Monday, 26 January 2015

Dark Death Metal: An interview with Phobocosm.

Phobocosm are a top-notch Canadian death metal cadre, formed in 2008. Two of them play in an old school DM band called Obsolete Mankind. Also, 3 out of 4 members used to be in a band 'Vengeful' which is one of the best death metal bands from Montreal. 

Band's début album ''Deprived'', has reached all over the globe through Dark Descent Records. The album sounds sludgy, doomy and partial atmospheric. Its a decent album that is worth every listen that you spend on it. They use a lot of dissonance, weird chords, unorthodox song structures in the compositions whereas they've no absolute interest in writing death metal tunes that's really straightforward because this is not S.D and company want to accomplish musically through Phobocosm. They just want to keep on exploring the darkest aspects of music and write material that's interesting to their own ears. 

Phobocosm is a matured band. Its a wonderful blend of experience I think, besides, I would say, they're knocking on the doors of dominance of the grotesque art. However, a lot of works still needs to be done for the band to enter the phase of dominance completely. I do this interview with S.D, the guitarist and creator of the band. Its was conducted in October 2014.

1) Phobocosm, a death metal cadre, seems to have a purpose, it may even manifest the ideology of creators of the band. I would be interesting to know a deep insight about the artistic foundations of Phobocosm.

S.D.: When J.S.G and I founded Phobocosm in early 2008 after parting ways with our previous band, we agreed on some fundamental concepts regarding this new project. It wasn't just a matter of getting together and playing.

The first thing we agreed on was that we were going to focus on setting the darkest mood possible with our music instead of relying on speed and technique at the expense of the actual songs. The second thing was that we were going to do things differently from the rest of the death metal bands from our area.

To find inspiration for this new band, I invested a lot of time in attending different types of shows, listening to dark music other than just death/black/doom metal and just thinking about ways to make us stand out among the rest of the bands around here, both live and on our future albums. In a way, to us, Phobocosm was a reaction against the general state of extreme metal at the time we founded the band. We were unimpressed with most of the bands and albums that were being released at that time and we just felt like writing music that would sound like what we would like to hear.

2) How was the experience and observation of facts of developing and propagating your thoughts to make the début album Deprived? I know that it was conceived, arranged and recorded in a very long time. ‘27 days of Darkness’ is one of your very oldest tracks and have been playing it live for over a year now and they got to put it onto début release. Walk with me through the different stages from the ideation to the launch of “Deprived”.

S.D.: I started writing for Phobocosm the day after I left my old band and I had already written more than half of a song by the time we had our first rehearsal. However, learning to play together decently in this new project and really locking in took some time, so we also learned a few cover songs to help us achieve that. I always felt that playing covers when you start a new project is crucial because it allows you to learn how to recreate an existing song with new musicians, which is something really important if your intention is to be able to replicate your own songs as accurately as possible live. It allows you to compare your own performance of the song with its original version and therefore serves as a guideline to determine how ready you really are to start playing live.

At first, I wrote and recorded all of the songs on my own and I would show them to our drummer. Our three first songs were a good start, but we really found our style when I wrote the fourth one.

However, I still felt that some parts were not as good as the rest of the song, so we decided to try to write our fifth song together, which is what we did with “27 Days Of Darkness” in September 2010.
The song as it can be heard on the album has barely changed since we wrote it back in late 2010 and it was the first time that we were really satisfied with one of our songs. We then made the decision to scrap our first four songs and to write the entire album together. The whole writing process was done over a period of one year, from September 2010 to September 2011.

We went to the studio in September 2011 to start recording the drum tracks for Deprived and we went back to record guitars and bass a few months later. However, we decided to change some guitar and bass parts, so we re-recorded them in the following months. The album was then mixed in late 2013, but we couldn't get the sound we wanted so we scrapped the first mix and decided to work with Colin Marston. We signed to Dark Descent Records in March 2014. The album was mixed and mastered by the end of May 2014 and it was released on September 30th 2014.

3) What do you think that how ‘Deprived’ reflects contemporary death metal scene? I mean this début album noticeably more prominent than other some ‘modern’ death metal albums followed by ginormous vocals and handful of riffs surrounded by noise.

S.D.: From my perspective, it’s kinda hard to say. Of course, we feel a kinship with some “modern” bands, but it really depends on what you mean by “modern”. A lot of our influences are bands that could be considered “modern” or “new”, but all of them seem to have a kind of an “old-school” attitude, just like us. Our music is a product of the influence of both old and modern bands and I think that the careful listener can probably hear this.

4) Colin Marston is a multi-instrumentalist genius who aren't afraid to innovate and keep the music fresh. Besides, simply a most talented and professional engineer who mixed and mastered this album suavely. I think production played here a big role. What was it like working with Colin bhai?

S.D.: I would say that Colin basically saved our album because we just couldn't get the sound that we had in our heads with the previous mix attempts. We kept on trying, but it just wasn't working. Before we got in touch with Colin, we had more and more frustrated and disenchanted with our album, but as soon as he got involved, things finally started falling into place. He really understood what we were going for and made sure we were satisfied during the whole process. Of course, there are still some things I would change if I could, but we had to finish it once and for all in order to move on.

5) Musically closer to Dead Congregation maybe, according to early conceptions of extreme metal had to be violent, brutal, blasphemic and Satanic, but lyrically the band certainly is moving away from such concepts or themes but you came up with Philosophy and Apocalypse as lyric themes. Introspective lyrics I say, song titles are pretty self-explanatory for the most part. How much time did you invest in crafting the lyrics to fit the grotesque art you portrayed in Deprived?

S.D.: I think our singer did a really good job with the lyrics on “Deprived”. Lyrics are often neglected in extreme metal and they are often pretty silly and juvenile, but he really nailed it and we’re very proud of his work. Early on, we decided that we would use dark, philosophical and abstract themes that fit with the type of mood that we want to create with our music instead of the usual gory, satanic or blasphemous topics found in most death/black albums. Not that we have anything against those topics, it’s just that it would be hard for us to relate to that type of stuff since we don’t really feel a connection with it, so we figured we might as well write about stuff that is really interesting to us.

6) When you have ideas for a song, you always preferred the atmosphere instead of riffs or the destructional, chaotic structure in it instead of originality? What is the key thing to create the proper atmosphere in Phobocosm’s music?

S.D.: In my opinion, it’s important to have at least some originality in the music that you write, but some bands sound like they just want to be original at all costs, no matter if it’s good or not. I always try to include at least one or two things that are atypical in the riffing in each of our songs, but I can’t say that we really think about originality when we write music. Our main goal is to write songs that we like.

However, if we hear a part that reminds us too much of another band, we always try to change it so that it sounds like us or we just get rid of it if we just can’t change it so that it still sounds good to us. I’d say that riffs are definitely important, but each of those riffs need to contribute in creating a dark atmosphere in our music, otherwise, we just won’t use them. We try our best to make it so that each song sets a suffocating, uncomfortable, dark or twisted mood.

7) How complete is your next album? Give us a hint. Phobocosom would definitely work hard to get better, delving deeper into newer terrains of death metal within its boundaries.

S.D.: We already have a lot of material for our next album. I’d say that we have about five songs that are mostly done and about three other ones that are about half-done. Our new material is more doomy and darker, but there are still a good amount of fast parts too. I’d say it’s the logical evolution of what can be heard on “Deprived”. We have a lot of new influences compared to when we wrote our first album, so of course our new songs will reflect that.

8) It’s really a great thing that a small/new band like Phobocosm, to be associated with Dark Descent Records. DDR is the best label around, when it comes to quality releases in every aspect, content and execution. How did you arrive at a profound conclusion that Dark Descent was the most logical option for Phobocosm?

S.D.: I'm a huge fan of a lot of bands on their roster (especially Corpsessed, Desolate Shrine, Adversarial, Thantifaxath, Anhedonist,  Krypts and Lvcifyre) and I knew they had a really good reputation, so it was a no-brainer for us.

Actually, as soon as I became aware of Dark Descent a few years ago, I've wanted to be on that label and so did my band mates. We had been following the label’s growth closely when they contacted us after our first show with Adversarial in late 2012, so we kept working on our album relentlessly hoping that they would eventually sign us. They are the most hard-working, dedicated and honest label I've ever had to deal with and it’s an honour for us to be on what is arguably the best underground label right now. We couldn't be happier with their work.

9) And when you decide to sign a label, how much does the sales potential mean to you?

S.D.: Of course we want to sell copies of our album, but as we all know, the situation has changed quite a lot in the last decade and a half both for bands and labels since physical copies only sell a fraction of what they used to. Nevertheless, we don’t write music to sell albums, we do it because we want to and need to do it. The exposure that being on Dark Descent Records gives us is a huge deal for us and it’s nice to know that our album is available on distros and in stores worldwide. They have a very good reputation, and given the quality of the albums they put out, they’re the go-to label for a lot of people into dark death metal that are simply looking for new bands or new albums to listen to, which is another advantage for us.

10) I think Phobocosm are becoming a really good live band. I am talking about recently concluded a Canadian two-day underground metal festival Wings of Metal, I think it was substantially suited to sharing the stage with a band like BÖLZER.

S.D.: Ever since we started playing live, we've had the chance to play on really good bills alongside great bands. The Wings Of Metal festival was a very unique opportunity for us to play in front of a different audience since we usually mostly play with death metal bands whereas the Wings Of Metal bill was quite varied. Needless to say, we had a blast. The RRRÖÖÖAAARRR festival was another milestone for us since we got the chance to play with the mighty Incantation. We were also fortunate enough to play with Gorguts and Ulcerate in the last year, two of our favourite bands.

11) Towards the end. What is it that you have to forsake in order to give as much as possible of your time to Phobocosm? I mean, there's always something to do... What do you actually do when you're not working with the band?

S.D.: When we’re not playing, writing or rehearsing together, we all have side-projects as well as day jobs and other hobbies. Of course, we hang out together as often as possible to listen to new albums, drink beer, etc. Being in Phobocosm takes a lot of our free time, but we are always more than willing to work hard on our music.