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Interview

Azath – “…what would Rock ‘n’ Rolf do”

To quote Fredde: “Old school Death Metal with no glitters and shine, just uncompromising with killer riffs and raw and primitive vocals ditto instruments, what does a man/woman need more?”. Well, nothing of course. So we asked Brandon Corsair a couple of questions, and fortunately for us…he had quite a chatty moment. (Fredde & Ricardo)

Let’s start with the unavoidable question…Could you tell us more about the history of the band, how things started…
Hello Fredde & Ricardo, thank you for reaching out to us to make this interview happen! Azath was founded by myself and by my good friend Andrew Lee in 2018 as a way to make extremely fast, punishing death metal in a style and scene that just does not have enough bands that venture past mid-paced. I wrote pre-prod versions of all of the demo songs, and was initially slated to do vocals on the songs as well. After I’d written the lyrics but before I had a chance to record anything vocally, I was struck by the inspiration to ask another good friend, Derek Orthner from Begrime Exemious, if he’d be interested to get on vocals instead because I remembered that he’d done a Bolt Thrower cover with Begrime. He joined on and we finished the demo with myself on rhythm guitar, Andrew on leads and bass, and Derek on vocals.

By the time the demo came out I was mostly done with the arrangements for the album, and we reached around to find a good session drummer for it. Derek shifted to bass to make the lineup gig-capable, and we sat down to record the album. To our horror, the session drummer we hired strung us along for months with promises that he was almost ready and that he’d do it shortly but eventually admitted that the material was too difficult for him and then ran off with the money we’d paid him up-front!

Fortunately, Pierce was recommended to us by Charlie Koryn as a replacement session drummer, and he not only did an excellent job but ended up joining the band as a full member afterwards, so I’d say it all worked out. We finished the recordings and as of a few months ago, our debut album came out!

What inspired you to start a band in this style, which bands grabbed you by the throat and influenced you with the sound and songwriting within Azath?
There were a variety of reasons I wanted to do it. I was listening to Ritual Necromancy and talking to Andrew when I got the idea, as I recall- the fastest parts were just mind blowing, but the band often slows down, sometimes for entire songs. There’s nothing wrong with that obviously and I’m a big fan of theirs, but it got us to talking about how few bands there are taking influence from Immolation and Incantation these days that actually write fast songs, as opposed to leaning more into doom and atmosphere. Andrew and I had been working together on various musical things for years, had written a grindcore album together, and I guested on his debut solo album, but we’d yet to do a death metal band and it just felt like it was time. My own main death metal band, Draghkar, had been moving steadily away from aggression which also fueled the move a bit- I needed an outlet for my love of more straightforward death metal, and I didn’t have one anymore.

Most of our influences are pretty obvious, I would say. The big ones are Morbid Angel, Incantation, Immolation, Molested, and Autopsy. Something people might not guess is that a lot of the melodies and way the songs are constructed come from my love of heavy metal- a big songwriting crutch I used when putting together the album was to think “what would Rock ‘n’ Rolf do” whenever I’d get stuck. I also took a lot of influence from Slayer and Razor which is always a necessity at these tempos!

What is your opinion on your “Demo 2018”, released by Caligari Records, these days?
We’re happy with how the demo went by and large. We self-recorded it as a traditional promotional demo to find us a label, and it served its purpose. Initially we didn’t even plan to release it physically because it wasn’t meant to be a self-contained release, and the demo was digital-only at first. We realized after getting an absolutely overwhelming amount of support and label interest that people really wanted to own the demo on some sort of physical format as well, and Caligari Records made it happen. To date this is the single most “hyped” first release I’ve ever done across several bands, and it sold out both from us and from the label.

Two of the songs from the demo ended up being re-recorded because we knew that we could do more with them than the demo versions, but even as-is I think that it’s a really fun little release and I wouldn’t change much about it going back except for the art. I still think the cover is really cool and fits our music and themes perfectly, but I found out afterwards that the artist, Jan, has drawn a lot of covers for openly racist bands, and that many of those covers were themselves explicitly racist. Half of our band including myself are not white and had I known I would not have worked with Jan, nor will I ever work with him again. Racists can eternally fuck off.

What about your new album; “Through a Warren of Shadow”?
“Through a Warren of Shadow” was written mostly by me, with a couple songs and a lot of input coming from Andrew. The writing process was pretty straightforward; I sat down, came up with some riffs, set them up against a metronome, and rearranged and improvised until I had rhythm guitar for a song. Then I would go in, write any melodies or harmony or polyphony necessary, and send the entire package to Andrew, who would then program drums for demoing purposes and rearrange the songs as he felt was necessary. Once we’d gone back and forth and were satisfied with the final song for each one they were sent to Derek and Pierce to finish. Andrew also wrote a couple of songs and the ambient pieces, and I can’t comment on his writing process except to say that when they were done or mostly done he sent each to me for feedback and we worked together to finalize those much as we did on the songs I wrote.

Similarly, recording was done mostly DIY. Andrew and Derek are both accomplished audio engineers, and it made sense to handle as much of the recording and mixing process as possible. We paid Charlie Koryn to track Pierce’s drums and our friend Adam to reamp guitars, and then Andrew made any necessary edits and Derek mixed.

Reactions have been mostly good, and though it wasn’t for everyone there was a lot more positive attention than negative. The people who liked the demo liked the album, and we’ve made a lot of new fans along the way. We managed to sell out all of our copies of the vinyl, most of our tapes (just a handful left), and CD sales are still going strong and I hope that we’ll eventually sell out of those as well. Azath was never going to be the next Blood Incantation hype-wise and would have fit better with death metal’s various trends a decade ago, but it did well enough that we’re all happy with it from our side and made some really good friends along the way.

Who created the cover with his immense dragon? Why was this cover chosen? Could this be some kind of band mascot for the future? And does the dragon have a name?
The album was also a great opportunity to work with Mark Riddick for the cover artwork, logo, and additional artwork- he’s always been on my bucket list as a guy I just had to work with, and Derek has worked with him before for Begrime Exemious, but I just never had the opportunity prior. Mark followed my concept for the cover art and the main piece of additional artwork wonderfully, and was also kind enough to draw another couple pieces for our layout that made the whole package come together better than I ever imagined it would. It was great getting him out of his comfort zone with the dragon, and we’re all really happy with all of the art.

The concept for this cover originally dates back to Korabas, an immense dragon from the Malazan books who was crucified because of her power, as well as to Sorrit, a dragon impaled fatally at some point off-screen in the books. The imagery of an impaled dragon captivated me, and that’s what I told Mark Riddick to draw- an impaled dragon. Obviously, we’re a death metal band first and foremost, and it wasn’t important to me that the cover or any of the additional artwork be a slavish recreation of anything from the series and I gave Mark a lot of room to do his thing with all of his work.

Unfortunately for anyone that wants another Eddie, there’s no plans to feature the dragon on anything else other than maybe a shirt. Each release will have its own unique artwork.

What do you consider as the musical difference between your latest release “Through a Warren of Shadow” and its predecessor; “Demo 2018”?
Absolutely none aside from the obvious changes in production and lineup. The demo was composed alongside writing for the album as a way to find a label, and as a result very much came from the same headspace. We reworked the demo tracks after its release and I think the actual quality of the album is higher than the demo, but if you like one, you’ll like the other.

Lets talk about lyrics. Do certain books influence you?
I write all of the lyrics, and they’re all centered around the Malazan Book of the Fallen epic fantasy series, which is in my opinion the greatest chronicle of epic fantasy ever written. I am a huge bookworm and fantasy buff, and it was obvious to me when I sat down to write the music that I had to make the project entirely centered around Malazan given that I was at the time midway through reading it. Obviously the music comes first when I write these, but it’s very important to me to write about content that I relate to, and fantasy is much closer to my heart than general death metal concepts.

On the demo you used drum computers if my information is correct. Do you enjoy that sound, cause I’m not really the biggest fan… on this new release a real drummer was involved, could you tell us something more about that and why you added him?
As I’ve said the demo was just something to court labels, so finding a real drummer for it wasn’t a huge priority. We just wanted to record it and start shopping around for someone to release the album, and we figured that it’d also give us something to use to find a drummer for “Through a Warren of Shadow”.

We always planned to use a real drummer for the album, and fortunately for us, that ended up being Pierce. It was a real challenge tracking down someone that could play at 260 BPM cleanly and also wasn’t too busy to get involved, so we’re eternally grateful to Charlie for recommending him. Obviously we’re all also huge fans of Torture Rack and his other bands, so it was a plus that the drummer we found happened to be someone so cool!

About the drummer: in my review I praised him…was he touched or doesn’t he and the band care that much about extern compliments haha
Pierce certainly likes hearing nice things about his drumming! As with all reviews I see that talk up his playing I made sure to send it to him. I can’t speak for everyone but as much as I do everything I do entirely for myself, I love getting good reviews and good sales as well!

Pulverised Records and Namless Grave Records, eh?
I was already in contact with Pulverised Records via trading CDs with Draghkar for my distro, and I run Nameless Grave Records, so establishing that line of contact wasn’t difficult. I’m a big fan of Pulverised Records and worship bands like Under the Church, Desultory, and Interment and it’s a great honor to be a part of their roster; it made my whole year when Roy said he’d do the album. They were the first label I hit up, my top choice for the record, and while it’s hard to tell what the future holds I was very satisfied with Pulverised Records for the debut and I am happy to continue working with them if they want to.

What are your expectations for Azath in the future? Have you already written new songs or any old songs planning on releasing as an EP or split?
The pandemic postponed a planned tour with our friends in Drawn and Quartered, so a strong objective is to get on the road with some rescheduled dates with them as soon as the pandemic allows. We also have the split with the still-unnamed band coming, and I’ve started the earliest steps of jamming some riffs for another album that should be a bit more democratic than our debut; I’m hoping that every member writes a couple of songs next time.

We have a 7” split coming at some point with friends of ours and I wrote a song for that. It’s significantly more dynamic and Morbid Angel influenced than anything on the album, but still sounds like Azath! Expect big riffs and fast drums. The biggest change is that Andrew wrote all of the drums on “Through a Warren of Shadow” because we hired Pierce as a session drummer, and going forward he’ll be writing all of his own material so drum beats will be as different stylistically as he wants them to be.

How about shows? Some already planned and which one(s) are you thrilled for? Any chance Europe comes in the picture?
As I mentioned we had an upcoming tour that was shelved by the pandemic. Outside of that nothing- we were hoping to get offers for festivals, but the pandemic impacted the global festival scene quite a bit, and any future planning is indefinitely off the table until it’s safe and legal to play shows again.

Some of you are involved with acts like Begrime Exemious, Draghkar, Torture Rack, Ænigmatum and Grave Spirit to name a few. Any news on them to tell our readers?
Draghkar has a new album- our debut, actually- coming in just a couple weeks, and Ripped to Shreds dropped their sophomore on the same date and label as Through a Warren of Shadow. Andrew and I also play in a heavy metal band called Serpent Rider, and we’re working on our next release at the moment for release sometime next year. Ænigmatum dropped a new demo in May and Pierce will be returning to the studio later this year to start tracking drums for their sophomore album, and Andrew has released a couple of grindcore splits this year with Houkago Grind Time and EEGD. Andrew also has a new Ripped to Shreds split with Brain Corrosion coming out next month that I did some guest vocals on and am looking forward to having in hand.

Are there any bands or albums of your recent playlist you would like to mention? A rediscovery, an overlooked gem or an unsigned demo band that deserves attention?
I can’t express enough how much more love Soulskinner and Deathevokation deserve. I’ve been listening to them over and over again lately, and just hit Soulskinner’s Descent to Abaddon this morning. Both bands are extremely melodic, heavy, and atmospheric in a way that’s lacking in modern death metal. Sanctorum is similarly godly and even more underrated- they only ever released one album, and though it was finally pressed to vinyl the other year it didn’t generate nearly enough buzz and they still have copies of it, which is a travesty.

For more local stuff I have to encourage everyone to check out local heavy-hitters Ruin, who are consistently one of the most slept-on bands in modern death metal. Stygian Crown also came out with an excellent epic doom release this year that, alongside the excellent debut Fortress EP, gives me some serious hope for our local heavy metal scene for the first time in years.

Perhaps the last question: which band from Belgium and the Netherlands do you think rule? Yes, we like to hear which bands from our countries triggers you 😉
Admittedly the only death metal band I know from Belgium is Caducity, but I like them a fair bit! I also really dig some old heavy metal bands from Belgium such as Ostrogoth, Blast, and the mighty Acid!

The Dutch scene is much easier. I am of course a massive fan of Pentacle and the early Asphyx stuff, and I really, really dig bands like Swazafix, Sempiternal Deathreign, and Eternal Solstice. There was also an amazing ‘80s speed metal scene and I worship Defender, Leader, and Martyr off the top of my head.

Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts? Thanks for your time!
Thank you for inviting us to do this interview! Don’t forget to grab a copy of “Through a Warren of Shadow” while they’re still there, keep an eye out for new material, and check out the new Draghkar and Ripped to Shreds albums! To close out I’ll give a playlist of stuff I’ve been listening to today:

Soulskinner – Descent to Abaddon
Grendel’s Sÿster – Myrtle Wreath
Horrified – In the Garden of the Unearthly Delights
Anhedonist / Spectral Voice –  Abject Darkness / Ineffable Winds
Kawir – Αδράστεια