Minarchist – “Good Metal is a Product of Suffering”

Thursday, 2nd June 2016

From the belly of Eastern Pennsylvania, there’s a growing surge of death metal that is grabbing attention outside of the local scene. Rising acts Rivers of Nihil and Black Crown Initiate both got their start from the same hometown in Reading, PA. Now we are greeted by a new act by the name of Minarchist, with connections to both bands, that has recently released their first full-length album, In Absence.

Being able to be put under the same atmospheric umbrella as the two aforementioned acts, as well as Fallujah, there’s a lot to like about Minarchist. The balance of heavy death metal riffing with more introspective and progressive segments, Jerry Martin’s (Alustrium) harsh growls alongside guitarist Connor McNamee’s cleans, and a top notch production courtesy of bassist Nick Shaw (also of Black Crown Initiate) just to name a few. McNamee agreed to a chat one Sunday evening prior to the album’s release, to discuss the evolution of the band, how he wrangled together the rest of his talented group, and where the band goes from here.

Dead Rhetoric: Hearing the full album from start to finish was pretty impressive. I think there’s a lot of potential here with your sound.

Connor McNamee: Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. We put a lot of work into it. I wrote the first song for this album about 4-5 years ago. It’s been a work in progress for a really long time.

Dead Rhetoric: So was it a matter of just getting the right people involved?

McNamee: A lot of it had to do with school. I was in high school when I first started writing it and then went right into college. Throughout this process, I’ve come to learn that good music, or at least good metal, from my perspective, is a product of suffering. My life was going really good for a long time, so I didn’t have a lot of lyrical material to drive the process. I hit a bit of a rough spot, and I wrote the last three songs for the album in a few months – as opposed to maybe one a year. It took a long time to actually finish those songs.

Dead Rhetoric: So I’m inferring that life took a bit of a nosedive when you started doing more writing?

McNamee: Yeah, not to say that it was all bad, but relationship problems and things like that, you can really hear in the lyrics. There’s a lot of really personal stuff from my life, and some psychological issues that are captured in there. There’s a lot of stuff that I really wanted to try to communicate …I find a lot in modern death metal that much of it is about space and Satan and that good stuff. I like a lot of the bands that do that but it never really spoke to me in the way that bands like Black Crown Initiate and Fallujah do. They take lyrics that are personal but still make it sound [heavy], not like a Fall Out Boy record or something. I took a lot of inspiration from that – I was writing the science-related stuff for a long time and it wasn’t clicking with me emotionally. I started seeing more bands being a bit more vulnerable in their concepts so I took that idea and ran with it.

Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of Black Crown Initiate – you have Andy Thomas and Nick Shaw involved, as well as Jerry from Alustrium. Alex from Fallujah did the cover as well. There’s a number of high-profile people…how did everyone get involved?

McNamee: The guys from Black Crown Initiate and Jerry from Alustrium – I have been friends with them for a long time. Andy was actually my guitar teacher when I was about 15, and he introduced me to Nick. Nick and I played in a few bands together when we were in high school, and we both played in our high school jazz band. I’ve known them for a long time before Black Crown Initiate was a thought in anyone’s mind. It’s really cool and kind of surreal to see these guys that I have known for a long time becoming successful in their own right. I did one song, a while back, an earlier version of “The Threat of a Terrible Storm” with Brody from Rivers of Nihil…but everything else I have ever recorded has been with Nick. We have been friends for a long time, but we also have had a working relationship when it comes to music.

As far as Alex goes, he did the cover art for Black Crown Initiate’s first album and I was so blown away by it. As I dug through his portfolio, I was blown away by the quality of the stuff he was doing. It was the easiest process too – he was very responsive. I told him I wanted something simple and clean, and he definitely delivered on that. If anyone is looking for album art, I would definitely recommend him. A great guy, and a great band too.

Dead Rhetoric: With all of these people that you’ve known, what can you say about the Eastern Pennsylvania metal scene?

McNamee: I don’t know how familiar you are with Reading, PA, which is where myself, Rivers of Nihil, and Black Crown Initiate are all from….Alustrium is from Philadelphia so it is more vibrant down there. Calling [Reading] a shithole would be generous. So the fact that there is this death metal scene cropping up and it is getting some attention from the outside world is kind of shocking. I can only speak for myself, but I’m sure everyone else would sort of agree with me on that. I don’t know if it’s something in the water from all those years of steel mills being here, or whatever…it’s just so metal.

Dead Rhetoric: Maybe the shittiness of it brought out the writing ability?

McNamee: I think that probably has a lot to do with it. It’s pretty rundown here, so I think that contributes to the bleakness of the music we are all putting out.

Dead Rhetoric: I was actually down in Reading last summer for the Rivers of Nihil Monarchy release show.

McNamee: I was actually there as well – [Rivers of Nihil] are great players. They are insane. They were the first people out of here that started picking up some momentum. I started following those guys less than a year after they formed, so again, it’s pretty insane to see what they have done and how they have developed as a band.

Dead Rhetoric: The name of the band is Minarchist. How does that apply to the sound of the band itself?

McNamee: For those who don’t know, Minarchist means someone that believes in minimal government. I often describe it as being just shy of being an anarchist. That’s how I identify politically, and it doesn’t have a lot of direct influence in terms of the lyrical content, but in terms of the way I think about writing music, it has a lot of impact. For a long time, I was writing the pseudo-intellectual lyrics and technical riffs, and it wasn’t really as fulfilling, emotionally, for me as I wanted it to be. So I took the same sort of stripped down approach that I have towards government and politics and just sort of applied that same mentality to the music.

I purposely wrote a lot of stuff that was simpler in nature – that’s not to say that there’s not some technical stuff in there. There’s some riffs I still struggle to play and some odd time signatures, but I made a conscious effort to scale things back from what I was doing before. I am starting to work on ideas for our next release, and the politics, or some variation of that, will play a little bit more of a role, but I think that at the same time – there’s other bands that have covered that and probably a lot better than I would do it.

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