Abhorrent Decimation – Avarice and Indulgence(s)Sunday, 16th July 2017
Despite the relatively short timeframe since the band’s inception (2013), there’s quite a bit to discuss with the UK death metal squad Abhorrent Decimation. Their first release, Miasmic Mutation, was generally praised for the combination of both American and European influences. Then UK comedian Bernie Clifton crossed paths with the band, by a mix up where Abhorrent Decimation’s back cover and song titles accidentally landed on the back of his album. The band then signed with Prosthetic Records for their second release.
This gets us up to speed to said release, The Pardoner. An ambitious release that takes Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and works it into a full-on death metal release (the tale of The Pardoner of course). Certainly other bands have taken influence from great sources of literature (Dante’s The Divine Comedy or Milton’s Paradise Lost for instance), but it still nonetheless represents a fresh twist for those hungering for a bit extra in their dose of brutality. We at DR welcomed the chance to talk with vocalist Ashley Scott about the conceptual album and lyrics in detail, as well as crossing paths with Clifton, and what lies ahead.
Dead Rhetoric: I’m going back a bit with this but was curious – did you ever directly contact Bernie Clifton after the debacle with your song titles appearing on the back cover of his album?
Ashley Scott: Yeah, after it went in the newspaper – we found out after it happened; we touched base with his agent. We actually went up to his house and met him. He cooked us some bacon sandwiches and made us some tea. We sat down and had a good laugh about it and got some photos for the papers. It went on the news again – it was cool. He was a really nice guy. We actually went to a few award ceremonies with him after that as well.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that mishap gave you some added and unexpected promotion?
Scott: Definitely. I think the chances of a death metal band making it into national press is unlikely – next to none. We were on the second page in on one of the biggest newspapers in the country. We were on two of the biggest evening news – 10 o’clock news at night…BBC and ITV. It was just mad. Our image was used on game shows and all this stuff. It was crazy. The stuff that came out of that as well – people that wanted to talk to us on radio and stuff like that – things that wouldn’t have happened before. It was definitely a blessing in disguise. Disguised as an old man with an ostrich.
Dead Rhetoric: It is funny how that works – any exposure is good exposure…
Scott: Yeah, we had to take it on the chin. For us, it was how to be tasteful about it, in the sense of how long to ‘ride that ostrich.’ We had to obviously embrace the situation but we wanted to also get back to being a death metal band as soon as possible really. It was cool though – he was a nice guy and he was way more cool about it than we were, considering it was his release that had our stuff printed on the back. He was so gracious and funny about it. He wanted to make the most of it as well. Let’s be honest, when we sat down and chatted with him, it became pretty evident that we were selling more records than him. It was good for him as well, because it put him in the limelight. He was an entertainer in the country, but he hadn’t really been in the limelight for a decade or so. So it was good for him, and it was good for us.
Dead Rhetoric: There was some changes in band members since Miasmic Mutation. Do you feel you’ve reached a stable line-up?
Scott: It was a shame. It was more of a personal thing that couldn’t get resolved. How it needed to be resolved, it was almost unfair to expect someone to do – so we had to part ways with one of the original members. So it was hard, emotionally and literally. Trying to get someone to go…I don’t know how to say that in a nice way, but we couldn’t function with them in the band anymore, so we had to make a decision.
Then we’ve just generally been unlucky with drummers. They are the hardest part to find in a band of this style, especially good ones. No bad blood though. The first guy we had in the band, Matt Doubleday, his was an ability thing. He had all the passion and everything we needed, but he just wasn’t good enough. That might sound a little bit nasty, but that’s how it was. So we replaced him with Ryan, and Ryan [Dennington] was way capable but just didn’t have the passion. So it was almost like the exact opposite from [Doubleday]. So we had to move on with him. Then we got Dan [Danby] in for a little bit. He came in after we just finished recording the new album, The Pardoner. He came in then, and he just didn’t have enough time to commit to our schedule. That was really annoying because at first it seemed like he did, but when we started to actually book things up and saying “ok, this is our schedule” he was like, “I can’t do this.”
So that didn’t work very well, but the new guy we’ve got, Alex Micklewright, is a pretty well-known drummer in the scene down here. He just joined the fold a couple of months ago. He’s a professional drummer; drumming’s his day job so he’s intimidatingly good. He’s transcribed the whole thing into notation, which we don’t see much of in death metal, it’s all numbers and tabs. He has transcribed the music into notation and he can sight-read – he doesn’t need to learn it, he can just read it and play it. So that’s pretty crazy and he’s been a welcome addition. His personality is perfect. We all like the same stupid stuff and have a good laugh. I’m hoping *knocks on wood* that we are good for a bit.
Dead Rhetoric: Moving onto the new album, what made you want to tackle a character from The Canterbury Tales?
Scott: On the last record, Miasmic Mutation, it started after reading The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. We were trying to do some sort of modern re-interpretation of The Inferno on that one. That’s what we were going for, but we lost vision on that creatively. We didn’t portray it as well as we could have. So I knew we had unfinished business as far as a concept album was concerned. I said to the guys, “I want to go really literal on the next one. We are going to have a concept and we are going to stick to it and it’s going to be really rigid.” It [The Canterbury Tales] was just one my reading list. I love to read as well as listen to music.
The Canterbury Tales was something I had to read and learn compulsory in school here, in like high school/secondary school. I just never really appreciated it. I started doing a little looking into it, trying to pick the darker things to read into, because that calls to me a bit more. I came across the character of The Pardoner, read what he was about and his whole vibe and it sounded like the perfect premise for a death metal record. I had the hard job of transcribing Middle English into modern language. From there, the guys were working on the music and I built the concept and divided the story up into chapters if you will. Then I delivered those into songs, and one thing led to another. As I was reading into it, this guy was just so dark and deceitful and horrible that it just felt like a really pure and original concept to do for a death metal record.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s funny that you say that, because I also had to read The Canterbury Tales in high school. A lot of those darker tales, a lot of people don’t really appreciate it and then they get older and then say, “oh wow, this is actually interesting.”
Scott: Exactly, when it’s mandatory at school, you are like, “this sucks, I don’t want to do this.” As you get older, yeah it’s exactly as you say. It just sung to me, there was something about it, it just got my juices flowing. I can’t really explain it – everything flowed. It worked so easily and it came together really quickly. So I just went with a gut feeling and just followed it through.
Dead Rhetoric: I know you put in some of your own interpretation as well, but how much reading up on The Pardoner did you do beforehand?
Scott: I read the story, then I managed to buy a few copies online of student synopses – where they break things down into layman’s turns and elaborate, and go off on a few things. But the areas in which I really injected my own spin on that particular story, I think for a lot of people reading this, this won’t make a lot of sense, but for those who have read the story, it will make a little sense. The message is obviously that greed is the root of all evil, and the love of money is the root of all evil. But it doesn’t actually say, unequivocally, what is Death and who is Death.
Is Death money? Is Death literally Death with the scythe? Is it the boy at the beginning of the story that Death is in the village? Is it the old man that sends them down the wrong path? There’s multiple characters that could have been Death in that story. That’s where I inject my own reflection. Track 1 is a scene-setter. Track 2-7 is telling the story of The Pardoner, and the story that The Pardoner tells within The Canterbury Tales. Track 8 is my own reflection, track 9 is an instrumental, and then track 10 is about the character himself, The Pardoner.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned that you used some Middle English in the lyrics as well – how important a role did authenticity play?
Scott: Very [important], because what Chaucer actually achieved back then…way back, was his ability to say and create so much with so few words. That is the beauty of Middle English. The way that it works, its rhythmic nature, its natural coupling – he was like an ill emcee and he didn’t even know it. He had the pitch shots – he could line up a verse in the first line. He could paint such a picture, and it’s almost like a punchline. Like how a good rapper will pitch it up and seal it off at the end of a verse. He just had an amazing way with words. And there were some instances where you could transcribe it into more modern words and it would definitely work still, and there were some parts where even though they aren’t words we use now, it’s so clear what it is. I just felt, “if it isn’t broke, don’t bother to fix it.”
There’s some really nice sections in the album where I don’t touch it. I really pay homage to him and straight up quote him. I’m just singing what he wrote. So it was very important to keep the authenticity, and I think it helps with the concept – really creating that concept vibe and really getting people to subscribe to the fact that it’s more than a load of shouting. It’s a proper concept – I try my best to deliver character within it…being lower on certain people and higher voices on other people, and backing vocals. We’ve done quite a lot of work on the album to make situations where there are more than one character, there will be a backing vocal. It’s little things that we aren’t going to go into, but we hope people notice the nuance.
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