Napalm Flesh: Prelude to the Apocalypse – Interview with Decrepit Birth

Posted November 11, 2010 in
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For this week’s blog we have an interview with California death metal crew Decrepit Birth. There’s also the usual round-up of concerts going on for the week, lots of national and local metal to be seen all around. Also, there is a slurry of blog exclusive CD reviews as well as reviews that didn’t make the print magazine for November.

As a reminder, Swedish black metal crew Watain is playing Club Vegas tonight with support from Goatwhore and Black Anvil with local openers the Pagan Dead, Dead Vessel, and Visions of Decay. Tickets at the door are $20, tunes are underway around 8 p.m.

And if you didn’t have enough Swedish black metal or can’t make a Thursday night show the infamous Marduk has taken the time to play an off date from “The Blackest of Black Tour” (where they’re supporting Danzig) on Saturday, Nov. 13 to headline a show with thrashers Toxic Holocaust and Withered with support coming from homegrown black metal warriors Iconoclast Contra. The metal goes down at the Complex, advance tickets are $18.

Wednesday Nov. 17 Sacrificial Slaughter, death metal from Cali and the Pagan Dead celebrating their 10-year anniversary are set to play Bar Deluxe with Iconoclast Contra and Winterlore, $10 at the door tunes underway around 8 p.m.

Suffocation headlined a show in town late last month at the Complex, with support coming from The Faceless, Through the Eyes of the Dead and Decrepit Birth. In a marathon interview day I managed to interview Atheist on the phone early in the afternoon and got to the venue early a couple hours later to talk to Suffocation in person as well as Bill Robinson and Matt Sotelo, the founding members of Decrepit Birth. We talked outside the venue in a nice informal feeling interview, taking place while the guys cooked up some tour grub on a Coleman stove. I spoke to the guys about the tour, being a band for about 10 years, death metal, music piracy and of course all things Decrepit Birth. Keep tuned into the blog for the interview with Suffocation drummer Mike Smith.

SLUG: So how has the tour been going so far?
Robinson & Sotelo: Really good.
Sotelo: It’s always a treat to go out with Suffocation—we’ve been out with them before. It’s always a big influence for us to see their live show and the way they handle themselves, so it’s an inspiration for us as a band to tour with them. All the other bands are sick too—we’ve toured with The Faceless two other times and Through the Eyes of the Dead, this is our first tour with them. And Fleshgod Apocalypse from Europe are a sick band. All the shows have been going really go so far, each night seems get better and better—everybody’s performance gets better and better.

SLUG: Decrepit Birth has been at it as a band for about ten years now. Does it feel like it’s actually been that long?
Sotelo: Around there, yeah. I’ve known [Bill] for a long time and we’ve actually been working on stuff since the mid-90s
Robinson: Talking about putting it together… (in the mid-90s)
Sotelo: But officially we’ve been a band for approximately ten years, yeah.
Robinson: To me it’s gone by really quick. If you look back when me and Matt started doing this it seems like it took for fucking ever. I enjoy touring so much, it just goes by really quickly.

SLUG: Are you guys even home that often?
Robinson: More than most bands probably…
Sotelo: We tour normally like three months in-between tours, so we’ll tour for a month and then we’ll take like three months of then we’ll go back on a month or two month long tour. This time we only took a month and a half between tours with the Summer Slaughter tour previously, but we have a new record so of course we’re going to be trying to tour a little bit more for the new album.

SLUG: The last few tours you’ve done have been package tours. Does it feel like there’s any pressure to go above and beyond as a support band?
Robinson: Not for me.
Sotelo: We just do what we do.
Robinson: It’s about having a good time. It makes it a lot easier, [having] no pressure. Why do that to yourself? Everyone else in the packages don’t pressure us for nothing—everybody gets along.

SLUG: You, two are the core members of Decrepit Birth. How hard has it been to keep the momentum from album to album and having to change up personnel every now and then?
Robinson: Nowadays, in my opinion, with the way the internet is, it’s not too hard. When we started out, just getting a drummer was fucking horrible—we had no way to connect with people other than physically meeting them. [We’ve had] no problems working with Samus (current live Decrepit Birth drummer)—he stepped right in and fucking kicks ass. Working with KC Howard at the time, Matt recorded Odious Mortem and we we’re like, “Holy shit, this kid plays through no edits!” The next thing we knew he was hitting us up saying he knew our shit. We didn’t know him, but the first time we jammed it was like we killed. We’ve been lucky to be honest as far as working with different musicians.
Sotelo: I write most of the music. Between Bill and I we write all they lyrics. So as long as he and I are intact this band should pretty much be the same type of band. As long as me and him are working together on this stuff, it’s Decrepit Birth, I’m pretty sure that’s the way it’s going to be, if it were any other way we probably wouldn’t be a band. Right now we’re just enjoying it.

SLUG: Mainly this year as far as death metal goes, it seems like there’s the big-big releases from the bigger labels and there’s a big disconnect between that and the underground, do you agree with that?
Sotelo: Basically the reason is, it’s underground, it doesn’t sell, I know that first hand, I’ve talked to a lot of the bigger labels, they’re not going to sign a band that’s only going to sell two thousand or fifteen hundred copies.
Robinson: There in it for business, it’s just the way it is.
Sotelo: Well of course they’re putting a lot of money into it, they put a lot of money and trust into us so they want to see that pay off which is natural, but at the same time they support us, they like us as a band no matter what, even if the numbers weren’t adding up I think our label Nuclear Blast, the people there genuinely like our music. Death metal these days, especially the technical death metal stuff, it doesn’t always sell, people like the more catchy stuff and that’s what sells. That doesn’t mean it’s the better stuff.
Robinson: That’s just the fans
Sotelo: There’s a lot of quality releases that maybe only sell fifteen hundred copies legitimately but how many are downloaded.

SLUG: Speaking of that, what do you think about the whole deal with internet piracy, and the bullshit excuse of people saying it’s the try it before you buy, when you know people are just hanging on to it and not buying it.
Sotelo: I know for me I just say download it, fuck it. I’m sure our label would not want to hear that. But I mean come on the only reason we are is because of downloading really, people going online hearing the buzz and downloading our album and then they come and see us live and they buy our merch and see the CD and if they really like us they’ll go fuck I need to have that CD the cover is killer, it’s got Dan Seagrave artwork, it’s got all the lyrics. The die-hard fans will buy the discs. I think it’s just inevitable, you can’t avoid it, and it sucks, I wish that it was a little different, you could get credit as the musicians for downloads, even if it was a really cheap payment, you know like 99 cents for the album, that would be cool. It just doesn’t seem to be that way right now. Death metal the really technical and brutal stuff is kind of in the slum right now as far as marketing wise and the amount that it sells. I know that first hand from talking from with labels out there. You have to be something really exceptional if you’re actually going to win over all the fans and the labels, there really isn’t too many bands like that in the scene.

SLUG: It’s the same deal with everything, there’s a bunch of crap mixed in with the good.
Sotelo: There’s a lot of small labels out there that will just sign anything and try and push a product it doesn’t matter if it’s quality, they just try and make some money off it. They’re not looking at anything else. Every once in a while there’s going to be some killer bands. I think we were a band that came from a smaller label, which was Unique Leader records, and we got lucky and caught the eye the label now and also our booking agent, they’ve trusted us to go on good tours. If you’re in a legitimate band and you go out there and you play your ass off and don’t care about how much you’re getting paid and don’t care about what’s going on at home and just go out there on the road and push forward then maybe you’ll make something of yourself—it’s never going to be a full-on career. Even though these guys [Suffocation] have a big bus and everything I don’t know if they’re making a career out it, like that’s all they do I don’t know. There’s very few real death metal bands that make a career out of it.

SLUG: Maybe like Cannibal Corpse or something?
Sotelo: That’s about it.
Robinson: They’re the originals though—everyone else is rehash and then progressed on to the rehash.
Sotelo: There’s a few out there that have gotten lucky, I know that when Carcass did their reunion tour they were pulling in some ridiculous numbers. We played a few shows with them, the amount they were selling their merch for was astronomical with all due respect. But whatever, I bought a Carcass shirt for like $50 or whatever it was.

SLUG: I was kind of curious as kind of a record nerd, did Nuclear Blast release any of your stuff on vinyl? They haven’t put anything out on LP but I keep hearing that people are interested in it.
Sotelo: Our first album is out on picture disc, which is awesome it looks really good.

SLUG: How has the new album Polarity done so far critically and commercially?
Sotelo: Critically, so far pretty good I mean it seems like there’s definitely more good reviews than bad. I know some of the blogs and some of the fans are like “it’s not what we expected it to be” or some are like “It’s the best thing they’ve ever done,” I know I love it that’s all that really matters to me. Weather we struck gold with it or not I don’t know, sometimes it takes years to really tell if an album is the stand the test of time kind of album. I don’t know if it’s as like drastic of a change like from going from our first album to our last album, we went from kind of brutal California style death metal band to more of like a melodic type death metal, we’re really influenced by Death and Atheist, Cynic and that kind of stuff and still mixing in the brutal. Coming into this new album from the last, Diminishing to Polarity, it’s not as huge of a jump in style change, so it just maybe doesn’t stand out as much to people. But at the same time I think we’ve sold more with this record than both of our other two records combined, so in the short time it’s been out we’ve already done really well. It’s doing well as far as numbers go, but I don’t know what that means. I always hear room for improvement with anything that I do. I pretty much tracked all the string instruments in my house except for the drum recording we did in a big studio out in Oakland. Other than that I had a big hand in the actual mix down and making sure everything was the way we wanted it to be. I’m pretty satisfied, although I think we can do better with the next record, I always hope we can do better, but I like what we’ve got for now.

SLUG: Is there anything about the current climate of extreme metal that pisses you guys off?
Robinson: You can’t bring your fucking herb around the country with you, that really pisses me off.

SLUG: Is there a song in particular you like to play live more than any other?
Robinson: I really like playing “Metatron” off the new album, it’s really fun.
Sotelo: It’s a challenge because it’s new, but it’s a fun song to play it’s our first tour playing it.

SLUG: Along the lines of your lyrics you’re not all about the gore, like the standard death metal stuff. Where do the ideas come from?
Robinson: Imagination, books, life nature, for me that is. Psychedelic trips I’ve done, just general experience trial and error, you know, life—as simple as that or as complicated as that.

Putrid Pile/Viral Load
Putrid Pile/Viral Load Split
Street: 11.09
Putrid Pile/Viral Load = Putrid Pile + Viral Load
This oh-so-short but brutal-as-all-hell split between one-man death metal acts (Shawn Whitaker’s Viral Load and Shaun Lacanne’s Putrid Pile) is being billed by Relapse Records as a title bout. Both bands utilize drum machines and play distinctly similar styles. It’s brutal death metal—there really isn’t anything lying in wait other than punishing guitar stomp riffing and gurgling death growls, I seriously hope this split was released on vinyl because I’m going to seek it out—the cover art befits the split in a vivid and powerfully colorful way. But if you call it a title bout type affair unfortunately for Viral Load, Putrid Pile’s original 3 song contribution (which does not include a cover - Viral Load has a cover of Dead Horse’s “Cod Piece Face” that already counts against the band) not to mention Putrid Piles superior production value that offers a mightier brutal death blow—not just by way of it’s guitars but the drum programming—that is severely more fluid and less mechanical sounding than Viral Load’s. As I’m sure this split is all in good fun and while it could be considered a competition both bands offer up the crème de la crème of one-man brutal death superiority. If you dig brutal death, you’ve probably heard of both of these artists so don’t be a tard and download the damn thing, seek out a physical copy, the material contained on it is worth it alone aside from whatever glorious packaging it may come in. –Bryer Wharton

Nocturnal Blood
Devastated Graves - The Morbid Celebration
Hells Headbangers

Street: 10.26
Nocturnal Blood = Profanatica + Archgoat + Beherit + Black Witchery
Nocturnal Blood’s debut full-length, Devastated Graves, isn’t about trying to reinvent anything, it’s just about the mind behind it all—Ghastly Apparition—doing exactly what he wants to do. This is either something you’ll quite enjoy or shrug off as a black metal imitator. I don’t consider myself a metal elitist with black metal or any other genre—I like what I like—and Devastated Graves stirs up an emotional response for me by way of its harsh, violent and hate-vomiting glorious devastation. The first half of the album seems to fly by in way of the sheer speed of it all; it’s not until the excellent “Chaos Blood” and “Ritual Lust” that things slow down a bit. To put it all in the simplest terms, if you enjoy what Hells Headbangers has been releasing lately (the death-tinged black metal stuff), this will be to your liking: raw, simple, yet bluntly effective black metal. Its production lends itself to an unseen, raw extremity bubbling up from the abyss that spawns grim black metal. –Bryer Wharton


Away From the Haunts of Men

Street: 11.09

Thrall = Sargeist + Darkthrone + Twilight + Deathspell Omega
This debut offering, Away From the Haunts of Men, is the brainchild of maniacally inventive Australian Tom Void. The album offers multiple glimpses into cold, true black metal, combined with a massive musical listening experience delving into doom, psychedelic and creepy atmospheric moments. The record feels split into two parts; the straight, old-school black metal worship glories and tough-n’-grit abilities of the elite cold black metal scene starts off the album, then, about midway through, the instrumental, atmospheric and appropriately titled track, “To Velvet Blackness,” sends the record into a spiraling, doomed, creeped-out realm with an echoing, ghostly, void-like persona, although there are some raw moments still retained in the latter part of the album. The potently violent beginning transcends the album from a furiously violent, hateful, black tar-spewing quarrel into a maddeningly prolific, stark and somber experience. Take coming from a sugar/caffeine-hyperactive momentum, then crashing into a manic-depressed otherworldly realm, and you have Away From the Haunts of Men. –Bryer Wharton


Metal Blade

Street: 10.26

Witchsorrow = Electric Wizard + Sleep + Cathedral

Witchsorrow’s self-titled debut delivers a concrete-fisted doom metal offering in a sludge-fest of ultra-down-tuned guitar, bass and a drum bashing that makes me feel bad for the drum heads the album was recorded with. It’s a potent, cautiously and impedingly slow, gargantuan, sustained, riff-blasting machine too stark-smelling, small, yet equally as visceral speed attacks. If you have an appropriately ample bass delivery system on whatever stereo you blast your music to, this monolithic beast has the apt ability to resemble an earthquake; unfortunately, it led me to turn the monster down while I re-secured items hanging from my walls. You won’t find much by way of guitar soloing or leads and that’s the fully intended purpose of the record, to pummel, not serenade, and if you’re not careful, you should really brandish some Kevlar, tin-foil rap or a sturdy helmet, because the full-on epic track “Thou Art Cursed” could literally gobble anyone’s frame from petite to extra large. This UK-based trio’s self-titled debut is more than promising; fans of sludged-out doom, apply to Witchsorrow. –Bryer Wharton