INTERVIEW: Australian “dissident” metal band ThrOes
In my continued search for fresh sounds in metal, ThrOes came as a pleasant surprise with their debut full length ‘This Viper Womb’. The band’s mix of extreme metal is quite rare in that it manages to sound distinct and fresh regardless of where the inspiration is drawn from. In order to better understand the nuances behind the music, I talked to the band’s founding member Trent Griggs. Read on as he talks about his inspirations, his problem with metal scene and his way approaching music in general.
Transcending Obscurity (Shrivatsan R): Hi Trent. ‘This Viper Womb’ has been receiving polarizing reviews online. Why do you think that the reaction is so divided?
ThrOes (Trent Griggs) : It won’t easily fit into the various stylistic moulds that have been formed over decades. This has meant some people don’t know how to take it, don’t know how to feel about it, and don’t know how to label it. The reviews have been divided definitely, which I feel is a good thing. I feel it only points to the fact I made something singular and unique. This happens to every artist that truly follows their own path. Have you ever read any reviews of Bethlehem? A band doesn’t get more original, or dissident than them. They’ve always done exactly what they want, regardless of getting slammed in the press for their work. I’m a big fan of what they do. I too am just doing what I want and what I feel. I had some very clear objectives in the beginning. I set out to achieve those objectives on my schedule, and working off my blueprint, not someone else’s. The reviews divide, and this is what the work of a dissident should do. But the reviews have been very positive as a whole so far. Anyone with any amount of listening pedigree, across many styles of heavy music, with a large base of varied references have all rated the work very highly. And they all hear different influences in it. A great deal I’ve never even heard of, yet alone listened to personally. To divide is good when one pursues what they believe above all else.
TO: The album opens with words from Terence Mckenna about how culture and religion restrict one’s freedom. Does this have to do with your view on the metal culture these days?
ThOes :No, not at all. It is far more universal than something so small, trivial and spiritually insignificant as the metal scene. The message is very clear. It’s the typical Terence Mckenna sledge hammer to the psyche, and there is no need for me to cheapen the words of such a genius by tarring his thoughts with my words here. The world is in grave trouble my friend, and it is culture and ideology that continues to eradicate every sacred birthright humanity has. Our blood gets further and further diluted with every generation, and I’m not talking about race. Race is something you can see. I’m talking about that which is unseen. That which was once instinct to the senses is now completely foreign and forgotten. Sometimes the experiences I’m talking about here get spontaneously re-awakened through crisis, sickness, emotional trauma e.t.c. When this happens most people experience a sharp onset of fear and anxiety, owing to a lack of spiritual self awareness. The older soul recognises the deeper connection involved with this re-awakening of the senses, so he embarks on a lifelong course of study. Learning and practicing how to call on these new found senses at will, as opposed to waiting for sleep deprivation, starvation, or drug use as a vehicle to do the leg work. As effective as these agents may be, it is a true mark of self mastery to be able to penetrate one’s energetic environment when, and how one chooses. It also takes a lifetime to learn. To me, Terence is talking about the loss of our true spiritual birthright at the hands of culture and ideology. The dogmatic evil of deliberately preventing man from knowing his own mind and discovering his true will in life. The religious and governmental institutions of the world have always worked to prevent man from becoming the ‘superman’. 2016 is certainly no different. Know Thy Self.
TO: You remained outside the metal scene for years. What was the trigger that made you feel disenchanted with heavy metal?
ThrOes: Somewhere along the line the mystery was lost. The threat disappeared. And more importantly, the gene pool became heavily diluted. This ‘instant information’ age we find ourselves in now is also responsible. One can’t avoid being infiltrated by seas of weak, overused ideas and throw away messages. There are too many bandwagons to jump on. And there are too many ‘me too’ men and not enough mavericks. I’m disenchanted with the state of the arts in general. Metal is just the medium I find myself expressing and producing the bulk of my creative ideas through. It’s true that I feel a strong sense of disillusion with the metal scene, but I also love metal. I would not write metal music if that were not the case. But what I love even more, when it comes to art of any kind, is honesty. It’s the honesty that I feel is lacking. When you engage with work that is not only powerful, but honest, it can be life changing. But to counter my generally negative view I must say I’ve heard the work of some amazing artists recently and I feel fortunate to have had my faith restored, and get back some of that initial thrill I felt in my younger years. I can highly recommend Terra Tenebrosa’s ‘The Reverses’, and Cobalt’s ‘Slow Forever’ as incredible albums. ‘Pure’, the new album by In The Woods is also very good. Bethlehem have a new album coming out in October which I’m really looking forward to and I’m sure will be great. Also keep an eye out for ‘Failure, Subside’, the debut full length from fellow Tasmanians Départe. That’s also coming out in October via Season Of Mist.
TO: The writing process for this album seems to have taken it’s own course in time. Does revisiting the material over the course of years help in the creative process of coming up with something so unique?
ThrOes: Everything about this album just developed the way it wanted to. I almost had no say in the matter. There are riffs on the album as old as 2003, and 2004. These were some of my very first ideas and I was still inspired by them all these years later, so I wrote them into new, stronger, more resolute compositions. I wrote a lot of great stuff when I first started ThrOes at the end of 2003. When I look back at a lot of it now I still think so many of these ideas are great and must be used, but need to be reinterpreted and placed in more powerful song structures. More immediate in their emotional outcome. There is material from this early period that I already know is definitely being used on the next album. I think my biggest success all these years later was with the structuring of the songs themselves. I’m older, more seasoned, have more experience in producing, and have listened to a much broader range of musical styles. When you create elaborate music from the ground up, and perform nearly all aspects of it yourself, including the studio side of things you really form a producer’s brain. When you have this you hear all music through this perspective, and all music is a potential inspiration. I’ve heard music I don’t even like at all but noticed a particular production approach I thought was clever, to the point where my brain is already turning over and formulating how I could use a similar technique in this dark, heavy, atonal music I create. I get ideas from everywhere. And as far as asking if the old material present in this recent work inspires me to create something unique? I guess the answer is yes. I revisited old ideas that were strong then, and are still strong now. But I’m re-exploring them as an older, more complete artist, and taking these ideas to places I wouldn’t have been able to when they were first brought into existence. Hearing an old idea become all it can be is pretty rewarding actually.
TO: How did your collaboration with James Ludbrook come about? Were you associated before you began making music?
ThrOes: No we weren’t associated before I started making this music. I had always wanted to stay off of facebook, but around November 2011 I knew production for the debut was going to start within a few months so I started an account, believing it was necessary in this day and age to promote myself. I met James through facebook pretty soon after I signed up and we started talking. I contacted him just to tell him his vocal performances in his 90’s band Damaged had always touched me pretty deeply, and meant a lot. And they still do. For anyone unfamiliar they should try and find the albums ‘Do Not Spit’, ‘Passive Backseat Demon Engines’ and ‘Token Remedies Research’ to be able to get the truest idea of what he has done. I believe you can find these on Youtube. They are cult works and nearly impossible to find legit physical copies. I would be pretty happy to say you won’t have heard a vocal performance like it, nor one as aggressive, manic, frenetic, emotional (which in my experience is all but impossible to achieve in music so aggressively chaotic), turbulent and strained in the most impressive of ways. To me, as a metal vocalist, he’s another one of these examples of someone who didn’t really exhibit natural talent for the task. This seems to be the case with all the greats. In all styles of singing actually. So what you hear was what came out of the stubbornness and passion of a kid who wanted to, and believed he could set the world on fire with that band. He attacked it full force, and thus was born his completely unique, and complex vocal style. He’s an intense individual, and he pushes his whole body, and every internalized feeling up from his feet through to those strained vocal chords. There are deep harmonic complexities I’ve not heard a metal singer do yet in the same way. He just doesn’t approach metal vocals in the typical way. His way is very much his way. We were conversing about a lot of similar subjects at the time and I was interested in that. I’d always planned to have a very vicious, in your face dual vocal front on this album, one day I found myself thinking if Jamie added his vocal style it would not only be unexpected, it would make the whole thing sound singular, unique, and push the listener with the delivery of both Jamie’s vocal, and my own. Both of us making sure the heaviness of the words were delivered in a suitably relentless style. The strong will appreciate being pushed that hard by the vocals and the anxiety they exude, the threat they issue that everything might just implode at any minute. The weaker listener may well be repelled.
TO: ‘This Viper Womb’ seems to have a cohesive narrative, with each track adding to the bigger picture? What would you you say is the main takeaway from the album, from a lyrical perspective?
ThrOes: It’s all very personal, introspective, autobiographical work. It’s heavily based off very personal experiences I’ve been through, and my metaphorical philosophizing on these matters. It’s about my world view. It’s about my occult spirituality. It’s so personal a number of songs are about very specific events in my life. But interpreted in a universal context and how these events have shaped a greater outcome beyond the immediately physical and the mundane. I want the main takeaway to be whatever the listener makes of my words. I’m sure they’ll mean different things to different people. But they come from such a familiar place of human experience I’m sure most people will be able to relate to them strongly on many levels.
TO: Considering the number of bands trying to fit their music into little sub-genre tags, do you think metalheads are as open minded as they claim to be? In your opinion, what are some of the bands today that are trying to make something new?
ThrOes: It’s split between complete elitism and open mindedness to the point of celebrating mediocrity. And the elitism celebrates the mediocrity just as bad as the open minded crowd. Sometimes more. On the whole I don’t think metalheads are that open minded really, even when they claim to be. When push comes to shove people like what they like and dislike what they dislike. And this is very ingrained in the individual. I’m no different. I think there’s nothing wrong with that really. The “little sub-genre tags” are all bulshit. Bands making something new? Always Bethlehem, always Esoteric. They’ve been doing that since the early 90’s. And as I said above, Terra Tenebrosa and Cobalt. There are a lot more I’ve found recently. I still stand by the fact that ThrOes also sounds very original. The few people who have argued against this on some kind of principle have all done a very poor job indeed of saying “it essentially just sounds like band a mixed with band b, and sometimes band c”. They just can’t. It’s too elusive and concerned with walking it’s own path to suffer those pitfalls.
TO: Is there a follow up to ‘This Viper Womb’ in the works? Will it continue in the same path of the debut, both lyrically and musically?
ThOes: Yes, work is firmly underway to the follow up album and a lot of big plans have already been set in motion. Expect it to be bigger, better, dark, atonal, hypnotic, aggressive, groove oriented and lyrically it will follow similar themes. New collaborators too.
TO: Thank you for taking the time! Anything else you’d like to add?
ThrOes: Thanks a lot for the support. The album has just been released through Aesthetic Death as a deluxe high quality digi-cd. Do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of this while these gorgeous editions last, and experience the work in it’s full glory.
You can follow Trent’s musings on his blog: https://throesofficial.wordpress.com/