VASTUM come from San Francisco, State of California, where they formed in 2009. Some time they had Corpus name, but soon they changed it and prepared "Carnal Law" debut 2011. By it they have already created their own style where the combination of depravity, darkness and heaviness create appalling spawn and their Death Metal becomes too specific contours. Two years later, in 2013, they have spawned second "Patricidal Lust" album and they only confirm their position on the Death Metal scene. Even better compositions, memorable riffs full of atrocities and perversions with even more obscure motives. Everything so far culminated in their third and latest "Hole Below" album 2015. It is said the third album is usually a breakthrough and it shows the band in the right light and the test of resistance, while the album is so far their top work. Unclean sound, cragged, outrageous, heavy and strong riffs, obscure moods and menacing atmosphere are their powerful weapons. We have written reviews of all three full-lengths and therefore it's time to introduce the band by their own words I think. VASTUM is the first interview for Necropshere this year, when we also talks for the first time guitarist and vocalist Leila Abdul - Rauf (L), with help of drummer Adam Perry (A).
Hell-o, could you first write something about VASTUM? What was the essential impulse to form the band, what was the main concept and what does VASTUM mean to you?
L: Dan, Kyle, RD and I got together in late 2009 to jam on songs that Kyle wrote in a previous project, Corpus. We were playing with a bassist named Spencer who left a month after we got together, and then Luca stepped in, who was already playing with Dan and Kyle in Acephalix. And so that was the first Vastum line up. Adam, our drummer, joined us on our second album Patricidal Lust and also plays on Hole Below. Shelby replaced Kyle on guitar after Patricidal Lust and plays on Hole Below.
Our idea from the start was to play simple, slower, old school death metal. There was never any intention in the beginning to make it a serious band, or to go beyond just making a demo, it was just about making music that was simple and powerful, yet fun to play. However, things took off way beyond our expectations, the sound has evolved to something darker, more atmospheric, and slightly more technical, and here we are today.
You have three full-length albums, the first one was "Carnal Law" which was released on tape as well as a digipack. Have you planned this debut as a full album or it was rather a demo? How are you now satisfied with this stuff?
L: That question has always been up for debate. I always thought of Carnal Law as an album, but other people in and outside of the band thought of it as a demo. I love all of our releases, in different ways; we still play songs live off all of the albums. Carnal Law is special as it was the first release, and has a certain fire to it, as many debut releases do.
Two years later you have released second "Patricidal Lust" album. Musically it has not changed too much, your dark and ugly Death Metal still treading in slower rhythms and melody is haunting. Where can you see the main difference between the debut and "Patricidal Lust"?
L: Patricidal is a slower and darker album to me than Carnal Law. Carnal Law and Patricidal were both recorded by Jef Davis, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2012. Then the production of Patricidal was taken over by Greg Wilkinson, which made for a difference in sound between the two albums. I see each album as a progression from the previous one.
A: Carnal Law really keeps me on edge when I listen to it. It's got an unsettling vibe that I like. But I did not play drums on it. When I joined for Patricidal Lust, I had my own influence on the band's sound. Things got slower and murkier for sure, and I hope heavier...
I would say your greatest asset is absurd and horror atmosphere, setting nightmares into music, almost all the riffs have something outrageous and insane. Is atmosphere your main motive for playing such a sneaking music? Can you see your atmosphere as something negative, evil, vile?
L: Creating a distinct atmosphere is certainly a main motive in my songwriting for Vastum, particularly one that can conjure ugly, morbid and vile thoughts, as if uncovering a disturbing unknown truth about oneself.
A: The atmosphere is negative and I enjoy it very much. My main motive is to hit and kick the drums very hard and make it sound brutal.
I am watching your creation from the beginning and until now I did not find you would have written some weaker track, everyone has necessary dose of morbid melodies. I mean that your songs are memorable, but it's not that kind of melody which quickly get tired, on the contrary, it still draws the listener into the core of the darkness...
L: Thank you. We are painstakingly selective with our choices in riffs and songwriting. If I donít love the song, or canít remember the riffs, or canít play them back in my head, then I abandon those ideas.
A: We try to make songs that intrigue the listener. Nothing's overly catchy. It becomes infectious by the use of certain tempos, repetitions or maybe a strange vocal pattern.
You play atmospheric and dark Death Metal, let's say old-school way. Where do you find inspiration for your music? Does it come only from the music sphere? What else inspires you in terms of all those powerful feelings in the actual writing? Depending on how your music sounds, you must have a great sense of drama and seriousness...
L: Beyond the obvious musical influences, I am inspired by a lot outside the musical realm. It can be anything, from a particular mood Iím in, or a vision, an argument, a decrepit landscape.
A: I get inspired by listening to the riffs that are brought to rehearsal. Nothing more. My musical tastes and my experiences in daily life combine to influence how I might play a certain song.
You have released a brand new "Hole Below" album which I am trying to listen to known it better. I see you have remained faithful to heavy riffs, slower rolling paces and riffs are perhaps more sophisticated and even more technical. Can you see it alike?
L: Definitely. A lot of thought was put into the writing, the execution of the sound, and the ambience surrounding it. The songs have a little more complexity to them the before, yet retain a primitive core.
A: The songs are technical in some parts and we tried some new things, but we still made a raw and unpolished death metal album, which is just what we wanted. Most metal now is too overproduced and perfect and I can't listen to it at all. I hope our album is the complete antithesis of that.
I find the new one as your most eerie album you've ever released. I appreciate excellent vocals, I find them even stronger and more mature than on the previous albums. How the writing process of "Hole Below" went?
L: Thank you. The writing process didnít differ a whole lot this time than it did from our past albums, except that it was just Shelby and I mostly writing the songs. Iíll usually write most of a complete song on my own and write the lyrics for it too, including the ones that Dan performs. Dan wrote the lyrics for all of the songs that Shelby wrote, including the ones I perform. Greg Wilkinson from Earhammer Studios, who produced Patricidal Lust from Jefís recordings, recorded and produced Hole Below, aside from the ambient tracks which I produced on my own.
What topics do you find inspiration for your lyrics from? Could you write what does the name of your "Hole Below" album symbolize and what significance has cover artwork of new CD? The cover artwork itself is quite strange and disturbing, the choice of black and red color adds atmosphere to it.
L: For me, ďHole BelowĒ takes on multiple meanings. In addition to the obvious literal interpretation that it represents an anus, or a vagina, the ďholeĒ could be a psychological or spiritual hole, that one can fall into. The cover is a collage of many figures, one of which is Narcissus staring down into his reflection. Dan created the artwork and wrote the lyrics for the title track, which ended up being the name of the album. Many of my lyrics are inspired by intense life experiences.
Recently there was the end of 2015, many people also make assessment of the year. How would you describe this year for VASTUM? And while we're at it, could you write which albums have surprised you most this year?
A: We had a good year recording, touring for, and releasing Hole Below. As far as an album this year that caught my attention, I liked Perdition Temple's. It's sick and violent sounding. Outside of metal, there wasn't anything I liked.
I must ask for your personal view of the whole situation in the world, I mean all these threats of war, terrorism, climate, it seems that world is properly chaotic. Do you think it has always been, or it gathered really a lot only now?
L: There has always been chaos in the world, in nature, in humankind. Hatred, war, destruction, disease, famine. Technology makes these things more visible on a global level than before, so there is more awareness. In the United States, we are seeing an economic divide that is unprecedented, the worst income inequality in the developed world, a country in decline. In this way, things are much worse now than they were 50 years ago.
Ok, that would be all from me, if I forgot something important, you can write anything. Thank you for answering my questions and wish VASTUM morbid inspiration, thanx again!
A: Thanks for writing us. We're honored to be featured in Necrosphere.
L: Thanks for the interview.
Leila Abdul - Rauf, Adam Perry 24.1. 2016 Mortuary
In Sickness and in Death