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by Kim Kelly
dISEMBOWELMENT are the definition of a "cult" band. Formed in Melbourne in 1989, these avowed practitioners of unsettling, decrepit art released a handful of seminal early recordings before unleashing their sole LP and magnum opus. With 1993's Transcendence Into the Peripheral, the Aussie quartet unwittingly created both one of the cornerstones of modern death/doom and one of the first widely acknowledged funeral doom recordings (the band prefers the death/doom tag, while many others seems hellbent on dubbing them "funeral doom;" in this instance, we'll defer to those who actually wrote the damn songs!). Unfortunately, Disembowelment languished in relative obscurity for years, breaking up immediately after the release of their LP and busying themselves with other musical pursuits. Those who stumbled across their recordings, though, were captivated by the band's atmospheric, crushingly heavy amalgam of murky death metal, wretched doom, and dark ambiance, and their posthumous influence filtered through the underground as a new wave of bands began to take their cues from Transcendence Into the Peripheral.
Much like the rebirth of Winter, it took a concentrated outside effort to lure Disembowelment out of retirement, and even then, it didn't quite work. Disembowelment is good and dead, but some of the minds behind it, namely bassist Matt Skarajew and drummer Paul Mazziota, were willing to play ghost. In 2010, the duo recruited a few new members and announced that they would be playing Transcendence Into the Peripheral in its entirety at Netherlands' prestigious Roadburn Festival, under the moniker d.USK. That gig turned into several gigs, and the inevitable rumours of new music began to spread until the cat was let out of the bag - Skarajew and Mazziota had formed a new project, christened Inverloch, that was recording new material and planning to engage in a handful of live performances. Relapse Records have signed on to release their debut EP, Dusk...Subside, and anticipation's running high for next month's d.USK performance. I spoke to Skarajew and Mazziota about the past, present, and future - and of course, did my damnedest to convince them to come play NYC.
Check out the interview with Inverloch along with a track stream for "The Menin Road" below.
Disembowelment - "The Menin Road"
So why have you decided to start this new project, and release a new album? Do you see it as a move to pick up where Disembowelment left off? Why did you take so long to do so?
Paul Mazziota: Having spent a short while rediscovering our old material with the d.USK project, the creative inspiration inevitably started to flow again. Having new band mates that are ultra-enthusiastic inspires you, too. Releasing new music under a new band name was the only way we were ever going to do this, and it's refreshing to do it in a new context, with Inverloch. We don't see it as picking up where d. left off. Just like the old days, we're writing songs that we'd like to hear. There's no doubt there is an inevitable stylistic link to the past - in many ways, that sound is burned into our collective psyche, and the music flowed so easily and naturally. It took time simply due to the fact that we have very busy family lives outside of music - but Paul and I have been jamming for years, keeping the flame burning. As long as we're feeling creatively inspired, and feel there's some inherit value in the music, we'll continue. Right now, it feels damn good...
To dig a little deeper, you're saying that you don't see Inverloch as "picking up where D. left off," but acknowledge the inevitability of it being regarded as such. Disembowelment set a madly high standard, but as this debut EP of yours has made clear, Inverloch is more than capable of reaching those heights. Does it bother you to think that this new project, replete as it is with different members and decades of musical experience, is almost doomed to be judged alongside Disembowelment instead of on its own merits?
PM: The project started as a result of the d.USK band coming up with new material. d.USK was more a tribute band and we never intended to release anything as d.USK. So we thought we would break into a new identity and call ourselves INVERLOCH and Relapse were super supportive to offer to release our EP. The move was NEVER to pick up where diSEMBOWELMENT left off. INVERLOCH is a new band with new band members and new ideas. Matt & I were always jamming on something old school with Pulgar. It took so long because we were just casually jamming with Pulgar for a while. We were asked at shows from time to time about getting diSEMBOWELMENT up and going (which was never going to happen). Once d.USK was up and running we found some new ideas and hit the record button. It doesn't bother me about how Inverloch is judged next to diSEMBOWELMENT. As long as we enjoy what we are doing, everything else is out of our control.
Matt Skarajew: I think we're all pretty well resigned to that notion of comparison - it may be fundamentally pointless but I suppose that is human nature. I'm not bothered by it on my account - Ideally I'd prefer the other band members to have the opportunity to make their own mark - and perhaps in time they will. This is really just a smattering of music though, nothing grandiose in our eyes. If people buy into the publicity that gets attached to the release then that's their responsibility, not ours. Currently much of the press seems to be very focused on our links to the past and we have no control over that - so hopefully in time that will diminish somewhat. We'll see
The christening of a band is a weighty process, and something you've dealt with more than most. Out of curiosity, why did you choose the name Inverloch? Has it something to do with the town in Victoria, or the graphic novel series? It's a far cry from the implied violence of "Disembowelment," but going on what you've said in earlier interviews, you weren't totally happy with that name either, were you?
PM: Inverloch was a name Matt came up with. It was a tune he wrote for Trial of the Bow and was keen to use it for a band name one day. That day came. I believe there is some inspiration from the coastal town in Victoria. Regarding the band name disembowelment, yes we did want to change band name just before the release of the 'Transcendence...' album to dusk as we continued to steer clear of the stereo typical Death/Doom/Gore type band names or logos.etc. Relapse at the time were against changing our band name due to the underground scene knowing about us through our 2nd demo.
MS: It's not so hard to start fresh - in many ways it's completely refreshing. The name Inverloch is taken from the track 'Inverloch' that I'd written from the first Trial of the Bow EP. It was a pretty doomy, ethereal track. I always felt that would be a cool name for a project - in fact we nearly called the d.USK project Inverloch. It's simply a name that I liked - there is no deeper meaning.
Inverloch album art for Dusk...Subside
You made mention of how "that sound" - the death/doom despondency D. was known for - is "burned into our collective psyche." The scars show, and fans of your older work will surely welcome their appearance. What is it about this particular style that has managed to captivate and inspire you for such a long stretch of time?
PM: I believe we have this style/sound ingrained somewhere within ourselves in a way that I've thoroughly enjoyed playing the older tunes live (for d.USK). Playing at a number of different extreme angles always captivates and inspires me. Matt has worked really hard to come up with that pure old school Heavy, full, bottom end guitar tone (with defined notes) in a live context excites me everytime we rehearse. Previously with diSEMBOWELMENT we would rarely have vocals performing at rehearsal time. Inverloch has the full package when we practise which is a pleasure to be a part of. Playing some fast parts is always fun to energise the music, but then to go completely opposite and play extremely slow in the same tune is challenging and so fulfilling when it comes together.
MS: Scars eh? Haha! Well, personally I love the juxtaposition of moods, time, space, colour. It's an aesthetic thing. If possible, I like to create a little journey - that's why my music is often 'through-composed' as opposed to fundamental 'Verse-Chorus-Verse-Bridge' etc. Extremes of light and shade lend themselves to that style. Plus, we all have a diverse range of musical and artistic inspirations, and I think Inverloch is representative of that. I find it occasionally surprising and humorous to be likened to bands that I have really not spent any great depth of time listening to. I suppose though we are of a similar age group to some of those bands and all of us would have similar influences.
Matt, what's going on with your folk/ambient project, Trial of the Bow?
MS: Not much. Renato and I simply lost touch over the years - I think he tried to make it work with some other musicians (with my blessing) some time back but found the concept difficult to carry and simply moved on. I have a number of demos that may re-surface one day. Of late I have been engaged to compose for some independent film and a documentary - and that sonic landscape is not dissimilar to Trial of the Bow - so perhaps in time I may re-visit that project. I still have my instrument collection and enjoy recording little demos here and there. It's something I'd love to have the time to do, but as with everything these days, any spare time is pretty hard to find.
When Disembowelment first surfaced, there were precious few bands doing anything similar to your sound; nowadays, "death/doom" is an almost common phenomenon, and the seeds you planted have spread like ragweed throughout the extreme metal realm. Have you kept abreast of the developments in this style over the years? Does it surprise you to see the name Disembowelment mentioned as an inspiration by so many newer bands?
PM: I haven't really kept abreast with developments of the death/doom genre. Previously I heard some people say that diSEMBOWELMENT were pioneers of 'Funeral Doom'. I was a little confused when I hear/read this as we never claimed this or believed we were pioneers. Death/Doom? Yes. There was always that element of Death Metal blended with Doom Metal moments.
Yes it does surprise me that any of the newer bands have diSEMBOWELMENT as an inspiration. It even surprises me that some of the newer bands go far back to bands like Celtic Frost, Bathory, Autopsy and Black Sabbath which is very cool I must say!
MS: Honestly, I've never really been that aware of disembowelment being mentioned other than very sporadically - and as I have previously said I honestly felt it was somewhat of a forgotten relic. The level of interest has been very unexpected. It was also quite a surprise to be linked to the 'Funeral Doom' or 'Crust' genre as it simply didn't exist 20 years ago. As far as being aware of newer death/doom - personally I've been mostly conscious of Aussie bands for the past ten-plus years or so, Death Metal, Grind, Doom etc - we go and catch shows and support the local scene - it's so diverse and strong and to be frank it was the strength and support of our local scene that inspired us to take the music to the stage. But to be honest I don't spend time online chasing up new bands or anything, there simply isn't the headspace to follow the scene as we used to - generally it all comes from word of mouth. It's funny to be compared at times to bands you've never heard of...
Inverloch's debut offering is nothing short of impressive: a crushing, funereal document born of darkened shrines and looming dread. As with your past projects, the atmosphere enfolding the notes and chords is almost as crucial as the instruments themselves. The creation of a mood - a vibe, an aura - has long been a part of your past works, and its immensely satisfying to find it manifested in Inverloch. How do you create this brooding, gloomy atmosphere? What's the secret?
PM: Wow that's a very nice description you put out there. Thank-you. I believe we try to keep the mood as dark, depressive and ambient as possible. With that we like to have a surprise appear from time to time. Inverloch is a project which has a few extra challenges for us all to keep pushing our own boundaries let alone the music. Finding inspiration and respect from the past is something which contributes to the music.
MS: That's a very eloquent description! I think creating atmosphere is our cornerstone - bringing melody to the foreground to wrestle with the extreme vocals, and to allow the guitars to sink back into the rhythm section to build the sonic basis. To be conscious of time and space in music - silence, or near silence is every bit as important and powerful as the music it interweaves with. I'm a big believer in not fatiguing the listener - whether that be from a compositional aspect, or from the point of view of the sonics and technical aspect. Even the mastering we were very careful to leave plenty of headroom - I didn't want it to be radio-friendly and slamming the meters as many bands do today. In the same way that you listen to the beautifully mastered classical works of the 60's and 70's - there are dynamics in the recording - you simply TURN UP the stereo to become aware of the finer detail, and then, when the large Forte moments occur, it is correspondingly dramatic. So many bands in extreme music allow the mastering to eat up all the headroom and as such the recording becomes tiring to listen to. That might be great for listening on your computer or something, but terrible on a full-range system - when mixing I often think of the kids sitting up late at night listening to music - I'd love to think they'll go the whole way through this EP - just lost for a little while in the music and the sonic atmosphere. That's what we used to do.
Inverloch have announced a handful of live appearances, including a few performing under the d.USK moniker. What will a d.USK/Inverloch performance be like? What are your plans for Roadburn (and who of the many bands playing are you most excited to see?)?
PM: For Roadburn we will play the Transcendence... album in its entirety. As for the rest of the shows we more likely will play a combined set to include both Inverloch tunes and diSEMBOWELMENT tunes.
MS: At Roadburn I am super psyched to see VOIVOD! I still cannot believe I will see them play 'Dimension Hatross' album for one set, then play another set! A dream come true! Also am keen to check out TOMBS, Agalloch and SLEEP. Roadburn will be Killer!!!
What are Inverloch's long-term goals? Will you be doing any more live dates (come to New York, please!) or any more releases in the coming year?
PM: Our long term plans are to work on some ideas we have floating around once we come back from our Europe tour. Other than that, reassess where the band is at the time.
MS: New York!? Jeez, I don't know - we can try! Coming to the States would be amazing if there's any interest? Unfortunately travelling overseas is so prohibitively expensive, and on the back of that we have families to support and our job responsibilities - remember this is still very much a part-time project for us.
The last words are yours, thanks so much!
PM: Thank-you Kim for the interview and your kind words of support. Most appreciative. We honestly do appreciate everyone's support & encouragement throughout the years (or decades for that matter). It means a lot to us and we never take this for granted. As Chuck used to say (and let his soul R.I.P) Keep the Metal Faith Alive!
Disembowelment - "The Menin Road"
And for another track from the new album, "Shadows Of The Flame", check Pitchfork,.