Stormruler – Burning SoulsSaturday, 5th June 2021
Sometimes an album just happens to meet its audience by sheer happenstance. St Louis-based Stormruler put out their debut effort with no fuss only to be quickly snatched up by Napalm Records. Said album, Under the Burning Eclipse, has recently been reissued by the label in order to grab a much larger reach for the growing black metal act. We spoke with vocalist/guitarist Jason Asberry to get his thoughts on the debut album, Dark Souls influences, love of black metal, and more!
Dead Rhetoric: There’s a lot of interludes between the tracks. How conceptual is everything that is on the record?
Jason Asberry: Rather conceptual, I would say. Jesse [Schobel], the drummer, and I both are huge Pink Floyd fans. They do super cohesive records, the whole way through all the time. We also got a lot of inspiration from the band Allegiance, which has B. War and Fredrik Andersson of the classic Marduk line-up, and they used to do a lot of interludes. We figured it would be pretty cool, so we took the lyrics for every song we had and I gave them to Jesse. He conceptualized the feeling that you would want to get across for each song, thematically. He took that and after he got that done, he would send it to me and we would edit it from there.
Dead Rhetoric: So how important is the mood over the course of the album, knowing that you have those pieces to blend the album together if you need to?
Asberry: We wanted to have the interludes there to set the tone for the next song, while blending it from the last song, to give it that sense of cohesiveness for the record. I feel like it sets the tone for what is about to come up in the next song.
Dead Rhetoric: This is your first full-length album. What are you proud of with it, or what strikes you about it?
Asberry: Quite a few things. Jesse and I have known each other forever, but we had never played in a band together. We both became hired guns in a friend of our’s band, and from there, we wanted to go and write some shit on our own. So we got together in 2 months in February and March 2019. We got set up in his basement and just fucked off to write a record. It was just for us – we didn’t plan to do a lot with it, but just to write what we wanted to hear.
Over the course of the year, we wrote and recorded it and then we just wanted to release it – so we could start doing another one. We put it out and gave it to Black Metal Promotions. We didn’t do a lot of promo behind it. We made a few posts about it on social media and then gave it to Black Metal Promotions on YouTube. They premiered it on December 1. Four or five days later, Napalm Records was in our email expressing interest. So as far as being proud of it, we are super proud of how grassroots it really was, without putting a whole lot into it aside from writing.
Dead Rhetoric: That’s really amazing! You put something out there and the right person happens to stumble upon it.
Asberry: We were a band in the public eye for like 2 months and then Napalm hit us up and expressed interest. We wanted to take that, but then we were like shit we have to be a real band now! We have to get band photos, do music videos, and all that. All the pieces you need to be a legit band. We have other bands but this was meant to just be a little side project.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel the two of you work as a group?
Asberry: I would say perfectly. I have been playing drums for over two decades now, and Jesse has been playing his entire life as well. It helps having two drummers who can communicate. Drummer talk to a guitar is like fucking Latin [laughs]! So it was helpful to have the two of us, both being drummers, so that we can get the rhythmic stuff we want to across. We write really well together.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you discuss the conceptual pieces to the album?
Asberry: There’s a few different concepts across the record, though it is one cohesive piece. We took a lot of inspiration from fantasy books that we love, and games that we love – obviously the name Stormruler comes from Dark Souls. We have a few Dark Souls songs on the album. We also took some concepts from Steven Erikson’s fantasy series Malazan Lord of the Fallen. A couple of songs I just wrote the lore for myself. We have a couple of historical songs, like the title track itself. That one is based loosely on the first invasion of England by the North. There’s a bunch of different concepts as you go across. We eventually want to write all of our own lore and dip into a bit more history.
Dead Rhetoric: Fantasy and historical lyrics aren’t exactly the norm for black metal, so to speak. What made you want to combine the two, other than sheer interest?
Asberry: We are both huge gamers and huge nerds, but when it comes to black metal – if you look at the old Emperor records or the Allegiance records, it’s fantasy, war-driven lyrics with abrasive, aggressive music over the top of it. It’s something that we both love and figured it would be a good topic to talk about.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel is important to Stormruler’s sound?
Asberry: The overall thing is that we are all about the buzzsaw [laughs]. It’s a classic. But we aren’t afraid to venture into other extremities like death metal, power metal, or even throw in some prog if we really want to. We are taking the overall black metal barrage and add more to it. We took a lot of influence from Windir and Dawn, and they did the same thing. Big compositions and epic shit, but also very aggressive and very straight-forward.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you also discuss the cover art too, and anything that stands out about it to you?
Asberry: The artwork was done by a guy in Greece, a good buddy of mine named Giannis Nakos of Remedy Art Design. I basically gave him the idea that we wanted to get across on the record of this barren, warlike feeling of marching into battle or that you are standing in the aftermath of a battle that just ended. I let him conceptualize it himself and put his spin on it, which worked out because it’s a great cover!
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned Dark Souls earlier. There seems to be a lot of crossover between it and metal. What do you think draws the two together?
Asberry: It’s the same as the old black metal and taking stuff from Lord of the Rings. Dark Souls is kind of like the new Lord of the Rings in that it is the material that is just ripe for the picking. It lends itself well with both imagery and lyrics. It’s dark, aggressive, but fantastical – you can talk about castles and shit [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: Nowadays, there isn’t as much of a stigma in having a black metal band that is hailing from somewhere not in Scandinavia. Do you feel that that’s the case for you guys?
Asberry: We have always been huge European black metal fans, especially the Scandinavian sound. That’s the best sound for black metal, if you will. Everybody in America has been doing this really lofi and depressive, suicidal shit. There are exceptions here and there, and it’s now a bit overdone and played itself out. We aren’t trying to burn churches anymore. Might as well talk about something better!
Dead Rhetoric: What draws you towards black metal then, what do you like about it?
Asberry: Being able to do whatever I want in the music. Black metal is aggressive and I love, if you want to get a little nerdy about it, the emotion that can pervade in black metal. You can do really low, sad shit or you can make someone feel like they are walking into a battle or stand on top of a mountain. You can do anything you want to, and add whatever feeling you want into the music. You are free to do whatever you want to in black metal, usually. Unless you talk to some war metal nerd who probably has four friends.
Dead Rhetoric: You guys are a new band – what do you feel it takes to stand out in that regard?
Asberry: I don’t know – Ihsahn has already written all of the good black metal riffs. Don’t just black and white yourself anymore. The whole Satanic shit has been played out. It was cool, and it still is cool but leave it to the guys that invented that shit. Talk about something else instead of trying to blend in or be too cvlt to experiment. You have to be willing to experiment, but also know how to blast properly.
Dead Rhetoric: What would be a band that you feel would be a good fit for touring with you guys?
Asberry: Dawn…if they ever decide to play a show again. They are putting their first record out in 17 years this year. I’m stoked about it. Marduk maybe? Marduk was a huge influence on us, as well as the side projects from them. It’s the grind we love and we’d love to be on the road with those dudes.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your plans – the album is out at the end of the month. What’s going on past that?
Asberry: We are going to be doing a full stream for the release. A few other good friends are going to be filling in for us on second guitar and bass. We are going to try to do that in July. I think we are going to do some touring dates in the future too – we have killer representation and management helping us out on that end to get us out there and start grinding.