Abiotic – Anything But LifelessWednesday, 15th April 2015
Jumping into the scene with 2012’s Symbiosis, Abiotic quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. However, time wasn’t quite as kind to the band, with a number of member changes that lead up to a three year wait before the band’s sophomore effort, Casuistry, was set to be released (April 21). Successfully skirting the dreaded sophomore slump, the extra time waiting for Casuistry appears to be worth the wait. An assault of modern death metal, the band has stepped up their game considerably and if they weren’t on listeners’ radar before, chances are they will be now.
DR was able to get ahold of guitarist John Matos just prior to the band’s current tour with Boris the Blade kicking off. In fact, he was on his way, driving to load up the van. Easy to tell that he was looking forward to hitting the road, we talked about the member changes, the recording process, and even some insight into some of modern death metal’s trappings (technicality, breakdowns).
Dead Rhetoric: You are heading out on the road. What are you most looking forward to?
John Matos: The cool thing about it is that there is something to look forward to, almost every date of the tour. We are doing a festival show on April 10th in Austin, Texas with Between the Buried and Me. I love playing with those guys so that’s probably one of the big things on this tour for all of us.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been out on a number of big name tours since Symbiosis was finished. What do you take away from each tour that you are a part of?
Matos: It really depends. We’ve had the opportunity to tour with all sorts of bands. From new and upcoming bands, to veteran bands like Exhumed and Dying Fetus. We take something different from each tour. The Fetus guys really showed us professionalism and how important it is. When you tour with the newer bands, you make new friends and you can watch people careers bloom. It’s cool touring with all types of bands. We love touring with bands like Fetus, those guys are awesome.
Dead Rhetoric: How’d you come to the title Casuistry? How does this concept relate to the album?
Matos: I feel like it has to do with the lyrical themes on the album. The word is using knowledge, or supposed knowledge, for malicious reasons. Travis [Bartosek] wrote all the lyrics and he touches on religious themes and stuff like that. It has strong connotations for the tone of the album too. It’s a dark, ominous word in and of itself too, so it worked out both ways.
Dead Rhetoric: You have a new vocalist in Travis Bartosek and drummer in Brent Phillips. After two vocalist/drummer switches, do you feel the band is finally stable?
Matos: The new guys have been in the band for about a year now. We have had some struggles, you could say, in that area. But I feel like this is the Abiotic we will be seeing for many years. It all just feels right. You can hear it on the album that these guys are what was meant to be for the band and the sound that we are looking for.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel that they brought to the table for Casuistry?
Matos: Travis, vocally, it’s just a different monster than our original stuff. There’s more enunciation. It’s a lot catchier and he has got some really awesome phrasing. He has a nice wide range and he can do some cool, different shit. With Brent it’s the same thing, bringing us to another level. Brent is probably one of the fastest drummers that we’ve ever seen, let alone played with. He can really jump on and do anything. He’s a really creative dude as well; he’s got some really cool parts on the record that I’m stoked for people to see live.
Dead Rhetoric: Be it that you have two new members in the band, what makes Casuistry differ from Symbiosis?
Matos: We just focused a lot more on composition. To make each song the best it can possibly be. Keep it sweet and to the point, you catchy, but still keep it our version of death metal or whatever you want to call it. That’s the main difference. It’s more focused and more put together, and less messy, for lack of a better way of putting it. It’s the record that we have all been meaning to put out. The record that when we think of Abiotic in our heads, this is what we hear. We are finally ready for everyone else to hear it to.
Dead Rhetoric: Symbiosis was mostly re-recordings from your demo, whereas Casuistry is all new. Did you try anything differently in terms of writing the material, knowing that you were writing a complete album this time?
Matos: We definitely took a different approach to the writing. When we did Symbiosis, we just sat in a room and wrote it all out in a room together. Nothing was written down or pre-recorded. It was just kind of jamming together and we put it together afterwards. With Casuistry, we had so much more time to demo and record different riffs. Our guitar player, Matt [Mendez] got really into home recording and all that. It really gave us an opportunity to take advantage of the technology available to pre-record every song on the album so that we can listen back to it as listeners, and we didn’t have that opportunity before.
Dead Rhetoric: Listening to the album myself, it sounds like there is more of that “mature” feel, be it from that or just from more touring experience.
Matos: It’s a combination of everything. Everyone evolving as players, and our taste in music evolving. There’s nothing wrong with that. I feel like people view it as such a bad thing if you change your taste in music or if your music taste grows. You should embrace that. I like bands that grow as they continue on their musical careers and I hope we can do the same.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of Dying Fetus, John Gallagher lent some vocals to “Cast into the Depths.” How did this partnership come about?
Matos: We just stayed in touch after the tour. I sent John a few tracks from the record and he was really into it. So I found the best spot to have him shine and showcase his classic gutturals. I think it came out fucking awesome.
Dead Rhetoric: Jamie King is pretty in-demand at the moment for production. What was it like working with him?
Matos: It was incredible. It was a fantastic vibe the entire time. It made it easy for everyone to get a good performance in. There was no pressure or anything like that. It was exactly the type of environment that we needed and the environment that we were looking for. When we went into the recording we all had the same mindset. We needed someone who knew what they were doing, and some one that was positive. Someone who wasn’t going to be on our case. Someone who wasn’t going to have a bug on their shoulder. And a lot of engineers are kind of jaded old dudes that have that issue sometimes. It was cool for us to get someone who was in the same mindset as us. He could tell the sound we were going for before we even said anything. There was just a magic that happened between all of us, I feel like.
Dead Rhetoric: Abiotic does dabble in some breakdowns, which some people have a tendency to get grumpy about. What makes a breakdown work?
Matos: I feel like doing it tastefully is the way to describe it. With this album, we decided that if we are going to do it, do it in a way that it’s not normally done or spice it up. Make it different, because it already has a negative connotation attached to it and it’s overdone by so many bands. It’s one of those things that we don’t want to restrict ourselves and not do them. But if it calls for it, cool. If it doesn’t, there’s no reason to. That’s where we are at.
Dead Rhetoric: With the recent outcropping of “tech” death or however you’d like to describe it, how do you stay ahead of the curve to maintain your own identity as a band?
Matos: You keep practicing, you keep trying to find your voice as a player. We are all still players, working and striving to get better. You need to hone your craft and spread your musical taste/knowledge. Keep on getting different kinds of influences, keep on experimenting and trying different things. As long as you as an artist, are satisfied, the music should just kind of come out.
Dead Rhetoric: Along with that, in terms of songwriting, how do you balance between keeping things technically interesting, but still have the flow of a song?
Matos: It’s a really hard thing to balance and that goes a lot with the composing. How long should we do a section for? Should the section repeat? We need structure so some sections should repeat, but other sections we feel shouldn’t. It’s all something that’s hashed out within the band in the writing process. It’s just about knowing when the boundaries are and still being able to test them and push the limits, but within reason.
Dead Rhetoric: You have toured a lot with up and coming bands. Name three bands that you feel are going to take it to the next level from here?
Matos: I don’t know if you consider them up and coming, but our friends in Wretched. They’ve been at it for a little while now, with four albums under their belt and they’re on Victory Records. But they are a fantastic group of dudes and I see them doing this for a long, long time. There was actually a tour that we did. It was Wretched, and another band I’ll mention that is Allegaeon, another band of insanely talented players that are definitely up and coming and doing big things. And our friends in Rivers of Nihil. Same things with those dudes – extremely talented band, writing some fantastic music and they are going to be putting out another album this year too.
Dead Rhetoric: So what else is Abiotic planning for the remainder of the year?
Matos: Nothing set in stone so far, but we are in talks for a few different things so we are just waiting for pieces to fall. We definitely plan on being out in the summer and in the fall as well. The world will be getting plenty of new Abiotic tunes in the very near future.