A lot of bands can still play pure and extreme Metal today, but to give it a classic authentic form and pick up the feelings of madness, occult atmosphere and witchcraft with honest raw sound, is another thing. Canadians OCCULT BURIAL fascinated me as an old witch, incantations, magic, evil, they conjure with honest ingredients in their music, taking you in the early 80s, when Bathory, Venom and Celtic Frost have written the history of the genre. I have been waiting when they will release a full-length, and then I will go on the offensive with questions. They were answered by Joël Thomas (vox, bass).
Hell-o, could you introduce a little OCCULT BURIAL band? Who are the members, how did you meet and came to the idea to form a Metal band?
MacLoud (guitar) and I (bass/vocals) have been paying Black Metal together for over 5 years, but were never able to find other musicians that we thought suitable to the music we wanted to make, until we met Dan Lee, who was working at a local record store. It was obvious that he had good taste in Metal and Punk, so soon enough the three of us were going to shows together in Montreal, and the idea to form a band eventually came up.
Right from the start you have taken path of the old Thrash / Black Metal, listening to any of your materials I feel that you are musically right where Black Metal was created, when Bathory, Venom, Hellhammer started breeding their atrocities. Do you believe it is still necessary to keep the flame of the original Black Metal?
It was the easiest sound for us to achieve, because Dan Lee hadn’t played drums in many moons and I wasn’t really a bassist or a vocalist. So we chose a raw, stripped-down style – which appealed to us anyway, since we all shared a common passion for the bands you mentioned, as well as Razor, Misfits, etc, while helping us learn to master our instruments. Also, Black Metal nowadays has definitely fallen into the depths of self-parody for the most part – there are so many third and fourth rate bands out there, that we just decided to go back to the beginning and see where that would take us eventually. We’re not bent on playing old Thrash/Black forever – we just wanted a starting point that was pure and aggressive.
It is always nice when Metal band begin with demo stuff, where they can try a lot of things, as they sound, they will define their style, try the writing process etc, and only then to release a debut album. Weren't you tempted to immediately release the debut album?
No, I think making demos is incredibly important. It allows the band members to hear their music played back to them, to get a better idea of what they are doing well or what could be improved, and to spread their name and music to a few intimate circles. It is pretty anti-climactic for a band to come right out of the gates with a full-length, I think.
Your demos sound almost authentically and songs like Jackal Head, The Ancient Returns, Mysteries of the Worm or Black Adoration belong certainly among your typical stuff with which you must be recognized by everyone. Which one is your favorite song from your production?
From the demo songs, if I had to pick a favourite for the whole band, it would most likely be Black Adoration. It is a staple in our set and we always enjoy playing it. Second would probably be Occult Burial – our theme song. We actually don’t play Mysteries of the Worm anymore, because we have plans to restructure it completely. The Ancient Returns has in fact been completely restructured since the demo days, and the new version appears on our full-length that was just released.
Many Metal bands don't prove to write strong songs, they create riffs joined together resulting in music, but with lack of spirit, blood and strength. Your songs are like real Metal anthems, memorable, rusty, sharp and strong. Do you pay attention to these things already in advance, or you think it's natural in you?
Thanks for the kind words. I think those elements are both planned and natural. Planned, because we are very critical of every riff that we use, and avoid any filler or awkward riffs. We make sure the vocals are well-placed and that the choruses are strong. In short, we want every song, while being unchained and aggressive, to remain ear-catching and memorable. At the same time this is all very natural for us, born from our love for 70s Hard Rock and 80s Heavy Metal, when anthemic songs were more common.
You have released your "Hideous Obscure" debut which is probably the logical result of your past work. It has been released by Invictus Productions. Could you write how you got to them? Is it an honor to you to be on this label? Invictus have released also our Slovak MALOKARPATAN band. Have you registered them? How do you like their music?
We were introduced to Invictus by our good friend Annick, who sings in Cauchemar and runs Hot Metal Productions in Montreal. It was pretty simple – Darragh, who runs the label, liked our music, reissued the demo which we had already released, and told us to get in touch when we had our album ready. When the album was recorded and the artwork ready, we sent everything to him and he took care of the pressing. It has been a great pleasure working with Darragh, and also an honour since he has been contributing to underground Metal for many long years. I hadn’t checked out Malokarpatan, but I gave them a listen while answering this interview. It is enjoyable – the vocals are not quite my cup of tea but the music is quite good.
The only thing that disappointed me a little regarding your debut is that you give it a few new songs, but it certainly will be more surprise for people who do not know your demos and split. On the other hand, I must say the new songs as Blasted Death and Hideous Obscure continue in your tradition and again they are decent pieces that herald your next creation.
Yes, we were very slow songwriters at when we first started the band, so we only had a handful of new songs when came the time to record the album. However, we also feel that the re-recorded demo songs sound significantly better with the production and performance that we have given them on the album, so we did not use them simply as filler – rather we gave them new life. This being said, since we have released Hideous Obscure, we have been feeling very creative and almost have enough new material for our next album. It will include the re-worked version of Mysteries of the Worm, and other songs such as Burning Eerie Lore and Skeletal Laughter.
What do individual songs mean to you? How does it feel when a song is nascent, you have finished a few riffs, the drummer will play some rhythm into them, you feel it all works and you know it will be another strong thing? Do you think music is something like a magic, something supersensible?
It is definitely an indescribable feeling. I think anybody who feels a real passion for something and lets passion guide them will have the same feeling that we get when writing a song. Especially for a band like ours, where we are just three close friends making music that we love, it is a very special feeling. The way I see it, we are making music that blends elements of all the music that we enjoy individually, and for our own enjoyment only. If other people enjoy it too, ask us to perform it for them, all the better.
"Hideous Obscure" album is still fresh enough. What reactions have you seen so far? Were there also some negative critics? What are your feelings of it when you heard it home at your media player?
Most critics have been rather positive. The only negative critics have been those accusing us of sounding too old-school, implying that we are not being original or something. But I think that is a bit of a superficial judgement; just because we don’t use blastbeats and we have choruses in our songs doesn’t make it less authentic or unique. I think people that understand the music can tell that we are not just a rip-off band, though we choose to play an older style.
Could you write where do you find inspiration for your music? Is it all about the old masters, or it may also be some literary works and some old horror movies, philosophy?
Like much art and music, our music is very inspired by feelings of solitude, mortality, fear and escapism, but also very much by a sense of joy that comes from writing music together. To laugh is very important to us. These feelings are usually presented in a lens of horror and fantasy – inspired mostly by authors like Lovecraft and Baudelaire. Some lyrics are inspired by certain horror movies and mythology as well, but influences are mostly literary and emotional.
What is your view on today's Metal scene, where you can find really honest underground bands, but also commercially directed trends appearing also in TV media and they take themselves as true metal gods?
There have always been and always will be superficial bands that cater to a specific trend at a specific moment in time (as well as bands that play with integrity and quality). We are not very concerned with them – our goal is to make music as honestly as possible, with only our own enjoyment in mind. Ironically I think that makes the music especially enjoyable for other people. I hate it when I listen to a band and I can tell that they are aiming for success or recognition by playing a hackneyed and boring style. Bands that endlessly try to market themselves through YouTube and Facebook pages are a sad sight – if people need to be forced to listen to and enjoy your music, that doesn’t speak highly about the quality of your songs and spirit.
Ok, that would be all from me, if I forgot something important, you have the space. Thank you for answering my questions and wish OCCULT BURIAL only the best there to Canada, keep the flame high!
Thank you for your questions. We will be touring Europe this fall with our good friends in Cauchemar – stopping in France, Belgium, Austria and maybe a couple of other places. Stay tuned for the full dates.
Joël Thomas 11.7. 2016 Mortuary