Inferi – Behold the RevenantSaturday, 5th May 2018
Those hip to the underground scene are most likely familiar with Inferi. After releasing two albums in the last decade before going under for a bit, they returned to some celebrated fanfare with The Path of Apotheosis in 2014. Since then, the band’s profile, much like the tech death scene, has expanded – alongside the guitar team Malcolm Pugh and Mike Low’s label, The Artisan Era.
With a larger than ever presence, the band’s fourth release, Revenant has been unleashed. Taking the band’s previous melding of melody, intricate musicianship, and frantic pacing, they continue to set a high bar for the rest of the underground to follow. We grabbed both Pugh and Low for a quick Q & A session to discuss the goings-on in the last few years, the importance of art and merch, the rising profile of their record label, and what to expect from Revenant.
Dead Rhetoric: With four years since The Path of Apotheosis, what has the band been up to?
Malcolm Pugh: A lot of the time between albums was due to me working on the second A Loathing Requiem album I released in 2015 and later joining Entheos for a bit. Other then that, we’ve been writing new material and we also spent time looking for new members.
Mike Low: I have another band, Oubliette, which started as a project and has turned into a live band since then. We have been playing shows and been working on our second full length, which is due out this year. Also, writing Revenant was not an easy task, so that took up a lot of time. Other than that, I spent a lot of time working at a rehearsal space/small venue in town that I co-owned with Greg from Enfold Darkness but we have recently sold it.
Dead Rhetoric: Outside of new members, how do you feel that the band has advanced in this time period?
Malcolm Pugh: Our audience has grown, but other than that I think we have a long road ahead of us and a lot of room to expand.
Mike Low: Well, we are constantly listening to new music and thus, gaining new inspiration. I feel like the songs are more mature than Path. Also, I feel like my production skills have been sharpened over the past few years.
Dead Rhetoric: You have had the addition of Joel Schwallier and Sam Schneider in between albums. Do you feel that this iteration of Inferi is the most complete you have had?
Malcolm Pugh: The addition of those two have been great and they have definitely made us stronger on a musical level. Their own personal influences bring so much to the table for us, so I think we are the strongest we’ve ever been as a band.
Mike Low: Absolutely. Everyone is on the same page and working hard to better the band.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel this line-up allows for touring to become more feasible?
Malcolm Pugh: It does, we plan on doing a lot more touring. We’ve struggled with line-ups a lot in the past and that is the main reason we’ve not been able to tour as much as our peers in the scene. That is set to change.
Mike Low: Definitely, although we had fill-ins for the last tour, and will need fill-ins for the next. We all have other things going on in life but no one is going to be upset about missing a tour if it means the band keeps on moving.
Dead Rhetoric: Revenant has some conceptual basis taken from Dante’s Inferno. Could you elaborate on that influence?
Malcolm Pugh: Well, I wanted to use the concept for our last album, but we ended up taking a different approach. With this album, I wanted to tie in the nine rings of Hell while expanding on some of our ideas from a previous album. I thought the best way to break that down was to incorporate and align each song with a level of Hell as depicted in The Divine Comedy. So, not only does it follow a storyline, it also paints a picture of that world level by level with each track.
Dead Rhetoric: Revenant, much like your past releases, has some eye-catching artwork. What can you say about the concept this time around?
Malcolm Pugh: The album art for Revenant is meant to be a depiction of the last track from the album, “Behold the Bearer of Light.” I really enjoyed the idea of attaching the proper visual images from use direct influence of our lyrics and I have a feeling we’ll continue stuff like that in the future.
Mike Low: Helge C. Balzer did the artwork this time around. The cover is taken from the ninth circle of hell, where Lucifer is frozen in the lake of Cocytus, surrounded by souls guilty of treachery.
Dead Rhetoric: You have guest appearances from James Malone and Trevor Strnad on Revenant. Who would be a bucket-list guest you’d love to have on a future album?
Malcolm Pugh: I’m not really sure. How can you get much better than those two legendary guys?
Mike Low: Danny Elfman, Tomas Lindberg, Muhammed Suicmez, Ihsahn, Mikael Akerfeldt, Corpsegrinder, John Petrucci… in other words, no one attainable.
Dead Rhetoric: With a focus on speed, what’s most important as you write in order to ensure that the song is memorable to the listener?
Malcolm Pugh: The focus is on the melody for us. Speed is just something that comes along with it for us, but above all, melody is the most key factor in this band and always will be, regardless of what tempo, genre or direction we decide to take on in the future.
Mike Low: I would say the focus is always much more on the riffs and melodies. We do a lot of bouncing back and forth between the two rhythm guitars to make up one melody. The speed usually is tweaked a few times until we find the perfect tempo for the song but speed is never the focus.
Dead Rhetoric: With the merch push due to the changes with the music scene, has album art become even more important than it used to?
Malcolm Pugh: Album art has always been important. I remember going to record shops and buying an album just because the artwork looked cool. So, for our band, the artwork has to be on par with the music we write. The importance of art and music are hand in hand in my eyes.
Mike Low: Yeah, I think so. There is an endless sea of music available these days and you have to make any extra effort you can to stand out. You need sick album art and sick merch. It makes a much bigger impact on the fans if you kill it on the designs. Dropping a little bit of extra money on art goes a long, long way.
Dead Rhetoric: Your label, The Artisan Era, has been on the rise in recent years. Do you feel that this increase has helped Inferi?
Malcolm Pugh: I would like to think it has helped both entities reach new ground. So, I think the answer is yes on that one.
Mike Low: They really go hand in hand. Path is really what helped fund TAE to start getting more serious. We sold a lot of that album but we didn’t pocket anything from it. 100% of the sales were thrown back into the label to get other projects off the ground. Now that the label has other bands on the roster, there are people that maybe hear of INFERI because we are on the same label as AUGURY, so sure, I would say INFERI and TAE both scratch each other’s backs to an extent.
Dead Rhetoric: With more interest in the label as of late, what are some goals that you’d like to achieve within the next few years?
Malcolm Pugh: The goal is to grow, but also maintain the approach of quality of quantity. We have a bunch of releases on the horizon and in due time, I’m sure we’ll get to where we are trying to be as far as our goals are concerned.
Mike Low: We are looking into getting a European branch of TAE. We get a ton of orders from there but lots of people complain about shipping prices. It would be in everyone’s favor to have someone shipping inside the continent.
Dead Rhetoric: Being at the forefront of the tech death movement, what are some things that you would like to see change going forward?
Malcolm Pugh: I’d personally like to see it continue to blossom. There is a lot of places a technical band can go and I’d like to see more bands/musicians exploring new realms. Myself included.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next now that Revenant has hit the streets?
Malcolm Pugh: As of right now, we are getting some new content together for our fans and we are prepping for our tour with Rivers of Nihil and Alterbeast this summer. After that, the goal is to tour, write new music and keep things moving forward.
Mike Low: We have some tours in the works for this year. We plan on re-recording The End of an Era for a 2019 release and also work on album #5 in the meantime!