(The South Carolina black/death metal band Olkoth are awaiting the release of their debut album At The Eye Of Chaos by Everlasting Spew Records on the 26th of May, and today we present Comrade Aleks‘ interview of the band’s guitarist/vocalist Zach Jeter.)
Everlasting Spew Records has released some great new albums which the NCS crew has covered here. And now it’s the turn of Olkoth.
The band from Columbia, South Carolina was formed in 2017 by Zach Jeter (guitars, vocals) and drummer Apollyon Baphomet (Vance Jeffcoat). Apollyion died of cystic fibrosis the same year, and Zach started to gather a new lineup to keep the band active. The lineup was stable after Demo (2019) and the single Eidolon in the Flames (2021) were released, and now Olkoth consists of Zach, Hunter Ross (guitars), and Alex Rush (bass, vocals). This trio recorded the full-length album At the Eye of Chaos together with guest drummer Krzysztof Klingbein, and the release date is set on the 26th of May.
This embodiment of foul blackened death metal gets closer every day and our duty is to warn you of its unavoidable arrival.
Hi Zach! How are you? Are you occupied with some preparations regarding At the Eye of Chaos’ forthcoming release?
Doing great, thanks! We are currently preparing for our first European tour in September. Working on some NA tour plans as well, so yeah I’d say we’re pretty well occupied!
How did you manage to organize it? Will you tour alone or with some company?
With the help of our good friend Tito Vespasiani of Everlasting Spew Records and Death Over Rome bookings! We’ll be joining the Italian brutal death metal band Devangelic, who also just released a monster of an album. We’re stoked to say the least!
And how often do you play live in the US usually? How far do you get with Olkoth?
This will be the first time we’ve played live since 2019. It’s been a long road with this band just getting off the ground, but through Olkoth I’ve made more friends and connections in the music world than I would have imagined. More recently I did some touring as well as the 70k Tons of Metal cruise with one of my current favorite death metal bands out there, Hideous Divinity. Playing with those guys was an incredible experience and we’ve all become good friends. Olkoth still has a long way to go, but man we’ve come a long way against crazy odds.
First of all, Olkoth is a very, very fictional new deity from the current Cthulhu Mythos’ pantheon. Why did you take this name? And did you make contact with another Olkoth which took part in a split release with Capel Beulah (Signal Rex, 2021)?
When I was coming up with concepts for the band initially in 2016, I stumbled across the name and liked the way it sounded. The deity is sort of part of an extended universe, not created by Lovecraft himself. For that matter we attached kind of our own meaning to it. In this case Olkoth is an ageless being that reincarnates through humans to see through the end of an era. A catalyst for change and purging corruption. Also from a musical standpoint we set out to create something that stood out drastically from what was going on around us in the metal scene. So the name resonated with us and stuck.
As for the other band, in 2016 when I first created our page and began the first demos there were no others even on Metal Archives. So when they appeared I didn’t bother contacting them. There are quite a few bands named “Behemoth” for example, yet most only recognize one, so we decided to continue and just let the music speak for itself.
Zach, you and Hunter did additional guest vocals for Nile’s Vile Nilotic Rites. And Olkoth is compared with Nile usually. What do you think regarding this?
We did record some guest vocals for that album which was awesome. We’re all pretty much from the same area in SC. Starting from In Their Darkened Shrines, Nile was a big influence on my style early on. So some of that I’m sure comes through in the music. I don’t mind the comparison by any means; Karl and Dallas both have written some of my favorite extreme metal songs ever. Olkoth is built from quite a few influences though, so there’s a lot more than Nile hiding in there.
How were you involved in the local extreme metal scene? What was your way there?
I never was, really. All through my teens and ’20s I was mostly the loner guy sitting around playing guitar by himself. I jammed with a few guys here and there but nothing stuck. Everybody around here was usually playing stoner rock or something and it was just never my thing. That or hardcore/breakdown stuff. Basically a real “extreme metal” scene in my area was pretty much non-existent.
The first real support I found early on from another musician was my friend Vance Jeffcoat (rest in peace), who was also a founding member and first drummer for Olkoth. We were in the same boat of feeling alienated from the “scene” and in a way that fueled us creatively I think. Without him I most definitely would not be the musician I am today.
So what pushed you to create Olkoth back in 2017? Did you already have some shaped ideas you wanted to perform?
Pure hate and the quest for riffs. We had a lot of ideas back then that didn’t make it. One song though on At the Eye of Chaos (“Incendiary Prayer”) was actually written in 2017 and hasn’t changed much since. It was just this ripping track that I wrote together with Vance and it’s still one of my favorites.
There was one demo and then the single Eidolon in the Flames (2021), but in the end your way to the At the Eye of Chaos full-length album took almost six years. What slowed you down all this time?
Quite a lot, actually. After Vance passed from health complications, I stepped away from it all for a bit. Around 2018 is when I started revisiting the material again, rewriting things and connected with Brad Parris. We pulled together a new lineup including Hunter Ross, released a demo in 2019 and did a tour through the US and Canada. Part of that lineup dissolved not long after due to multiple internal issues. We did have an album ready at that time, though it was much different and not true to the spirit of the band. Keyboards, guitars being buried in the mix, etc. Just not the band that Vance and I had envisioned.
Since his passing it’s been a goal of mine to honor his memory with my music. So besides three songs, I wrote all new songs with Hunter and bassist/vocalist Alex Rush (Enthean, Imperishable) getting back to our roots. Coupled with the pandemic and all of us being pretty far away from each other, we definitely had some hurdles in our way. In the end what we were left with is an album that we can listen to and be proud of all the way through. Every song has weight to it, no filler. For me, that alone makes it well worth the wait.
When did you get that the At the Eye of Chaos material was worthy to be released? What were the most difficult moments during the recording of the album?
Even early on I felt we had something special in the sound that we crafted, solidified even further with the addition of Alex who really brought some great ideas to the table. Also it was almost a spiritual kind of thing for me, so not releasing the album was never an option.
The most difficult moments… it would be easier to count the moments that weren’t. The entire process was a major test of willpower and perseverance, especially after the reset of 2020. Balancing family life and music, fighting depression and keeping our heads above water during the pandemic. There was no shortage of difficult moments but it all only made us stronger in the end!
Did you record it in a real studio? I didn’t find anything about Hexology Studios.
Hexology Studios has become the name for my home studio. I’ve started doing some audio/video work commercially and trying to build on that more. All of the guitars, bass, and vocals were recorded here. Drums were recorded in Poland by Krzysztof Klingbein. The reamping, final mix, and mastering were all done by Ronnie Björnström of Björnström Ljud & Produktion in Sweden.
How much of Lovecraft is actually in At the Eye of Chaos? What was your first encounter with his mythology?
There are four songs on this album directly inspired by Lovecraft works. I found a compilation of his stories a long time ago and like a ton of others out there he became a huge inspiration. At the Mountains of Madness and “The Horror at Red Hook” being the two that first really pulled me in.
Which songs did you build around H.P.’s stories besides “Alhazred”?
“Thousand Faced Moon” is directly inspired by “The Horror at Red Hook”. “The Resurrectionist” and “At the Eye of Chaos” are also loosely based off of Lovecraft. Overall pulling from a wide variety of horror fiction, occult, history, and mythology helps keep things interesting.
Which qualities of Olkoth’s sound help you to intensify the atmosphere of Lovecraftian stories?
Musically I think having a bit of dissonance while still being very riff oriented helps to create more atmosphere while keeping the aggression. We try to craft the arrangements and soundscapes in a way that gives each song an identity of its own. Doing justice to the themes lyrically is always a big focus too.
You have the first album finished, so how ambitious are you regarding the band’s future? Are you already discussing some new ideas?
Very much so. This album has been finished for a while now, so we’ve already begun conceptualizing and writing music for the next one. As proud as I am of this album I’m more excited for the next one. What we have for it already is the most intense stuff I’ve ever written. This one will see the light of day much quicker than the first. In the meantime, we’re planning to hit the road as hard as possible to make up for lost time.
Thanks for the interview Zach and good luck with the forthcoming tour! Would you like to add a few more words for our readers?
Thank you! This album release is a major milestone, we’re excited to finally crawl from our holes and unleash it out on the road. Hail the riff, see you out there!