UK vanguards of classic extreme metal Craven Idol are back and standing stronger than ever. With two new members added to their ranks and a batch of razor sharp new songs under their belt, the band has upped their game significantly since 2013’s Toward Eschaton. Their particular blend of thrashing black metal has gotten only more wild and frenzied in the interim, with tighter instrumentation and some of my favorite vocals I’ve heard on any album in recent memory. Ahead of the release of The Shackles of Mammon, Immolator of Sadistik Wrath took some time to answer some questions we had for the band, and offers a glimpse into the band’s songwriting process and influences. See what he had to say after the jump.
What was your approach to The Shackles of Mammon? What did you hope to accomplish or expand upon from previous albums?
The goal was to create a more varied and aggressive record, and I believe we have achieved this. We also wanted to create a complete album written from start to finish in one era of the band (with the exception of Dashed To Death, which appeared on the debut demo). I tend to write music for music’s sake, so any accomplishments beyond creating something that’d look and sound good on wax were irrelevant really.
This album features the talents of two new members: Heretic Blades on drums and Obscenitor on guitar. How has this new blood helped you in your songwriting and performing?
The new members have slotted in perfectly. They were live members before they joined full-time anyway, so it wasn’t a major transition as such. With having Scourer leave the fold shortly after the release of Towards Eschaton, Heretic Blades stepped up to the role of song-writer on drums. I tend to write the large majority of riffs, then bring them to Mr. Blades and we will jam/rehearse/deconstruct/scrutinize the living hell out of them. This will eventually yield a fully fleshed out song that we will again pick apart in rehearsal with the full band. It’s a very organic process…
When it comes to Obscenitor, he is a guitarist with his own unique approach to metal music. You can hear some of his stunning work at the end of the song “The Trudge” and “Tottering Cities Of Men” for example. He is certainly the most musical of us.
Your music draws influence from classic acts like Bathory, Celtic Frost, Nifelheim and others, yet Mammon feels very modern in its sound. Is the balance between old-school and modern influences a tough one to strike, or is this something that naturally comes to you when writing songs?
It can be a particularly challenging balance to strike in the studio, however, we entered Priory studios fully prepared and with producer Greg Chandler briefed on our goals on the production front.
I honestly don’t think particularly much about it being modern or classic, though I clearly prefer the latter. I tend to fall into writing frenzies during which I will come up with ideas for several songs within weeks if not days. Some of them will be suitable for Craven Idol, some won’t be. Until now I’ve always known instantly. After all I don’t write with any agenda in mind aside from pleasing my own metallic fancies.
My favorite part of The Shackles of Mammon are definitely the wild vocals. What artists did you draw influence from for your vocal approach?
I draw influences from vocalists that did something unique with the role, I’m thinking King Diamond, Shark Shelton, Holocausto Vengeance, Franta Štorm, Martin Walkiyer, Chris Reifert, Eric Adams, Tim Baker, Tom Angelripper, and Quorthon just to name a few. I appreciate the theatrics and/or the passion that these singers brought across – all in their own unique way. A distinctive voice is essential to a band, and whilst I don’t have one naturally (like the above mentioned geniuses), there’s something about the vocals on Shackles in particular that are a break from the customary. The essence is to use vocal range to the tap, and also not to over-use potentially falsettos or other such trickery.
Daniel Cocuera did an amazing job with the Mammon album art, which is based on an 1896 wood carving by Sascha Schneider. What about this piece inspired you to re-interpret it for your album art? How well does the album art capture the themes of the music?
So we actually had a completely different concept in mind before coming across Sascha Schneider’s wood carving. In fact, we were already discussing how to approach the project with Daniel at the time. The album itself, was already written, so it was somewhat eerie how many aspects of it were present in Schneider’s art. We immediately asked Daniel to drop what he was doing and work on this concept. He started by creating a number of stunning sketches (some of which will appear in the CD booklet) before arriving at the final version.
In Schneider’s work, the background of the painting is nothing but a mere black void, whilst on the cover, we see the toppling cities of men in the background, visions in flame, and the planet Mercury (painted according to model by Ibn al-Shatir stemming from the 14th Century. The key to the cover is that there really is very little ‘reality’ in the image… it is mostly the creation of famished humankind on its knees in front of its own creation… yet Mammon isn’t real, currency isn’t real, the chains aren’t real, and neither are the visions in flame….
You’ve been working with Dark Descent Records for this and your previous album, Towards Eschaton. What has that process been like? Being on a label that focuses pretty heavily on death metal, do you ever feel like the odd men out?
Dark Descent is one of the best underground labels out there these days and we are certainly proud to be part of the roster. Label-head Matt Calvert is a pleasure to work with and he supports his bands to the max.
I think we feel less the odd man out these days that the label has started to broaden its horizons somewhat regarding band selection. Don’t get me wrong, we never felt unwelcome or discriminated in any way ha, but I do admit I was somewhat surprised (albeit delighted) when Matt messaged us having picked up the promo I’d send and started talking business. I haven’t looked elsewhere since.
Craven Idol is playing North of the Wall Festival on April 15th, but what else does the future hold for the band? Any plans to tour the new album?
A week before the NotW festival we are hitting Camden in North London for our customary release show at the Black Heart. We prefer hand-picked appearances over touring, to be frank, but we have a few more shows in the pipeline yet unannounced.
This year we are also releasing our 2010 EP Ethereal Altars on a small run of cassette tapes via a UK label named Carvetii Productions. It will features bonus tracks in the form of our Onslaught and Poison covers, as well as the 2006 demo.
We are also writing again, and have four song-structures constructed… in their infant stages of course. I’d be looking to release a split 7” next.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Anything you’d like to add?
Thanks for the excellent interview. Stand tall against the raging tide!
Many thanks to Immolator of Sadistik Wrath for his time!