Solium Fatalis – Firing into ExtinctionWednesday, 10th October 2018
Eviscerating listeners with their brand of relentless death metal since 2012, Solium Fatalis are on a mission to prove to the world that there can be quality music released in the current marketplace that doesn’t always have to revert backwards to achieve attention and admiration. They’ve released four albums in the last six years – with their latest effort Genetically Engineered to Enslave possibly their most ferocious and addictive to date. Crisp riffing, proper attention to detail, and solid hooks without succumbing to any trends coming down the pike – it’s easy to tell when taking in winning cuts like “Servile” and “Fiery the Angels Fell” that listeners will be swept into this vortex of hair windmills as chills and sweat pour out from every orifice of the body.
Sending out some questions to guitarist Jim Gregory, we tackle material regarding the quicker output of the band compared to most in the scene, thoughts on death metal past and present, discussion on the special guests for the new record, as well as specific albums in his collection from Paradise Lost, Metallica, and Ulver that have had significant meaning to him during his life.
Dead Rhetoric: Genetically Engineered to Enslave is the fourth Solium Fatalis album released in the past six years. What are your thoughts regarding the relatively quick output considering the amount of investment and effort put into these recordings – being a self-financed, self-contained band?
Jim Gregory: I’m a workaholic for one. Once I get invested into doing something and have a point to make I’m going to work my ass off to make sure that it happens. I often laugh when I think about how fast we write music, or I’ve written songs, some that appear on our albums I wrote in an hour or so. I think of the Monty Python skit about the Spanish Inquisition and blurt out “ruthless efficiency…” and so forth. It’s really a combination of things that can get this band going quickly. For one we are all striving for something bigger, we want to compete with the biggest bands, not the smallest. Including in album production and in the live arena as well. We work hard, and we have the ability to record ourselves and the motivation to do so.
Personally for me it’s having dwelled in the crappy “scene” in Tampa that was all but dead for 12 years and having doors closed before I could even knock on them. I couldn’t get anyone to invest into this with me, and when I did they were lackluster in their performance and dedication and for me music is my life. Passion is another key component. You can listen to a band and hear a phoned in performance and you can hear one with passion to do what we do. We love this, I love this, and now that I have found people who are equally dedicated to this band the only constraints are the ones we place on ourselves and I don’t believe in failure. Possibly to a fault, but we get results. The fires are burning.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the major differences or emphasis you placed on this latest effort in comparison to your three previous albums? Do you feel like you are consistently improving on all fronts of recording to songwriting to tones and performances?
Gregory: The differences are not as much evolution as they are mutation. We want to find new wrinkles in every album we make, and thematically we have been successful. The first album was akin to a mission statement, and The Undying Season continued that melodic death metal formula and was a high-water mark. With Neuronic Saw we wanted to make something visceral and brutal, and not clean. Genetically Engineered to Enslave is an amalgam of those three albums, where we are more musical, brutal, and experimental and a culmination of what the first three albums achieved.
I absolutely feel like we’re improving on all fronts and as a band ever changing. People can expect the fifth one to not be anything like the other four. But to answer your first question, this album placed far more emphasis on songwriting, lyrics, concept, and overall production than any other album, and we spent less time on things we have deemed frivolous for example making sure we get all our solos in. If a song needed a solo Ryan would compose one to fit, and we had many discussions about which ones required it, and others that did not. And you certainly can hear that, nothing on this album was forced and it was all part of a flowing big picture to create a death metal concept record.
Dead Rhetoric: “A Gathering of Storms” contains special guest appearances from Matt McGachy of Cryptopsy, and Haydee Irizarry of Carnivora/Aversed. At what point do you decide in the process where contributions from your fellow metal musician brethren can best serve the material – and how do you feel about their work on this effort?
Gregory: I always wanted to do something with a big female vocal over heavy music and for my ears Haydee has that perfect voice for that, that quite frankly I didn’t feel was and still is NOT being utilized by any other band. Sure there are powerful female vocalists in bands but they follow a formula and quite frankly that shit is not for me. I like the part of music where the art stretches out and challenges the listener to do different things and though our approach was conservative with her which our band and the song demanded, I would LOVE to hear a band playing brutal death metal with female cleans and skip the entire growl, hiss, snarl vocal. Just do cleans over brutal riffs. I’ve yet to hear a band do that.
I knew she had a powerful alto and she sings with such passion but there’s also a certain kind of vulnerability to her vocals that really is something unique to her and special and I think we were able to feature that quite well. We actually added the second half to her vocals on the fly later in the song right there in the studio as a live improvisation so you gotta love that, and Haydee nailed it right from the start. It was quite something to see her do. As for Matt McGachy we always wanted to get him on a Solium album since Flo, Chris, and Oli from Cryptopsy had all been on a Solium album and it was amazing to watch him bang out his vocals as well, and he and I have a similar work approach along with Chris to work effectively, and he’s awesome. Just was total fun to see something in my head come to fruition with those two ripping on vocals with Jeff. It made me wish I’d written four more songs like it.
Dead Rhetoric: How did it come about that the band decided to cover “Factor Red” from the California band Epidemic – and do you believe it was an important bridge in the scene between thrash and death metal, a la Demolition Hammer, at that time?
Gregory: I always wanted to cover “Factor Red”. Epidemic released Decameron in 1992 and it had a huge influence on me. I love that band and that album in particular as well as Exit Paradise were staples for me for a long time and I still continue to listen to those albums. Absolutely a bridge, there was a time when thrash had gone as far as it was gonna go (and I believe still has) and bands like Demolition Hammer, Exhorder, and of course Epidemic were some of the bands to fill the void and they had a huge stake in my musical development so for me to be able pay tribute to Carl, Erik, Guy, Mark and Bob is a huge honor and I hope they dig it!
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the level of acceptance Solium Fatalis has received on a local versus national/international basis? Do you feel that most critics have been fair and just in their analysis of your output to date?
Gregory: Some critics are well studied, and that is evident when you read their writing. The details like getting our record label right, and being able to identify who’s in the fucking band, and what was done in the studio and hearing/reading that interpretation can always be interesting, again you can tell which ones love metal and which ones don’t give a shit and just want to spew their glib shit on the internet which requires nothing. OPINION is the lowest form of knowledge. It doesn’t require fact, truth, or even being informed. Quite frankly 99% of them don’t read the lyrics and don’t get the band at all. They’re quick to pigeonhole us and slap a number on it, and move forward with the next band on their list of shit to do.
BUT once in a while I’ll read a review where they get it. Didn’t just listen to the album on the fly and make a stupid excuse like “deadlines” and being in a hurry as to why they didn’t give something it’s attention. Quite frankly the plight of a writer, writing about another writer, beyond the irony of that, is laughable and excuses as to why you’d do your readers a disservice put out to a public forum just invalidates your opinion automatically, if people not knowing opinion isn’t knowledge in the first place already didn’t.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you look at the development of death metal or extreme metal in general from your days of discovering the genre and playing in it until now? Where do you think the greatest pluses or minuses are in terms of hopefully sustaining the movement given the wide depth of choices thanks to the proliferation of social media, streaming, and digital music platforms?
Gregory: It’s so much better than the slop it used to be. Bands very often will subjectively (Satan, horror) paint themselves into a corner and some get away with it because they’re institutions but if you’re a newer band that just is not a feasible way to go about your writing. Plus you just have to have something more to say than what would be equal to dick and fart jokes in heavy metal. Ignorance and stupidity never become you and at the risk of sounding elitist and smug I just don’t have time to listen to music that beats the same dead horse over and over. I don’t listen to shit from 1993 anymore because it’s not fucking good anymore. Some albums are timeless yes, but the bulk of death metal from that era is total crap especially compared to what bands are doing now. Even the bands from that era are better now than what they did then, so it’s relative to what’s going on now.
Bands have better musicians, better technology, and an easier way to record it. So for the “get off my lawn” people who run their mouths about how back in their day you had to have talent, fuck yourself. They had an entire network and system in place of financial, fan, and media support that was a closed knit community and had quite the glass ceiling and the record labels in their greed and ripping off bands which is a common story from Testament, to Celtic Frost to Exodus and Megadeth, quite frankly those labels can burn. We don’t need them. I love the availability of music for me to purchase and stream, it’s amazing. I remember blind buying albums as a kid and looking at album covers and hey that’s how I discovered Nevermore thinking “This looks metal!” and buying it. But for every Nevermore, Forbidden, and Heathen album that I snagged I had ten shitty bands that I had to lose money on. So with streaming I’m able to listen to a band and decide if it’s for me, and I love that. I also make sure when I like a band a lot I get their merch, buy their stuff, and do my small part for supporting them. The downfall is saturation of course, but fans aren’t stupid. They know good and bad when they hear it, and the bad music never seems to last.
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