We here at Nine Circles are telling you here and now: this death / extreme metal band from Portland, Oregon are the real deal. Vitriol will be releasing their independent EP, Pain Will Define Their Death, on November 10 and you need to be the first in line to grab a copy. This is a band that could care less about trends or whatever the current metal “spice of the day” is and aren’t afraid to tell you as much. They instead rely on what is extreme to them and what gets their point across that humanity is a dumpster fire of epic proportions and they have the soundtrack to prove it. Indeed, Hate Eternal, Nile and Deathspell Omega will be used as jump off points for describing their sound but within the three tracks that grace Pain Will Define Their Death, this band weilds the power to split the genre wide open. As luck would have it, we had an opportunity to ask Kyle Rasmussen (guitars, vocals) our set of Profile questions and he was an absolute champ with his responses and it is a MUST read. Move on it and be on the lookout for the EP to hit Bandcamp…
How did you first get into playing music and have you achieved the level of success that you always hoped to achieve?
I grew up in a very musical family so my role in making music was a natural one. My mother fronted a rock band in the 80s and my father was a producer and sound engineer. But it was my step father that really helped shape my early passion for music. He introduced me to metal. We spent hours in front of a boombox in my living room listening to Kill ‘Em All on repeat while he explained to me in excruciating detail what Kirk Hammett was doing in those solos. We shared similar experiences with the Ozzy Tribute album, which is why Randy is my favorite player to this day. My step father was also a guitarist, so the decision to be one myself was an early and definite one. I knew I wanted to play guitar in a metal band since I was six years old.
Regarding my musical success, that answer depends on whether we are speaking in terms of professional or creative success. Professionally, certainly not. I’ve always felt strongly about clawing my way to the top of the extreme metal circuit and that journey is just beginning. It’s hard to say if I will ever achieve the level of success I hope to, because the success I hope for isn’t finite. That ceiling is always being raised, and if there’s room to push and grow, I’ll be pushing and growing. Creatively, I’d say I’m much closer to considering my music as a success. When I started playing music seriously at 16 I had two goals driving me that have remained unchanged; to create the most extreme and hostile music possible, and to write a collection of songs that I myself would want to listen to. My goal is to write a record that would be on my year end list if I hadn’t written it. And 12 years later I can finally say that. The EP we are releasing represents the moment where we really found “our sound.” It’s suffocating, remorseless, while remaining listenable. I think it fucking rips.
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, debased and praised? If you don’t have a story please tell us any embarrassing story.
Luckily I can say that I don’t have an example of that. At least not an extreme one. Whoring out 70 tickets to open a local show when we were kids is a type of debasement we can all relate to. I’d have to say the most humiliating moment of my musical career is when my old band was sold on playing this “fest” in Tacoma, WA. We weren’t aware of any details. It was in-between tours and our well intentioned management hooked it up. Two or three bands in we realized it was effectively a high school Battle of the Bands. The shit was all across the board. There was some anime themed band that came out in coffins. It was nuts. At the end of our set the guy who put on the show approached me and asked what we were doing there, haha. To this day our involvement in that show remains a mystery. And the parents in the crowd did not appreciate our set.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
Fuck the scene. To me “the scene” is synonymous with community. Metal, and its personal and subjective definition to me, has never been about community. It’s a solitary experience that has nothing to do with humanity. It is at odds with humanity. Metal is about a level of strength and commitment that transcends human nature. It’s about abandoning the standard of the human experience and being better, maintaining uncompromising integrity and an authentic identity and sense of self. It’s a superhuman philosophy. The metal scene is an oxymoron. For something that should be about pure self expression outside the clutches of cultural politics and trends to devolve into something so exclusive and totalitarian as the scene is a fucking tragedy. And this applies to any “scene.” You have to like the right bands, wear the right clothes, dislike the right bands, play the right gear, have the right aesthetic. Fuck you. I want nothing to do with it. I don’t want to sit at your table. I want to use your head as a stone while I climb over you to make something real. That’s the shit that speaks truth when the fickle trends ebb and flow. And I feel like that’s all there is now; a bunch of glorified renaissance fair kids playing dress up, romanticizing about generations and movements they had nothing to do with, writing records and riffs that were done better 20, 30, 40 years ago. It’s a joke. It’s a big party where metal, where music, is just background noise. It’s all socially driven and it’s repulsive.
As far as positive things occurring in metal music today, I’d say there’s nothing exclusive to this moment in time. We’re stuck in a very regressive moment in extreme metal. It seems that every popular genre is steeped in some form of retro fetishism. I think there’s a time and place for that, but I prefer to look forward and covet bands that share my sentiment. Positivity and progression is and has always been reflected in the bands and artists that reject trends and create honestly. Whenever I find a band that glimmers in the rough like that and has something fresh and authentic about their sound it reinforces my passion and inspires me. Achieving that has only become harder with technology and how oversaturated the offerings of the genre have become. More room for weekend warrior copy cat bands to pump out records on the cheap. Before now the level of commitment, money, and time required to make a record really helped weed out those who weren’t really driven. Overall I feel the accessibility to creating and sharing music is a positive thing, it has just simply made it more difficult and rare to find shit worth listening to, much less financially supporting.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc .) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music?
I would certainly agree with it being a very positive thing. I have my own flags I fly and agendas I’m passionate about in my personal life, but I don’t reflect any of those things in Vitriol’s music. After my answer to your third question it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I don’t like to tackle issues that are exclusive to the human experience. Outside of Vitriol, as a human being, many of these issues are important to me, but Vitriol is about trivializing the human experience from the outside. It’s interesting because our concept of an issue is only being discussed from within this feedback loop of human interest. We don’t have an external source to share these ideas or concerns with. So as far as the universe is concerned, the Earth, other sentient beings, they’re left out of the discussion. It’s all very arrogant and masturbatory. We open dialogue on issues as though we are the only existing things to consider. Vitriol seeks to be that outside voice and perspective. What would our existence look like if you removed empathy and sentimentality for human interests from the equation? What would we look like, and how important would we be to an objective alien perspective? Or, more in line with what Vitriol attests, how much of a detriment would we be?
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
This was discussed in my first question. I think my family was pretty ambivalent. My step dad was proud, but as much of a metalhead as he was he couldn’t get into the more extreme stuff. My family was just proud to see me pursuing something I cared about.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
I think my advice is universal to anyone trying to monetize the music industry. Represent bands and artists that you believe in and do it aggressively. Be passionate. And stop covering clickbait fucking bullshit. I’m sure it’s what pays the bills and I also understand that I’m the minority within the consumer demographic, but you asked me, so… I stopped frequenting a lot of “mainstream” or popular blogs because if I read one more article about what “metal titans” supported Babymetal, or the latest drama within the Metallica camp, or another banjo or piano cover of a popular metal song I swear I would’ve killed myself. It’s insulting. It seems that everyone is more interested in the satire of metal than we are about actual metal. And try to incorporate more variety. Try to determine what about metal at its essence speaks to you, and rather than only covering bands within a scene, or genre, or label, promote bands that have that same fire tying them together. I believe that anyone who isn’t a sheep will have an eclectic taste in music and art organically. Don’t curate what you cover into being a niche in fear of alienating a “scene.” In a sentence? Bring back Cosmo Lee era InvisibleOranges. THAT was a fucking metal blog.
What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
Definitely world domination. My personal goal with Vitriol is to make death metal heavy again. Not sonically, of course, that’s never been an issue. But in spirit. I think death metal has been “fun” and novelty for too long. Most subgenres at this point just borrow sonic qualities of what qualifies death metal but left the DEATH long behind. Or they have a very kitschy representation of an early death metal aesthetic. The genre title seems to have lost all depth of meaning, and I would like to be a part of bringing the death front and center again and redefining it into something aggressive, violent, and intimidating. We want to inspire a longing for death and destruction. We’d like to cause harm. Ambitious goals for three dudes in a metal band, but hitch a wagon to the stars. This is why we prefer to represent ourselves as an extreme metal band, not necessarily a death metal band.
When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently?
I try to seek out new stuff that excites me while making time for classics. A newer record I recently got in to is “In Passing Ascension” by a band from Minneapolis called Suffering Hour. What first attracted me to the band was their unique approach to dissonance. In 2017 if you hear the word “dissonant” in conjunction with “metal” the first question you ask yourself is “OK, is this band a disciple of Portal, Gorguts, or Deathspell?” And that isn’t always a bad thing. The latest records from Altarage and The Ominous Circle are fucking excellent while being tastefully derivative. But Suffering Hour seems to have an approach completely unique to Suffering Hour, which I appreciate very much. Not once are memories of the aforementioned three champions of dissonance conjured while listening to the record. Another new effort that absolutely fucking kills is “Abhorrent Manifestation” by Ascended Dead. Another example of a band “breaking the rules” of the current scene. This is, by definition, a technical death metal record. This thing is ferocious and acrobatic in a very unconventional and honest way. It’s a raw, piss-soaked burlap sack of riffs. Aside from that there is always some late 90s American and Brazilian death metal in the rotation, or what I refer to as “the golden age of death metal.” Tucker era Morbid Angel, Monstrosity, Hate Eternal, Malevolent Creation, Diabolic, Krisiun, Abhorrence, etc. I’ve also been finding a lot of inspiration in 90s extreme thrash crossover stuff. Demolition Hammer, Morbid Saint, etc.
Summarize your band in exactly one word.
Many thanks to Kyle for his time!