Bands like Gojira and Godflesh might be major brand names ‘round these parts, but mention them to your average Metallica-loving broseph and you’re likely to get a squinty-eyed, the-fuck-you-say? half-nod. But Decibel just won’t quit. We dig deeper, danker, darker and dirtier (though rarely fitter or happier) to turn up a few otherwise overlooked gems. While Throw Me a Frickin’ Bone lays it out all hard-copy-like, every Friday the Deciblog brings you the stealthiest bandcampiest demos, EPs, singles, one-offs, full-lengths, and start-up acts that catch our attention with Frickin’ Bone 2.0: Bonin’ the Interhole.
Your world just got a little bit larger. State-hoppers Bound By Entrails (Wisconsin by way of Alaska by way of Iowa) bring widescreen clarity and color to their proggy black-death shenanigans. Focusing on compositional integrity and musicianship without relinquishing the aggressive power that makes it metal, the six-year-old band (not a band of six-year-olds; that would be ridiculous) drives their material forward with hard-edged melodies and embellishes on the heady framework with all manner of unmetal instrumentation. Push play and engage their body/soul-mangling meanderings with your whole self. At your desk. In your cubicle. While the moron next to you trudges to the manager’s desk to complain about you. Again.
First of all, that album intro for The Stars Bode You Farewell is striking. When in the process did the idea for that come up?
Tyler: Chris recorded a street performer in Sweden, right? The production touches really made it sound cool.
Brett: Yeah, our former lead guitarist, Swedish born Christopher Hansson was back in Sweden visiting family and he came upon a street performer playing accordion. The performance was so moving to Chris that he decided to record the performance. As I listened to what he captured, I was mesmerized by the haunting tone of the performer's instrument against the city backdrop. To me, it sounding like a lamentation of the olden times, and an reluctant acceptance to the changing of the tides of tradition. We also feel that this man's struggles symbolically represent mankind's beautiful tragedies and that there is always something amazing even in the darkest of fucked up circumstances.
After 3 full-length records, how would you say your musical/philosophical direction has shifted over time (or has it)?
Billy: I think as Brett started to come to me with ideas that were less overtly black metal I was encouraged to let some other influences show through. It was sort of a fluid process from "The Oath...", starting with incorporating clean vocals and more varied song structures that made me think outside the box for this release. Hence, the occasional jazz organ bits (e.g. “Threshold of Fear”) and the unusual harmonies and synth samples (e.g. “Traced in Arcane Rime”). Midway through recording I also got my accordion and the Navajo flute (both heard on the album) and my experimentation combined with the natural strengths/limitations of those instruments compared to a keyboard or guitar gave me some ideas that I would not have come up with otherwise.
Brett: I think Billy's explanation really outlines the importance of working together as a band. We wouldn't be willing to categorize ourselves as "progressive" if we hadn't progressed, and I don't think that would have happened if any of us was resistant to each other's musical input. I also don't think that any of the changes in musical style have ever actually been a conscious effort. I remember our first rehearsal of the song “Apprehension”, and we all just stopped and realized that we were not the same band anymore. I think at that point a lot of bands would have considered throwing out the song or rewriting it to fit into their predetermined constrains of their genre. Our instincts told us to go with it.
What are your primary musical influences? Non-musical influences?
Tyler: To keep it short, my primary influences as far as my approach to the kit are old school death metal and thrash, and I was catching that 'Second Wave of Black Metal' when it hit the US (I was picking up my first BM CDs the summer before my sophomore year, so 1994), and that really did it for me. I could go on forever with specifics. Non-musical influence include getting outdoors and hiking.
Billy: Lots of black metal, especially Norwegian/Eastern European (Windir, Nokturnal Mortum, Enslaved, Borknagar), progressive music in many forms like Zappa, King Crimson, to more modern extreme groups I admire: Shining (of Norway), Pryapisme, Ihsahn of course. I’ve played classical piano my whole life and jazz more recently, so I think that informs a lot of what I write and enjoy. I played in a jam rock band a la Grateful Dead/Phish during the first half of this album’s creation so that’s another big one. Non-musical: all the clichés really, for better or worse. Alaskan wilderness and nature, solitude, Norse mythology, philosophy, friends and bandmates.
Brett: I have to give big props to the second wave Norwegian Black Metal for the initial influence. The very first time I ever picked up a guitar, I made it my goal to learn every song on Satyricon's Nemesis Divina. Currently, my primary influences are all over the place. I think our overt influences are pretty easy to pick out, so I won't bore you with that list, but less known would be some Opeth, Johnny Cash, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, as well as some Type-O Negative. I think this details one thing that I think makes us pretty unique...we all bring a large collective of influences to our sound. Non-musical: the Norse Mythology seen through the eyes of current events. Also, the outdoors and stereotypical junk like that.
Your metal-archives status suggested [at the time of the interview] that you're on hold. You just put out a new album this summer. What gives?
Brett: This was an accident, actually. Being that MA is run like a wiki, anyone can change these things. One of the moderators noticed and sent me an email asking if this was correct. After explaining our band's current status, he deemed that we were still considered active by MA standards, so as far as I know the status has been changed back. Some people believe that since we are not physically together right now, this means we are not an active band. Actually, we are probably more active right now than we were in the last 6 months that I was still in Alaska. But, our last year or so was....interesting, to say the least. Maybe this is where the idea came from.
Tyler: We're active in the sense that we're promoting and distributing the album, but life called and pulled a few of the members out of state, so that killed any chance of promoting this album with a live tour.
Brett: Yeah, and we are still working together to put out a live EP right now. It is a grouping of live recordings from 2010, and will be out for download soon.
Brett, how do you feel about harsh vocals vs. clean singing? What prompts you to choose one over the other for a particular part?
Brett: Well, I got sick of screaming and growling all of the time. Behind closed doors, I would sing to my daughter and to my wife. But on the stage, I never could build the confidence to do the same. Then the track "Seafarer's Journey" (on The Oath...the Burden) came along and I just had a feeling that it needed some cleans. This was my first dabbling of clean vocals in metal. It worked, and I felt good about how it sounded. I just decided to run with it. Even since then, I just go by the feeling that accompanies the music.
What does the album title refer to?
Brett: It comes from two lines of a poem I wrote long ago. I no longer know the entire poem, but I never forgot these two lines: "Death, the stars bode. You farewell your contentions and peace finds you long forgotten." Though obviously not grammatically correct, I chose to use the portion of the phrase "The Stars Bode You Farewell" to hint at an ominous bidding of goodbyes. However, when we originally came up with the title, this album was only slated as an EP that was going to signify a farewell to the old BBE and a dawn on a new era. Ironically, it became more true than it ever was intended, as we truly are saying our farewells.
With so many parts, I'm interested in what the songwriting process is like for a BBE song.
Tyler: I never felt it was that complicated, personally. We all worked together very well, especially us main core members (Brett, Billy, and myself). Then again, I'm not a guitarist and I never had to write riffs. I just hit things! Usually, Brett would come in with riffs, and us guys would put together a skeletal structure of a song pretty quickly. Then it was just a matter of refining it to something we were all happy with.
Brett: I'm not really sure how to answer this. It seems that everything just fell into place, but really these songs all took a long time in the making. Tyler's account is pretty close, though I spent a lot of time tweaking each of those riffs and arranging the different phrases to make a complete song. It was all a pretty laboring task on my brain. I took a lot of cues from old rock and country bands (ex: Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly) in song structure to help build some of the tracks. Those old timers had a knack for writing spectacular songs. Billy was usually the last to add his delicate touch to the songs. Like the jazzy organ solo in "Threshold of Fear"....I don't know where the hell that came from, but it is probably my favorite part of the song, maybe even the album.
Billy: Usually for me, I would take the skeleton of scratch guitar home with me from the studio and put it on repeat in my headphones as I sat at my keyboard/piano/guitar/accordion/flute etc. [Brett's note: makes me sick how talented this fucker is!] and jammed ideas out, improvising over time and consecutive listens. Then after all that, I go into the studio and end up throwing out half of it in favor of improv anyway (haha). I recorded some of my parts in the laundry/music room of my house in college in Washington and sent them back to Brett so that was a little unusual. Brett’s neighbors really loved to hear us finalizing accordion/flute ideas at 3:00am too, I’m sure. But our pieces definitely became more experimental over time also. I remember when Brett first showed me his ideas for With “Vernal Impunity” and my perception at the time that it would become a straight ahead, no nonsense kind of black metal track. Then when he added the leads and I heard how he had produced my initial parts I got inspired to add new elements/write the interlude…and with the drums complete it became so much more than the sum of its parts. That was one of my favorite things about making this album: having a clear conception of what I wanted initially just to have it turned on its head in surprising ways as the whole thing came together.
What other non-BBE activities are your members into?
Brett: I've become somewhat of an environmentalist and have grown into a socially responsible individual who understands that what is good for the community is eventually good for me and my kind. Oh, and I drink a lot of beer and brew mead, I'm a Radiology Professional at the University Hospital, deliver pizzas, ride bikes and tinker on vintage mopeds. I think I spend the majority of the time with my wife though. She's pretty entertaining. I'm also working on a new musical project with the old BBE drummer (Jesse Stika) and another fellow I recently met, called The Fire Sermon.
Tyler: I play drums for a surf rock band called Bottle Caps For Dollars currently, been playing with them for the past year or so now. It's fun, and a big change of pace musically speaking (going from an average song length of 5-6min to tunes that barely clock in at 3. lol). Other than that, I get out and hike (such AMAZING scenery up here!), hang with friends, and do the family thing with my wife and pets. I don't party real hard these days, and stay pretty low key really.
Billy: I was in school studying biology/chemistry for the entirety of this album and recently graduated. Now I’m doing genetics research part time and preparing to go to medical school. I sang and played accordion in an 8-piece Baroque/Irish Folk/Gypsy Jazz group (“Witchbear”) in Walla Walla and we’ll finish recording our first album this fall. Besides music, I like to draw, read, drink beer, longboard/frisbee golf in the summer, snowboard in the winter. Hopefully starting a black/folk metal project with Tyler this fall/winter when I have a bit more time.
Can't get enough? Catch more incredible entrail binding at http://boundbyentrails.bandcamp.com.