INTERVIEW+ALBUM PREMIERE: Chilean Death Metal Band Soulrot
They may not have released their first material until 2013, but Chilean death metal band Soulrot’s origins trace back to the early 1990s. It’s clear that guitarist J.L. Olmos and company have been making up for lost time, as they’ve kept a steady stream of releases coming over the past few years. Following a demo and EP, the band is now preparing to put out their debut full length ‘Nameless Hideous Manifestations’ on April 24th via Memento Mori. And it’s sure to make a strong impression, as even though there’s that familiar Boss HM-2 buzzsaw sound and a good deal of Swedish influence to the writing Soulrot doesn’t feel like a clone of any one particular act and has the riffs to back things up. We’re excited to offer you a full stream of the album alongside an interview with the band so you can get crushed by its immense weight and ominous atmosphere.
A short twenty six second intro starts the album off, establishing an ominous and murky atmosphere right from the get to. From there Soulrot launches right into their HM-2 dominated death metal, letting the buzzsaw tonality burst through your speakers with maximum force. It’s clear that these guys have quite a bit of appreciation for the Swedish death metal sound, particularly that of Entombed and Dismember as well as some of those slightly lesser known acts, as the writing on ‘Nameless Hideous Manifestations’ balances that abrasive tonality with lumbering grooves and some eerie melodic leads. But what works in Soulrot’s favor is it never feels like they’re simply ripping a page out of one particular band’s playbook and calling it a day. Instead, their various influences all blur together into a sound that’s mostly Swedish but has a little bit of other European and American death metal for good measure. Sometimes they slow things down to a crawl and let the weight of the instrumentation pummel you into nothingness, while other moments let unsettling melodies creep in to add a sense of horror and dread. The production values are razor sharp, letting the low end come through incredibly dense without drowning out the rest of the details.
‘Nameless Hideous Manifestations’ wears its influences on its sleeves, but it has some killer riffs and the right amount of atmosphere to back it up. For fans of that classic HM-2 sound done well, Soulrot is worth giving a listen. Grab the album from Memento Mori on April 24th, and check out a full interview with the band where they talk about the creation of this material below!
J.L Olmos: Guitar
D.E Fredes: Drums
J.H Wilschrey: Bass & Vocals
Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg): Soulrot’s roots can be traced back to the 90s, but it wasn’t until 2013 that it was revived for its current incarnation. Can you tell us more about the early days? Did some of these ideas from two decades ago return in some form for the full length?
J.L: At the beginning of the 90s, I lived the full apogee of death metal, a lot of material exchange and cult bands that blew my brains; Entombed, Dismember, Carcass, Gorefest, Death, Suffocation, Demilich, Traumatic, etc. That’s when in 1993, I decided to give the first life to Soulrot, which as at present, that formation was a power trio. With that line-up we only had a few rehearsals, and given the lack of dedication and support I had from my bandmates of that time, I decided to leave the band inactive to dedicate myself to other musical projects. There are no records of a demo given the high cost involved at that time.
In 2013 I decide to reform Soulrot and for this I contacted my friend J.H to take charge of bass and vocals, later joined F.R.L with whom we recorded the demo ‘Horrors From Beyond’ and part of what is the EP ‘Revelations’. At the time we were finishing the production of our EP, we are joined by D.E to take over the percussion and work on what is our first full-length ‘Nameless Hideous Manifestations’.
The compositions that resemble those that we had in 1993 are an abstraction of all the death metal that I lived in that time. We don’t try to copy a particular band or a style (although we are very much influenced by the Scandinavian school); rather we want to recall the nostalgia that these bands of yesteryear caused. We don’t seek to reinvent gunpowder, but to use it again and again to bust the head of the bangers who follow that DM school.
TO: How does your writing process work? How does a particular riff or idea become a full song, and what do you think is the most important element of writing a killer death metal track?
J.L: The first thing we have in mind when starting to compose is to be inspired. We try to make every note and riff flow naturally and in turn be consistent with what it’s intended to deliver, that is, each riff should remain in the memory of whoever hears it. That’s when you get a song to be said in some way, “a jingle,” something good, fun to listen to (and play) and easy to remember.
J.H: The musical structures we use are usually simple and minimalist (in terms of strings), so we always give a lot of space to the drums to express itself and be able to demolish bones. The vocal part also tries to be very rhythmically linked to the songs, with themes strongly influenced by H.P Lovecraft, cosmic horrors and part of the own imaginary. Sticky phrases along with primitive yet effective drum beats. All these elements make Soulrot’s songs very memorable and keep the listener’s attention, many have told us that the 37 minutes of music of our full-length are made very short haha.
With respect to Soulrot, we are sure that ‘Nameless Hideous Manifestations’ will speak in all corners where the bangers expect classic material
TO: The recording sounds absolutely immense, with the drums and that familiar buzzsaw tonality coming through like a wrecking ball. Compared to your demo/EP, what elements of the recording process did you approach differently for the full length and what was the overall experience like?
J.L: In the recording of the album we already had a definite sound thanks to the experience of recording the demo and the EP. Our latest EP ‘Revelations’ helped us a lot to experience both sound and composition, so its indirect contribution to our full-length was very important. Another factor is that for the sound of the strings we have worked very hard with J.H, both live and in studio. The particular sound of the Boss HM-2 complements very well with other effects (part of our putrid secret recipe).
J.H: The “raw” recording process itself was also very comfortable, since we worked for about 8-9 months only in pre-production and the constant layout of the album; a lot of testing, experimentation and error to get to the final gem that we wanted in the beginning. In addition, the recording was done in several stages, in several different studies, which helped us to work more orderly and quiet. The icing on this cake (and the direct cause of the sound being overwhelming) is that the mastering task was taken by Jack Control at Enormous Door Mastering (he has worked with Darkthrone, Bastard Priest, Mammoth Grinder, among many others) so that ‘Nameless Hideous Manifestations’ is exactly the materialization of the sound and sensation that we want to provoke in the bangers.
D.E: The experience of recording the LP was incredible, in fact it’s the first time I’m involved in something so well calculated and professionally done in music. The recording process brought us a lot as a band and made us grow as musicians in other respects, both in interpretation and execution. To get to the final sound was an adventure, the great work of J.H and J. Reyes and then with J. Control of Enormous Door in the mastering, made me feel and listen to the satisfaction of having an album with strength and atmosphere of terror very in the style of the 90s but with the seal of the band well marked.
TO: Memento Mori will be releasing ‘Nameless Hideous Manifestations’ on CD, with Screaming Victims Records handling the cassette. Are you shopping the album around for a possible vinyl release, and what made these two labels the right partners for the CD/cassette versions?
J.H: We would very much like to have an issue of ‘Nameless Hideous Manifestations’ on vinyl, and we are getting closer for this to happen soon, it would be great if DM fans can have the analogous experience of this material. While that happens, the infection will be spread in Spain (and around the world) thanks to Memento Mori and in Greece thanks to Screaming Victims Records. We are very happy to know that all bangers who obtain both the CD and the Tape, will listen to quality material, powerful and heavy thanks to the professionalism and commitment of both labels. The years and the hordes that have released endorse this fact.
TO: The cover art that Juanjo Castellano created for the album is fantastic. What ideas did you have for the artwork originally and how was he able to bring it to life?
J.H: To be honest, we weren’t very clear what to reflect as a concept, but we did know the style that it should have. We wanted something that looked classic and memorable for people, a concept that closely fits the music we make. We shuffled many artists with that classic stroke that we looked for, but the one that definitely captured our attention and blew the lid off our brains was the Maestro Juanjo Castellano. The art process was quite comfortable with him, since we only gave him the concepts and themes that we have as a band as well as comments on our main influences on DM. We noticed from the first moment his enthusiasm with our music and a kind of nostalgia with the thematic and bands that we discussed, this work was like reliving memories of his youth. To Juanjo we gave him all the space of creation of the concept, so the idea and work came completely from him, and now that we have music and art together, we cannot conceive of them separately. It really is the Nameless Manifestation of our music.
TO: Chile has quite a few standout bands when it comes to death and black metal. What are your thoughts on metal from your country and where do you guys feel you fit in?
J.L: The death metal movement in Chile is at its best moment, with very good bands that are coming out of our borders with their albums and some tours. This proves that good metal is being made in Chile in terms of the sound quality and violence required by the extreme genres. With respect to Soulrot, we are sure that ‘Nameless Hideous Manifestations’ will speak in all corners where the bangers expect classic material. We also hope to be able to reach those corners with our live sound and demonstrate why Chile is a benchmark in terms of extreme metal.
D.E: My opinion with regard to metal in Chile is that there is a very varied range of styles, whether bands of styles marked by an era or fusions of styles that manage to have a brand of their own. Although it’s very difficult at this time to achieve something totally original, I had the pleasure of listening to very good bands that leave that type of metal well worked, well executed and with a staging that demonstrates the passion for music. I think we fit into the old DM but with a label marked by the way we compose and by our influences, since we listen to many bands of different styles, not just metal.
TO: The ‘From My Grave’ release had a cover of Nirvana 2002’s Mourning. You seem to be pulling influence from a fairly wide range of old-school death metal bands, both well-known and underrated. What are some additional influences, and are there any other songs you could see yourself covering in the future?
D.E: The truth is that we have many influences of old death metal, and playing songs that we have liked for years feels good. It is not only to play those songs, but to make a tribute to those who in their time achieved the rotten sound which characterizes this style. As I said before, we individually listen to many styles of music, many of which are not necessarily metal and my additional influences are very varied, including punk, hardcore, stoner, rock and roll, d-beat, djent, etc.
J.H: As D.E commented, we not try only to follow the canons of the classical bands, but also to refresh our DM with other styles. The Nirvana 2002 cover arose mostly as a tribute to their fleeting life and the inspiration they have indirectly contributed to Soulrot. We don’t rule out continuing to record covers to follow this line, perhaps something of Carcass (some old stuff), Death, Gorefest or more cult classics, Traumatic, Necrony, Demilich. We hope also at the end of this year to have material (if we are concretizing things as we want) a little more special with some surprises.
TO: Soulrot has put out quite a bit of material in a very short period of time. How often do you write and do you already have more on the back burner that we might see in the next year or two?
J.H: In my opinion, we constantly try to move as fast as we can in writing songs, but always try to maintain a quality base that our inspiration can withstand. We have some corpses of songs that we didn’t include as part of our first full-length, and that eventually could be part of future material. We like the idea of provoking constant hunger in Soulrot’s listeners so it does not seem unreasonable to have an album every two years, and perhaps transitional or experimental material every year, the idea is to keep the band in force and to be able to alternate our live setlist.
TO: You’re set to play Valpo Assault on April 22nd, are there any other tour dates planned for 2017 so far? How would you compare your live performance to your recorded material?
J.H: With this promotion, interviews and broadcast of the album we have not focused much on finding dates for live shows haha, but we plan to do a couple of release shows with friendly bands that are similar in sound. We are open to any invitation, wherever you want to take to the Soulrot killing machine. Now about the sound, people and friends always tell us that our live sound is very worked, given that we are concerned with encapsulating all our sound so as not to depend on the technical elements with which we count (amps heads, sonidist, the place). People like the sound of Soulrot, in fact, the sound of our album is a kind of evolution of the sound that we have live.
TO: Is there anything else you’d like to say about ‘Nameless Hideous Manifestations’ or Soulrot?
J.L: Just to conclude, we greatly appreciate the space and support, to be able to deliver and show Soulrot as a band and as individuals, cultists of death metal. I hope that the fans of all those ancestral sounds feel the same as we do when we hear ‘Nameless Hideous Manifestations’, our way of carrying death. Thank you very much and greetings from Chile, DEATH METAL IS THE ONLY WAY!
Soulrot | Memento Mori