Carnation – Iron DisciplesThursday, 1st October 2020
When it comes to the new crop of old school death metal bands, few are more exciting than Carnation. From their colorful artwork to their addictive and fun riffs, they bring a certain flair to their version of death metal. Their recently released sophomore effort, Where Death Lies, takes all of the strengths of their debut and amplifies them – all while bringing in more diversity to the band’s exquisite collection of killer riffs and melodies. We spoke with vocalist Simon Duson about the album in question, their brightly colored artwork, and some thoughts about death metal in general.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel the band has progressed from Chapel of Abhorrence to Where Death Lies?
Simon Duson: When I look back at Chapel of Abhorrence, I still really like the album but I think it was a little more straight-forward compared to the new one. We were really focusing on making it sound as death metal as possible – really hard hitting as well. For Where Death Lies, we tried a couple of new things that we weren’t really as interested in doing last time. We did a few things that we wouldn’t have done a few years ago. It was fun for us to experiment a bit here and there and keep it fresh and a little surprising for the listener. So I would say that Where Death Lies is mostly a combination of the foundation that we created last time with some new ingredients here and there.
Dead Rhetoric: Anything you are particularly proud of with the album?
Duson: For myself, I tried a few new vocals styles here and there. I did some higher death metal vocals and some variations. I really liked how they turned out. I had wanted to do it for a while now but I wasn’t confident enough last time. I felt like I could pull it off now and it went really well. For Jonathan [Verstrepen], he has been practicing so hard on his lead guitar work. It’s really noticeable this time with the number of solos. They are also fun to listen to, they aren’t just there to be solos, they benefit the whole song. It’s a great addition to the songs. I’m really happy with the work the guys put into the songs. We really worked hard and I think that people who listened to the first one and hear the new one will notice a difference.
Dead Rhetoric: A lot of times with death metal, there is a difference between tossing things together – like the solos you mentioned, and having something fit. In hearing Where Death Lies it feels like you have nailed that songwriting aspect.
Duson: It was really important for us to keep the songs interesting. We love tempo changes and we always try to fit them in at the right time to keep the song surprising and interesting to listen to. We didn’t want to add stuff that would just be there. We wanted it to be logical and fun.
Dead Rhetoric: I really like the color palettes on your album covers. Both of them really stand out. Is this something you are deliberately going for or is it something you leave more to the artist?
Duson: We specifically ask for certain colors. Both covers were made by Juanjo Castellano, who is an artist from Spain. We told him that we wanted two main colors. For this one we wanted green and orange/yellow. We like vivid, lively colors. We asked him to create a landscape with those two colors, because that’s what we like in other covers. It’s definitely intentional with the color palettes.
Dead Rhetoric: I think it really helps you to stand out, especially in death metal. There’s a lot of dark, brooding colors and you have these nice, eye-catching and flashy ones.
Duson: I think so too. We specifically like those landscapes. I don’t know why, but everyone in the band has the same ideas when it comes to the covers so it’s not hard for us to decide on what we want to go for. The reason that we went with the same artist for both albums is that we felt it would be a good move to be recognizable. People could recognize the art style from the first one, but we wanted to make a clear difference by using two completely different colors. They can recognize the art style but they know it’s a new album because of the colors. I think it works.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel is the most important part of Carnation’s sound?
Duson: There are a couple of things that make it interesting for us. We have two guitar players but they both have a different guitar sound. I think the combination of these two sounds has shaped the sound of the band. You have Jonathan on one hand, who will mostly use Swedish guitar sounds. He focuses on that chainsaw kind of sound. But Bert [Vervoort] has more of an American sound. The combination of the two really works in our opinion.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s a lot of old school death metal out there. How do you feel Carnation stands out?
Duson: In my opinion, I think our song writing style and song structures are more old school. But our production, while not really modern, is more fresh when compared to other bands. To each their own of course, but a lot them have a more raw sounding production or harsh in tone. For our style, we prefer it to be more accessible and easier on the ears. That really sets us apart from other bands like Necrot or Tomb Mold or Skeletal Remains. I think they all have really cool productions, but they aren’t the same as ours.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel there’s a difference between bands paying tribute and show influence to older bands and simply cutting/pasting old school riffs together?
Duson: I think there’s definitely different types. You have bands who like to really go for what has been done, and others who like to combine it with newer stuff. When its done well, it often really works, in my opinion. It’s always subjective, but there are new bands that I really like and others that I think are not as interesting.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel defines death metal – what does it need to have in the music?
Duson: Personally, I really search for the atmospheric side of death metal. I like when it has a certain vibe. It doesn’t have to be super aggressive or bludgeoning, but it needs to have that threatening feeling in some kind of way. There are some bands that can pull it off really well, and some bands focus on the harshness/extremity of it. To give an example, it often feels to me that more brutal/slam bands focus on extremity, but I don’t feel that sense of dread. I doesn’t have that atmosphere going on, which I do get with bands that have a more old school or progressive feel. What I really like is that feeling that you get from the music.
Dead Rhetoric: That balance between having something that is extreme and having a mood.
Duson: Yeah, it can be different for a lot of people and how they perceive the music. Sometimes, the dissonance in the music can create dread or brooding vibes. It’s hard to put it into words but it’s often something I latch onto, when there’s an atmosphere building up in the song.
Dead Rhetoric: What goals do you have for Carnation as you move forward?
Duson: Our main, direct goal would have been to tour a lot with this album. But with the health and political climate right now, it’s kind of hard to pull that off. I think there’s a lot of songs on this album that would work really well on the live stage. I always consider performing live one of our strengths. It’s cool to take songs and make them work live, so I was hoping to do some extensive touring but I think we will have to delay it for a few weeks or months. But once it’s possible we will get back on it.
After that, we have some ideas of what we want to do. Maybe we will release a new 7” or something. We are going to keep working and maybe try some more experimentation with the next one. There’s a fine line between sticking to your foundation and keeping it interesting. We don’t want to estrange our fanbase by changing too much, but you don’t want to write the exact same album. You have to be somewhere between those two lines. I think we are going to keep looking for that area between the two lines.
Dead Rhetoric: In this pandemic time, is there anything you’ve done to pass the time that maybe you wouldn’t have had time for otherwise?
Duson: I think most of us, sadly, have been focusing on our day jobs. We have had to continue working through the whole lockdown here in Europe. Next to that, we have been doing a lot of press and creating new material and doing the photo shoots. It’s still been pretty busy even though we haven’t been able to perform live. We wanted to get everything in order for the new album and promote it digitally and through press.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s going for Carnation for this fall and next year?
Duson: We had a really big tour planned for early 2021, but I think we will have to postpone it to later in 2021. The costs are super high, and there are bands from multiple continents. To get all of them together, you have to book flights and the risk is too high. We are going to have to wait until its safer to organize these type of things to make sure your costs get covered. It was a really cool line-up but it’s going to have to stay secret for a while until we announce it.