Deathwhite – Treading Funeral GroundsWednesday, 25th March 2020
Of the newer breed of doomy acts within the metal sphere today, Deathwhite surely comes to mind as being one of the strongest (and growingly more revered). There’s a good reason for this – the band knows how to write compelling songs that stick with the listener: affecting lyrics and just the right amount of heavy and melodic interplay within the music. The band’s second full-length, Graven Image, captures all the strengths of the band and catapults them even further. With that in mind, we reached out to the collective to get their take on adding a second guitarist, how they have evolved, the importance of clean vocals, and what they’d like to see from the metal scene in the future.
Dead Rhetoric: To start things off, what impact did adding a second guitarist have on the band?
Deathwhite: Our newest band member is a familiar face to Deathwhite. He is a gentleman we share a previous history with, making him the logical choice to become our fourth member. We’ve been in need of a second guitar player for quite some time as a way to beef up our sound and, thus, decorate it with more solos and melodies. We enlisted a few guests on For a Black Tomorrow for solos, to which we were grateful, but this time, we wanted a permanent member who could handle such tasks. Thankfully, this gentleman is an exquisite guitarist with a keen ear for melody and the capability to play a variety of styles. He was given carte blanche with his parts — not surprisingly, they surpassed our expectations. He was also responsible for the entire demo process for Grave Image. We created some very thorough demos, to which he produced and engineered. It gave us a very solid foundation when it came time to finally record the album last April.
Dead Rhetoric: How else do you feel that the band has grown since your first EP releases?
Deathwhite: We were very much an unfinished product by the time we did our first EP, Ethereal, in 2014. We had different members and were in a much different songwriting frame of mind as opposed to today. The songs are okay, but they didn’t always hit the mark in the manner we intended. The production was perhaps a bit too raw for a band like ours, too, so that may have had something to do with it. Thankfully, we “found” our sound the next year with Solitary Martyr, when we added our current singer and drummer. At that point in time, the songs came very naturally, albeit in a condensed timeframe. We had roughly a month together as a band before we entered the studio, but, somehow, it all panned out. We’re still quite fond of all five songs from Solitary Martyr. It’s the true starting point for Deathwhite.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you talk about the importance of consistency with the artwork, again going with Jerome Comentale for the piece?
Deathwhite: Jerome is so vital to our overall presentation that we consider him part of the band. We may be separated by an ocean — he’s in France, we’re in America, but, we communicate regularly when compiling the visuals for an album. The great thing about Jerome is that he has his own style and needs little direction. For Grave Image, we gave him the title and some lyrics; he did the rest of the work. We do not need to describe what we want because Jerome already has it in his head without us even telling him. We’re creatively aligned to the point where once Jerome submits a cover design, we offer few suggestions, mainly because what he submitted is already so impressive. The three covers he’s done each bear some similarities and consistency, as you mentioned. We are quite keen on this continuity and will likely continue on such a path for future albums.
Dead Rhetoric: You have a video out for “Funeral Ground.” Can you discuss some of the meaning behind the visuals?
Deathwhite: The “Funeral Ground” video offers some clues about the Grave Image cover. Viewers who pick up on these clues will be able to make the correlation between the two — it’s not as obvious as you would think. We wanted to shoot a video with a narrative and for it to be shot in the natural elements. We filmed in the Pennsylvania wilderness on an idyllic autumn afternoon. You probably could not have drawn it up any better if you tried, so we were quite happy to revel in the outdoors for a day. The band performance footage was shot at night. Shooting in the woods at night without the benefit of natural light was an event onto itself. The final result rests largely in the hands of our producer, Shane Mayer. Not only is Shane a brilliant album producer and engineer, but he is also equally adept at producing music videos. We are lucky to be associated with him.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you discuss some of the lyrical content of Grave Image?
Deathwhite: For a Black Tomorrow was an inward, somewhat personal album. Grave Image, on the other hand, is more outward-looking and observational. There are still some personal themes found in a few of the songs, but, by and large, the album addresses rank hypocrisy, destruction of our earth and the duplicity by which those who are in a position of power operate. You don’t have to go very far to find these things — just turn on or read the news. The themes we address are universal, although the rapid destruction of what is considered the truth is now more front-and-center than it should be. The song “Among Us” largely addresses the tenuous grip a certain segment of people now has on the truth and how they are the mindless tropes who are intent on leaving the world in a worse place than when they found it. Sadly, we fear these themes will continue for years to come.
Dead Rhetoric: Perusing YouTube, some comments mention “If they only had some growls.” How important is it that the band sticks to the clean vocal-only approach?
Deathwhite: We experimented with a few different vocal styles on “Funeral Ground” and “In Eclipse,” but, it’s of utter importance we stick with clean vocals. There is something uniquely gratifying about conveying a song’s topics with an actual singer who can project a multitude of emotions. Not to say that growls or death metal vocals lack emotion, but for our music, a clean vocalist is a proper vehicle for our lyrics. We have discussed doing growls, but it would be a waste — we do not want to arbitrarily give away vocal parts just to appease a very small segment of people who think we should be doing them. That’s not to say we will never do them, but here and now, it’s unlikely we ever will.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s an excellent flow on the record from beginning to end. Given the ‘playlist mentality’ that continues to grow, does it sometimes feel a bit fruitless to do so with many simply scattering and rearranging things on a platform like Spotify?
Deathwhite: There is certainly a strong argument toward releasing just songs and avoiding proper album releases because of the popularity of Spotify. It may not make much of a difference in metal — metal fans generally want the entire album experience, but, there are those who are interested in just singles. You’d have to feel for the bands who write expansive, well-produced concept albums, only to find that there’s little interest in sequencing or pacing. Those elements are critical to all great albums. It remains to be seen whether “the album” will become a thing of the past, but there still seems to be an appetite for it.
Dead Rhetoric: How has the transition been from studio-only band to playing a few live shows?
Deathwhite: We’ve only played one show thus far in September 2018. It took a lot of work for us to reach that point. A lot of our songs up until then we were written with just the studio in mind. We have some songs that are terribly difficult to pull off in the live arena just because of our chord choices or vocal arrangements. Therefore, we had to undergo a process of elimination before playing out. We were able to find the songs that translated well live and then expanded upon them since we employed a full band for the performance. The live experience did influence the writing of Grave Image — the songs became heavier, perhaps more textured without being complicated. They’re more lively and voluminous, something we learned as we were rehearsing for the album.
Dead Rhetoric: What have you enjoyed about bringing Deathwhite into the live arena?
Deathwhite: We’ve done things backward: Most bands start out playing shows, then record. We recorded two EPs and a full-length before playing our first show. It was a little nerve-wracking taking the plunge into the live arena. We needed to find a proper way to present ourselves live while sticking to the core tenants of Deathwhite. Once we figured out how to do that, the rest was pretty enjoyable. For as much as this band is spent in the confines of our own homes writing and demoing material, there is something special about being in a room with your bandmates playing original material. That is something that cannot be duplicated anywhere else, which is why we will likely do more shows in 2020 depending on the circumstance. We tend to be a little picky when it comes to shows; we won’t play just to play, but we will likely line a few dates up as the year progresses.
Dead Rhetoric: Given the anonymous stature of the band, what would you like to see from heavy metal as we venture into the 2020s?
Deathwhite: Bands need to be more concerned with writing a good song over technicality or subgenre norms. As in, a good song is not necessitated by the little nook and cranny of metal you belong to — it can be the simplest composition and still be effective without having to resort to guitar pyro. The song, above all else, is paramount.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s coming in 2020 from Deathwhite?
Deathwhite: Aside from promoting Grave Image, we have already begun writing new material. We are talking about going into the studio later this year and recording a new song as well as a cover. We haven’t landed on the band, but it may be Alice in Chains. Time will tell.