Kaivs – Decisively Carving Forward

Saturday, 9th December 2023

Death metal is one of the most enduring styles of metal, and has continued to evolve and inspire a plethora of new acts to carry the torch forward. From the avant-garde to the classic, and everything in between, there’s truly something for everyone.

What’s inspiring for myself is to come across bands who have a burning passion for the music, and are working tirelessly to create. Firmly entrenched in the old school Swedish HM-2 buzzsaw ferocity, up and coming Italian death metal dealers Kaivs dropped their debut EP Horrend earlier this year to much positive acclaim. It’s a fine example of a band with overflowing potential, whose trajectory is only upward via their convincingly crushing brand of death metal.

We got the chance to have a fantastic chat with the band on a variety of topics, from their aforementioned debut EP, exciting news on their upcoming debut album (including a title reveal) and label signing (Editor’s note: the band have since signed with Time To Kill Records), inspirations, the metal scene as a whole, and what’s to come in the near future.

Dead Rhetoric: Your first release came out earlier this year, the Horrend EP, and it has gotten a good bit of positive reception. How pleased has the band been with the reception thus far?

Max Foam (vocals): Well, it’s been very surprising indeed, because the band formed just one year-and-a-half ago! We got a bunch of songs, we recorded them, and that’s it! We choose the more catchy and straight in your face; it’s a demo, so you don’t need to be so bothered after all! I didn’t expect such a thing! Consider that we’ll have our first album out soon, and we re-recorded “Krushing All Altars,” “Sepulchrist,” and the title track with something new! Also, the cover art was amazing, made by Juanjo Castellano (The Black Dahlia Murder, Avulsed, Revel In Flesh)! I wrote to Dan Seagrave to have one of his crafts on Horrend, but he never answered me back. All that we like to hear and have on a demo or a record, it’s maybe what we expect as fans before being performers, you know? All about recording, sound, and layout was a fit as well – in all details! Horrend was recorded absolutely live in three hours, and mixed in less than twenty days! The new album was made in two days, recorded live again, except for the vocals, and mixed in five months! We didn’t sit back. Also, some gigs were performed here and there in Italy and it was amazing! Everything happened so damn quickly, our new label came out at the beginning of this tear, we just signed the deal and they will announce us in a couple of months though!

Tiziano Mortician (guitars): None of us could expect to get several good reviews from different countries all over the world (France, Czech Republic, U.S., Germany and Brazil) and that encouraged us to keep straight on that way, because it meant we were doing a great job.

Jacopo Simonelli (bass): It totally blew my mind when we received that kind of feedback. Horrend was supposed to be a teaser for our upcoming work; we surely didn’t expect people feasting on it! We had solid proof that we are doing it the right way, and it’s so good to hear that!

Dead Rhetoric: Kaivs’ sound is deeply rooted in old school Swedish death metal of the early 90s, especially with the guitar work. What kind of inspirations do you draw from that scene, and what elements do you try to incorporate into your music?

Foam: We try to do it in our own way, you know? I can’t invent anything today, but we try to have something personal. Death metal is unconventional, scary – it’s not mainstream! As always, we required the Boss HM-2 pedal, equalizing all the tuning and levels to have the enormous buzzsaw guitar sound and get busy to come to the point! It’s true, the inspiration comes from early Entombed and Dismember, but we want to walk our road, doing our thing, our albums and our songs maintaining that sound until it lasts. Also, thanks to Autopsy; another source of inspiration for such a genre! Our riffs must follow harshness. It’s like when you listen to the old demo tapes. But, the serious thing was also that a bunch of studios wrote to have the possibility to mix our songs. Quite astonishing! Death metal is a way of life: also for the simple things happening nowadays. I just received a message from an Ukrainian drummer, about his band, and he told me how he was suffering from war, but still going on! Always ahead! Also for the lyrics, I wrote about many topics. In one of the lyrics of the new album, it’s like you’re over many places at the same time in the world and you can see only death, war and violence as you change scenarios. Wherever you are, it’s always the same. If you produce weapons, you need to create wars, if you produce medication you gotta have illness.

Mortician: I like the whole Swedish death metal scene, especially about the buzzsaw they use. Speaking of elements and inspirations to incorporate in, Autopsy and Asphyx for sure, and other stuff like them. A bit of doom influence, and just a simple and direct approach on our riffing.

Simonelli: I personally love how raw that kind of music wave is. The sound; it’s not plastic made or artificial in some way. Death metal music should be felt in every way by the listeners, and the sound must have the power to capture the audience and keep it entertained, and that is a mantra! But speaking of our riffing and approach to it, I like to think that there is a very thrashy vein that pulses deeply inside of our songs, and couldn’t ask for a better one.

Dead Rhetoric: I know that work on a full-length album has been in progress. What’s the status of that album, and are there any teases you can give as to how the songs are shaping up this far? When do you think we’ll be hearing the new album?

Foam: Thusly entitled After the Flesh – you’re absolutely the first we reveal the title, and maybe we should not! With an impressive artwork of Juanjo Catellano once again. I hope we’ll announce it shortly. We have a label that’ll print it. It has been so long to mix the album, as we recorded it live in two days! After the usual extruder, we sent Horrend to many labels, and we got the deal! We worked on it for months, we had all weeks full of rehearsals, before and after Horrend and the new album. The main problems came from the guitar sound. We spent many months to have it with the help of Andrea, our producer. To clean it up wasn’t our comfort zone. We did Horrend in one day, in less than four hours in the studio! We’re so slow to mix our songs, than to record them. By the way, haggling that deal was not simple. You know, there are so many aspects to speak about in detail such as the layout that took more than a bunch of months to be set – shit about print formats and CMYK, you know; amount of copies, merchandise, gigs, booking agencies, festivals, and tours. I must be the supervisor, the mastermind, behind all that concerns the band, as I have to follow everything. In one word: brainstorm.

Mortician: The full-length mixing process is at the final stage. We wanna go out with the best work possible as soon as possible, too, as the matter of sound and everything else.

Simonelli: The full-length on its way, we want to make sure that every single detail is perfect and not to leave anything unattended. We are listeners before musicians; that’s why we took our time into mixing and re-amping it properly. As I like to say: things can be done in two ways, the good way or not at all.

Dead Rhetoric: The label signing is a big step. Thus far, you’ve been a very DIY kind of band. Do you think that DIY spirit is important these days within metal, considering how costs associated with being a band – from merch, to CDs/vinyl, touring costs, etc. – continue to rise?

Foam: In the 80s/90s, artists needed to have hits to be constantly in the top ten; also the clips were pieces of visual art. Now, all of that has been lost. The digression means that the quality of the whole music has definitively lowered. The Noughties ruined all of that, with a different view to produce and promote records. Now, you don’t have a TV passage, even if you’re not Metallica and you’ve been redirected to YouTube, but mainstream music and video clips in general must have television passages, and so you’re a real artist. Now, anyone can produce a clip by his own, but it’s limited. You’ll be viewed only on the web, even if you’re not a big one. That’s not the same thing. It’s different, just because to be broadcasted on screen means that you’re a big name or you have some possibilities in the music business. In fact, anyone can have a clip on the web, because it’s cheaper! Also, about illustrations; before 2000, anyone hunted for the best artists to draw their covers. Then, all that turned into stupid pictures or computer graphics. So, underground is the word, death metal follows! They complete each other, I mean – death metal cannot be named this way if no one, before writing a song, doesn’t take care of the concept. Anyone says that today everything has changed, that all has been said and done, without giving you the right explanation, but do we really need it? Ok, you can have your own studio, especially at home just through your computer, but we still prefer to record live into a recording room, in the old manner. Try the difference! So many years ago, you had to get in touch with the right people for everything you needed. There were places for merchandise, to print your CD, to have your flyers and merchandise, and you simply had to hang out at venues to ask them to let your band perform. Now, you can do all those things, simply, in just one click! For instance, one thing I miss most – it’s a sort of attitude, the re-creation of phenomenons like Deicide and Type O Negative. When they signed, they had the against all attitude. DIY attitude has changed, there are no Xerox situations anymore. Anyone can use Photoshop, or whatever. You don’t need to have covers physically anymore; just upload them online, attaching a file. Now, you got to have a big amount of money to catch them all, but the same was many years ago. You can’t touch what’s digital, but you need a fortune to have it. I still collect albums, tapes, and whatever. It lasts! I also disapprove of AI. It may bring things out of control once and for all.

Simonelli: DIY; it’s a great way to keep things as real as possible in terms of sound, frequencies, and EQ. Unfortunately, as you said, the costs are still rising due to what’s going on in the world right now, and it’s undeniable, so I think that there is nothing wrong to seek a helping hand within a label, as long as the people inside are trustworthy, hard-working and object-oriented. The label that we chose – we’ll reveal it as soon as we can – embodies what we seek, and we can’t wait to fully work with them.

Dead Rhetoric: Music streaming is a big topic lately. It’s a great way to get your music out there and expand your listenership, but there are caveats as well, including the low payouts that bands receive, which are sometimes impacted by label cuts, amongst others. Do you think music streaming is ultimately beneficial to Kaivs and metal bands in general, and what do you think is the best way to utilize it to your advantage?

Foam: A band belongs to its songs as they belong only to those who wrote them – fact. You can think whatever you want, but why does someone permit that incomings of what you did, to go to labels and external folks even if there are contracts around? Ok, I’ll not become rich for that one day, but you can still buy a record, enter a shop that’s not always virtual, but anyone can’t sell its spirit. Just think also about artificial intelligence: shit happened with what they call a new The Beatles song! The market wants only to refresh and have something new for the audience every fucking day. The risk is high; one day, a band could release an album just with programming in a few seconds, in a hurry, just with a snap of fingers, you’ll have songs, artwork, lyrics, and the instruments performed by a machine. Is that what we really want? Just one second for having it all. Just pressing a button? I’m confident about that, but there will be no difference between what’s real and what’s not very soon, as the threshold becomes so thin, who’ll cross the line without hesitation?

Simonelli: There is a huge discussion about this and its pros and cons. Music streaming is a useful tool that allows an artist to share and spread their work with people all over the world in matter of seconds, but on the other side, the incomes from this kind of service are as low as they’ve ever been, and that is demoralizing. So, there should be some kind of fair regulation between the two parts to avoid this frustration. Who knows if it will ever be released? It’s absurd, if you think about it, especially if you live in a country that does not value your work properly in the beginning.

Dead Rhetoric: Metal is also a very saturated market, with the sheer number of bands out there being astronomical. I know as a journalist, I listen to hundreds of albums a year, and I know that I’m just scratching the surface. How difficult is it to stand out amongst the crowd, and what kind of things do you do and want to do in the future to make Kaivs unique?

Foam: When you take the elevator with a stranger, you know where you’re going, but the others, that will spend the journey with you, could stop elsewhere, before or after you. If the lift breaks, you must hop off, all together with the others, you have no other solution. That’s the secret of the music business: a trek, but when inspiration ends, music doesn’t stop. It goes further within the others! I’m not worried about the future. Maybe only such bands that have money and time to spend will go further, even if they could please the audience or not. Maybe Carcass and Cannibal Corpse only, and just a few. To have the right visibility, you must spend all your life on tours. Maybe if you’re wealthy and without a regular job, you can permit yourself to do all of that. That’s always been that way! Tony Iommi used to work in a factory; Black Sabbath was just a hobby after work. We all know who they are and what they did! Every one of us hopes one day to leave our jobs instead of music. I’m just a workman by now, maybe skilled and one day, who knows? Feet on the ground by now, and necessarily don’t be fucked up.

Mortician: It would be very pleasant and satisfying for all of us to make Kaivs unique from now on. It’s necessary to be constant over the years to reach this goal; to produce more albums and to play a lot everywhere. That’s what we wish for our creations in the future.

Simonelli: Standing up in a highly saturated market, it’s very hard. Bands are formed and split up every single day. We want to make Kaivs unique. We do not focus on the originality of the genre, because we are not inventing something new. Instead, we want people to feel our music. We want to be constant in our work. It’s a journey we took knowing its risks and perks. We are part of this ball, so let’s dance!

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve also mentioned that a tour is in the works. How is that shaping up, and will Kaivs be looking to play a significant amount of live shows in the near future?

Foam: We must! A band without tours, shows, or festivals is nothing! I hope that the album will be available for the end of this year. Then, we’ll start touring in between 2024, even if some shows could be in the pipeline before this date. You said about the high costs, but you have to think of it like a sort of vacation. We missed Symbolic Fest in Czechia last August, for job reasons, some of us weren’t able to perform there. We hope to recover!

Mortician: Yes we do, of course. Looking for live shows to bring what we made around, to make ourselves known and to increase experience as musicians.

Simonelli: Absolutely, yes! Playing is the lifeblood of a band, and we are looking forward to something big coming next year, after the official release!

Dead Rhetoric: Playing live and writing/recording are both very different animals. Do you have a preference between the two, and what do you enjoy most about both?

Foam: The first needs the other, and vice versa! Both sides have their good aspects. I like both. But touring, well, it has no price. You meet new people, traveling for days in new places you’ve never been.

Mortician: Actually, I hadn’t had many chances to perform live with my past bands, so I would like to talk about that. On the other hand, writing riffs on guitar is something which I think I’m good at, so I like to spend some time finding new ideas.

Simonelli: There is no playing live unless there is a recording. Recording is a huge work that sometimes needs time and patience, especially if we are talking about re-amping and mixing to find the settings we need. But playing live is where you harvest the fruits of your orchard. If you worked right in rehearsing and recording, you’ll be extremely satisfied, and there are very few things that can match that kind of happiness.

Dead Rhetoric: As a total gear nerd, what kind of guitar effects/drums/mics do you like to use?

Foam: ESP guitar, for drums and mic, brand is not specified. I don’t know so much about those gimmicks. I’m not an expert, you know. I only sing and scream and growl! Haha!

Mortician: My gear includes an ESP Ltd EX-400 guitar and a quite simple board with a Boss HM-2 and a Boss SD-1; an explosive chainsaw duo to play this kind of music.

Simonelli: I personally use my trusty Warwick Pro-M to write my bass lines. I’m not a huge fan of bass pedals. My sound mainly comes by setting a Hartke or a Trace Elliot head in the right way. The rest is up to my hands.

Dead Rhetoric: I’m curious as to what your playlist looks like, and what albums have you been enjoying so far this year?

Foam: Cannibal Corpse, Ascended Dead, but in general, all the old stuff like Slayer, Bolt Thrower, Iron Maiden, Mötley Crüe, Public Enemy, Tina Turner, Sting, Uzeb, Eminem, soundtracks, and many more are my usual and right vibe in the background. The whole difference is when I look at the monsters of metal, and then to the new bands, I see a circle between them and us. If you look at Tom Araya, he is a legend. If you look at the new bands, well, you notice the difference!

Mortician: Um, let’s see. Obituary’s Dying of Everything and Fossilization’s Leprous Daylight – a band that I recently had the pleasure to see performing live here in Rome. Besides death metal, my playlist looks quite varied, from doom metal to hardcore punk, from alternative rock to a bit of electronic and dark music.

Simonelli: My playlist is pretty messed up, actually. Let’s say that if I like something, I just listen to it, beside the genre. But, besides metal music, I can say I’m a huge fan of classical music, 70s and 80s hard rock, and some OST from various video games and films. But, to give you some names and albums: M-16 by Sodom, Rituals by Rotting Christ, The Cause of Shipwreck by Blackbriar, Dawn of Victory by Rhapsody, Somewhere in Time by Iron Maiden and Wardens of the West Wind by Wind Rose.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time to unwind? Any big hobbies outside of music?

Foam: Working all day long to pay my bills, no time for bullshit! The rest of the time is dedicated to writing lyrics and arranging our songs. Just a short time to stay with my girlfriend, as she’s not so happy about that!

Mortician: Passion for movies, with horror on top of my favorite ones.

Simonelli: I’m a D&D Dungeon Master, a Magic: The Gathering player, a hard dying video games and BloodBowl player, and – when I’m feeling like it – good at cooking stuff. Sorry not sorry, I’m a huge geek!

Dead Rhetoric: I appreciate your time in sitting down with us. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Foam: See you on tour, so pretty much soon!

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