Hyloxalus – Stare Into the Black Hole

Tuesday, 26th December 2023

Photo: Charis Windrim

We at Dead Rhetoric love to cover as many artists as we can, in diverse genres no matter if they have a major label / distribution support on down to those climbing the ranks on a self-released, DIY basis. The latter method is how this scribe plugged into the Canadian dark power metal act Hyloxalus on their previous release from 2021, the Aposematic EP. You would hear elements from symphonic to folk to extreme influences, ensuring a diverse set of material that could evoke Primordial or Equilibrium one minute, then Therion, Nightwish on to Strapping Young Lad the next taken into the power realm.

Reaching out to all three members of the band with guitarist/bassist/synth player Mike Bell, vocalist Nina Laderoute, and drummer Daniel Devost, prepare to learn more about the band’s debut full-length Make Me the Heart of the Black Hole and it’s even more diverse approach, lyrical content, how the band’s first live shows went, AI discussion and its effects on the music industry, what they’ve been enjoying for music as of late, best/worst musical advice, and what’s on the horizon.

Dead Rhetoric: When we last chatted for Dead Rhetoric in our interview, you mentioned in closing that the full-length album that you were writing with Hyloxalus, briefly stating ‘it gets weirder’. Now that Make Me the Heart of the Black Hole has been written and recorded, could you expand upon that statement and where you see this set of material pushing the boundaries or parameters for the band in terms of substance and style?

Mike Bell: I had just written the music for our song “Splitter”, so what I had meant by that statement was that we made the riffing way harsher and added samples all over the place. Here’s how that all started: I ran into a bit of a rut with the sound from the last two EPs. I had just written, for fun, this little demo that was basically Strapping Young Lad worship. I thought “well… maybe? Maybe we could try Nina’s vocals on this. Don’t know if it will work, but…” and then two months later we had it recorded and it sounded very, very good. So, I wrote a whole album in this vein. My goal with this latest set of songs is to try and create our own little niche within power metal (or whatever we are at this point… fairly sure it’s like angry power metal so I’m running with it for now).

Dead Rhetoric: Where did you want to come across lyrically for this effort? Do you place an equal amount of importance on shaping the melodies/lyrics in a certain way to match or mirror the musical atmosphere present track by track?

Bell: Most of the melodies/lyrics were written in this kind of assembly-line fashion AKA melody first, lyrics second. There was some variability but mostly that’s how it came together. A little unromantic, but it works for me. The lyric topics are a bit scattered, mostly they’re little stories I came up with. None of them are what I would call particularly happy stories, as I don’t think that would fit with our music.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you say the first set of shows / festival appearances went for Hyloxalus, finally hitting the stage after operating as a studio project? What do you hope the audience is able to get and absorb from the band live compared to what they hear and experience through the recordings?

Bell: Every show so far has gone great, and the thing that I want people to absorb is the fact that we can play these songs live really, really well. I want people to come away from our set very impressed and with a sudden urge to buy our merchandise.

Dead Rhetoric: Aligning with a PR firm like C Squared Music, do you believe their knowledge, experience, as well as worldwide relationships through specific media contacts can further the reach and output for the band, more than what you’ve been able to do independently as artists?

Bell: This is my first time hiring a PR firm for a project and so far, they’ve been really cool. They have way more contacts than me and are taking a huge load off my back as far as trying to push the record to publications goes. Cheers to Curtis and Cori!

Dead Rhetoric: You recently released the video for “Dream Chasm” – that was a DIY effort as well shot/edited by the band. How do you feel the video shoot went, any interesting stories to tell about the process?

Bell: It went about as well as it could for us having zero dollars budget-wise to make (the video). We went for that analog film look because it was something I figured we could do pretty well for very cheap. I think the lighting in all of Nina’s shots turned out really good.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess the career development so far for the group? What would you like to see take place or check off personally in bucket list fashion as goals/accomplishments that would make you feel like you are making strides as artists?

Bell: Haven’t thought too far yet – honestly just glad to be getting the full-length out. If we had any bucket list goals… Europe tour one day? That would be a dream come true.

Nina Laderoute: I would love to tour eastern Canada. I feel that is a good marker for an Alberta band.

Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts regarding AI and its potential effects down the line when it comes to the music industry?

Laderoute: AI is changing everything and not for the better at this point.

Bell: Once the news hype dies down, I’m guessing (or maybe hoping?) that this tech as it relates to music making will exist mostly in a few useful but limited applications. AI mastering tools, for example, are something I can see sticking around. The generative AI programs, however (the ones most often in the news cycle) I don’t see replacing the creative process of making music outside of corporate slop.

Danial Devost: Personally, I am still waiting for some sort of AI that could even just organize a mix session for me. There’s lots of talk about progress being made but I have yet to see something that is useful to me as a musician or engineer. Yeah, some people are gonna put robot Freddie Mercury on their song, but it’ll still be a crappy song, it’s not like anyone will hear it and think it’s Queen. It will probably be a gimmick to make some memes with, but I suspect to most serious musicians it is not going to be of substantial use.

Dead Rhetoric: What have you been listening to for inspiration or pleasure over the past month or two? Do you diversify your listening habits between metal releases and non-metal fare?

Laderoute: I listen to bands like Tristania and Unleash the Archers, but the majority of my listening is non-Metal. I love horror punk like Calabrese and pop like The Orion Experience.

Bell: I’ve been listening to the Behind the Bastards podcast a lot. I found out about it a few weeks ago and I’ve been HOOKED. Also, I checked out By Fire And Sword the other day, really really good band. Very floaty vocals. Oh, and Sacred Outcry is really cool! I’m kind of lazy and haven’t expanded outside of metal too much, though I have been slowwwly getting into Placebo. And Garbage has long been a favorite of mine.

Devost: In terms of listening to non-metal music, I’m pretty sure my top played artists the last couple months are Lady Gaga and John Williams.

Dead Rhetoric: When you feel overwhelmed or you have lost your focus, what types of things or activities do you like to engage in to regain perspective?

Bell: Running usually does it.

Laderoute: I tend to do mindfulness meditation when I’m overwhelmed. I find it easier to sort through my many racing thoughts in this ADHD brain when I regularly meditate.

Dead Rhetoric: What is the worst advice you see or hear being dispensed in the metal music industry? Conversely, what’s some of the best advice you’ve ever received regarding your musical endeavors?

Bell: The best advice I ever heard (not directly said to me obviously) was on one of Devin Townsend’s podcasts: “Be willing to fail publicly”. Now, I’m some random in a local band so the word “publicly” is doing some heavy lifting in my case, but I take it to mean “don’t be afraid to put out something you’re not 100% sure about, because if you chase that goal, you will never release anything”. The worst advice I ever heard was “get your band into NFTs”.

Laderoute: I haven’t been given any bad advice in the metal scene, but conversely in the opera scene I was directly told singing metal or anything other than classical music was going to ruin my voice and have me not be able to sing opera ever again. My best advice was to sing through a small drinking straw before and after gigs for relaxing the vocal cords.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for anything related to Hyloxalus (or other musical activities, side projects, etc.) over the next twelve months or so?

Bell: Simple: release album, play shows, rock n’ roll.

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