Photo by Doug Donaldson
By now, everyone knows the backstory behind Inverloch. The band was created when two cornerstones of the legendary Australian death/doom cult Disembowelment decided to start jamming on that old material again, nearly two decades after Disembowlment's game-changing first (and final) album, Transcendence into the Peripheral, came out. First manifested on select festival stages as d.USK, the project—which features original Disembowelment members Matt Skarajew and Paul Mazziotta—morphed into Inverloch, and started releasing new, original tunes starting with 2012's Dusk I Subside EP.
Now, the band is gearing up to release its debut full-length, Distance | Collapsed, later this week (March 4) via longtime supporters Relapse Records—and we're streaming it in full below, to give you an early taste of their obliteratingly heavy death/doom (emphasis on the death).
After an aborted Skype mission that was entirely my fault, I finally caught up with guitarist Skarajew super early Melbourne time (the man's a trooper) to find out what's going on with the band now that their metaphorical rise from the ashes has solidified into a bonafide second act for these doomed lifers.
Noisey: Distance | Collapsed is out very soon, and you must be excited - this is the first full-length from Inverloch. Did you ever think you'd get to this point when you and the lads reignited the spark post-Disembowelment?
Matt: We’re really surprised and excited by the response so far! It took a long time to get the songs to a point I was satisfied with to record and release, and the recording was a real journey of sorts, but we kept at it and it’s come together nicely. Relapse have been so cool about not pressuring us to deliver a record in any hurry. I think they see us as a bit of a legacy act [laughs]. I guess I’ve been with them since ’91 in one form or another! Anyway, I’m glad Distance | Collapsed is finally out.
Do you see this as a turning point for the band? At this point, I'd venture to guess that a lot of the band's newer fans might not even be fully aware of Disembowelment.
Perhaps not so much as a turning point, but rather a statement of our intentions and self-belief perhaps. I think you’re right – there must be a number of followers out there that are less aware of the past. That's kind of refreshing – a little less nostalgia and perhaps some open ears and minds that we can lay a fresh foundation with.
The production on this record is crystal-clear—the guitars sound dark and ugly, but you can really hear what's happening, and you don't hide behind layers of distorted murk like so many other death/doom outfits. What went into the recording of this album? Which song was the most difficult to nail down?
I’m pleased to hear your thoughts on the production. Joel Taylor and I worked very hard to produce an album we could be proud of, and I wanted an album that showed how much effort went into it. I think we’ve been around long enough that we should be able to produce an album that sounds like Distance | Collapsed. Joel was stoic that we should never settle for sub-standard performances or sonics. We had a very small budget and just worked at it! We recorded it all here in Melbourne. The drums were recorded in a beautiful room with classic mics and outboard gear, and I tracked guitars, bass and vocals at my studio at work. We did some additional recordings at Black Lounge, Joel’s studio. The album was mixed at great little boutique studio called Tender Trap, and Joel just worked his magic. Don’t misunderstand me – I love dark and murky recordings too – but I wanted this one to sound as big and ethereal as I could. I wanted it to capture the essence of the old days, but with a beautiful production quality. I design my records for those listeners sitting up late at night just getting lost in a particular record – you know that feeling. I want them to go on a little journey with our records. It’s kinda corny, but that’s my approach. Finally, it was mastered by Brad Boatright at Audioseige in the U.S and he did a great job. He understands that the meters don’t always need to be slamming and he left plenty of headroom. That means the music has room to breathe and will sound much deeper, more dimensional and less strained.
The trickiest song to get right in the studio was actually one that is not on the record, interestingly. It actually served more as an intro that book-ended the record with "Cataclysm of Lacuna." It will surface in time, but it just didn’t feel right to open the record with it.
Doom and death metal are both bigger than ever, though neither has really changed all that much since the 80s. Why do you think people are so drawn to the dark, heavy stuff? What need or desire does a truly crushing riff satisfy?
I suppose the essence of death metal and doom have remained the same – but bands are always putting their own spin on things. Metal is no different to say, be-bop jazz, blues or any other stylized genre. The stylistic nuances remain intact because that is what speaks to the musicians and the listeners. In this genre and with what Inverloch does, I believe it is the power of contrast that captures a listeners’ spirit. From the immensely heavy, to the despairingly beautiful – it triggers an emotional response, and that’s what I play on. Colors, contrast, mood, dynamics, melodic and harmonic contradictions and interactions. It might be a simpler music from the suburbs, but the essence is no different to any ‘high’ aesthetic art form. What I love about this genre, is that you can analyze it and think very intently, or just kick back, be creative, or simply listen and absorb on a number of levels. It’s all valid in my opinion.
What's the best thing about playing in this band?
Being able to express my musical ideas and watching them grow and develop with the bands’ collective input. Also being able to get out and play this music, to still be writing, recording and performing the music we love after such a long time – it’s a huge opportunity and one I don’t ever want to waste. The other great thing is the awesome feeling when you know someone has connected with the music you’ve made and it really means something to them. That is so humbling and inspiring.
What have you got planned for this year, in terms or touring or festivals?
We have a short European tour with Usnea coming up in April, which will be killer! They are so crushing and heavy! We will both be playing at Roadburn Festival this year, and we will go out for 2 weeks across Europe right up until the SWR Festival in Portugal. After that we have to go home, but Usnea will carry on with other great shows. Hopefully we can get back to Europe again this year or early next year, and I just wish we could get ourselves to the U.S once and for all! We will play a limited number of shows in Australia, too.
You seem to be able to make it out of Australia fairly often, something that a lot of your countrymen struggle with. How difficult is it to play in a touring band in Australia? What are the major roadblocks—and what kind of advice would you give newer bands hoping to get around them?
I’m not sure Australia’s population size and mass of area allows many (or any) bands to be ongoing touring bands, but if you can get the right support behind you and get overseas, it’s very possible. I notice King Parrot are doing a lot shows and touring, so good for them! Cost is the biggest roadblock, and attitudes of the band members and the ability to work a musical life around your professional lives are significant factors. We all know by now you can’t really live off this genre unless you are really selling well and playing big shows all over, and even that candle can burn out pretty quickly, so typically bands in this genre revolve around your working life.
Any advice of mine is to treat every opportunity as if it is your last – stay focused, work your ass off and remember it can all be gone tomorrow. The only guarantee in life is that things will change – so be resilient and ready to adjust.
I've got to know—when are you coming here to NYC?
Oh god, we would be there next week if we could get the right visas and had a show offer. Getting to the U.S has proven tricky for us in the past – but we’ll keep at it. Fingers crossed!
Catch Inverloch on tour this coming April with Usnea:
Apr 14 Tilburg NL Roadburn Festival
Apr 15 Bruxelles, BL Magasin 4
Apr 17 Regensburg, DE Alte Mälzerei
Apr 18 Bologna, IT Freakout Club
Apr 19 Trieste, IT Tetris Club
Apr 20 Karlsruhe DE Jubez
Apr 21 France TBC
Apr 22 Oviedo, ES
Apr 23 Barroselas, PT SWR Fest