Combining D-beat and Old School Death Metal…not strange these fellas got their moniker from a Death Breath track. MP (drums), BH (bass & vocals) and CM (guitars) have just released their latest release “Serpents at the doorway of Death” and according to Tori Belle; “it continuously resonates music embodying Swedeath & OSDM acts such as Immolation, Bolt Thrower, & Entombed”. As always when we interview a band for the first time, let’s start with the beginning… (Ricardo)
The three of us have all been involved in the scene in Phoenix in some way for a long time, and we all know each other through a shared love of metal, punk and hardcore. But this is the first band we have all done together. We originally started out playing as a 2 piece in a doomier black metal style under a different name but were ultimately more influenced by the death metal, grind, and punk sounds we grew up with and shifted toward playing a hybrid of those instead. We played as a two piece for a while until MP ran into BH at a Neurosis show and talked about adding him on bass and vocals and thus Unembalmed was fully formed. We took the name from a Death Breath song, “Coffins of the Unembalmed Dead.” I had never heard Death Breath before and MP let me borrow his copy of “Stinking Up the Night.” I looked up the name and nobody had used it before so when I gave the CD back to MP I told him, “Yo! Unembalmed is a fucking cool name, no one is using it!”, and it was pretty much a done deal on the spot. The original concept was just punk tinged death metal that wasn’t super flashy but really heavy yet still fun to play. As far as memorable moments, I’d say the 2 highlights of the bands career so far have been playing our first show with Cerebral Rot and Fetid and appearing on Ken’s Death Metal Crypt.
We’ve played in various bands of all kids of styles within the genre for the last 20+ years so the music we’re making now isn’t a huge departure from our roots in this scene. We’ve always loved and been drawn to heavy, fast and cathartic music. It’s a release from our everyday life and a way to have fun. I think Unembalmed tries to embody the ferocious and confrontational attitude of punk and hardcore, but with the heaviness and nastiness of old school death metal. We aim to just make music that we enjoy ourselves without any kind of pretentiousness. The bands that most influenced the sound and song writing is stuff like Nausea, Axiom, and Sacrilege even though we don’t sound exactly like those bands. I think the riff from “Cybergod” by Nausea was rewritten about 10x times on “Stench…”. We definitely wanted to sprinkle some metallic, crusty, d beat into some old school death metal and keep a punk/death hybrid.
Before we start on your own music, in your opinion which historical release or releases absolutely defines the genre you’re playing?
The contemporary band we most closely resemble would probably be Acephalix. They have the perfect blend of death metal with punk influenced parts. Snet is another band near our style. Ensepulcher was also a band we all really loved that did a similar punk sound but their’s was more like Discharge meets OSDM. As far as classics, I think we definitely owe a great deal of influence to bands like Bolt Thrower and Grave.
What’s your opinion on your debut full-length “The Stench of Suffering” (CD & cassette released by Sewer Rot Records) release nowadays?
“Stench” was a great foundation and we’re proud of our first offering but it was simple and straightforward for us in retrospect. We wanted to grow as a band and develop our skills without stepping outside of the sound we established. The songs on “Stench” were the first things we wrote as Unembalmed, so I think we’ve grown a bit since then. But we’re still happy with how that recording turned out. We put all 8 songs out at once because we actually tried to record a demo before “Stench” with only 4 of the 8 or so songs we had at the time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t turning out how we had planned, so we scrapped it. In the end we wound up with an 8-song album that we recorded that both we and some others still consider a demo. The production was heavy and we love how well it hits. The artwork has a classic look and early 90’s feel. There’s a lot of reasons we’re proud of it and stand by it. Considering it was almost entirely done DIY, we got a lot of good feedback and we love how well it was received. More people got into it then we were expecting and its really humbling to produce music that people are drawn to and appreciate.
You’ve recently released your EP “Serpents at the Doorway of Death” (CD & cassette released by Sewer Rot Records)…
During the writing on “Serpents” we wanted to expand our skillset on our instruments and step up the complexity of the riffs a bit. We recorded at SER Studios with Shane Matsumoto, just as with “Stench”, but we wanted a little more polish on the sound this time. It’s still pretty fresh with a recent release date, but the feedback we’ve received has been great. People seem to be enjoying the direction in which we’re taking our sound. The artwork was handled by Fear of Napalm (IG: @fear.of.napalm). We’re really into all things related to Left Hand Path and the occult, especially Satanism, Witchcraft and Wicca. Also mysticism, esotericism, ceremonial magick, and horror movies. Our album cover is laden with symbolism that ties into all of these elements. Its focus would be sacrifice and change to reach and manifest a desired outcome within the ritual. The word death doesn’t pertain to the end of life in this circumstance, but more or less a transition into a new creation, for nothing truly ever ceases to exist.
There isn’t necessarily a constant concept woven between all the songs aside from the normal tropes you’d find in death metal lyrics. They tend to gravitate to a handful of disparate topics at any given time. On “Stench” the songs were all about elements of biologically dying, the undead, and Satan. On “Serpents” the songs were inspired more by certain horror movies with Faustian elements like “Hellraiser” or “The Beyond” where there’s a character sort of longing to be free of this reality so they look for another and don’t like what they find. But there’s also songs about the last few years and the global unrest surrounding COVID-19 and basically how that tension relates to death and its finality. That being said, “Soultaker” is a song about a murderous Lyft driver. So, there’s some more humorous moments in the lyrics too. That being said, I think there’s some low-key importance to death metal lyrics. I like a lot of death metal vocal styles that are somewhat unintelligible. But I’m not sure that would work with my current vocal style. That puts some pressure on the lyrics being good. A lot of the times good lyrics make a death metal song, for me anyway. But since death metal vocal are mostly pretty monotone, I understand that some people’s taste just views them more as a guide for the music. I think it just depends on the listener, but for me I think the lyrics are as important as anything else.
What do you consider as the musical difference between your latest release “Serpents at the Doorway of Death” and its predecessor; “The Stench of Suffering“?
The songs aren’t as straightforward and are built differently. Also, we progressed as musicians and are better at our instruments. I think we found and developed our overall writing style and sound a bit more on “Serpents.” To us, the songs on “Serpents” are less choppy. Everything has a better flow to it. We tried a few new things for parts that wouldn’t have really worked on “Stench.” The production this time was a bit more polished. Skeletal Remains were a reference point production-wise. Another difference is the guitar tone on “Serpents” was all tube amp with “Stench” being all solid state.
Within your discography you have the format cassette. Is that important to you?
Tapes are cheap, easy to make, and people like them. I think for these reasons tapes appeal to underground collectors. With tapes you get analog sound and a unique package. The demand is high so we make tapes to appease the masses. They don’t do the albums complete justice sound wise. Tapes are compressed and lack bottom end to a degree. Anybody who’s heard “Stench” on CD can tell you it sounds massive compared to tape. We aren’t necessarily CD over tape though, they’re both kind of dead formats. Vinyl is awesome, but with the high cost and delays we haven’t gotten there yet. MP3 and digital is just the state of the world. Most people probably listen to music in the car, on their phone, on the computer, etc. A few of us in the band are definitely collectors. I think that having the option to buy a physical product is important regardless of format. However, vinyl is the preferred format for those of us who do collect. I think it looks and sounds the best, despite being the least convenient. We do hope that we’ll have the opportunity to press a recording onto vinyl at some point in the future.
How did you get in contact with your label Sewer Rot Records? Did they contact you? Will they release your new material as well?
We sent them a copy of Stench and got an email back within hours. They seemed very interested off the bat and it seemed like a good fit. Their roster has some heavy hitters for sure and it’s been a mutually beneficial ride for all involved. Shout out to SRR fam Andrew, Kyle, Frank, and Chris! They just seemed to be overall enthusiastic about what we were doing and we thought that our aesthetic and approach fit well with the label. We have another release coming out over summer scheduled to release on SRR so keep an eye out.
What are your expectations for Unembalmed in the future?
We are currently writing for a split at the moment and the new songs are the apex of our writing and creative efforts so far. These three new tracks have us incredibly excited. We definitely wanted to up the punk feels on this one. We very meticulously crafted these songs to be our best to date by really dialing in our riffs and structures. We took our time and really tried to make this the best offering we could and we strongly feel that we succeeded in this effort trumping all to date. After that comes out, we are set to keep writing for another possible split or our next full-length album. But expect us to keep harnessing our d-beat death metal sound. We don’t want to create albums that just repeat the same sounds but made with slightly similar riffs. We’re trying to create releases that stand on their own where you can actively see the growth of the band between them. We’re never going to be technical, but we’re definitely advancing in what we do best in our sound.
If my information is correct, you aren’t (actively) involved with other acts and/or projects at the moment. Is this correct? Any plans maybe…to start a project or band…or joining another act?
We have played in various bands in the past and have also had multiple projects going at once. But with Unembalmed, we want it to be the sole focus. We’re all pretty much on the same page. Honestly, if we wanted to create a new band/sound it would still be the same 3 guys. We’re just locked in and work well together. Sometimes at practice, we jam on Unembonged our funeral doom impromptu jam sessions. Also, Disembalmia, our crusty grind offshoot. I think more than anything, lack of free time keeps us from really doing much more outside of Unembalmed. But we get so much enjoyment out of the band that it’s more than enough to keep us satisfied.
Are you involved in any other way in the music scene?
Not really. BH is a part time audio engineer but recording gigs are infrequent. Unembalmed is the only contribution we add to our local scene at the moment other than being a fan and supporting our friends’ bands. We’re all around 40 and work full time jobs so the band is our chance to chill and do heavy shit after we clock out. Time is limited so we dedicate what we have to Unembalmed at the moment.
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? Any other bands of your region of USA that are worth mentioning and to check out for our readers?
Current Active Az bands:
Exsul, Skullcrush, Barbaric Hatred, Nighnacht, Moribund Dawn, Savage Necromancy, Ritual of Decay, Pedestal of Infamy, Unholy Strength, Sychophant, Aftermath, Gestation, Thra, Saintbreaker, Sorrower, Gatecreeper, Woundvac, Fluids, Thorn, Lago, Goya, Skin Ticket, Nooses, Death Bloom, Sex Prisoner, Gravecarver, Holy Fawn.
If you haven’t heard these, don’t sleep on them:
Congenital Deformity, Burial, Fossilization, Gosudar, Snet, Decrepicy, Apparition, Morbific, Spectral Wound, Mortiferum, Sulpherous, Malignant Altar, For, Anharat, Tormentor Tyrant, Writhing Shadows, Axiom, Sacrilege, Lifeless Dark.
Also do you have favourite labels you always keep an eye on when they announce a new release? Or a favourite illustrator / cover artist?
Scumlord in Canada, our dude Taylor rules! Total support and hails brother!! Rotted Life always delivers. Sewer Rot always snags up killer label mates. Mark Riddick and Paulo Girardi (spelling?) are amazing at what they do.
Is there something I’ve forgotten to ask you which you would like to mention? Thanks for your time!
Thank you for asking us to be a part of this. Southwest Death Reigns Supreme.