Daughter Chaos – Beyond CaptivitySunday, 31st January 2021
Forming out of the ashes of Armageddon, Daughter Chaos contains a strong trio of musicians well versed in the art of delivering melodic death metal with power and progressive touches. Their debut self-titled EP pulsates with enthusiastic riffs, circular harmonies, vibrant rhythm section work plus the deadly growls and screams from bassist Sara Claudius. We reached out to Sara to bring Dead Rhetoric up to speed on the formation of the group, thoughts on her time with Armageddon and lessons learned to apply to Daughter Chaos, enjoying the DIY label promotion, and lots of thoughts on the metal scene in general.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music in childhood? And at what point did you gravitate towards heavier styles, and eventually want to pick up an instrument and start making your own music?
Sara Claudius: I’ve always had music in my life because my grandmother was a piano player and organist. I grew up with a Hammond organ and a piano at my disposal. Just started picking out notes. I remember she had an instructional book from the 1930’s, the notes were color coded to the staff. I learned how to read, and in school around eight years old I picked up the saxophone. Played in the jazz band, I was always too cool for the marching band (laughs). Then discovered Black Sabbath and marijuana. Dropped out of the jazz band and I tried to front a heavy metal band. I never got to practice with the band so the gigs were kind of a mess. I got scared off vocals for about 15 years, now I am doing it again.
The first album I remember asking my mom to get on her way home from work was The Beatles – Please Please Me, and Simon and Garfunkel – Greatest Hits. I saw a re-run of those acts on the Ed Sullivan Show, I was fascinated and throwing myself around the room but it was just The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. It just got heavier and heavier from there. I remember the first time I heard Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath – and then I discovered Metallica and Megadeth, Slayer. Then I went into death metal. That’s the story I guess. I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was 19, I started late. I didn’t start playing bass until I was 25, I started playing bass to play in Ghost Ship Octavius.
Dead Rhetoric: So did you take any lessons, or just apply what you learned through the piano, organ, and saxophone to your guitar and bass skills?
Claudius: It gave me a foundation. Without that, I would have been a total beginner. Having the musical knowledge from those early instruments had me fairly advanced on the guitar right away, because I knew music theory. I did take classical guitar lessons as an adult, because I never had lessons. I did that at 26, found a teacher in Philly and started playing some gigs on nylon string. I would have my nails done every two weeks, I was a part of the Wilmington Classical Guitar Society. Got into that, it’s something I miss. It takes discipline to stay great with that kind of playing. I should probably get back to that at some point.
Dead Rhetoric: Daughter Chaos developed in 2018 following the demise of Armageddon. Can you take us through how Armageddon ended and did you know straight away what you wanted to do as far as a lineup and style with Daughter Chaos – or was there a bit of a feeling out process in terms of songwriting and direction?
Claudius: Armageddon fizzled out, and I was playing with the Obsessed. There was a bit of a schism there. We had assembled an incredible lineup of players, world-class with hungry ambitions. There was a period of the dark night of the soul there because I didn’t have any band for all of 2017 and most of 2018. Which for me felt like one of those dreams where I felt perpetually naked, or falling off a cliff. Life didn’t feel right without a band. The guys called me up and asked if I wanted to do this, based on a demo that Chris (Amott) and I had recorded. The concept for the next original Armageddon EP was going to be called Daughter Chaos, based around this idea – the Earth being the daughter of chaos. They really gravitated towards that name, they called me and asked if I wanted to do a band under that name, and pilot off that Armageddon material and finish that demo.
I felt very strongly wanted to forge forward with new stuff – not to rely on the past. We finished two songs that were going to be with Armageddon – that’s “The Burning One” and “Daughter Chaos” – I felt very strongly about going forward and making it a new thing instead of a retrospective thing. We started developing the dynamic with myself, Andrew (Pevny), and Yanni (Sofianos) writing together. That’s where we are at now, and it’s pretty exciting.
Dead Rhetoric: In the fall of 2020 you released your debut self-titled EP. How did the recording and songwriting sessions go for this – what are some specific memories you have regarding these songs, and were there any obstacles or surprises that came up?
Claudius: Absolutely. This EP was a pretty challenging project. In the end, I’m grateful for it because it was a growth experience together. The memories – I have really good memories of playing a show in New York City, and going to Andrew’s afterwards and I stayed there for a couple days. We got into a nice writing cocoon. It’s easy and feels really good- which was something I had with Chris in Armageddon, that kind of dynamic. To me, I love performing but I really love to write with people. And I really love the demo.
A lot of this was solitary because we don’t live close to each other. We would mail in tracks, and we did our final tracks separately and then mailed them to Andrew for the mix. He’s really great as a mixing engineer, he did a second mix on the EP after Antony left the band and we redid the vocals, he got some new plugins and it just leveled up. The challenges were definitely when Antony left the band, we didn’t have a vocalist. It didn’t feel right to get somebody else because of the way the band started organically out of Armageddon and all of us having ties to that, so to get somebody completely different just didn’t seem right. I did have that early desire to be a vocalist. When I was 15 I was trying to front a thrash band. I figured I would give it a shot, I’ve never done this. I told the guys, let’s give me a month and I will audition for the role of vocalist. We would be honest with each other and if it’s not good enough we will figure something else out. If it is, we will forge ahead. I did it like Rocky style, training and figuring it out – and once I got the first growl out, I thought alright – I think I can really do this. And they felt the same way.
Lots of walking around at night in the dark. Antony and I had collaborated on the lyrics of two of the songs – when he left I rewrote those parts. And rewriting something you’ve heard hundreds of times a certain way is a bit of a challenge. I would listen repeatedly and hammer through it – in six months this is going to be done and you are going to feel so good. Just get it done. In the end, a very triumphant feeling to get it out there and overcome all the obstacles and have it received so well. Let other people feel the feelings we have felt the entire time we were making it. Never really getting tired of it, which to me is an indication that it’s a good thing. We’ve got a slab of metal that I think people are going to connect with, and it will bring the energy.
Dead Rhetoric: What sort of ideas and influences inspire the lyrical content for Daughter Chaos?
Claudius: I have a pretty big interest in the esoteric and the origins of humanity. I’ve always been a very curious person. A lot of the concepts are coming from references to a lot of ancient texts in there. Referencing Genesis in the Bible, tablets, the Book of Enoch, which is an apocryphal text. It probably should be in the Bible but it’s not. I’m not Christian or anything but I think it’s an interesting story that has impacted humanity. Putting this through my lens and that’s where the topics come from.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the artwork come about with Ibay Arifin – was it a concept that was worked out between yourselves and the artist, or did you give him free reign based on his visual interpretations and your music?
Claudius: That was an interesting one too. I had done a painting, a full color thing on the back of a table I had accidently ripped off and it was a good canvas, an octagon. A creature with a bunch of eyeballs, that was the impetus with Ibay. I asked him if he could make a sister to that creature, and he did. I also asked him to include the water coming out of the darkness. So that is coming out of the corner, falling out of the void.
Dead Rhetoric: Running your own record label to push this release through Abrams Records, at this point in your career do you feel its best to handle the promotion and distribution channels better than allowing an outside label to handle things, given the current tools at everyone’s disposal?
Claudius: That was something that I was, once again, another growth by necessity type thing. It turned out quite well to self-promote and distribute. I’m happy with what we’ve achieved. I know a bigger label would get way more eyeballs on it, someone like Relapse and something. They give you that exposure that as a grassroots thing I don’t have. The fact that we were able to get the attention of Decibel, Metal Hammer, and early on had a plug by Blabbermouth, Metal Sucks, all these major outlets. And then people like yourself, it’s been an organic process of the music speaking for itself and get people interested. Doing pieces like this, people reading it and picking it up and listening. It’s working for itself.
A large label would never hurt, really, to get that kind of exposure. But the DIY thing, we are kicking ass.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel like you learned a lot or gained insight from being in Armageddon with Chris and his experience in the metal scene between Arch Enemy and all he’s done over the years?
Claudius: Absolutely. Chris is a massive part of this by inclusion, with the history. I learned a lot from him, and from Arch Enemy. Seeing how they work, seeing how a really professional, organized band works. On a very high level of organization. The process – that gave me a blueprint for what we are doing, here. For sure. And I have to say that Chris was very encouraging when I first started doing the vocals, I sent him some demos and he had encouraging words for me. It got me out of the insecurities of being a total newbie, can I do this? Hearing him and the guys in the band confirm for me that I’m doing a good job, that meant everything to me and gave me the confidence to carry on.
Dead Rhetoric: When it came to your vocals, were there specific things you wanted to make sure were included as far as tone or clarity when it came to the words?
Claudius: Yes I’m very into enunciation. I want the words to be audible, because the lyrics are important to me. I’ve had people say to me nobody cares about death metal lyrics- well I do! I do think people do. The real music fans are opening up the liner notes and reading the lyrics. I wanted it to really mean something, and intrigue people. I also was very, very strong that I did not want the vocals to be processed. A little bit of reverb, very little processing, I wanted it to be as naked as possible. I think there’s one line with a little bit of an effect on it, at the beginning of “Old World”.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you tell us a little bit about your Sarada Craft business where you make handcrafted Old World soaps, salves, scrubs, and herbal supplements?
Claudius: That started right after I parted ways with The Obsessed, and I didn’t have a band and I needed an outlet to channel my creativity. Really felt the need to do something nourishing, not just for myself but for others. The music business can be a little hardcore – I’ve been a guitar tech on tour, and dousing myself with chemicals. Being on the road, getting into some unhealthy habits. Feeling the need to do something nourishing and creative, and that benefits others.
It has since turned into a business. It’s a balance, my balance from the music. It’s my light and my dark. It helps me keep my head on straight.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think are some of the misconceptions that the average metal follower may have regarding who you are as a musician and what you do to improve your following and try to make ends meets for all of your recording, equipment, and touring endeavors?
Claudius: I’m not sure how to answer that. I try to make things as honest as possible, so there would be no misconceptions. The decision to record at home – sometimes people wonder why we wouldn’t be going into a studio. I try to show the product being a full-fledge thing and let it speak for itself. Recording at home is purely a financial decision. We can do it to our standards, and if we weren’t able to do that then we would definitely go into a studio. I would love to do that at some point, that may be going away – there aren’t as many big studios as there was once were. The mastering with Zeuss really made a difference. This one really polished it, made everything fit perfectly at the right spots and made it sound big. It was A/B against Captivity the last Armageddon album. That was a standard, and had more funding behind it. The louder you turn it up, the better it sounds. We achieved (this) to our standard.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the extreme metal genre currently? What excites you and where do you think improvements need to be made for the better?
Claudius: I think it’s exciting right now, there are a lot of really good bands. There’s certainly some retrospective thing- the old school death metal thing is big, which I think is really cool. It can get tiring in time, I love that metal upholds the physical media thing. We’ve got tapes, vinyl, CD’s, produced on a high-quality level where people are caring about this. I love having that tangible, physical media. I want to get into vinyl and tapes. I love the community that comes with metal. I have at this point after a lifetime of loving and living metal an array of musicians, writers, artists, silk screeners – a whole community that keeps this running. And listeners. It’s all this self-contained world that is so cool, so much energy and people are so passionate about it. They get so affected by the music and that is the coolest thing. As do I – and that’s what I love about it.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you name three albums that shape your outlook on heavy metal as a genre and continue to inspire you? And what is your favorite concert memory that you took in over the years, purely as a music fan?
Claudius: That’s a tough one. I’m bad with these on the spot. The early Black Sabbath, because that was what made me sit and play guitar. Before I really got serious about guitar at 19, I had a guitar under my bed. Listening to Black Sabbath made me pull my guitar out and learn the riffs. It wasn’t too complicated, and I could pick it up by ear and play. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is my most listened to. Megadeth – their albums really impacted me as repetitive listening. I was really into Jason Becker’s solo album – Perpetual Burn. I was listening to that a lot, obviously I can’t play guitar like that but that impacted me a lot. I’m missing a million things.
Concert memory. I was just thinking about going to see Slayer play. That was my first real metal concert I saw. I just had met up with friends of mine at school, I found my people. Within a month we were all going to see Slayer together. The mosh pits, the blood on the floor, I was like wow. It’s one of those things, the first time I heard Slayer, it was like hearing some 20th century classical music. It was atonal and heavy, almost unpalatable the first time you hear it. The heaviness requires a certain kind of condition, obviously I liked it, you like it – I wanted to interpret it and understand what it meant. Now it just sounds normal. At the time it was some lexicon of some ancient language – what is this sound and how do I get this brain to understand this?
Dead Rhetoric: How have you been handling your downtime during this pandemic? And are you itching to get back on stage when it’s safe to – how do you think the scene will recover from this after there being very few live shows or touring for the better part of a year at this point?
Claudius: My downtime I’ve been utilizing it. There is a lot of suffering in the world, and I’m fortunate that I have the time and place to be creative. I’m ripping through that. My mission is just to create. It’s been a period of growth, and really focus without social distractions. It’s interesting you ask this because yes I’m itching to get on stage. Performing I will be nervous as I’m coming back as a vocalist, so this will be like a training module. When the stages open up again, I hope there are stages and I hope the venues survive. Even if they don’t, we will just because the people into music, whether it’s in a basement or on somebody’s porch, live performances will be there.
When these bands get back on stage, we’ve all been couped up – we are going to lose our minds and it’s going to be powerful. It’s going to be nuts and people are going to be so grateful to be at a show. The bands who have been woodshedding this whole time are going to slam, just having the vision of a real show and the passion that will be there. I can almost taste it, but we are not there yet.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next for Daughter Chaos over the next year as far as promotion, shows, etc.? Has work begun on the next effort – will it be another EP or a full-length? And do you or the other members of Daughter Chaos have outside projects/bands that we should be on the lookout for?
Claudius: We are focused on our next releases. We are throwing around the idea of doing an A-side, B-side single kind of thing. Just to keep everybody fed, a little appetizer. It’s another thing I like where the industry is going, I see people releasing little singles and one-off, three songs to five songs. Just to keep churning it out. That’s the old school releasing the singles kind of thing. And then a full-length. We are using Zoom and it’s very effective. We are doing Zoom meetings to write, and recording the parts separately and putting it together. It feels good to move into the next phase and leave behind the saga of the EP. It’s nice to have that chapter closed, released and into the world. Now with the confidence we are ready to slam.
Definitely check out Framework – it’s Andrew’s band that has been there for years. We toured with Framework when we were in Armageddon, they are dedicated and a great band. You get a showcase of Andrew. Yanni did a show with Joey Concepcion, I think we are the main thing he’s got going right now. This is my main thing. I have some stuff I’m working on that I may release at some point, it’s not really metal, it’s more heavy rock or acoustic.