(We present Comrade Aleks‘ interview of Field Marshall William Purify from the Portland-based doom metal band Purification. You will not be bored.)
I don’t remember where I heard of this band from Portland for the first time, but it was Count Karnstein himself who gave me a kick and reminded of Purification when his own band Cardinals Folly recorded a few songs for a split album with them. So it’s true doom metal time!
Purification was started four years ago and there are already four full-length albums in their discography – Destruction of the Wicked (2019), Perfect Doctrine (2020), Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever (2020), and The Exterminating Angel (2021). Add to this list the new Possessed in the Ritual Grove split and you’ll see how this band is hyperactive.
We’re used to doom bands not hurrying usually, but Purification seems to be a bit unusual, so let’s break some cliches with this interview.
Hi Purification! How are you? Who’s online today?
This is Field Marshall William Purify. I’m alive and that’s about all I can say.
Let’s start from the very beginning, okay? Purification was born from your first band Thrown, right? What was wrong with it? Why didn’t you continue to move further in a different direction but using the old name?
Well, that’s not the beginning of this story, but if you want to start with Thrown then we’ll start there. Thrown was formed as an idea I had to create a much meaner and altogether older style of heavy metal that was not seen very much in our city. I had met Lord Donangato in the withering local scene while playing in our respective projects at the time, him in Chronoclops and I in Troll. After releasing the first demo in 2017, I realized there was need for a more competent drummer to help me flesh out the ideas, thus we began jamming around this time.
There was nothing wrong with Thrown, in fact, we are both quite proud of the full-length album we did, Announcing The Majesty and Glory Of Satanic Truth. It’s fucking heavy, mean, and though it references many bands everyone knows, we like to think we put a unique spin on the usual punk-metal formula. As far as I am concerned, the project is simply on hiatus. There could well be another Thrown record that appears in the future. So obviously when we naturally shifted to more Doom-metal territories, a new name had to be found.
You mention the local scene as a “withering” one. Do you mean Portland? As far as I remember, the city has a reputation as a quite creative place, isn’t it?
Portland is a nightmare!!! It is at the bleeding edge of the internal dissolution of the American imperial decay. I personally am planning to move far, far away from Portland very soon. Creativity in general is dead, but nowhere is its corpse more truly fucked to oblivion than in Portland. The few good doom metal groups here are always disrespected and shunted aside for all sorts of trash masquerading as metal.
You started with the demos 1642 and 1455. Why did you choose these two historical periods for your songs?
Sometimes it can be more fun or cathartic to sing about evil things in the past than it can be to sing about evil things happening to you in your real life. I often write lyrics that seem to be historical, but really, I am just projecting my feelings onto past events, and metaphorizing my current experiences through the historical subject. It was natural to first choose English historical chaos because it lends to the “witchfinder” aesthetic easily. That being said, I am not interested in this bullshit marijuana rock or psychedelic indie nonsense they erroneously call doom, and so we wanted to set our stall out early and show we weren’t going to be intimidated into following all these stupid post-00’s fads.
Speaking about stoner and psycho-doom music, how is this classification wide-spread in the US? I have an impression that the Old World is more into old school traditional doom metal, and the American scene has its own view on “doom”.
There is no American “scene”, as I would understand it. There is no such thing as a “scene” anymore in the US because it is too fractured and competitive here, and music has become just another part of building a lifestyle profile online. I don’t know what to call it, maybe a “cock measuring competition” is more apt.
The rich old farts like Vitus, Pentagram, Place of Skulls (fuck their Christian bullshit) and their ilk have nothing to do with anything that is happening or interesting now, but they are still buttressing the entire notion of a “traditional doom metal” culture in the US. I cannot stress enough how few people on this side of the Atlantic actually give a rip about metal, period, compared to Europe, much less “old” metal, like the style we seem to fall into. Although I will say, we do not try to sound “traditional” at all, which should be clear when a person listens to our recordings.
Which bands shaped your vision of the doom metal you perform with Purification? Well, besides Reverend Bizarre.
It depends on which album you are talking about. During some of the writing periods of the various albums I didn’t listen to any metal at all, let alone doom metal. But if we are reaching back into the past influences of both Lord Donangato and I, I think there is a basic list that anyone who reads this website would know: Pagan Altar, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Witchfinder General, Trouble, and their like.
But really, it is useless to list these bands because everyone knows them. I am more heavily influenced to make the music I make by diverse sources, usually not metal at all. Albums like 45,000 Volts or Day of Judgement by Zambian legends Ngozi Family, the live MC5 album Teen Age Lust, or the lost masterpiece of Japanese legends Boris, Heavy Rocks (2002), are more inspiration to the actual final product of my writing than Paranoid or Born Too Late.
I rarely listen to any “doom metal” anymore, but I will admit some albums that do not get much current praise, like Vast Oceans Lachrymose by While Heaven Wept, or Monotheist by Celtic Frost are massive influences on specific visions I have when attempting to create a Purification recording.
You recorded the first album Destruction of the Wicked (2019) with Brandon Butler as the engineer. How did you get in contact with this Space God Ritualist?
Lord Donangato and Sir Butler have been friends for over a decade, with Donangato even making multiple guest appearances on Space God Ritual records in his able capacities as a lead guitarist. Butler and Donangato have also played together in multiple local projects, under the name Krack Sabbat, as well as other monikers. When we originally began the rehearsals for DOTW, we had tapped Butler to play drums on the record, but because of familial commitments his involvement ended up primarily in the engineering and mixing role. He has the same vision of life and music as we do, and we still fraternize together socially. We were just all together at Lord Donangato’s most recent birthday vigil.
Were you satisfied with the album back then? It sounds raw, but your ideas and intentions are clear, so did everything go according to your plan?
Each album is an idiosyncratic document of the conditions it was created under. There are some little hindsight tweaks we could always do to any of our albums to change them, bring up the volume of this or that guitar, decrease this or that bit of mellotron, or whatever. All of this remastering and remixing stuff is mostly useless, especially for a band like ours. It’s reviewers and website writers who care about such things as “lo-fi quality”. I would do every record like 1642 if our current drummer would let me, but alas, all drummers want to hear their drums in crystal clear quality.
You kept the sound’s lo-fi quality further on the next album Perfect Doctrine (2020). Was it intentional or did you not have a better opportunity to improve your stuff?
It’s hilarious to me that everyone thinks that recording is lo-fi. It’s not. It was done on the most modern types of computers and editing equipment, mostly to retain a good drum sound. We paid good money to an engineer to do the sessions. Maybe you people are listening to too much of this new Ghost and Pallbearer crap. Laughable. If you think that recording is lo-fi, I have a whole casket-full of “lo-fi” black metal records to show you that have sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
This is a perfect example of why doom-metal will always eat its own like an Ouroboros – people think that black metal geeks are elitist, well, they haven’t met the legions of terminally online doom nerds. Good luck trying to break out of this dead genre with a “lo-fi” sound. Not possible in 2022. But we will continue making records however we want, fuck the consequences. If I have my way, we will do our 5th album on an 8-track cassette recorder.
I guess you’re right, and this tendency to label music “lo-fi” is connected with a number of major bands with clearer and more polished sound. Plus bands who perform more traditional forms of metal are distinguished with their ethics in general. However… which “modern” bands represent the most optimal doom-sound for you?
To be clear, I do not really care how an album is recorded, and I never have. Just fucking record the thing and stop worrying. I hate electronics and computers in general, but their mass introduction into the sphere of music has been nothing short of a disaster of Tower-Of-Babel-esque proportions. The finality of releasing modern heavy metal music in the traditional way requires that the document be approached “as-is”. Of course, some recording techniques can hinder the enjoyment of an album for some people, but that is subjective and can easily be shown to be a fallacious critique.
Who cares how an album is recorded if it sounds “right” to those who created it? If it sounds “wrong” to the band themselves before they release an album, then obviously something is amiss. I suspect this happens all the time: a band will be dissatisfied with their own creation, and instead of diving deeper to find the right alchemy to correct the vision, they simply release the shit they harbor misgivings toward. An album has to sound “right” to me after many repeated listens to get the green light for release.
And to be clear again, I do not take notes on the “sound” of other modern doom bands. If I do find something I like, it will inevitably be the atmosphere, lyrics, and riffing that draws me to it – and the more lo-fi the recording, the better. I focus on accomplishing the finalization of my creation through my process and nothing else, and I experiment with new ways of recording all the time out of necessity, not because I am interested in recording as a process itself.
How did you manage to record another full-length album Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever the same year? Were there any reasons to hurry?
Like I’ve said in interviews before, it’s not about some sort of time constraint. We could put out 3 or 4 full-length albums a year if it was worth it to do so (and we nearly do anyway). But the internet has fundamentally broken all healthy systems of music consumption, and there is a law of diminishing returns we must always be careful to avoid. Creativity is not the issue if you are pursuing the task of creation with unwavering resolve. The time to strike was right, and so we record the thing. It’s that simple.
I don’t give a fuck about bullshit record labels who can’t get their act together, it doesn’t matter that no one in our country will put out our records. We put out the music when we feel like it and stop working on it when we feel like it. There is no need to sweat harder when it is obvious even your own fans cannot handle another record so quickly, so we simply shelve the songs and take it easy. There are probably at least 2 more albums of material composed and ready to record this very day, but why bother to do it so quickly? It would be a waste of energy; no one is shocked or awed by anything anymore. What serious doom metal band has ever put out as many albums as we have in the time we have? And to this quality? It simply reveals the fickle nature of the modern music listener that they only ask for more and more and more, even when they are being served the finest food, dish after dish.
Do you see a chance to change the situation with this music consumerism system? Or is it just the new reality and people are doomed to swallow albums on their way to their work and back?
It is the hell we have to deal with as artists. In ancient Rome, actors, musicians, and poets who entertained the lower classes were treated worse than dogs, because it was thought that any old fool could be accomplished in the arts. It was considered a bad destiny to be cursed with the singing tongue. It is one of the reasons why Nero was so maligned during his time as emperor – he loved to sing and race his chariot and to act in plays. Of course the upper classes patronized certain poets and musicians, but it was only to increase their reputation among the imperium and flatter their own sense of cultural taste. I think we are returning to such a time: all art is co-opted by the rationalized capitalist machine, and those who want to function outside of it are marginalized and silenced.
The Exterminating Angel (2021) is your strongest record now. How long did you to work on this material? What were your intentions when you entered the studio?
It is interesting that you say it’s the strongest, I would not agree. It is vastly different, and it is an excellent recording, but it isn’t a true Purification record in the sense that it was created solely with this project in mind. The process of conceptualizing and recording TEA was a chaotic mess that spanned almost 4 years. Most of the material on the album were songs I had written and planned to appear on the 3rd Troll recording, which never came to be as a result of that project falling apart in early 2020. I have told this story in other interviews, but essentially, I felt that it was a shame to leave these songs unrecorded and unheard (you yourself must agree, since you believe it is our best album), and so after finishing Perfect Doctrine we undertook the long process of refining the music into something that resembled a Purification album, rather than a “Troll” album.
By happenstance TEA was actually recorded nearly concurrently with DITHOTLF, basically being recorded back-to-back in November and December of 2020 respectively. DITHOTLF thus naturally was released first because it was the rightful successor to Perfect Doctrine, whereas TEA was more of a one-off project that was a labor of love to resurrect some excellent songs from certain death. I am glad they both exist, but they were conceived in very different circumstances, and the actual process of recording them could not have been more markedly different.
Well, let’s take a look: ‘The Unholy Resurrection’ has all these cute elements like movie samples, catchy mid-tempo riffs, and haunting vocal lines; ‘On Earth as It Is’ sounds lighter yet keeps the same vibe; there’s killer up-tempo parts in ‘The Exterminating Angel’ as well as that atmospheric passage in the end of the song; ‘Sublime Thrones In Kaaba’ is a sort of “Planets Caravan” thing, and ‘Dreamtiger’ alongside the dramatic ‘The Way of All Flesh’ have their own hooks to offer. If you ask me it’s more diverse than Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever, and yet it’s solid, I don’t see a contradiction here…
So, okay, but what about people’s feedback? Do you feel that people dig Purification’s stuff? Do you feel support from the local scene or only from internet doom-nerds?
I have a vague sense of the reasons why someone might like our stuff. The little personal messages of encouragement people will send to us are nice. They help me not give up completely, I guess if someone likes it and I still get the bug to write a few tunes here and there we should give them what they want. And I don’t want to hate too much on the people who are online looking for music all the time. If that makes them happy, wonderful, I am happy for them. The fact that anyone purchases our records blows my mind. But it’s obvious that most people just like our first album, and want us to do that album over and over again. I will not make them happy.
As far as the local scene is concerned, we have literally no support. We play shows to maybe 5 or 10 people maximum, when we do play, which is rare because no one asks us to play. We are worse than unknown, we are ignored. No local magazines write about us, no one reviews our records, no local DJ’s play our music on the radio, no labels or record stores want our music. It’s like living in hell where you are a ghost. It’s like we don’t exist.
You started with lyrical themes connected with rather historical themes and good old religious prejudices, what’s the lyrical concept on The Exterminating Angel ?
There’s no one cohesive lyrical concept on TEA, certainly unlike 1455. If anything, it was me coming to terms in many ways with so much that was at the time ending in my life, people passing away, relationships disappearing, projects either breaking up or failing to get off the ground, etc. It felt like a time of ending and extermination. So I think the lyrics obviously reflect that.
Your split album with Cardinals Folly was released just a month ago or so. What are your further plans for 2022?
Crondor-willing, we plan to release our 5th full-length album in late fall/early winter on a more serious record label. Other than that we hope to come back to Europe at some point soon now that the plague is beginning to recede into the rear view of history. It is a bad time for music, especially doom metal, and it is a bad time to be an American band who plays our style of doom metal. We do not have many local or regional fans and most of our time is spent slaving at our idiot jobs to live hand to mouth. Our only hope to continue past the release of this 5th album is to break into the European touring market, but that is not likely. It is more likely that we will continue in our obscurity.
Yet in our obscurity our Legend grows stronger, and coils like a snake waiting to strike its prey. Little children, the time is coming where there shall be many antichrists among you – in this time, look to Purification for guidance and truth. We are there in the pit of hell with you and will walk into infinite halls of sadness to build for you the last bastion of true doom metal. That is all.
I get your point of view, and I believe nowadays doom-gigs would rather bring disillusionment for those bands who travel far in order to reach those few of their fans. Have you thought about turning Purification into a studio project totally? For example, good sir Philip Howlett of Lucifer’s Fall did that with his band not long ago. Who would have thought…
That is the most likely scenario, to exist as a studio-only band. I would not expect us to play any more shows beyond the end of 2023. I may continue to release albums under the Purification name, but not as a band, more as a personal project. But there are always possibilities I have not foreseen.
Dear Field Marshall William Purify, thank you for this conversation, I have no more questions today. Did we skip any important topics?
Thank you, and may you walk in Crondor’s light until we meet again.
Interesting insights about the doom scene in USA.