Origin – Unparalleled Brutality

Friday, 7th July 2017

When it comes to insane speed and visceral carnage, it’s without a doubt that Origin is one of the first names that comes to mind. Exploding in with their self-titled debut in 2000, the band has done nothing if not raised the bar for their technically-driven yet still bludgeoning death metal sound. And while there has been line-up changes in the past, it’s never diminished the quality of their overall product.

Their latest album, Unparalleled Universe, continues to push the band forward to levels of impressive musical insanity. But it also veers occasionally into different waters, such as a progressive/melodic bend or a slower groove. All without interfering with what Origin fans have come to know and love. Vocalist Jason Keyser was able to get us up to speed with everything the band has been up to since their last effort, Omnipresent.

Dead Rhetoric: Did having the same line-up from Omnipresent help with the writing process?

Jason Keyser: It was definitely a quick meld for everyone. It was more of a ‘finishing each other’s sentences” writing situation than the last time. We were a couple days ahead of time in the studio. We worked with a couple of new techniques – like how John [Longstreth] and Paul [Ryan] track together. We really pounded right through it with no snags what so ever. If anything we are getting sharper, faster, more efficient, and more brutal.

Dead Rhetoric: Everyone’s always notably impressed with the instrumental performances within Origin. Do you see many compliments on your end as far as how fast you have to keep up with your vocals?

Keyser: It’s a funny thing with that. I may have told this story before, but we were playing a show in Germany once…Munich I think. There were some excitable fans in the front row…super stoked and trying to get our attention while we were setting up before we played. One guy tapped me and was like “Origin – you are very great.” So I was like, “oh, thanks.” And then he said, “You are like three gods and a vocalist!” It made me a little sad – I was like, “why can’t it be four gods?” [Laughs] But it comes with the territory. Origin is notorious for a band that for each musician in the band, people will come from far and wide just to watch them. Bassists come just to awe over Mike Flores’ style of playing and they’ll watch him the entire time. Guitar players worship Paul and watch him…John has his own legions of people that grew up trying to play like him.

I come into this game as more of ‘keeping it interesting for everyone else’ maybe? The people that aren’t as adamant – I try to tie it all together into one cohesive entertaining live performance. In the studio, I’m not reinventing the wheel or anything. I know I sacrifice a level of how guttural/brutal my vocals could be in exchange for how clear the annunciation is and things like that. I feel like together it works perfectly. We don’t need one more over-the-top element, we have three over-the-top elements. I don’t need to work that hard [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: The last time we talked it was after your first recording with the band, and we had discussed how you wanted to change that dynamic and get more people involved and participating when you are on the stage. How successful has that been?

Keyser: I think it’s been immeasurably successful. Its light-years away from where it was to begin with. Not discounting anything of what their style was beforehand, but it’s not 2003 anymore. That style of ‘we can just be an underground band and that’s good enough’ doesn’t work anymore. You need to be engaging and you need to pull people in. You can’t just be like, “this song is about fucking dead babies and [growls] and not care.’ You have to be a little more conscious of it, and it’s been an intentional effort from the minute I’ve joined and I feel like we’ve definitely gained a reputation as a band of being an incredible live act.

Even people who can’t really process some of the faster and more intense material on cd will absolutely come to a show, because you never know what kind of stuff you’ll see. We don’t have things planned when we play…we’ll roll with whatever happens. When we were out with Belphegor there was a guy outside one of the shows in a 10-ft Satan costume – he had metal stilts that made him literally 10-12 feet tall. Naturally the moment I saw him, I wanted to pull him up on stage and get him stagediving. That’s the kind of stuff that we will do no matter what…you never know what kind of shit we’ll pop off. I feel like we’ve gained that reputation in the last 4-5 years.

Dead Rhetoric: There are definitely a few left turns on the record without compromising Origin’s sound. How important is being able to go outside of the expected box at this point in the game for the band?

Keyser: It’s always important to stay fresh, just for your own sake…so you don’t hate or resent what you are doing. For our sake, we can still make the music we want to make, and people still appreciate it. Nothing we did was intentional, like “we’re going to get them with this slow riff;” it’s just how the songs came together and I feel like the result was fantastic. There’s some bands that get pigeon-holed or cemented in a style. Amon Amarth puts out the same album every year for 15 years, but it works – that’s their formula and that’s what makes them money. We’ll make the same not-that-much money no matter what we do, so we might as well do whatever we enjoy.

Dead Rhetoric: What can you say specifically about “Unequivocal,” which is the band’s longest song to date?

Keyser: That song definitely takes a turn. It splits in two basically, right in the middle and goes off on this insane, ‘calling down lightning on the mountaintop Fantasia part in the second half.’ I think it’s fantastic. It could have been split into two songs but nay, why not – if you want to listen to it, you have to listen to the whole thing [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: What prompted the cover of Brujeria’s “Revolución?”

Keyser: That spawned from us knowing we were going to do a cover because a) we enjoy doing it and b) people enjoy hearing that kind of stuff. That song in particular came from a bit of a rift between the band members. We couldn’t decide which song to do. Half of us were adamant about if we are a death metal band doing a cover we have to do something out of left field and make it a death metal song, just because…but the other half was more traditional and wanted to do something like Pantera or Cannibal Corpse – something heavy. We would argue about that and just couldn’t come to an agreement on anything. I don’t know how it happened, I think it was a toss up between that or a slow Bolt Thrower song [played] really fast. We decided on doing a Brujeria song – we were shocked that the song was over 20 years old and still is as heavy as ever.

So we decided to do the Brujeria song and do it in Spanish, because I don’t think that’s been done before. European bands, or bands from all over the world do songs from the States and do them all in English, which isn’t their native language. So we were like, reverse that shit…it’ll be our “La Bamba,” and make something interesting out of it. The song never gets old…it’s a classic. We had a couple friends join in – Jessica Pimentel…she’s in a vocalist in a bunch of New York City hardcore/metal bands and is now a rising, famous actress that’s in Orange is the New Black. She does a couple lines on it. I think it came out arguably heavier than the original, but it’s still an homage. Aside from it being our “La Bamba,” we are hoping it will be our Alien Ant Farm song that gets everyone talking [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: With Origin being one of the originators of the tech-death space connection, do you feel that the lyrics have something that they need to live up to?

Keyser: It’s not like we have to live up to that standard necessarily, it’s the kind of shit we would do regardless. It’s funny – this is a question that I’ve been thinking about over the past year or so. It’s funny to look back on Origin’s lyrical content over the years. There’s really not that many songs that are all about space [laughs]. There’s enough that it counts, but going through the back catalog, it doesn’t really deserve it as much as a band like Wormed…where literally every song has like technical, science shit that is way over my head. We delve more into the philosophical; any kind of astronomy stuff is just amateur. We aren’t professionals or anything; it’s more the vibe or the feeling of some Lovecraftian unknowing, and not having a grasp on our own existence in the scheme of this indiscriminate universe type stuff. Not necessarily technical or textbook so much as us being insignificant fragments.

Dead Rhetoric: This summer marks the third time band has done the Summer Slaughter festival – what keeps drawing you back in?

Keyser: I think technically, it’s the fourth. There was a Summer Slaughter years and years and years ago where Vader, I think, was headlining, with Origin and a few other bands. But that was before it was the Summer Slaughter incarnation that it is now. But still, it’s an amazing tour. The concept is fantastic – just bringing all the best together but not too much to where it is this unwieldy outdoor thing. Just enough to have it inside venues, and the draws are usually guaranteed to be a good amount of people. There’s usually a lot of new, young fans which you want to be exposed to. The diversity – you have deathcore fans, you have metalcore fans, old school death metal fans all coming together…everybody gets something out of it. You can’t really complain about that at all. We are definitely excited to do that again. We have a lot more lined up for the rest of the year…we have some ideas for the beginning of next year. All big stuff to get out there.

Dead Rhetoric: Anything concrete at this point or is it still just being planned?

Keyser: There’s nothing announced, but we definitely have a headliner coming up for the fall that is going to be a good 5-6 bands and there is no filler. One of the bands is a band that was supposed to come to the states a couple of months ago but couldn’t…we get them.

Dead Rhetoric: There’s been a number of these interview videos that you have been doing and putting them out there slowly. Do you feel that frequent exposure is one of those necessities of being a band in this day and age?

Keyser: You have to stay in the public eye/social media. You have to stay fresh with the shares and the likes. We had a good friend of ours in the studio – Jeff Grindstopher of Grindstopher Productions. He just kind of filmed stuff. Honestly, I don’t think that any of us were super-excited about the ‘just talking to us’ interviews. I was much more stoked on the outtakes video, which was just us communicating like a band does. Like the, “not the chuh-chuh-chuh part, but the dweedly-dweedly part,” I think that’s more fun for people.

Everyone in Origin is weird in our own way and bad at communicating and bumble-mouthed and stuff. So when you sit us down and ask us specific questions in front of the camera, we don’t light up and go, “Well, you see….blah blah blah, on June 30 when our new album comes out, you’ll know that we are the greatest.” We are very soft spoken and modest people. But yeah, you have to stay present or the Internet has a very short attention span. If you aren’t in everybody’s face, you’ll lose them to the next band. There’s so many bands coming out with stuff at the same time, it all gets lost in the mix. John and I used to do hilarious promo videos, and we kind of fell off on doing them since he moved to New York City and I still live upstate. I gotta get back into that.

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