Death is beginning again: An interview with Gloam
California’s Gloam have been steadily pushing the USBM envelope for over five years. Their early 2012 demo and 2014 Vanquished EP were strong efforts, but relatively standard fare. Their 2015 album Hex of Nine Heads upped the ante considerably, showing a refreshing take on black metal production and composition. They’re poised to finally release the long-incubating Death Is The Beginning EP on Blood Harvest this fall – you can preview the track Of A Carrion Kind below. The EP continues the exploration of the sonic landscape they started to pursue on Hex… – and quite frankly, it helps cement the idea that Gloam is one of the strongest black metal bands going today. They’ve recently started working with Portland’s Chris Nukala and his Departed.Offerings management arms; when I asked Chris to sum up his thoughts about the band, he had this to say:
It is hard to make an impact when every idea has been done and redone especially when most believe the beloved genre of metal had met its pinnacle 25-35 years ago. In a world of mediocrity, Gloam soars high above the pack with their meticulous and endlessly dominating sound and unrelenting live presence. Gloam has had me compelled since my first listen and I believe that they will grow into a internationally recognized force that can spear head the next generation of USBM to unholy greatness.
I’m very excited for their new material, and can’t wait to catch them live (I’ll get that chance this January 27th at a PDX Departed.Offerings showcase also featuring Petrification and Drawn And Quartered). Keep reading for an interview I had the pleasure of conducting with Gloam.
In your own words, what would you say the aim of Gloam is?
Gloam has always been a pretty introspective project, used for personal reasons, but also for simply creating music inspired by the bands we grew up listening to, and to leave our mark on a genre of music that means a lot to us.
What music inspires you? What non-music inspires you?
Our musical inspiration is pretty broad, especially from member to member, ranging from first and second wave black metal to Finnish death/doom, to punk, thrash, 60’s and 70’s progressive rock, and pretty much anywhere in between. But for the music we write in Gloam, I’d say a few of the major influences would probably be early-mid era Deathspell Omega, and early Immortal and Emperor. As far as non-musical inspiration goes, I suppose just about everything that goes along with existence… things like Death, the day to day shittiness of life and people, and a general misanthropic view towards existence all definitely play their role in the music we create.
Something that really impresses me about your recordings (especially on Hex of Nine Heads and the new material) is how each instrument can be heard clearly – everything isn’t buried in a shroud of fuzz. In fact, the guitars seem to have less distortion to them than most black metal bands I hear lately, which allows for the musicianship to really come through. Is this a conscious decision on your part before recording, or is that how things turned out during production and mastering?
When we recorded Hex Of Nine Heads, it was the first time we had recorded any Gloam material in a real studio, so I think that has a lot to do with why it has a clearer sound than previous releases. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily intentional, because we always try to capture a song in as close to a live performance as possible in any recording we do, so we’re used to things being a little more raw, but in a professional studio setting everything just seemed to come out a little cleaner.
On Hex of Nine Heads, the guitars seemed clearly relegated to one guitarist on each speaker, with some lead lines centered. On Death Is The Beginning, at least what I’ve heard so far, things seem mastered more densely with the separate guitar parts more overlapped in the mix. Was that something you wanted to do going into recording this time, or did it just sound better in the final mix?
When we recorded Death Is The Beginning, we wanted the production to sound a little less clean than it did on Hex, but not quite as gritty as the Vanquished EP. We basically just tried to find a balance between the two sounds, and I think keeping everything in the mix a little less separated was helpful in that regard.
I wouldn’t at all lump you guys in with the “atmospheric” black metal tag, but there IS a lot of atmosphere and mood in your songs beyond just anger and evil. The mixture of melodic passages and dips into slower tempos keep a listener involved in even the longer songs. How much emphasis do you put on mood while you are writing material?
Mood definitely plays a big part in songwriting for us, sometimes more so than others, but we always try to keep the atmosphere there to some degree… Even in a more aggressive, riff-oriented song, there is some sort of feeling or emotion being portrayed through the music.
Death Is The Beginning is your second EP – what’s attractive about that length?
Death Is The Beginning was the first material written after a change in lineup at the end of 2015, so it was a transitional period, and we weren’t ready to work on another full length album yet, but we also wanted to keep moving as far as writing and releasing material goes. Unfortunately due to a failed label partnership, we weren’t able to release it when we had initially intended, so this EP is quite a bit behind schedule, but Blood Harvest quickly picked up where our previous label left off, so it was a pretty seamless transition, and we’re happy to finally see it being released.
Do you know when you’re writing if you’re putting together an album vs an EP, or do you call it when things just seem “right”?
We usually know by the time we’re done writing a song whether or not it will be used for an album. If we do end up with a song or two that have a drastically different atmosphere than the others, or they’re just too long to fit on an album, we usually hang onto to them to release as an EP, or save them for a split.
Hex of Nine Heads was put out on tape by Caligari (and then later a limited vinyl version on Gilead). Death Is The Beginning is coming out on Blood Harvest on all the formats – how did you connect with them? Is it important that your material comes out on a variety of formats?
Blood Harvest expressed interest in working with us when we were already trying to release Death Is The Beginning through another label, which worked out to be great timing for us, since the label we were working with at the time had seemingly halted all production and contact with any of the bands involved, so we were basically stuck back at the beginning after already waiting months and months for it to come out, so we were happy to accept the offer from Blood Harvest. Vinyl and tapes have always been our main focus, but it will be nice to have some CDs as well this time.
How did you hook up with Famine Fest, Chris Nukala, and his Departed Offerings management firm?
Chris asked us to come play a record release show for the band Tormentium up in Portland a couple years ago based on a recommendation, and we had been meaning to make a trip up north to play some shows anyway, so we decided to do it. He liked our music and wanted to work with us again in the future, so when he mentioned that he was in charge of Famine Fest, we asked him about getting on the bill several times until it finally happened. After that, he mentioned that he was starting Departed Offerings and asked us to be a part of it. He is a very professional, goal oriented person, and a great guy to know in the music scene, so working with him definitely made sense for us.
How do you prepare for a tour? What do you bring along with you?
Aside from the obvious stuff like making sure the gear and vehicles are working properly, and practicing the material, I’d say there’s a lot of mental preparation involved before touring as well. Whether it’s a short tour or a long one, driving for hours on end with little amounts of sleep and food, and playing show after show can be difficult. But in the end it’s always a good time and worth dealing with the shitty parts.
Apart from the recent Panzergod tour, do you have any other touring plans lined up?
We’re in the process of planning another Pacific Northwest tour for sometime next Summer, but we don’t have many details squared away for that yet.
What are your thoughts on the current music scene, local and worldwide?
There’s tons of stuff going on everywhere right now, it’s actually pretty difficult keeping track of everything coming out these days. Death metal of various forms, especially black/death stuff, certainly seems to be on the rise again all over the world, which is refreshing. As far as the local scene goes, the most interesting band in our hometown is probably Cosmic Reef Temple, with their weird blend of doom and surf rock. Definitely not something I had heard before. Oakland is definitely the closest place to us with a super active metal scene. There’s quite a few noteworthy bands currently residing there (or nearby), such as Dispirit, Necrot, Acephalix, Pale Chalice and Vastum to name a few. There’s also a lot of up and coming bands there like Xenotaph, Demon Hammer, Void Omnia, Atrament, Funeral Chant, Black Horns, and plenty of others. It’s probably the strongest music scene in California, since the next closest place with as much going on is Portland, OR.
What’s on the horizon for the band?
We have two splits planned for the near future, a 10″ with Obscure Evil from Peru, and a 12″ with Black Fucking Cancer from San Jose, CA. We are also slowly but surely working on another full length, which will be out sometime next year.