Maybe it's been 4 years since UK hellions Craven Idol released debut LP Towards Eschaton, but they don't waste a second reintroducing their blackened attack. The Shackles of Mammon – out April 14th from Dark Descent Records – captures Craven Idol at their most frenzied, surging with the might and majesty of extreme metal's first wave. Album opener "Pyromancer" starts with a spark in the darkness, and grants you enough time for half a breath before it rages into a five-alarm inferno.
"Besides keeping true to our foundations, I wanted to create a much more pissed off and furious record," shares guitarist/vocalist S. Vrath. "We wanted to draw more on our black/thrash/crust influences such as (Germany's) Poison, Bathory, and Master’s Hammer rather than Manilla Road, Venom, and Candlemass. I’m not saying those elements are missing, but the former is certainly more prevalent this time 'round."
With co-founder Scourger uninvolved in this record, Craven Idol retooled with a new lineup: Vrath's Crom Dubh collaborator Obscenitor has assumed guitar duties, and the awesomely named Heretic Blades now sits behind the kit. Together, they have forged The Shackles of Mammon into a weapon that skewers worship and complacency amidst barbed-wire riffs and frantic snarls.
Check out Vrath's thoughts on holy tapeworms, pyromania, and worship bands in the interview below. But first: Press play and shatter The Shackles of Mammon.
You have commented on your resistance to being a "worship" band. Do you think homage is the enemy of true creativity?
Vrath: There clearly is demand for such worship out there. I find it incredibly lazy and uninspired, but it’s also a safe place to be. It is sonic reenactment and I don’t really see the point of it. Then again, I never saw the point of reenacting battles of the American Civil War either, so maybe I’m missing something. I realize there’s a craving for more albums from a bygone era, but to my mind, paying homage to a musical legacy by copying is a futile errand. Bands like Sarcofago grew up in deep poverty and horrific living conditions and their music was borne of anger, frustration, and hardship, the brutality is a mirror to their very souls. Their music – in its authentic form – could only exist in South America at that time and place. If your life is so dull and boring that you have to steal someone else’s emotional landscape for your music, maybe focus on gardening or taxidermy.
If you want to be a Satanist, be a Satanist. If you want to worship the tapeworm you’ve got slithering inside your intestines, then worship him/her – at least [he tapeworm] has an actual direct effect on your life. But do it genuinely and without compromise. You wouldn’t worship someone else tapeworm, would you? You suffer. But why?
You've talked about your band name's meaning before, and to me it always felt like a comment on people who use excuses (higher powers, deities, etc.) to avoid accepting responsibility for their own flaws and faults. How have you and your outlook of the world changed since Craven Idol first formed?
Vrath: That’s spot on! My outlook of the world has remained by-and-large the same, yet broadened a whole lot since my adolescence. To err is human, and we need an excuse for our actions, be it ‘fated,' the act of gods, or a trick played by ol’ Nick. We have invented myriad ways of covering our own arses. However, we live in an age where social media remembers everything, CCTV (the UK-wide camera network a la 1984) records everything, and everyone’s owned by someone (be a faceless corporation, your landlord, your bank, etc.).
Sci-fi author Philip K. Dick prophesized that we’d one day live in harmony with machines – everyone from the lowliest beggar to the man on the silver mountain – to the degree that we would rapidly evolve as a species. Quite the opposite has transpired, and to a large degree it has killed the Gods (at least in the first world). Excuses change, but our goals and greed remain the same. Hence the phantom chains of Mammon.
Are there any recurring or prominent lyrical themes on The Shackles Of Mammon?
Vrath: Yes, and it goes back to what you said about the band name. It looks into the concept of being shackled by your own creation; trapped in phantom chains. Demons, rituals, religions, sacrifice. These are pretext, attempts to understand the world, means for gaining power, narcissistic manifestations of corruption. As the title suggests, The Shackles Of Mammon is first and foremost about the influence of currency. But it's also about how our avarice is what’s causing our damnation. We are creatures of comfort – give me convenience or give me death!
"Marching to die, don’t know the reason why" is a line I directly lifted from Running Wild’s Branded and Exiled.
We also look into the role of fire as and its powers. This is a topic of personal interest to me, as I have been fascinated by flames from a young age.
How did you meet and recruit the new members appearing on this record, Obscenitor (guitar) and Heretic Blades (drums)?
Vrath: I have known Obscenitor for over a decade and have been a massive fan of his band Crom Dubh from the demo days. I ended up joining said band around 2011 so I’ve worked closely with him ever since. We are also part of the same close network of friends. Obscenitor joined the band initially as a session guitarist, helping out in Scourger’s absence. He fit into the fold so well that we even performed a show with him and Scourger on guitar and myself on vocals only. It didn’t really work, so once it became clear that Scourger’s future lay elsewhere, it was a natural choice. He is an exceptionally gifted musician and unique player.
Were there any substantial changes to your songwriting process with the new lineup?
Vrath: We have definitely grown stronger as a band working together on a common goal, rather than Scourger or I bringing songs into the rehearsals and taking it from there. Drummer Heretic Blades has stepped up massively and become my main partner in song-writing. I think when it comes to drumming, Heretic Blades is much closer to Scourger than to Volgard – so writing with him brings back the vibe of the early days of the band, when the two of us jammed in a tiny cellar near King’s Cross. Song-writing is immensely important, sometimes even more important than the actual riffs.
How do you approach playing in Craven Idol live? Is it more important to you to capture a certain energy, perform the songs as faithfully as possible, or do you have other priorities?
Vrath: It is certainly the energy over accuracy. We are quite a tight band naturally, so we’ve never really had to address being faithful to the releases. We all know our sections, leads, and so on, so what you will hear are the same songs. What I find to be of the utmost importance is that the essence of the songs comes across to the audience. The fury, the frustration, the release of it into a crowd. There has to be a sense of threat. This is not a safe space.
What do you have planned for Craven Idol in 2017, and beyond?
Vrath: We have some killer gigs booked. First we’ve organized our release show at the Black Heart in North London, and the week after we head to Scotland for the North Of The Wall Festival. We’ve also got a gig as main supports for Nifelheim in May.
We have also been busy writing new material since end of last year, and have got four songs in the workings. I am looking to do a split 7” with 1 or 2 of these numbers.
Meanwhile, we are also releasing our 2011 MLP Ethereal Altars for the first time on tape via a small UK tape label named Carvetii Productions; the batch is limited to 100 copies. It will feature our previously unreleased cover of Onslaught’s "Thermonuclear Devastation," Poison’s "Slaves Of The Crucifix," as well as the 2006 debut demo.