbath, too, of course. Who isn’t influenced by them when in a metal band, right?
We also lean on the doomier, oppressive Celtic Frost-style now and again. Haha. We sum up the sound of our band to others as Cianide meets Saint Vitus, plus the off-kilter weirdness of the Finnish AND the most musical/atmosphere aspects of late “cavernous death metal” scene.
You mentioned the Finnish scene once more. Which bands do you mean? Reverend Bizarre and Spiritus Mortis or Skepticism and Shape of Despair?
Rippikoulu and Reverend Bizarre, most definitely. II: Crush the Insects is a masterpiece and I also really love III: So Long Suckers, too. Shame they didn’t bother finishing it, but that’s another discussion, haha. Worship the whole catalog.
Early Purtenance, Slugathor, and the early Convulse material influence us all, as well. Speaking of Rippikoulu, we cited the atmosphere on Musta seremonia as a major influence for what we wanted on Profane Vestige, along with Cianide, etc. We love Skepticism, but funeral doom metal is an entirely different animal, haha. I don’t know if we’ll ever get that slow. Didn’t say never, though.
Your songs’ titles speak for themselves, but let’s try anyway – what motivates you to write names like “Despondent Mass“, “Bile”, or “Enshrine Antipathy”?
I will do my best, haha. Dave would be the point-man on this one, but the motivation behind the lyrics ties directly into the bands’ name, Voimaton. Voimaton is a Finnish word which loosely translates to “powerless”. While this is not anywhere close to a reflection of our overall sound, it ties to the lyrical subjects addressed concretely.
Our lyrical themes center around nihilism, misanthropy, the failings of the human race, and being powerless in the face of forces and things much more vast and powerful than you/we are. This makes up the bulk of the lyrical motivation/inspiration. We also have the occasional nod to classic literature – “Malebolge”, for example. That song is loosely inspired by the place of the same name, as described originally in Dante Allegheri’s Inferno.
Sounds good for my ears. So do you see Voimaton as a kind of “intellectual” band with some concept behind it rather than an instrument to blow off steam?
I would say it’s a little bit of both. We’re not playing dumb, slow riffs and bellowing on about nothing, you know? There’s a tad more thought to what goes into writing the lyrics, but nothing super out-there or deep. While the songwriting is intended to be simple and straight-forward, it’s what’s going on within those parameters that can be complex. A riff may repeat 4 times, but Henry never plays the same thing twice. Same can be said when playing live, too. Keeps things interesting, haha. But, at the same time, this is an outlet for us to blow off steam in a productive way. Considering the way the world is going and how things are looking lately, we only have that much more steam to blow off, you know?
You already had an experience of recording sessions with your band Narcotic. How did this experience help you during your work over Profane Vestige?
Narcotic was an invaluable stepping stone for Dave and I. While we didn’t achieve the success we’d hope for when the band was active, we still learned A LOT, and part of the lessons learned was that we still wanted to continue making music together. Prior to the band’s demise, we had played with Blood Incantation (Narcotic‘s final show, actually), but once that was over, Dave and I wasted no time in forming and developing Voimaton. Wasn’t named that at the time, but I won’t share the original name, haha.
When it came time to record Profane Vestige, Dave and I had been playing and writing together for almost 10 years. Not to mention that Dave and Henry were in a band together that existed before briefly/during Narcotic‘s existence, so we’d all been playing together and in the same scene for a decade or so. From crafting the first songs to laying them all down live in the studio, working with this band and these dudes has been very easy-going and straightfoward. Quite pleased with how far we’ve come.
Are you meaning that you recorded the entire album live in the studio? How much time did that take?
Correct. The whole thing was cut live in the recording studio. We even went without click tracks to make it more of a challenge! We overdubbed when necessary and only when it was appropriate/needed, but what you hear on the record is the best representation of Voimaton live to date. We had that goal in mind specifically before going in to start recording, as we wanted to capture our rehearsal and live feel/sound under the microscope. It took 3 days max to lay down everything we needed, and each day ran anywhere from 8 to 12 hours per day.
What was your aim when you started recording Profane Vestige? What kind of sound did you want to achieve?
The overall aim was to capture our rehearsal sound and aggression/energy with a slightly more polished edge. Kinda like what we did with the Live Rehearsal EP, but in a more professional setting with more ways of capturing our sound the way we wanted, haha.
The one album we heavily referred to for atmosphere, recording quality/clarity, and just the scheer brutality of it, was Cianide‘s The Dying Truth. Everything about that album rules, as we all know, but one interesting aspect we cited about why we liked it so much was that it was an honest live recording. There are mistakes and odd drum hits left and right, but’s that’s what makes the album so dear to us. Humans playing music make mistakes and to edit those out for the sake of a “perfect” final product was out of the question for us.
Plus, it made us work harder in the live room and I think the results speak for themselves. Another album we stressed importance over was Musta seremonia by Rippikoulu. The atomsphere on that recording is very bleak, stale, dry, and ominous. We also appreciated that it was clear in recording quality, but not highly-polished or altered in any artificial way. Pairing that type of atomsphere with the afore-mentioned qualities of The Dying Truth was a no-brainer for us and we had to make the attempt.
How often do you play live? What’s your worst and best experience of playing live?
Not enough. I think this band has hit the stage less than 10 times since the pandemic began. Covid-19 has been a real pain-in-the-ass in terms of getting off the ground, but we’ve done the best we can, considering the circumstances. I am happy to say we haven’t played out enough yet to have a “worst experience”, haha. While we’ve had lots of great experiences playing live so far, our debut show with Molder, Coffin Rot, Frozen Soul, and Plague Years was one for the books. The room was full and we opened that one, so it couldn’t get much better than that for a band with only a 3-song demo and no merch, haha.
Coffin Rot is the only familiar name in this list, though I see – there are / were four bands with this name! Do you have other local (or not local) bands with whom you’d prefer to play? Maybe some bands which you would advise us to listen to.
Ah, right. Forgot that there are multiple Coffin Rot‘s out there. The one from Washington was who we got to open for. Great band and great people! Definitely check them out if you have a minute.
As far as who we play with locally, we play with our friends in Molder and Rotted when we get the chance. We’ve played with Pale Horseman recently, which was a lot of fun. Known those guys for years, too, and they’re great people. I’m sure as things get better, I’ll do a double-set with my other band, Nucleus, haha. It’s bound to happen down the line. Otherwise, we haven’t played out enough yet, but that’s something we’re working on. Be sure to check out all the bands mentioned above!
What are your ambitions regarding Voimaton? Do you see it as your hobby or do you feel yourself ready to put some blood, money, and sweat in it?
Play out. Especially as this pandemic begins to wane. Write and record more music, of course. Hit the road, etc. The things we all join bands for, you know? As for your second question, the latter. I’ve been pouring blood, money, and sweat into music since 2012 and I have zero plans to quit doing so. Same with the other two dudes in the band. We’re ready to take this is far as it can go. We’ve been working on our craft long enough now where we believe this band has real potential to go somewhere and take us someplace. Where and when is to be determined, but we’re in for the long haul.
What are your plans for the rest of 2022?
Open the Demilich show and release Profane Vestige to the world, then play out as often as able. Really hoping to tour in support of the LP, but that’s only a fantasy at this stage in the game. Also depends on what the pandemic decides to throw our way, but regardless of it, we’re going to be playing more shows, writing more music, and finally putting out some fucking merchandise, haha.
Thanks for the interview Pat! Good luck with Profane Vestige’s promotion… God speed on you, so to say, ha-ha. Any final words for our readers?
You’re welcome and thank you, haha. Huge thanks for having us on the site! Really fucking stoked to be working with all you kind folks and we sincerely appreciate you checking us out and pushing the album. As far as any final words are concerned, thank you to anyone and everyone who has supported us over the years. Times couldn’t be tougher at the moment and we’re happy for any amount of time and energy you dedicate towards our music. It really means a lot. Be smart and be safe out there, and we’ll see you at a show.