In Malice’s Wake – Gathering of the WickedSunday, 13th December 2015
Australia may be one of the forgotten lands when it comes to potent, original heavy metal, but those deep into the scene are aware that there has been a burgeoning crop of bands coming from all styles. Everything from power to progressive (Black Majesty, Vanishing Point, Voyager), death to black (Orpheus Omega, Ne Obliviscaris, Psycroptic), traditional to doom to thrash (Pegazus, Mournful Congregation, Mortal Sin) is out there for the taking as long as you are willing to seek out the proper channels. Take Melbourne thrash band In Malice’s Wake – their roots in 2002 very DIY, as 13 years later the band finally attain a label deal for their third full-length Light upon the Wicked after keeping everything in house.
A perfect time indeed to discover this band’s vicious take on the genre – as the quartet aren’t intent to coast on commercial horizons, delivering brutal tones that contain a lot of extreme nuances vocally and musically. Choosing to reach out to vocalist/ guitarist Shaun Farrugia and taking into account the 16-hour time difference meant my evening conversation would take place mid-morning for him – prepare to engage in a little bit of a history lesson for Australian metal, as well as how networking got In Malice’s Wake their new record deal, what Testament means to Shaun, and why the craft of songwriting should be important for longevity.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you tell us about your musical development through your younger years – as far as early bands/ albums you were exposed to, when you decide to pick up an instrument and the development into forming your first band(s)?
Shaun Farrugia: Yeah cool. I got into it all quite late in the game, as a young kid growing up the only exposure I had to music was the top 40 radio. For the longest time I didn’t like music, it didn’t do anything for me really. My introduction to metal was through Metallica, and of all the albums it was the ReLoad album. I heard that for the first time and I thought that this is something that I like. From that point I met a few friends at school that always liked metal and asked them a bunch of questions, advice about bands and I went from there to listen to radio shows. I had a big surge of excitement from there. There was this whole big world, and then from there I started to go out to live shows and it opened my eyes. Maybe a year after getting into heavy metal I picked up a guitar for the first time.
I was self-taught for a while, again listening to Metallica riffs. That was 15-16 years ago. Through high school I joined a band with a couple of mates, crappy covers. My first original metal band was called Dark Euphoria back in high school, that was not much to look back at. Two years after that I created In Malice’s Wake with my brother Mark – and we had humble beginnings too because the first year Mark didn’t even have a drum kit, he was banging away on pillows on his bed and I had a little practice amplifier. Even on those pillows he learned the basics and learned how to play, when he eventually got a real drum kit he was able to do things right away. If you listen to the new album you can tell how far he’s come, we’ve come a long way.
Dead Rhetoric: The third In Malice’s Wake studio album Light upon the Wicked comes four years after your last one. Outside of the lineup changes within the group, any particular circumstances take place to cause the long gap?
Farrugia: Not really. One of the biggest factors was the feeling within the band. (Guitarist) Dave (Graham) and (bassist) Luke (Blaso) were the two members who departed, they were a very big part of the feel and excitement for The Thrashening. I guess their interests waned after that, so it felt fairly deflating. You could feel when they came to rehearsal they didn’t have the same feelings as before. It led to songwriting taking a lot longer. We tried to make it work for a really long time- and we are still good friends with them- we had to work on what we were going to do next. They lost a bit of their passionate for it, and sometimes your interests change. Mark and I agreed that we wanted to continue, so that we got two new members who were really excited about what we were doing. We don’t write traditionally very fast anyway, we like to take the best of what we write and once we got (guitarist) Leigh (Bartley) and (bassist) Karl (Watterson) onboard it was a really big shift in attitude and feeling. Four years is a little longer than I would have liked to spend in between albums but I’m really glad that we waited until it was right to get it finished and recorded. I am especially proud of this album.
Dead Rhetoric: You have a great young producer in Orpheus Omega’s Chris Themelco for this new record. Any specific recording or refinement moments come up that you feel gained clarity or improvement because of his musical experience and knowledge?
Farrugia: Chris…none of us can speak highly enough of Chris. As you say he is a very accomplished musician himself, he has a very good understanding of the way musical dynamics work, especially when it came to the phrasing of a lot of the vocals. Most of the music was complete prior to working with him, he did have a little bit of input there. For the most part the music was fairly set, but vocally he is a vocalist himself and a really good one, it was great to work with him as he would encourage me to try different things. He’d give me really good feedback, he’s such an enthusiastic but relaxing and easy-going guy to work with. He’d send us different mixes and bounce things back and forth all the way through the process. He is a good friend to begin with, he’s got a good ear for music. The biggest things we did on this album is a lot of raspy high vocals- in the past it didn’t seem to work very well, but he gave me a bit of encouragement to give it a go this time and I’m really glad that we did. I think it adds a lot of texture to the sound of the vocals.
Dead Rhetoric: You recorded gang vocals with all the past and present members of In Malice’s Wake for the new record. So I take it there are no hard feelings through the years, and how was this experience?
Farrugia: One of the things I’m most proud of is the relationships we’ve kept with all of the former members, there are no hard feelings at all. I think with Dave and Luke it was a mutual thing. At the original time our bass player Ben (Withers), he had difficulty with the new material and we were all quite respectful. He was quite disappointed but we handled it in a way that we handled him with respect, I think he really responded with it. Dave Lowes who played on our first EP, he originally parted ways because he was in two bands. It was our choice to part ways, we managed to do it in a way where friendships didn’t get disturbed.
When it came to doing the gang vocals, I feel Dan, Ben, Luke, and Dave contributed to the sound. It was a celebration of the contribution that these guys have put in. The idea of having all the voices on board made things a little bit more special to me. It was cool, we recorded this at Chris’ home studio, we got together with all of those people and hang out for the afternoon. We shared some laughs and stories. It feels like a very complete record more so because of that.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you need to take the craft of songwriting seriously – where do you think you’ve seen changes in terms of your output and outlook on writing material for In Malice’s Wake?
Farrugia: That’s a tough one. I see this as very serious business and if you write songs with that passion and as a labor of love, those are the records that stand the test of time. There’s probably quite a few releases that feel a bit more throwaway, for me I’d rather wait the four years we have and produce something that we really will listen to a long time after we release it. I’ve grown up to love music and there’s so much work, so much money that goes into it- there isn’t heaps of money to be made so there is a lot of sacrifice you make with everything we’ve got, you might as well do the best that you can.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you find your lyrical content to be as important as the musical content?
Farrugia: Absolutely. I think metal is one of those things that you can enjoy even if you can’t understand a word of it. You can come to a show still and have a really good time. But I feel the importance of having well written lyrics cannot be understated. I spend quite a lot of time going back to re-work my lyrics. Strong lyrics will take an album from being good to being really great. I feel like it can be overlooked so bands need to spend time on better lyrics because people can read them and they can add to the atmosphere of the whole thing. You do hear people scream some of the lyrics back to you at shows, and it makes you understand that people do take this seriously as well. Average lyrics or bad lyrics can really ruin a great song, the ones that have quite a lot of weight behind them can take things to the next level. It adds to the feel of a whole band’s package, from seeing them live to the CD- the sound of the band’s delivery has so much more impact.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe In Malice’s Wake in terms of a live performance aspect? What have been some of your favorite shows through the years?
Farrugia: We are a band that places a very large importance on being proficient. I think our shows have been described as really intense and energetic. We have a great crowd especially hear in Melbourne, such a time to release and lose yourself in it. If a wrong note is hit here and there, but the whole thing is more intense in terms of a performance, that’s the way we like to go. We just got back from Adelaide, at a Thrash Fest and we played towards the end of the night but we still had people coming up on stage, jumping off, screaming into the microphones. We played several well-known covers including Slayer’s “Angel of Death” and Sepultura’s “Arise” – I think we like to put on a great show with the people right in our faces.
My favorite all time show we’ve played has to be the one that we captured for our live album (Visions of Live Destruction), which we filmed at a really intimate venue here in Melbourne. We announced that we were filming this throughout for a live DVD, and it was a headlining, small packed out venue to about 300 people. We had cameras strapped on people’s heads- and from the moment things started to the end it was the most intense show we’ve ever had. We have some incredible shots at chest level, we had rehearsed for every night for 2 weeks prior to the show knowing that it was going to be recorded. About 30 seconds in that all went out the window, people falling all over my pedal board, people were getting thrown around and I realized this is how it was going to be- so I just got caught up in that energy. If you want everything to be perfect and exactly as it is on the CD, then you listen to the CD. I think live it should have that element of danger, that’s what makes it all so much fun. We are extremely proficient but also an intense live band, and we are proud of that.
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