Dashed To Death
Second "The Shackles of Mammon" album of dark Black Thrash band called CRAVEN IDOL was made near Birmingham two months ago and now we got here an actual interview with them. Each of you has already met with this band, so I just remind you that guys are playing old Metal of wild contours mixed with more modern elements, but they do not bother their orthodox direction. Their music has a considerable atmospheric spawn, but also fans of fair riffing and compositionally branched drumming will enjoy. The band made their own sound and took part of the inspiration from ramshackle bands where they put their own ideas and experiments. That was the main reason why I decided to speak to this jackal band, the word belongs to S.Vrath (guit, vox).
Hell-o, how are things going for CRAVEN IDOL these gloomy days? What most employs your mind now, whether privately or within the band?
Vrath: Hello and thanks for the interview! As usual music, literature, and the band are occupying my mind. Sometimes I wish I could help myself, ha!
Especially literature tends to have a profound influences on my writing for Craven Idol, in particular the surreal worlds of Alfred Bester and Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve been reading the former in abundance recently (having already read the entire catalogue of the latter). The vast sense of universal chaos that these books emanate is mind bending…
You have released a fairly fresh "The Shackless of Mammon" recording in April of this year. If you had to compare it with your previous "Towards Eschaton" stuff, what would you point out? Do you think you've moved forward or you are the kind of band that doesn't take care of such things?
Vrath: The one goal I set for this album was to sink ever-deeper into my shell and write precisely what I enjoy. The result is an more aggressive but also more varied old school record, that perhaps leans more towards the early first wave death and black metal movements than it does to heavy and thrash metal; quite opposite to our previous work Towards Eschaton. I’m not saying any of these elements are missing entirely, though; I’m inspired by a wide variety of music and I have no intentions of being trapped into a single genre.
As far as moving forward goes, I think we have (though I can’t say it was a conscious goal). From a band perspective we have certainly improved as song-writers and tracks come together more organically through countless rehearsals (rather than by one of us finalizing the job alone). From my side, I’ve improved as a guitarist and vocalist, so I’d consider it progress.
We’ve certainly moved forward as far as our audience is concerned – it’s good to get the word out there!
Between your two albums you have exchanged the drummer J.C. Volgard for Heretic Blades and guitarist Scourger for Obscenitor. Why did you come to this exchanges and how did it influenced creation and direction of the band?
Vrath: As I am the main song-writer the impact of the departures wasn’t thaaat significant. However, the other founding axeman, Scourger, is an exceptional lead guitarist and hence was initially a big miss. I did eventually pull the finger out and learned how to solo properly, so that’s more or less filled said gap. Scourger did join us for a day in the studio and recorded some killer guest-leads on ‘Mammon Est’ and ‘Dashed To Death’!
The exchanges themselves were based mostly on personal stuff (relocations, lack of time) and we remain friends with all ex-members.
The greatest incoming impact has come from sticksman Heretic Blades, who has taken over Scourger’s reins on the song-writing front. I would say we’ve upped out productivity thousand-fold since the swap (in fact we’ve already started writing our next release; and I usually take years before I get round to even starting that).
Seems that Black / Thrash Metal now experiences its renaissance, bands playing this genre are so many, but I think almost every Metal genre has come to a certain renaissance. How can you see this fact? If someone asked you if you just jumped on a train, what would you answer?
Vrath: I suppose it’s been over 15 years since the last wave of black/thrash so it only makes sense if it’s coming back. I was actually unaware that such renaissance was taking place. End of the day, we’ve been playing this style since 2005, so such external factors have never impacted us in any way, shape, or form. Ultimately, I wouldn’t even necessarily classify us as a black/thrash band as such, and generally lean towards the term ‘old school extreme metal’, referring to the bands from the late ‘80s/early ’90s, when the sky was the limit and acts strove to pave their own paths (rather than just follow established routes).
I have heard many of the current Black / Thrash bands, but CRAVEN IDOL is one of the most progressive and talented one. I'd say you brought some inventiveness and freshness into this orthodox genre. Was it your intention?
Vrath: Glad to hear it! I’m not particularly fussed with genre tags, and I think that definitely has left its (black) mark. I suppose the fact that I’m still obsessed by Bathory, Sodom, Master’s Hammer, Manilla Road, and Gospel Of The Horns will inevitably have an impact on what we sound like though!
From my perspective, we are merely ‘different’ because we just write what we want to hear. We don’t approach music from a ‘worship’ angle, or attempt to jump onto bandwagons. Trends are what kills metal music… it takes all the balls and attitude out of it, and leaves it an empty husk. The recent occult death metal seems to now be shaping into an even more lame occult black metal scene, all as pumped with reverb as its lacking in purpose or anything interesting to say. We have no interest in hearing that shit, nor in playing it ourselves. Period.
I’m glad we come across as inventive and fresh, of course… we would never write a riff that we’ve heard before (as impossible as that may seem!).
Your tracks are very strong and memorable, many bands are focused only on the rhythmic side or wild Thrash / Black riffing, your compositions are interestingly written, alternating wild rides with more melodic and atmospheric positions. That's why "Towards The Eschaton" and "The Shackless of Mammon" are exceptional works to me. What do you take care most at writing process?
Vrath: Writing and structure is the key component of a song. We live in an era where we’ve by-and-large exhausted the majority of resources that fit into the extreme metal mold – hence it’s about how you play it and how you build a track. A song must flow primarily, make sense in context, and not consists merely out of a collection of unrelated riffs in the same key. I tend to write sections in violent uncontrollable bursts of inspiration… usually 2-4 at a time. They’ll all feed into each other almost seamlessly… and that’s where the hard work begins. It takes a lot for us to be content with a track. I’ll bring a first draft to Heretic Blades in the rehearsal room where we’ll jam it until it turned into something more fleshed out (with drums and vocals). We’ll then add Obscenitor and Suspiral into the mix and from there, slowly but surely, the track will come together. It’s a very organic process, and I’m convinced that’s how all great songs came together – as a result of a band playing together with a common goal. The variations, melodies and such are just what we like… is there anything more satisfying that the twisting and curling song-writing in early works of Mercyful Fate?
Could you remember some interesting experiences from recording of "The Shackless of Mammon"? How was the recording itself going and what was the atmosphere during it? Are you a kind of band that have fun in recording process or you just play your parts and go away?
Vrath: We recorded at Priory Studios near Birmingham (some 7 miles from Aston) with producer Greg Chandler (Esoteric) on the helm. I’d worked with Greg once before, so I knew what to expect. We’d rehearsed the songs tirelessly before entering the studio, so all-in-all it went rather smoothly. I was particularly fond of how well the roto toms worked out!
Recording backing instruments can be quite a laborious process, but once that bit is over, the solos and vocals are sheer bliss. I’ve been working on my range since the last album, and it was great to finally blast out the extreme highs and lows.
Ultimately, the performances must be heard on the record… the spirit and the passion. That’s the absolute key. I know some ‘journalists’ have utterly missed the point of the old school production… calling it outdated, ha! That modern polished sound leaves zero soul and only click-track tarnished robotics behind… it’s an art not a sport!
But, I digress… To come back to your question: As a band we enjoy a good ol’ booze up so we certainly had some killer times at the studio. The Priory is sort of in the middle of nowhere, so in a way you could say we were ‘trapped’ there for the full week (luckily we were stocked up on inebriants)!
Could you clarify the lyrical themes of new CD? Who is their author and where do you draw the most inspiration?
Vrath: I’m the lyricist in Craven Idol… as far as themes go, that’s a vast question! I suppose the obvious authors (as mentioned above) would be the likes of Vonnegut, Bester, Dick, Bukowski, Kafka, Owen, etc. However, I’m also greatly inspired by ancient religious works….be it Greek, Mayan, Finnish, or Egyptian - the parallels and conclusion reached by civilizations are astounding. As an eternal student of literature, I’m also aware of the teaching of that shit-show they call the bible… the truly horrendous mind-control and greed it portrays… but also the fact that the tales and ‘characters’ within it will outlive us all. Finally, pretty much everything influences the lyrics… life, hatred, lust, frustration… it’s all there. It can also be art (Otto Dix in particular), movies (Wiene, Herzog), or comics (Moore, Ellis, Ennis)… or merely a pigeon carcass in a gutters… it’s almost involuntary…
The themes on the album follow suite. To keep it brief, the main topic being, as the title suggest, the chains of mankind’s own greed, narcissism, and power-hunger. We are a self-shackled, suicidal species worshipping items of our own creation – paper currency and made-up gods. Check out the lyrics in the booklet for sure.
Your cover arts are a wonderful works complementing overall color of CRAVEN IDOL. Do you always have an idea to create some theme directly for yourselves or you only choose something you like?
Vrath: All of our covers have been created exclusively for Craven Idol (I have most of the original paintings on my studio wall). Up until the new album, Scourger used to scribble a rough draft of a concept and send it to the artist. All Craven Idol releases have a certain themes to them and every cover follows on from the previous one. In Ethereal Altars we enter a gateway, Towards Eschaton introduces us to what lies beyond, and The Shackles Of Mammon delves ever deeper into the deepest confines of the fiery pits… to the root of all evil…
For ‘Shackles’, we were inspired more directly by a piece of art by Sascha Schneider – a wood carving dating back to 1896 – entitled ‘Der Mammon Und Sein Sklave’ (Mammon And His Slave). We commissioned Chilean artist Daniel Corcuera to re-create Schneider’s work in his image, adding elements to the originally barren landscape. The painting now shows all things unreal… Man begs for forgiveness from the Demon of Avarice… yet barely any of it is real; Mammon, the shackles, currency… it’s all make belief…. Except for the ruin of man.
How can you see today's situation around the world? Do you think everything is inevitable heading to the end or there is still time to put everything in order? Do you believe in certain cycles that must be repeated so that mankind will again and again have to learn from various war conflicts?
Vrath: This certainly ties into the lyrics on the album… My views are very much tied into the above answer! There is very little to be optimistic about these days on a global scale. What else do we have left except for tribalism?
Ok, that would be everything from my side, hope I didn't forget anything important. Thank you for answering my questions and wish CRAVEN IDOL a lot more inspiration for creating the destroying Black / Thrash!
Vrath: Thank you! We are looking to get you some brand new material to you early next year in the form of a 7”. Stand strong against the raging tides!
S. Vrath 19. 6. 2017 Mortuary