Abnormality – Mechanisms of EvolutionThursday, 28th April 2016
Slowly carving out a niche for themselves in the New England death metal circuit, Abnormality has been gradually gaining more support as they moved from a 2007 demo to an independently released EP in 2010, to their first full-length album, Contamination of the Hive Mind, back in 2012. Not to mention, their song “Visions” appeared as a bonus track in the video game Rock Band 2 early in their career. With all of this work under their belts, the band finally landed on the Metal Blade Records roster at the end of 2015. The soon to be released (April 29) Mechanisms of Omniscience is the band’s first output for their new label.
Mechanisms is an album that is bound to bring Abnormality to the next level. Full of downright scathing brutality, the album is also highlighted by some technical yet catchy guitarwork and Mallika Sundaramurthy’s vicious growls. It fuels the adrenaline rush, but the underlying melodic elements will ensure that you are tapping away just as much as you exercise the neck muscles. As enamored with the release as we were at DR, we were quick to find time to chat with vocalist Sundaramurthy, who talks about Mechanisms, her involvement with Castrator, running Ultimate Massacre Productions, and more.
Dead Rhetoric: To get this one out of the way, how many people have found out about Abnormality from “Visions” appearing on Rock Band 2?
Mallika Sundaramurthy: It’s hard to say how many people since a lot of people that played the game weren’t necessarily metal fans. But we did expose a lot of gamers to death metal and we did gain a lot of fans through being in that video game, either people that were metalheads or were new metalheads after [playing] the game. It definitely helped us at the beginning of the band, and later on we had other things that contributed to our fanbase, like our music videos and our live shows. One of our music videos went viral, which also helped out.
Dead Rhetoric: So how did the deal come about with Metal Blade?
Sundaramurthy: We were getting offers from a number of labels, and at that point we weren’t in a contract. We had released our 2012 album (Contaminating the Hive Mind) on Sevared Records as a one-album deal and we were considering other offers. We knew that we wanted to take the step to a bigger label, so we hired a manager, Shawn Carrano, who spoke to all the labels to consider the deals and we ended up signing with Metal Blade.
Dead Rhetoric: Was there any surprise in the amount of label interest due to the fact that you aren’t exactly playing the most hip/trendy kind of music right now?
Sundaramurthy: Having been playing death metal for almost 15 years, I never expected to get the success and popularity that we have gotten. I always expected that we would remain in the underground, but I hoped we would sign with a label like Metal Blade. There seems to be more interest in metal and death metal in mainstream culture. You see pop stars appropriating metal fashion and even elements of metal music. With the rise of metalcore and deathcore, those extreme elements have become more popular and less shocking to bigger audiences. It’s kind of a mix of things, but it has made it a really good time for us to rise in the music world.
Dead Rhetoric: Would you say that the amount of time that the band has been around, do you associate it more as the band kind of earning your keep and moving up slowly but surely?
Sundaramurthy: I think so. We have proved ourselves and our integrity. We never took shortcuts or tried to exploit ourselves as some bands have done. We always put the music first and that’s evident to anyone who has been following us.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel separates Abnormality apart from the death metal crowd?
Sundaramurthy: We are just uniquely ourselves. The name Abnormality is quite fitting. We take influences from other musical sources and explore what inspires us. We aren’t afraid to venture into different territories – basically we do anything that inspires us. We have developed our own unique sound. I think anyone can recognize our sound. There’s that, and of course, I’ll be the first to mention that having a female vocalist helps to us stand apart. But we don’t do anything to exploit that. It is what it is, and it’s something that has helped us, but we put the music first. We don’t try to cash in on it.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel that the band has progressed since Contaminating the Hive Mind?
Sundaramurthy: It’s an evolution as we go. We explore different things and write what we are inspired by. We write naturally, and the things that are going on in the world – that influences the lyrics, along with things that are going on with our own lives. Each album has a different feeling and an evolution that you can hear. It’s not forced, it’s just the place we are in at the time. We also have a new guitarist [Sam Kirsch], so his style has been infused with the band. There’s some differences with that, but it’s still Abnormality – just a new evolution of the band.
Dead Rhetoric: You started mentioning lyrics – how important is it that you don’t stick to the same old clichés and instead talk about something that might be more relevant than the usual death and gore?
Sundaramurthy: I don’t have anything against those bands that do the typical thing, but that’s never what inspired us. We were always interested in real things – emotions and using our imagination. There are other bands that do that too; those are the kinds of bands that we like to read their lyrics when we listen to them. We don’t want to put ourselves into a box. Our lyrics go over a lot of different subjects, and we aren’t afraid to try something different. We do tend to stay away from the typical gore and death subjects.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you share about the recently released video for the title track?
Sundaramurthy: We worked with Red 13 Media and they were really awesome to work with. They got our concept and executed it brilliantly. They went above and beyond what we were hoping for and we are really happy with how it turned out. It goes along with the lyrics of the song – I encourage people to read the lyrics to our songs [laughs] – I don’t need to over-explain it. But yeah, we are really psyched on the video.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you gotten any feedback on it yet?
Sundaramurthy: There’s been a great response on social media as well as on the video itself. It’s been spread around quite a bit.
Dead Rhetoric: Your vocals are impressive, regardless of gender. Do you have any techniques that have helped build or maintain them over the years?
Sundaramurthy: I think having basic vocal training helps, in any kind of music that you want to do and getting proper breathing technique. I was trained in voice as a child, for normal singing, and I think that helped when I started doing death metal vocals. I was self-taught, and eventually later on, after being in some bands, I took some operatic singing lessons to help with my breathing techniques. I think those also helped. I do the same technique as old school death metal vocalists, but I think it does help to have proper breathing and good self-care, like staying hydrated and not smoking.
Dead Rhetoric: I saw the band a few years ago and one thing that really stood out was the intensity of the live performance. Is that something that Abnormality works on with some importance?
Sundaramurthy: Definitely. Over the years it’s something that we have developed and our live show is very important to us. We bring the energy and our passion to the stage. We want the crowd to feel involved in the music – sharing and exchanging the music and ideas. We’ve gotten a lot of compliments on our live act and a lot of attention from that. A lot of people respond positively to it, and that’s something that is important to us too, as musicians. Watching other bands – that is the true test of what a band is doing I think. A lot of things can be done in the studio, but watching them live, you can see what they are really like.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you say in regards to the New England/Massachusetts metal scene that the band has been a part of for so long?
Sundaramurthy: We’ve had a very strong metal and hardcore scene in the Boston area where we are from. We are also nearby New York and Montreal, where there is a lot of technical death metal, as well as a history of death metal. Those things have influenced us, and seeing a bunch of great bands on tour have inspired us. Traveling on tour to those places – we are lucky to be a part of such a great scene here. Bands in other countries don’t have that privilege to play with some of their favorite musicians. We are lucky – we’ve gotten to share the stage with some of our favorites: Suffocation, Immolation, and Cryptopsy. It’s a cool thing.
Dead Rhetoric: You are one of the owners of Ultimate Massacre Productions. What do you notice about being both sides of the business?
Sundaramurthy: It’s definitely helped me to think about things differently, being on the other end of the table. It’s a really great thing for me – I’m just very passionate about music and death metal. Being able to use my knowledge and passion to help other bands in the underground as well – that is really exciting and rewarding for me. It’s a pretty small label right now but I hope to build it up and I’m having a lot of fun doing it.
Dead Rhetoric: Would you want to keep it as something on the smaller end?
Sundaramurthy: I’d like to build it up. It will probably take some time and hard work, but we have grown six times this year. We had one band and now we have six, so it’s growing!
Dead Rhetoric: You are also in the band Castrator. Are there any near-future plans for that, or does it kind of come and go as it pleases when everyone has time?
Sundaramurthy: It’s something that is important to me and I’m very passionate about that band too. It’s the distance that makes it challenging. As often as we are able to get together to write music, share, and play, we do so. Eventually I would like to do more with Castrator. We are working on a full-length album right now. We would all like to carry it on as much as we can. It’s something different from Abnormality, but also very enjoyable for me. The other ladies, most of them have at least one full-time band, so they are in the same boat but when we get together we have a lot of fun.
Dead Rhetoric: I know that Castrator has played a few live shows too…
Sundaramurthy: Yeah, we have done a few regional tours and played festivals in Texas and Philadelphia. The band just started in 2013, and in the amount of time we have been doing it, it has gotten quite a bit of buzz and interest. It’s really fun for me, so that’s why I intend to keep doing it.
Dead Rhetoric: You will be on tour with Soulfly and Suffocation in a few weeks. Is this one of the bigger tours that the band has done?
Sundaramurthy: I would say that this is going to be the biggest tour we have ever done. First, going with a bigger band like Soulfly, we are playing bigger venues. The time that we will be out is the longest that we have done in one stretch – pretty much one month. I’m really excited, and looking forward to playing in front of bigger audiences.
Dead Rhetoric: Any plans for the band following the Soulfly tour?
Sundaramurthy: We are planning on doing another North American tour in the summer or fall. We are just working with our tour agency on figuring out what that will be. We do plan on doing at least one more tour this year – maybe more.