Buried Realm – Uncompromising MelodiesWednesday, 18th October 2017
When one thinks of solo projects or one-man bands, they tend to think of something that doesn’t match up to the same level as a “full band.” Some lower their expectations or ignore them entirely. But with the recording equipment available today, it’s easy for a one-man project to sound just as massive as a studio-recorded band. Buried Realm is the studio project of Josh Dummer, and his debut full-length, The Ichor Carcinoma, is set to blow melodic death metal fans away.
Even if you ignore the star-studded guests that add to the sound, Dummer’s knowledge of the genre and songwriting skills put this one at the top of near any melodeath fans’ lists. A little bit technical, some catchy synth use, and above all, plenty of ingenious melodies to catch your ear (and embed themselves). We had a chat with Dummer about how he managed to get all those big name players on his album, the inspirations behind it (both lyrically and musically), as well as where he intends to take Buried Realm into the future.
Dead Rhetoric: What inspired the sound of Buried Realm?
Josh Dummer: As far as musical influences, it’s all across the board. Anything from cheesy ‘80s hair metal to melodic death metal – the Scandinavian scene, black metal, folk metal, industrial music. I’m kind of a music connoisseur in a sense. With this [Buried Realm], it’s been different. It has this uncompromising approach, since it’s a solo project. So it’s just me, aside from the guests that I’ve brought in.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s a slew of different musicians that helped out on the album. How’d it all come together?
Dummer: I actually first started with Christopher Amott (ex-Arch Enemy). I didn’t have anything to show him. I was just starting this project. I’m sure it sounded to him like, “What is this dude talking about?” [Laughs]. So he asked if I had any music from past projects. I played in this other band Circaic, which is basically melodic death too, so I showed him a couple lyric videos and a playthrough that I did. He said that it was really badass and promising, and to hit him up when I had time. So I hit him up after I had the first song done, which is “Through These Darkened Halls,” and he threw down a solo.
I told him that I had no way of getting in touch with Peter Wichers (ex-Soilwork) and that I would love to have him in the record. I knew he was good friends with Amott, and asked if he could put me in touch with him. He put me in touch with Peter and he was into it as well. From there, the guests just kind of fell in line. Having Christopher Amott and Peter Wichers, they were big enough names for me to ask anybody. Those dudes did a fantastic job on the album – I couldn’t be more proud.
Dead Rhetoric: Was there anyone you were particularly floored to get on board? I know already mentioned Amott and Wichers.
Dummer: All of them were pretty rad. I’m happy to have all these guests on [the album]. One that I would probably ask back is Chris Amott. He’s very down-to-earth, a very level-headed guy. He just has a passion for music that’s almost unmatched, and that’s what I love to see. As big as Arch Enemy has ever been, he never lets it get to his head. So obviously him. Also, I’ve always been a big Nightrage fan. It kind of inspired Buried Realm. Marios Iliopoulos, the songwriter/guitar player – the first two Nightrage albums just blew me away. When I found out that Gus G. (Firewind) and Tomas Lindberg (At the Gates) were just on the album, it was really cool.
I wanted to make something a little more epic, in terms of an album as a whole, for people to just remember. So I brought in all these guests – Marios was one of them. So Marios was big. Teemu Mäntysaari (Wintersun) – I followed his old project, Imperanon, and that dude has always blown me away. It was really a pleasure to work with him too.
Dead Rhetoric: So I’m getting the impression that you are a really big fan of these older melodic death metal bands.
Dummer: Oh yeah, they definitely played a role in my songwriting I would say. Other bands too, like I said. I love W.A.S.P. and Dokken, Judas Priest, Dissection. It’s all across the board, but those guys are up there for sure too.
Dead Rhetoric: Was there anyone that you reached out to that you couldn’t get, for scheduling or whatever reason?
Dummer: Yeah, there was one person that I would have liked to have worked with, which was Christian Älvestam (Scar Symmetry, Solution .45). I sent him a couple songs and he thoroughly enjoyed it, but that guy is so incredibly busy, it’s insane. He was actually supposed to be on “Asphyxiation’s Lullaby.” But it was 8 months done the line. He wrote up this explosive melody, but asked if I minded if he changed the key of the music in order to fit what he wanted to do. I said he could give it a shot, and he did, but he wasn’t feeling it like he was before. He didn’t think the song was for him.
So I sent him another one, which was “Apeiron I – The Legacy,” and it was a year later at that point. I asked him if he would have time for it, but with his kid and everything he didn’t have time. So that’s when I hit up the other vocalist on the album, Ryan Strain. So him, and I tried to get in touch with Marty Friedman, but I just couldn’t get in touch with him.
Dead Rhetoric: It was just a reach to see if you could?
Dummer: Yeah, and I don’t think he runs any of his social media pages. Apparently he has someone else running them for him, which makes sense. He’s a very busy guy.
Dead Rhetoric: So what made you decide that it would be a one-man project and just bring in guests for outside help?
Dummer: In 2007, that was when it really began. At the time I was jamming with another band called Frozen Eternity. I wanted to make my own ideas and have these musical concepts come to life. It’s hard to do that with five other people in the band. There’s compromise – I just always wanted to do something on my own, and I’ve always enjoyed solo albums. This is a little bit different than your conventional solo album, because it’s not just instrumental. Just over time [I decided]; it was something I felt I needed to do eventually.
Dead Rhetoric: So you started this back in 2007?
Dummer: Right, and it didn’t amount to much. I just had some bedroom jams and recordings. It was pretty cool. I got wrapped up with other projects. Around 2014 I revisited it; it was fun back then I wanted to try it again.
Dead Rhetoric: The album was initially going to be released as an EP. Was made you change your mind to go to a full-length with it?
Dummer: When I write albums, it takes me so much time. It takes forever to record [laughs], and the whole process for me is time-consuming. I had all these other jams and demos, and I wanted to bring them to life too. I didn’t want to wait another 3-4-5 years down the line to make this happen. I just decided to do it. I had this idea about how the tracklisting would go, and it just kind of took off and fell into place.
Dead Rhetoric: So what’s the advantages and disadvantages of doing it all yourself?
Dummer: The biggest advantage is not having to depend on anyone else. Not having to wait. Even with the guests. They were done in a very timely manner and they knew exactly how they wanted to approach everything. It was well done. When you are in a very relaxed band it’s like, “Let me write this part and get back to you.” Meanwhile, I’m twiddling my thumbs because my parts are recorded and finished. That’s the disadvantage of being in a real band. Just the waiting around. Then again, on the flip-side, it’s a lot of pressure on me to have to write everything. For a whole entire band, you can get everybody’s input and bring it to life as a band, which is cool too.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you talk about the lyrical inspirations for The Ichor Carcinoma?
Dummer: The first song written for the album was “Through These Darkened Halls.” That really just goes into, in 2014, when I resurrected my solo project, I needed some lyrical concepts. I had gone through a very devastating part of my life; very life-threatening. I had pretty nasty cancer, and my doctors and I didn’t know how much longer I was going to live. So a lot of it delves into that, and facing personal demons and trying to move on.
Dead Rhetoric: So at this point, are you in the clear?
Dummer: Yeah. It was definitely a rough patch. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap your mind around it – it all happened so fast.
Dead Rhetoric: I can imagine. I’ve been pretty lucky to avoid most of that with family and friends so far but the further you go, it seems more and more likely that it’s going to happen.
Dummer: It’s definitely devastating. That’s another thing that inspired a lot of the lyrical content – it wasn’t just me. It was my family members [too]. It was like this storm and this plague just came through all that the same time. My best friends, a few of them, were really sick with life threatening conditions. I was like, “What is this bad omen?” It was very odd, but surprisingly enough, everyone made it through. It was a very weird patch in life.
Dead Rhetoric: Would you consider having Buried Realm become a full-fledged band or are you happy with keeping it a project to work on?
Dummer: At the moment, it’s definitely a studio project. We’ll see where it goes. People ask all the time about getting a live band together and playing shows. It just depends on what happens later down the road. I’m not opposed to it, but for right now it’s just going to stay a studio project.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you like to see the band succeed with? Do you have any goals for the future?
Dummer: I just want to keep being able to make music as much as I possibly can. It’s my love and passion, and I know it sounds a little cheesy, but that’s what drives me. If I can continue to make records, than that is my goal. If live shows happen, then they happen. But it’s not a short term goal at the moment.
Dead Rhetoric: So we talked about some of the guests that you had and having some of them potentially come back. If you could just dream it, who are a few people that you would really love to work with?
Dummer: Jeff Loomis would be really cool. Per Nilsson from Scar Symmetry would be really cool. I don’t know, if I could bring on some vocalists, I guess it would depend on the nature of the next album. Maybe Petri Lindroos from Ensiferum. He’s got some great vocals. If Christian Älvestam has time, I’d love to have him on a couple of songs, or even just one. That dude rules. He’s a fantastic musician – he does guitar, bass, drums…the whole works. He has a couple different bands where he does everything. He’s just a fantastic musician all around.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you personally enjoy about melodic death metal?
Dummer: I think it’s kind of changing. The modern [stuff] seems more technical. I’m falling into that category. I definitely enjoy modern melodic death metal for the guitars, and definitely the synth. I’ve always been a fan of the synths, strings, and choir. One thing that hasn’t strayed in all these years with melodic death metal, in my opinion, is that it always has a sense of song arrangement. I really appreciate that as a songwriter. When a lot of people think of Buried Realm, for instance, being a solo project, they think I’m going to be wanking off for like 5-6 minutes with no general idea or direction of where the song is going. Melodic death metal always has a very catchy song arrangement. I appreciate that.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s the plan from here for Buried Realm?
Dummer: The album will be released and I’m going to do as much promotion as possible. Lyric videos, playthroughs, stuff like that. Then if I can find time between my other projects, I have a handful of songs that didn’t make it onto the album, which didn’t fit the flow. I would like to turn that into an EP or just them for the next album.