lauantai 28. huhtikuuta 2012

Ignivomous - Death Metal Fundamentalism

In my humble opinion, Ignivomous' 2007 demo Path of Attrition is one of the finest death metal demos of the new millennium. I don't recall what got me to buy the demo in the first place, as I don't remember hearing any advance tracks from it, but what I do remember is that the tape really took me by storm right off the bat. Frankly, I wasn't happy with the 2009 full-length Death Transmutation, but luckily we now have the fresh Contragenesis full-length to obliterate that disappointment, as you can hear yourself. Some really fucking nasty and vicious death metal right there! Bearing in mind that Klemi also interviewed Ignivomous for his Kaleidoscope 'zine, t's fitting to publish this intie now that we're only lay-out short of completing Serpentscope #2. In DIY zine world it might still take a while, though.

"Death Metal Fundamentalism"
Interview with Jael Edwards of Ignivomous.
Originally published in The Serpent Bearer I, March 2008.

The life expectancy of a good new death metal band isn’t very high these days. Every time a new deathstar sparks off in the metal skyline, it dies out as quickly as it came to being. Well, too quickly anyway. And yes, I’m still lamenting the deaths of Sweden’s Kaamos and Repugnant! So here we have Australia’s daredevils Ignivomous who are a new promising death metal band, and still have a good seven years to go if they too opt for a premature burial at the tender age of eight.

As far as metal music goes, Australia is primarily known for its many war metal groups. Ignivomous, however, are closer to pure death metal in the vein of Blasphemy, Incantation, Bolt Thrower, Grave and so on. In fact, the band has made a conscious decision to “maintain a purity of focus and avoid genre cross-pollination” in their music. What would bassist/vocalist Jael Edwards say to people who think this makes Ignivomous musically unambitious and narrow-minded?
– To put it bluntly, I would say they’re incorrect. For many, perhaps due to some hidden insecurity or desire to gain “legitimate” acceptance outside the underground, musical progression and ambition seems to encompass incorporating as many non-metal influences as possible, starts Jael and has me nodding fervently.
– But personally, I think working within a certain degree of stylistic limitation is better as it makes you, as a musician, work harder on creating something which somehow shows both your acknowledgement of and challenge to the conventions of the genre. The great composers wrote within the context of stylistically fixed concepts like the sonata or symphony, but we don’t criticise them for being less creative than some freeform jazz-improv piece which lacks discipline and internal cohesion.

– Anyway, we write the way we do because collectively it’s our interpretation of all the elements we worship in the DM albums we found so inspiring and which there isn’t a lot of going around these days. Death Metal fundamentalism? I don’t know…

I certainly hope there would be more of that going on. What everyone seems to think is fundamental in Australian metal, however, are the three letters W, A and R, and those usually boil down to savage blackened thrash metal. When speaking of Australian metal, we seldom hear of anything else than war metal. And when we hear someone talking about war metal, it usually alludes to the authentic Australian sort. Come to think of it, “Swedish war metal” just doesn’t sound right, does it.
– Yes, Australia – land of beer-soaked Battle-Jackets and Bullet belts. There is an element in which, due to the sheer size of the country, it’s more accurate to talk about regional scenes in Australia, but there is a sort of national metalhead type I guess, offers Jael.
– On one hand there is the sort of drunken maniac side and on the other a pretty pronounced broody introspective side born out of the intense isolation and boredom of living on the edge of the world. People have this impression of Australia as very scenic but everyone I know grew up in a concrete wasteland remarkable because it is so totally featureless and flat. Melbourne is a fairly gritty industrial city for the most part – think big areas of decaying warehouses rather than nice beaches and coral reefs. I think a lot of the character of Australian metal grew out of that sense of being in the middle of nowhere – the combination of drunken irreverence with neurotic obsession with morbid subjects. On that level, I think Ignivomous members are fairly “Australian” in person at least. Straight-up but pretty eccentric.


Many metal fans consider mainstream attraction the worst thing that has happened to metal in recent years, as though you couldn’t or shouldn’t like a band thousands of other people like. As far as I’m concerned, the worst thing that’s happened to metal are the polished crossover bands that make use of a metal-like riffing technique. And by the way, I’m not only referring to all those sugary American metal boy bands out there, because there are others. And they’re even worse. You know, the bands that sound easily categorizable and straightforward enough, but can’t be put in one box or another in the end. What I’m arguing here is that, in my opinion, purity does indeed have intrinsic value in metal! Or what say you, Jael?
– I agree totally, both on a level of aesthetics and music. The things which drew me to metal in the first place certainly aren’t represented by suburban hardcore kids singing about how mum doesn’t love them enough. It’s totally alien to me, and the people it attracts I’m happy to avoid.
– Outside of our own music, I’m fairly broad in my tastes with respect to genre, but fairly narrow in terms of atmosphere – I like a lot of military industrial, power electronics, neo-folk etc. Even within metal I like a fair few “left-field” acts. But I think the unifying feature is that they share a quality of being powerful and evocative, and an aesthetic sense drawing on horror, madness, tragedy etc.
– So for me, it’s more important that there is that dark feeling to metal, and other music I like tends to be the same. Which is why for example I think Sol Invictus is heavier than any of those bands you refer to, despite the fact that one uses all the surface trappings of metal and the other is all acoustic. Passion and integrity go further than loudness and teen angst for me anyway, retorts Jael.

Believe you me, I’m not saying that openmindedness and metal are mutually exclusive. I mean, we do have fairly convincing statements from the other end of the scales as well, like that from the founder of Australia’s Atomizer, Jason Healey, who said in Oaken Throne zine #2 that “to limit yourself is boring. I think that to exist within some predetermined confines is even more tedious. If your favourite band is Possessed and your goal is to work within the confines of what they created, why bother?” How about you Jael, would you say this is what you’re doing in a way, taking someone else’s musical vision and putting your name on it? How would you define “progress” in the case of death metal and Ignivomous?
– I guess this is putting the case from the other angle. Anyway, death metal is a fairly broad genre – there is a lot of rich ground which hasn’t been repeated ad nauseam. What we’ve interpreted our standpoint to be is to channel the FEELING death metal gave us in those early days, not to mimic or plagiarise our forebears. So on that level our progression will be to become more adept at our songwriting to nail that ratio between aggressive fast riffs, slow doomy parts and lead work that combine to create that sensation classic DM always gave us – dread and violence intertwined.
– At any rate, although I enjoyed Heresy Zine when it was going, I’ve never been an Atomizer fan.

Fair enough. What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “progressive death metal” uttered out loud?
– As long as the word “Pestilence” is uttered next I can let it pass. Otherwise I get mental images of beardy guys in shorts and sandals playing 10-string basses and have to go put on VON to recover, serves Jael.

Rest assured, Ignivomous aren’t progressive death metal. Starting from a good classical death metal moniker Ignivomous, which means “vomiting fire,” the band has every intention to strike a chord with those who still enjoy their death metal straight up. Like Jael says, the name already “conjures images of a violent eruption of fire from the subterranean depths, or perhaps huge cannons or something.” The band states on their Myspace site that what they recognize as death metal should be “devoid of influences from grind, slam and gore.”
– In terms of what I like in DM, it’s about the churning hellish atmosphere – the sense of being alternately nailed into the ground and filled with unholy power, declares Jael when asked to give his opinion of what mentally and psychologically defines death metal.

It is the opinion of many that death metal is meant to praise death, because without death there would be no real life, thus praising death is praising life – “to welcome death is to embrace life.” Others elucidate that dealing with topics most people would consider ghastly and brutal makes you more aware of what a human essentially is – a beast, an animal striving for survival. This in turn helps you to a better understanding of yourself. Of course this line of reasoning could be continued to more elaborate, intellectual and abstract ideas. In broad terms, Jael is happy to accept my summary of the meanings of death metal on the ideological and lyrical levels.
– That’s a very good summary. I like the old idea of “Momento Mori” – small macabre items kept on a scholar’s desk to remind him that death laughs at his pride, concurs Jael before falling into a rant about the current state of the human beast.
– I’ve always been fascinated by the human beast “in extremis” – the bizarre highs and lows that human psychology can bring people to. The idea of Hubris – the pride which leads to being humbled by the gods – seems to apply to all the idealists who pledge belief to progress, equality etc. Day by day, as the world reverts to a regime of naked force and gross sensuality their treasured belief in the holy nature of man as a spiritual being is becoming a laughing-stock. The more people have tried to impose utopia the more brutal the outcome has become, as any number of “Year Zero” experiments throughout the twentieth century have bourne witness to. The degree to which this is tragic, or to be exact any more tragic than the rest of human history with its sowing the fields with salt and carrying off the women into slavery, is dependant on how much you believe in the idea that we are any less barbaric than our forefathers.
– A sane man, in my view anyway, must build the bridge between his capacity for brutality and creation – ideally anyway, destruction can be a purging and cathartic instinct. There is a quote from a play about the Marquis De Sade by Peter Weiss I like – “Man is by nature a destroyer, but if he destroys and does not enjoy it, he becomes a machine.” We exist in a situation which is inherently destructive, by our very being, yet so many people cling to the illusion that their token efforts constitute sainthood. That while being a leech every bit as bloated and filthy as any other, in kind despite differences in degree, making token gestures aimed at moral superiority as much as any real effect, that they aren’t drowning in the same sewer as the rest of us.

– So, in answer, what the interpretation of death metal I carry with me is, it’s that idea of radical Nihilism. A reduction of all moral categories to the level of first principles, the first principle of human existance, as history bears out, being violence in attack and defense. In death metal, black metal and the darker end of industrial music you see a desire to confront that human abyss, purge all the hypocrisy and idiocy of the modern world – more often than not it’s a sort of morbid twitch, a Nihilistic urge to destroy which goes nowhere. Even in itself that’s something valuable I think. But often it’s used as a starting point for a person to build something useful for themselves in terms of their personal development.and as the saying goes, a house built on sand will fall, a house built on rock will endure. To start from the observation of the human being being a beast of conflict can only be healthier than assuming an artificial benevolence, concludes Jael.


As I already mentioned Atomizer, and since we’re talking about the ideological side of death metal, I have to bring up the Atomizer song title When I Die, I Wanna Die Violently. Would Jael agree with the line “What could be more mundane than dying of old age”? Or to paraphrase one of the few stand-up comedians I’ve ever found entertaining, George Carlin: “Die big! You don’t wanna just pass away. You don’t wanna end up a euphemism.”
– Maybe dying choking on vomit (Cant dust for vomit!), cracking your head on the pavement in a street brawl, car crash... all the metal clichés. It’s romantic enough to imagine some sort of heroic last stand situation, but what are the odds? Goes back to the idea of death metal as realism – all the people I’ve known to die violently didn’t have any sort of Manowar moment – they bled to death on the pavement or in the back of an ambulance going in and out of conciousness. Mundane because they didn’t finish whatever it was they were working on – uncompleted masterpieces are mundane!
– Personally, I think being a bizarre old eccentric would be pretty cool. Some gnarled old greybeard living off in the hills in a ricketty tower full of books, that’ll be me, sketches Jael.

So I take it that Ignivomous aren’t going away anytime soon either. Besides proving themselves to be one of the best newcomers in death metal this side of the Y2K, the band also offers their listeners a bunch of interesting lyrics. Let’s take the song Psychic Murder, for example, the title of which I was stupid enough to think either referred to someone killing people for “no apparent reason” or the murder of minds and psyche by organized religion. Eh, wrong. Jael enlightens that often the band’s drummer Chris will suggest a song title which will set him off on some weird tangent, probably not what was initially intended. What is the weird tangent on “psychic murder” then?
– That was inspired by a series of conversations Chris and myself were having about our interest in parapsychology and Astral travel, general weird science subjects. Various experiments in controlled dreaming under the influence of psychedelics. The idea that an able sorceror could influence a subject through manipulation of dreams and therefore kill with an “Astral Dagger.” Poisoning the Aura of another while they sleep, or influencing their waking decisions through suggestion. For the most part I think the psycho/serial killer angle has been done to death and it’s not a field that interests me a great deal beyond a superficial morbid curiosity. Most of the time such creatures are just pretty pathetic individuals acting out their own inner crucifixion.