Beyond Grace – Intellectual Brutality

Sunday, 29th August 2021

Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that writing about extreme music over the years helped you eschew from more of the  trope-ish stuff, or at least have those things in mind when you are songwriting?

Walmsley: I think so, definitely.  You’ve got me there.  Being able to listen to so much is a gift.  I can listen during the day at work, or listen to an album or two on the way to work or the way back.  I can make notes for No Clean Singing or for Terrorizer when I was writing for them.  For me, it wasn’t about stealing riffs, which does happen but it shouldn’t, I would find a song that would do something – make a structural change or write a song a certain way, and I would think it was amazing and wonder why we hadn’t done something like that.  It’s a simple thing.  So I’d make a note when I heard it.

For example, we had never done a repeat chorus.  The ending of “Our Kingdom Undone’ was inspired by the last track on Mariner by Cult of Luna.  Doesn’t sound anything like it at all, but it was in my head when I said to Tim, and that’s the fun thing about the writing process – while we have a lot of bands that we like in common, they aren’t bands that we sound much like – so when I said to Tim that I had an idea from a Cult of Luna song and it would have this repeated vocal hook that slowly drops out, he had never heard the song, he took it and put it through his filter.  The way we write – stealing ideas from other people, which I get from listening to so much music…not just metal either, and then instead of reusing it wholesale, you run it through a filter and it’s a lot more interesting that way.

The writing thing has been a huge boon, to just be so exposed to it and inspired by the best parts, and in some cases, learn from what goes wrong.  There’s a lot of bands that I love that put out a dud album now and then.  So going, “let’s not do that!”

Dead Rhetoric: With that same ear in mind, what’s necessary for a death metal band to really stand out in our current age?

Walmsley: Luck [laughs]?  They say that luck is preparation meets chance.  I think doing it with an obvious love, which is such an amorphous thing to say.  I’m not saying something like tune like this or do something for this length – I see so many bands come and go who are doing it because they think that’s how it should be done.  You can tell that they are following the footsteps of giants, and we all are really, but you can tell a band…there is currently one of these ongoing old school death metal explosions.  We seem to be getting more and more of them in increasing frequencies.

It used to be every ten years then every five years, now it’s every three years.  You get these huge gluts coming out.  In it, you get some great ones and some that play a covers band essentially.  Or the ones that say that they missed that wave because they weren’t born in the ‘80s or something like that so they play it now, with no pretention to their elders, but to be that band now.  It is very interesting because you get a lot more originality out of that.  Plus the love it comes through because there’s that sense of ‘ok, we missed out but that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on the enjoyment of playing it.’  You get a feel of the love of what they do.  There are obviously large labels and concerns that people are picked because they have a crossover success, but we aren’t talking about them.  I see, with Bandcamp and labels changing the way that they operate, they are looking for is that love.  Being able to express the love of what you do.  If you can do that, the label thinks you’ll probably do it for longer.

When we signed with Prosthetic, they said that they weren’t going to make us into the next Behemoth.  It if happens, great, but they didn’t hard sell us.  They said that they liked what we do and would like to help us do it, but they weren’t going to over-promise us stuff.  We said that was great.  We signed a three album contract with two options.  They don’t have to pick those up.  If they feel like we didn’t perform well or things fell out for some reason, we will still make the same next album as we would have done with them.  Hopefully it will be through them, I’d love to have a long career there and be part of their family because they have released some of my favorite albums over the years.  But we have always said that we see the signing as the luckiest thing that could have happened.  We hadn’t planned on it, or expected it.  We were going to release it DIY before the pandemic hit.  The fact is, it’s the same album whether through Prosthetic or DIY. Keep that love, believe in what you do, and then if success comes, don’t change for it.

Dead Rhetoric: You are going to be doing a show soon with both a limited live and streaming component?

Walmsley: Yes, we had never done that before.  Things are looking better in the UK with vaccination rates and things like that.  I went to Bloodstock recently and that was really good.  The whole band is vaccinated.  We are checking the status of people coming in, because it’s invite only what we are doing.  The focus is the stream.  We don’t know when we will be able to tour.  Hopefully November-ish in the UK.  Europe, with Brexit putting issues in the way, things are becoming more clear with what we can do, but whether we can take merch across or how much it will cost is up in the air.  We have an open invitation to come and do America from some friends of mine.  But there are visas and flights there.  We sell a lot overseas, which is great.  But they may never get a chance to see us.  Not blowing smoke, but more in the sense of what can we do to give back?  So we booked a local venue.

We have a crew that specializes in live streams and one specializing in recordings, because we are doing a 4K recording for future use, in case we want to put out a dvd or something like that, or even a bonus video.  But we are bringing in 30 people who are friends, family, lovers, and loved ones and the band Luna’s Call, which made one of the best albums of last year bar none.  So we asked them because it’s an excuse to see them play!  We are doing a dry run on Thursday and filming behind the scenes footage, make up and stuff like that to give it a more visual edge.  We are testing the stream and things like that.  We haven’t done it before, so we are slightly winging it.  Hopefully it will be fine, and it’s free.  We wanted to give something out into the world and celebrate the album release.

Dead Rhetoric: It’s a cool idea to have both.  Then you have that intimate performance you are playing in front of so you have some faces to see instead of these online only ones, some of which have come across quite cold and distant.

Walmsley: You nailed it.  That’s why we brought the crowd in, to give us something to play off.  Since we are inviting friends, family, and really loyal fans locally that we have personally invited, it’s a way to say thank you to them as well for all the support.  I’m looking forward to it.  We haven’t played live since November 13, 2019…not that I know the exact date or anything.  Then we have another gig over a week later, which is a general admission one, because we asked to play with Damim and Cryptic Shift, again two fantastic British bands.  They were on the last gig we played.  In 2019, we got a last minute tour with Hour of Penance so we had four dates of that.  We had Hour of Penance, Damim, Cryptic Shift, and us.  It’ll be a nice celebration, the first time we have seen each other in a year and a half.

Dead Rhetoric: Given the lyrical spin on the world, what concerns you most at the present time?

Walmsley: I don’t know how much you know about our situation.  It’s always more complicated than you can make out with these sort of situations, but we have a slow drift towards the right wing over here.  But it’s not just a shift towards fiscal conservatism, it’s a slow and steady drift towards meanness.  Not to downplay it, but I can’t think of a better word, but meanness and pettiness.  Normalizing some of the lowest and basest impulses as being fine, and it’s a reactionary thing.  I believe that humanity’s progression, while it’s not always positive, is generally towards the better and making things fairer for people.  Most people generally aren’t terrible.  But I think what is going on is a reaction to people thinking that society is changing too fast and they are terrified of it.  So there is pushing back in the most reactionary manner.  There are movements pushing back against that, which is good, but I don’t like the left/right binary – it’s a spectrum, it’s more complicated than that.

But to use those words, people have gotten too complacent.  People have allowed themselves to be a bit too milk-toast.  There was nothing inspiring on the left for a long time.  It’s easier to bring people together when there is a core sense of ‘right wing conservative issues.’  They have stronger ones than the left, which is a more diverse group.  It’s harder to form a coalition to fight back.  People are more complacent in that they say, ‘oh, you are in  a certain race/social group/class, so you are going to vote for us anyway’ and they took it for granted.  Even if they didn’t vote against them, they lost that impetus to push for social change and pushed for the status quo.  That’s not inspiring at all.  Pushing for the status quo is ceding ground to the other side.  If you look at it as both sides pushing in opposite directions, the second you stop pushing you are losing ground.  A lot of Our Kingdom Undone is based on that.  It wasn’t meant to be, it really wasn’t.  The idea was to write a proggy album, include some clean singing, and that didn’t appear.  Nothing we wrote fit that.  The album brought us here instead.  The lyrics were the same.  Chris asked me if I was alright and that I seemed very angry [laughs].  You know what?  I am very angry.  I’m sick of half-measures and people letting me down that I believed in.  Myself not being as good as I could be.  It all came spilling out into the record.

I think the next album is probably going to be even more strongly ‘British.’  It’s not going to sound like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest with the flag-waving, but in the sense of its going to be even more personal and political.  Our act of political suicide, which we call Brexit, in which we sacrificed all soft power because no one knows what soft power is, or that it’s more important than how many bombs you have.  We sacrificed ourselves for Little England syndrome.  We thought we were still the center of the empire, or at least our political leadership did, and now we are reaping the consequences of our own arrogance and ignorance.  The idea of politics based on sound bites rather than reality.  That’s the album.  The Kingdom won’t exist soon because we will fracture and lose what little remains of our political power in the world.  We will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Dead Rhetoric: I remember feeling the same way when Trump was elected.  People can complain, but we brought this on ourselves.

Walmsley: It’s interesting because I write for No Clean Singing, and some of my best friends in the world are in America.  Watching them go through the Trump administration and them watching us go back through Johnson – I’d say Johnson administration but they are so bought out by vested interests that you might as well stick sponsorship stickers on him.  It was interesting to see the reaction when Biden won.  The grand sigh of relief that I saw from my friends, who are very politically engaged, say that it was the best of the worst case scenarios, is not particularly very inspiring.  They went back to the status quo.  To see that turn to the fear of, okay that wasn’t the pushback we needed, was interesting.  I saw it as you guys swinging through your darkest hour – things are darkest before the dawn – and hopefully you might be back on the upward swing.  For the next few years it will be dicey but you are getting there.

We are firmly nose-diving!  “We are the blinded led by the blind” was the title track chorus, having the blind lady on the album cover – justice is blind.  We also did the first promo shots with blindfolds on.  The idea was that we have blindfolded ourselves to reality over here.  We could have learned from America, and what we did was learned the worst possible examples.  We always have, if you look through history, the worst American politics.  Even down to we are now seeing a rise – we had the recent Incel shooting in Plymouth.  Certain ideologies drift across the ocean to us.  Why is it that we never take example from the shining city on the hill sort of thing?  Why the worst or meanest?  That’s not your fault but ours for following the wrong people.  We’ve become kind of lapdogs.

Dead Rhetoric: In lighter talk, what plans do you have for the rest for 2021?

Walmsley: We are currently negotiating with a couple bands to go on tour.  Three or four days then a week off at a time.  What we have noticed is that we would love to do a longer tour, we have limited availability as a band.  We can block out about 2 weeks.  Finding other bands like that is basically impossible.  But I have managed to reach out to a few bands that we love just to get out there.  We aren’t looking for the biggest venues, we just want to find something small and cool – support some local businesses and get some local bands in.  Rebuild from the ground up.  We aren’t looking to be the world’s biggest rock stars.  We just want to get out there and play for people.

We are also looking to get back in the studio.  We are recording a cover song – can’t tell you what it is but it’s not a metal song.  Much to my dismay, we still haven’t covered “Between the Hammer and the Anvil” by Judas Priest.  We are going to though, because I love that song and we have it about half-written.  At some point we will finish it.  But it’s a different cover that will be exclusive for people who pre-order the vinyl.  We suffered doubly from the whole vinyl backlog.  There’s a six month leadtime on vinyl now.  We were originally going to be late by a month or two, then the test presses turned up warped.  While I could listen to it, the first riff sounded warped.  Everything else was fine, and I am 99% percent that it is fine, but that 1% could screw an entire run and it would cost the label money, and probably our contract at that point.  They arrived Friday and I had the guys over to listen over the weekend.  They sound fantastic, so to sweeten the deal since it will probably be February or March if we are lucky now, the cover will be an exclusive for bearing with us.

We are also writing again.  We have written about four songs for the album already, and we are looking to get some support slots and maybe some European dates next year to try and plan ahead.  Our career so far has been scrambling for things.  We didn’t always know the right people and were lucky getting the tours we have got.  It’s working a week or two in advance.  It would be great if we could work four or five months in advance and plan it out.  So after the live show, we are going to look at next year and relaunch us, in a sense.  I’m so happy the album is coming out since we have been sitting on it for over a year now.  Once it is out, there’s a sigh of relief and we are having a barbecue at my place with friends to celebrate and then it’s back into writing and looking at 2022 and what we can do to get a support slot with a bigger band and maybe get a different audience.

We aren’t trying to be the biggest band in the world but we love supporting bigger bands because it makes you up your game.  I have always said that we can go toe to toe with anyone on a good night.  Problem is, you have to make sure it’s a good night.  One of the best shows we ever played was with Cryptopsy.  We opened for them in London when they did the None So Vile tour last time.  Massive crowd, and it went down like a storm.  That’s what I love.  Playing with them, we have to bring our A-game.  There’s a crowd that will rip us to pieces.  They are expecting Cryptopsy level quality.  Touring with bands like that makes us better and I want to get back to that.  It’s fun!

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