Death in the Grimelight: An interview with Tomb Mold

It was only six months ago that we first “expose[d] you to a virulent new strain of deadly Canadian fungus known as Tomb Mold” via our weekly column, Demo:listen, and since then, Blood Harvest has reissued their sold-out demo, and the duo have written eleven more tracks of tentacular and strangling death metal. While their demo, The Bottomless Perdition, is still in heavy rotation, their new EP, The Moulting, is intimidatingly good. The first run of tapes sold out in only a few days, but don’t worry if you didn’t grab one. The band assures me that more are coming within a week or two.

In an effort to reconcile their inhuman rate of production, I got in touch with Derrick and Max of Tomb Mold not only to assuage my paranoid fears that they’re truly of a different ilk than human, but also to get an idea of the terroir of Tomb Mold, that is the full context of where this sickness is coming from. What I (re-)discovered was that not only are the two men behind Tomb Mold regular and totally normal human beings, but they’re also completely down-to-earth. And in a subculture where too many bands attempt to supplant substance and personality with mystery and so-called occultism, Tomb Mold's candid sincerity is more than refreshing. It’s reaffirming.

First, please reveal yourself. Who are you, and what do you do in Tomb Mold?

Derrick: I, Derrick, handle all of the guitar and bass duties.

Max: Max Klebanoff, drums, vocals, and the electronic elements on every release.

“Molt” is a weird word. It gets that “u” in its present tense form. But moulting itself is a ubiquitous thing. Trees and birds do it, and we call it moulting. Dogs and snakes do it, we call it shedding. Humans do it. Books do it. We call that dust. Horrendous called it Ecdysis. But Tomb Mold’s The Moulting reveals an unexpected musculature beneath what—some might say—was yet-fresh skin. Or is that you’ve slipped into another skin for this EP?

Derrick: I think for me, it’s a sort of shedding. The term itself does tie into the subject matter of the tape, but I think this EP does strip away some of the elements we were hiding under. With the first demo, we sort of confined ourselves with the writing approach. We started this band thinking, “ok, we both love Finnish DM, so let’s use that as jumping off point”. It was great at first to have a clear guideline to help us get comfortable with writing music together, but after that we did away with feeling bound by anything. This tape along with some other recordings we have coming out, show us writing with more freedom.

Max: We’ve definitely grown and moved out of our comfort zone that were carved while writing The Bottomless Perdition. The approach we took for the first tape was something much more immediate, but we knew that we couldn’t revisit the same writing formula within every release becoming more and more tiresome and tedious. Writing the Primordial Malignity LP and subsequently The Moulting EP entailed shedding any restrictive element we might have placed on ourselves in the early stages of the band, in favour of writing simple what feels best to us. No excess, just death.

The production seems different on this new EP than it does on the demo, but not immensely so. How was The Moulting recorded VS. How was The Bottomless Perdition demo recorded?

Derrick: There’s more guitar tracks on this tape compared to the first, but Max can handle the specifics.

Max: The methods for recording each tape were basically the same, only the equipment used on The Moulting was more “sophisticated”. The Bottomless Perdition was laid down in a fairly crude fashion, but it was the first band recording that I actually had a vested interest in making the final product sound semi-decent. The Moulting’s difference in the production quality is basically the result of me trying to hone my recording skills.

“Feed Them Hate” is about the endless surface-wards journey by a hybrid species of subterranean humanoid insects, or am I way off the mark here? Is this song sociopolitically leaning?

Derrick: Very much on the mark. It does have some leanings for sure, particularly with how wasteful society can be and the impact it has.

Would you say that most of your songs have an underlying layer of sociopolitical criticism?

Derrick: I think it’s safe to say that. Max and I share the lyric writing duties. I’m conscious of what some of the sci fi/outerworld themes are saying about the world we live in, particularly about abuse and consequence.

Max: There have been some political elements in the lyrics I’ve written, but I try to keep any allusions buried in symbolism so it’s less overt. "Vehement Indulgences" from The Moulting deals with some morbid elements of gluttony in relation to resource depletion and over-consumption, but most of my other lyrics rarely explicitly address any political topic.

Did any bands specifically inspire the latter third of “Feed Them Hate,” when the music gets really groovy and swampy-like?

Derrick: Bolt Thrower and Cianide.

Max: There’s probably some unintentional Cianide vibes during that portion, maybe some Disma too.

What can you reveal about the impending full length, and how is it different from The Bottomless Perdition and The Moulting?

Derrick: The full length, Primordial Malignity, will be released by Blood Harvest records. It was recorded between Boxcar Studios in Hamilton and Max’s basement. Will Killingsworth at Dead Air handled the mixing and mastering duties and he did a fantastic job. Very excited about how it sounds. I’ll let Max answer how it’s different from the two tapes.

Max: The LP is a huge leap from the first demo in terms of technicality and just general production. I feel like that concepts of the LP were more calculated than the first demo, thematically the tracks are more cohesive to fit to the loose narrative of the LP which was definitely not present on our first demo. On a personal level, the material for both Primordial Malignity and The Moulting comes across as far more hateful and tense than the first demo. I don’t think either of us planned for either to turn out that way, but the end result yields a more honest portrait of the band. We worked with many great people while putting the record together. Killingsworth brought the sessions to life with his usual expertise, Yuri Kahan of Funebrarum perfectly captured the lyrical content in his illustration for the LP cover. Will definitely be working with both of them again in the future.

When do you expect the full length to be released?

Derrick: Hopefully before the end of the year. If not, early 2017!

How is Tomb Mold so very prolific? In about a year’s time you’ve written—what? A dozen songs? And each of them is unique and downright killer. Do you two live near each other, or are you roommates, or something? How often do you practice?

Derrick: Yeah I guess we’ve written a solid amount within the year, almost more like 8 or 9 months. Funny enough, we don’t get to practice that often. Usually it’s once every couple of weeks. I guess first of all, when it’s just two of us, we don’t have to teach anyone anything. I would sit around in the evenings and while watching basketball or playing video games I would just keep my guitar beside me and constantly fuck around on it. Once I got an idea I would just roll with it then record a demo of it and send it to Max. By the time we got to practice it, he’d already have ideas for each part and we’d just figure out the final structure and bang it out. Also, we’ve been playing together on and off for about 6 years now? The level of comfort I have playing and writing with Max goes unmatched.

Max: I think it’s around 15 songs now with the new EP? Really dreading the idea of having to pick only a few songs to play live once we get our act together and form a live line up. Derrick and I have been in bands together for about 6-7 years now so the writing chemistry is pretty streamlined. We don’t have any shows or other band commitments so all of our time and energy is spent writing and putting out new things. During the writing sessions for the LP, we were practicing about once a week, learning a new song each practice and playing the previously written ones to death. Since we’re not playing shows, there was no reason to practice unless we had new material to work with. Once we add members to create a live line up, our output will obviously suffer, but the compromise would be having an actual band that can play live.

So what do you two think of Yuri Kahan’s drawing for your debut? What sort of direction did you give him? To me it’s like Away’s take on some unwritten Clive Barker sci-fi story.

Derrick: I’m very excited with what he came up with the LP. He is also responsible for the new logo we are sporting on The Moulting as well as the LP. We showed him the record and the lyrics and kind of just let him run wild with it. He’s so talented, I didn’t want to give him specific guidelines, I knew whatever he came up with we would love. It ties in very nicely with a few songs on the LP that all revolve around the same character.

Max: Yuri is by far one of the best artists I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. The image of the twisted glory of a man-made creation groping and consuming its maker is represented pretty damn well in the cover. I think he also incorporated some of the LP’s content on scientific deviancy run amok.

Writing-wise, which came first, The Moulting or the yet-to-be-released Primordial Malignity?

Derrick: Primordial Malignity came first. The Moulting was written during the record/mixing process for PM.

Max: The material for The Moulting was written almost immediately after the LP. Stylistically, The Moulting is in the same vein as the material on the LP, however the tracks were meant to be stand-alone songs that didn’t fit within a longer narrative like the material on the LP.

Will Tomb Mold ever play live?

Derrick: When Max learns to sing while playing drums, then yes. We plan to start practicing with a bass player soon while we take a break from writing new songs. We’re still on the search for a 2nd guitarist.

Max: We’re hoping to have a functioning live line-up by the end of this year, maybe sooner if we give up on finding a drummer and I end up doing both vocals and drums, haha. But yes, we will definitely exist in a live environment sometime in the near future.

Any news regarding shirts? My life feels incomplete without a Tomb Mold long sleeve. Do you envision these, too?

Derrick: Obviously longsleeves will happen.

Max: Longsleeves and other hellish wares are definitely in the our future, most likely with more art from Yuri.

Alright, thanks a lot for taking the time to answer these questions, Max and Derrick. Any closing words?

Derrick: Thanks so much for this, thanks for being so supportive. It means a lot.

Max: Thanks for supporting us from day one, Dutch.

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Indeed, great things are afoot if you’re into the kind of quality intelligent and atmospheric death metal that Tomb Mold exemplifies. So look out for the second pressing of The Moulting tapes, as well Primordial Malignity, to be released by Blood Harvest.

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