Interview: Noisem on writing “Blossoming Decay” and not giving a damn about genre labels

noisem
Photo courtesy of Gene Smirnov / Decibel Magazine

Last month saw the release of Blossoming Decay, the second album from death / thrash / grind upstarts Noisem. The band had already built up an impressive following on the heels of their 2013 debut, Agony Defined, and they continue to amass new fans and supporters through a near-constant touring schedule. Young though the band members may be, they’ve built up the resume and presence of seasoned vets. That tends to happen when you play with everyone from metal elites to local talent and lay waste to any venue that will have you.

Ahead of a new tour with Iron Reagan and Angel Dust—set to kick off this evening in Noisem’s native Baltimore—we got the chance to speak with bassist Billy Carnes and guitarist Sebastian Phillips about the writing process behind Blossoming Decay, taking the songs live, and more. Here’s what they had to say:

Your first release, Agony Defined, got a ton of attention, and deservedly so. In your opinion, how has the reception been for Blossoming Decay from a media perspective and from the live standpoint?

BC: I’m personally happy with how things have been going so far. It seems that people have enjoyed the slight differences in our sound since the lineup change. The songs off Blossoming definitely evoke a good reaction from people at our shows. Even the stuff off of Agony has been changed up a bit, it’s all much faster live than it is on the record.

SP: It seems like Blossoming is going over well so far and it’s a record that we’re all proud of. Everyone seems to get into it live so that’s always a good sign.

Both of your full length releases are steeped in the old school. Agony seemed to pay tribute to your influences, and painstakingly so, while Blossoming seems at least to me to be an album where you loosened the collar and had fun. How do you interpret it?

BC: I wouldn’t quite say the writing process was fun, nor do I know exactly what it was like writing Agony. There were a lot of various chemicals involved in writing Blossoming so I’ll at least note that. (laughs) As for the lyrics, I know that it was a very emotionally-fueled process for Tyler (Carnes; vocals), but he would have to touch on that for himself. I just had to write bass parts and the interludes.

SP: Both albums were very loose and fun to make, not much changed there. I guess the major difference would be that we were all on the same page for all of Blossoming whereas Agony was written almost entirely by Harley (Phillips; drummer) and I. That added input helped shape Blossoming.

Most of you have been lifelong fans of metal, and with the skill and precision contained in your songs, there’s no doubt you have a deep appreciation for those that came before you. Is there an album, song, artist or particular live show that sealed the deal for you in terms of wanting to get into the metal music business?

BC: This is a pretty tricky question since I started listening to metal when I was three. My go to answer would be Black Sabbath, since I was essentially raised on them. But when it comes to death metal I’d say that Carcass and Hemorrhage were the first I got into, when I was around 13.

SP: What probably pushed me the most toward a musical path was watching the Seattle ’89 VHS tape of Metallica Live Shit: Binge And Purge. Best set list and a massive sound. Seeing that as kid in the ’90s instead of whatever MTV fare of the day definitely sealed the deal.

You’ve now got two full-lengths under your belts. Do you feel there are still any holes to fill in your writing, performing, or overall sound?

BC: More bass solos.

SP: This was our first stab at writing and recording with this lineup. Maybe next time it will be easier and even more involved.

Metal has garnered so many different genres and rabbit holes that it can be dizzying to both newfound listeners and to a lifelong fans. It’s refreshing for a young band to come out all guns blazing, without a care where they land in the spectrum. What are your thoughts on the current landscape in extreme metal?

BC: I’m pretty indifferent to it. I listen to all kinds of music and typically appreciate when a band steps away from the boundaries of their particular genre. As far as metal goes, as long as it’s abrasive, noisy and somewhat dissonant, I’ll probably fuck with it. I also don’t really like low, growled vocals; bands should scream more.

SP: I don’t think any of us have ever cared a whole lot for genre tags or pigeonholes. We just do what we like. I feel like sometimes people concern themselves with fitting into genres too much.

Can you let us in on your thought process during the writing process of this album?

BC: Lots of depression, personal conflict and drinking as per usual.

SP: Blossoming was definitely written for the stage. When we were touring for Agony, playing most of the album as our set, it became clear that we had to focus on making sure everything sounded just as good and tight live as it did recorded.

I’ve listened to the new album countless times, and every time I come across “Cascade of Scars,” I really want to know the thought process behind the beginning half of the song. It’s a distinct departure from the pedal-on-the-floor blasting we’re all accustomed to hearing. Was this a desire to give the listener a break, or a nod to something else entirely?

BC: All of the bass and cello parts in some way correlate lyrically to their respective song. Well, at least they do to me. If you read how the lyrics of “Hostile” go into “Cascade” you’ll probably see what I mean. Originally they were supposed to be piano and cello, but I decided last minute to just record all of the parts on bass through a bunch of delay. I contacted the cellist of one of my old bands, Max Goldman, to come learn the parts and we recorded them in a couple hours. I guess it’s an unintentional homage to Dystopia and Gasp, who are two of my all-time favorite bands. I’m happy with how it turned out, though.

SP: Harley wrote that whole intro and showed it to me one day. The other half of the song pretty much wrote itself after that.

I’m sure this is an obvious question, but how did it feel to have scene veterans such as Carcass and Repulsion shower exceptionally good praise your way with the first release and then again as you toured with them?

BC: This is another tricky question because I wasn’t in the band for Agony or the first Carcass tour. I will say that Jeff Walker and Scott Carlson were two pretty critical figures in me wanting to play bass in death metal and grind bands. When Tyler called me last September to tell me that we were going on tour with Carcass, Obituary and Exhumed, I giggled uncontrollably like a five-year-old. That’s about all I’ll say.

SP: Definitely a “pinch me, I’m dreaming” feeling everyday. I never would have imagined that Carcass and Repulsion would like my band. I still don’t believe it, really.

 

Thanks to Billy and Sebastian for their time.

-Josh

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