If you haven’t been watching the destruction that’s currently taking place in Arizona, let me be the first to tell you that you are REALLY missing out on a plethora of amazing bands. Among this horde of cactus-crushing riff mongers exists an entity that can only be known to mortals as Skullcrush. This elusive force has rarely played live and only dwells in the shadows as they prepare to bring forth their first sonic offering to a world that has shunned and betrayed them. Tracking this band down was no easy task, however with the use of our CVLT credit card I was able to lure two of their four members to an interview. Sadly, I did max out the CVLT Nation credit card as Skullcrush would not speak to me unless they were gifted swords, maces and a DVD copy of the blockbuster film The Last Samuri starring Tom Cruise. Long story short we here at CVLT Nation went into extreme debt to bring you this exclusive interview. The text that follows is a raw conversation with some of death metal’s most sought after and elusive musicians. Revel in ecstasy as Ideal Master of the Holy Crypt and Grand Marshall of Hell grace us with their thoughts on the state of death metal.
DD: Its 2018, soon to be 2019 and death metal is at the forefront of popular culture. What is it about the genre that you think attracts so many different people as opposed to other styles of heavy music?
Ideal Master of the Holy Crypt: I think the overall songwriting process of death metal has improved drastically over the last decade or two that has consequently drawn more people to the genre in a positive way. I don’t know if that has to do with the increased influence of other genres that bleeds over into death metal, but you can definitely tell there’s more thought being put into these records to make them stand out. There was a long period of tech death bands over-saturating the scene with just riff after riff with barely any plan or thought to their song structures, resulting in nothing really memorable to come out of that period. Crazy to think, but you can get sick of that shit real quick, and it makes sense that no one really fucked with death metal for a while. Fast-forward to the last 5 or 6 years, I see bands making a strong effort to present some sort of “atmosphere” to their songs and albums that seem to grab people’s attention and draw them further into the scene.
DD: Lyrically speaking do you think that the genre has reached its peak? Obviously musically it’s only getting better but death metal lyrics have largely just portrayed a sense of brutality (mainly for shock value) and general disdain. Do you see the songwriting of modern DM bands improving, or do you think that what makes the genre special is the raw and grotesque style of songwriting so many vocalists use.
Ideal Master of the Holy Crypt: Obviously the concept of death plays an important role in all aspects of the genre, but I don’t see it as a hindrance, as it has and always will be, for lack of a better term, guitar music. There are a few examples of a band adding some new flavors to the genre that may or may have not been there before, like Blood Incantation’s concepts on ancient forms of mysticism, but I think death metal will always be known for its instrumental aspects. I will add that I have never paid much attention to lyrics in any genre of music, so I may be wrong with all of my thoughts on this. (chuckles brutality)
DD: No there’s no wrong answer here, most people only focus on riffs, especially with heavier styles. When you write for Skullcrush does the riff rule all, or are there certain lyrical themes that you always find yourself going back to?
Ideal Master of the Holy Crypt: The riff definitely rules all, but the lyrical theme(s) are not overlooked in the slightest. Since I generally don’t give a shit about lyrics, for my own project I at least wanted a concept I cared about enough to form an identity for the band. I’m a big history and war buff, I have a history degree, so I thought the concept of historical war should play a role in songwriting. Nothing original or revolutionary there, but at least it’s something I’m passionate about in that realm. Lucky for me, our bass player (High Seeker of Apocrypha) is a big war buff as well, and so he handles writing the lyrics for the band.
DD: That’s a solid, yet brutal concept. What is it specifically about war that seems to always influence metal and aggressive music in general? Do you think that popular culture has romanticized war in a way that makes people feel as though they have to support whatever war-related medium is presented to them? (I.e. shitty movies like Pearl Harbor)
Ideal Master of the Holy Crypt: I think people just like shitty movies they see those lens flares and slo-mo explosions and immediate want to suck Michael Bay off. But seriously, war is a popular topic because it has been a constant factor since the dawn of civilization. Unfortunately, the idea of world peace will never be realized until we kill ourselves off to the point of extinction and every trace of our existence is wiped from this earth.
With that mindset I think war has been more so normalized in human society, rather than romanticized, whether people want it to be or not. If you think about it, war is a perfect topic to accompany death metal, being that the genre has built its foundation on being in-your-face and unforgiving; lyrically, it is brutally honest and for the most part has little room for metaphors and interpretations. War is chaotic, disturbing, and inherently evil. It is perfect for death metal.
DD: With death metal being so en vogue right now do you think over saturation of the genre has dumbed it down or forced bands to step up their songwriting? More importantly does brutality in both riffs and lyrics have a cap?
Grand Marshall of Hell: I think today’s wave of “old school death metal” could be seen as being dumbed down by the standards of the more polished and showoff-y death metal of the previous decade, but really this forces bands to make songwriting the main priority. Popular death metal is returning to its roots where it’s no longer a matter of bragging to the listener about how technically proficient you are, but rather crafting songs with natural progressions/riffs that compliment each other in a way that prioritizes mood and the atmosphere with jarring build-ups, transitions, and climaxes – even if this means throwing in some riffs my 10 year old self could’ve penned on a Walmart guitar. When I write death metal songs I do everything I can to channel the cemetery, the battlefield, the swamp, etc…. When I put on Paradise Lost’s Lost Paradise, for example, it transports me to a creepy & alien plane full of shocking horrors & secrets that were never meant to be uncovered. It is my duty as a dummy death metal musician to do what I can to have this sort of effect on the listener. As far as brutality goes, it’s a matter of perspective. And this isn’t just limited to the riffs & the lyrics – the production, the cover art, the goofy band photo are all factors in crafting supreme brutality – if that’s your goal, at least. I don’t think there’s necessarily a cap, you just have to be creative with all of these factors.
Ideal Master of the Holy Crypt: I agree, and it touches on what I said earlier, it’s all about the songwriting rather than showing off how many notes you can cram into some odd time signature. There was a time and place for that, but it faded out really quick and become super stale. The topic is definitely subjective, but I think there are a lot of new bands who are instantly recognizable, rather than a bunch of bands who play a million notes a minute and have the same tone and sing about the same boring shit. I think this is 100% due to the fact that songwriting has taken center stage over the general riff in order to create the mood and atmosphere that ultimately defines the “brutality” of a great death metal piece
DD: Let’s talk a bit about Skullcrush. You all haven’t played live much but already have a label backing you as well as an upcoming (can’t remember if it’s out yet) release. Can you talk a bit about why you decided to make your public appearances limited?
Ideal Master of the Holy Crypt: To be honest, I’ve never found the idea of playing a bunch of shows per month very fun, especially in a local setting, that shit is bound to drain the band and we all recognize that every single person that has shown some sort of interest in the band won’t show up to every single show we play, and no one wants to play a show to 5 people on a weeknight. I don’t give a fuck how much you love music, your ass is lying to yourself. I did that for many years when I was younger and I’d rather put my time and effort into just writing the best material that I can, rather than work on my stage presence or some other goofy shit like that. With how accessible music is now through the internet, we can still get this shit out into the world and try to make some small impact. Fortunately, it’s worked out for us in ways we didn’t think could possibly happen.
Grand Marshall of Hell: I’ve played in bands since the 5th grade, & in almost all of them we made the mistake of saying yes to practically every show offer we received. When your band is playing every weekend no one gives a shit. You destroy the novelty of seeing your band by making it a regular appearance. I feel handling your band like that is the best way to make sure you stay local forever. Also it’s a matter of only playing shows that actually make sense for your band to be on. Just because you like a band or you’re friends with them doesn’t necessarily mean your band should be on the bill.
Ideal Master of the Holy Crypt: You and your minions can expect our debut full-length to be released this coming spring via Raw Skull Recordz. It’s turning out to be a really challenging collection of songs, but I have a good feeling that our dedication to the craft will pay off handsomely. Currently we have a few shows lined up for the new year, and will hopefully be able to work a few gigs out of state, but as of right now nothing is concrete; only time will tell. Eternal Hailz to CVLT Nation, Bang Energy Drinks, and the great state of Arizona. Shout out to the Master’s Chambers. Godless Death Metal Punx Unite!
Grand Marshall of Hell: We’ll be entering the studio (my living room) to record our full length in February. Shout out to Heinous, Bloodlust, Mortuous, Chandler Boys, Scott, and all my other Satanic Elitist Tyrants. FUCK CHRIST.
There you have it, the new gospel of brutality is upon us! Give praise here: rawskullrecordz.com