If the last year has reaffirmed anything, it's that human decency is pure optics. The notion of national, corporate, or individual virtue is a veritable Trojan Horse in which greed hides. Conglomerates feign compassion for their consumers while exploiting their workforce. Politicians promised black men and women would be freed from prison for their minor drug offenses. Those very politicians are the ones who profit from America's new slavery. Even the local pastors who preach "love thy neighbor" refuse to open their doors to those in need in their communities.
Denver, Colorado trio, Oryx, taps into this sentiment. It's a driving force behind their magnificent album, Lamenting A Dead World. The band recognizes true humanity's been sacrificed for generational greed. It's been like this for centuries, and it's fiercely apparent now. Their new record was catalyzed by people's early, selfish response to COVID-19 in the United States. Essentials flew off the shelves in an instant, leaving many families without supplies while handfuls of individuals filled every nook and cranny of their closets with paper products and canned foods they'll need years to use up.
Over the course of five tracks, Lamenting A Dead World details how this initial pattern leads to humanity's demise. Tommy (vocals, guitars) and Abbey Davis (drums) as well as Eric Dodgion (bass) build their most expansive and dynamic record as a band. Dodgion's relatively recent addition as well as the forced extra time to sit and write and Oryx's allegiance with Translation Loss Records has taken the Davises' project from self-released efforts to an international record filled with incredible highlights.
The album features guest appearances from fellow Denver musicians Ethan McCarthy (Many Blessings, Primitive Man, and Vermin Womb) on the instrumental title track. Additionally, Erika Osterhout (Chthonic Deity, Scolex) contributes vocals to lead single, "Misery." Paul Riedl (Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, and Chthonic Deity) also contributes synths to the album's lengthy and engrossing finale, "Oblivion." Their contributions add to an already diverse and powerful extreme metal record by the Oryx trio.
Ultimately, Lamenting A Dead World speaks to a dilemma that has plagued civilization for centuries intensified by the COVID's global impact, and it does it with an incredibly striking voice. Oryx's wholly unique take on extreme metal gives their newest effort a leg up on the many records written during the pandemic and stands as one of this year's most enthralling records.
Listen to an exclusive stream of Lamenting A Dead World and read our in-depth interview with Abbey and Tommy Davis now. Pick up a copy of the record from Translation Loss Records ahead of its official release this Friday.
Oryx, now a trio, spent a lot more time writing and developing your sound from your previous efforts, like Stolen Absolution and Born Into Madness. As you two and Eric sat down to begin creating Lamenting A Dead World, what goals or ambitions did you all have for this album?
ABBEY DAVIS: I think with the pandemic, it did really help us actually think bigger and think long term with this album and what we wanted to do with it.
We knew we wanted to get it to a wider, larger audience and we wanted to get it into the hands of a label that we really respected. Previous albums had been self-released or we worked with friends, so, with this album, in particular, we wanted to push further. I think having those goals and having those ideas as we were finishing the writing, we were able to push ourselves with this album.
We also wanted to grow our audience with this release and get it into a wider group of people. We've only had our releases in smaller groups doing self-releases and to put it into a bigger label's hands is something that we haven't really been able to do before.
TOMMY DAVIS: In an odd way, we've benefited from all of the quarantine issues that were happening. We were supposed to fly to Oakland and record with Greg Wilkinson. That was our original plan in March of 2020 and then we rescheduled for August 2020 to record in Denver. It seemed like a safer option—literally safer for all of us.
Then in the process, it gave me, in terms of writing lyrics specifically, conceptualizing and editing what I wanted to say. I think that was time that I had never given myself before. That was an amount of time that I was forced to have that was actually really, really beneficial for the band. We were able to construct an album, I think, that articulated exactly what we wanted to say. That was kind of a blessing in disguise.
In addition, I think there is a sense of urgency present in the album. I remember our conversations were literally like, "This is the album we want to write in general, it's not about the next album or the one after that. Let's write this album, let's practice it as much as we damn can, and just get it recorded, and then if we die of COVID…"
That was our actual feeling. If this threat is literally on our doorstep and this is the last thing we write, I'm totally okay with that. We were actually having that conversation—which was a first for us as well—not necessarily been in that particular type of dire situation before.
You mention having more time to sit on this album and even having these bigger goals and ideas for a larger audience. What sort of work do you two as musicians, lyricists, and writers do to reach that bigger audience or create this music for the now that you want?
ABBEY DAVIS: We practiced a lot, and we do that before every record and in general, but I think we hit practicing harder than ever before with this record. Tommy was talking about that dire urgency. We were put in kind of a risky situation, just practicing in a space with other bands during the early stages of the pandemic, but we kept practicing every night we could. We didn't have any other option at that point. That's what we had to do and putting out this record was very important to us.. So it was, "Let's get these songs nailed down and let's be perfect about it."
Tommy mentioned the lyrics and spending more time with them. We just spent more time with songwriting and where we wanted to place things. We've done that before with other albums, but we were able to really kind of nail down what we wanted to do with every song in this record.
We were able to expand on riffs and stay in one riff multiple times. Before, we really felt a lot of anxiety doing that. We were able to sit with ourselves and be comfortable with repetition. And, especially writing with a bassist, Tommy was able to expand on things in this album. He could add layers with his soloing in ways we haven't been able to achieve before as a two-piece.
TOMMY DAVIS: It's funny. We're a doom band that can't sit with ourselves. We totally hate prolonging riffs. We like to keep it moving, and I think that's become our thing. For us, playing a riff 32 times is a big deal. [laughs]
For plenty of doom bands, it's like, "32 times?! 128 times is standard!"
We totally don't fit the mold at all and I'm okay with that. It's our fucking weird ADD or something.
I think that probably goes back to the editing remark too. You play the songs enough times where you're like, "Nahh, that needs to go longer or that needs to be bigger, or we need to expand on that and articulate that riff better…"
For all of the crazy fucked up things the COVID environment created, it's bizarre to have an upside that you're like, "Yeah, it helped me focus on expanding my riffs."
In the process of writing and constructing, Lamenting A Dead World, what point do you decide to bring in Ethan McCarthy, Erika Osterhout, and Paul Riedl to contribute to the record? What stage of your composition is it, "We have what we like, but it needs something else and it's something beyond this?"
TOMMY DAVIS: Because we were originally slated to record in Oakland, we had other ideas in mind. We did think about still asking Ethan, Erika, and Paul to be involved, but remotely. Ethan still dialed in his contribution remotely, which turned out amazing no matter the crazy circumstances. It was pretty incredible that it was still able to happen.
Really, it's a reflection on Denver, I think. We look around at our highly talented, musical friends. They're obviously in great bands and they have immense potential, even beyond the great bands that they're in. That's what I think is so special about having Paul Riedl on synth, for example.
Erika's vocal contribution was actually quite different from what she contributes to Chthonic Deity, which is just very special. We're around people that have such dynamic talents—I'm just happy that they agreed and they're a part of this album.
ABBEY DAVIS: The people we worked with are all constantly creating individually on their own, in their own solo projects. It was really fun to say, "I can hear Erika here in this song, let's see what she thinks!"
Working with her was fun because it was so different. She's like, "I don't do this style, but here I go!" And she, of course, killed it. Yet for her, it was kind of stepping out of her comfort zone too. It was great to create with people in styles that they weren't necessarily always doing. To see them shine too and see their individual talents was an awesome experience. Like Tommy was saying, Denver has so many different musicians here and everyone does a million different kinds of styles and projects and they're just constantly creating.
TOMMY DAVIS: In regard to Ethan's contribution, Oryx has played shows with Primitive Man and Vermin Womb, and we absolutely love both of those bands. Everyone in those bands are like brothers to us. What we thought would be excellent for his contribution to this was essentially Many Blessings. It was everything we hoped it would be and more.
Having that creativity around you, you can probably rest a little easier in giving them some creative freedom, and know what you’re going to get back is going to be awesome.
TOMMY DAVIS: Most of this is all first takes as well—right out of the box.
Shifting into the thematic focus of the album, you stated that Lamenting A Dead World was, "…Born in the eye of the storm." This pandemic and the culmination of the United States' greed and more. Oryx music, to some extent, has dealt with many world issues previously. How did your approach and focus shift entering this album, lyrically or musically?
TOMMY DAVIS: Stolen Absolution was very much a concentration on Manifest Destiny mentality and the idea that "This is mine, give it to me."
That's generally the viewpoint. The United States was born on this idea. That was the concept behind Stolen Absolution. In Lamenting A Dead World, the concept is, to be honest, very apocalyptic.
It's that, "Once I take and take and take, and then I burn this fucking world to the ground with my greed, where are we?"
We seem to go through cycles of this greed. It's all about consumption and the endless thirst for more. So, in that way, the two albums are definitely very related, but Lamenting A Dead World takes place in the eye of the storm because, without really stretching the imagination, this could be the birth of an extinction event.
You just see the human degenerative response around you. The initial response to disaster is hoarding. "I've got to make sure that I have way more than I need."
That's the first response. When I was writing my lyrics, that was the first thing. It's like, "I don't know if I can go to the store and get a can of soup because they might all literally be gone and somebody else has two hundred thousand cans of soup."
ABBEY DAVIS: And they still have those cans of soup!
TOMMY DAVIS: It's this idea that "I don't care if you are starving and dying, and your children are pleading for food and you can't find it. I don't care because I have enough. That's all I give a fuck about."
That's the common mentality and that's what I think was the root of my anger last March when writing a lot of these lyrics. I was extremely fucking angry that this is the natural response. Societal dissolve took days. It didn't take weeks or months, it took days. I was baffled by the incredible response time. “Just go and get as much as you fucking can because you might never have soup ever again or you might never have toilet paper or paper towels…”
There's a switch that flips in our brains in this kind of society. Within this era of civilization, when shit hits the fan, it's basically “kill or be killed.” We're a fucking second from “kill or be killed” at all times. That's the essence of the society that we live in. No matter how good things are, you're always one click away from that, and we got to see a real actual event that brought that kind of behavior.
The album was also written as a concept album from "Contempt" to "Oblivion." We wanted this album to really have a feeling of endurance because I think it's reflective of the day-to-day lives that we lead. I mean, that's just that's our life.
I was hoping that you could break down this concept. Is it this piece-by-piece degradation of anger into this ultimate world oblivion?
TOMMY DAVIS: The track titles—"Contempt," "Misery," "Last Breath," "Lamenting…," and "Oblivion—it's the ultimate hostility, and then death and despair. People finally coming to terms with the loss of that denial phase.
Lamenting A Dead World, in and of itself is the feeling of displacement that people put on this problem. It's this, "it's never me, it's because the system broke down. It's not the fact that I play a part in the system, that has nothing to do with it."
It's this denial cycle that we're all in and at the end of it is, of course, oblivion—demise is ultimately certain.
There is a bit of an interlude in "Oblivion." What I experienced during that interlude is a sense of peace. Amidst all the chaos, there's this sort of time slowing sense of peace that I feel I've experienced and there's this absolution about everything when you're at the point of oblivion or the point of no return.
Are there individual moments for you in the record that seem to stand out as a personal highlight in Lamenting A Dead World?
TOMMY DAVIS: To be honest, the last four minutes of “Oblivion.” It's the end of the album, and Paul's going crazy on synths and everything's cranked. It's all full tilt and there's a feeling of catharsis for me personally. It's very intense and just keeps hammering on. There's a deep meditation that I enter during that part of the song. There's a glimmer of hope for a new world done better. There's a lot of internal dialog that I experience during that.
Also, I think at the beginning of "Misery," it's kind of a pensive intro and, to me, those moments of clarity mean a lot. Heavy riffs definitely express what we want to say—this music wouldn't be what it is without that—but the moments of taking a breath and contrast are meaningful.
I don't think the heaviness would exist without the contrast. That's something I really try to pursue. It's taking a breath before you jump off the high dive.
ABBEY DAVIS: I think we share the same highlights. For me, I take a lot away from the title track. I think in other albums we've done we've had either noise or Tommy playing guitar by himself.
I love when I find those songs on other albums when it's just acoustic or whatever. I personally think that's awesome.
I was drawn to that track because of the collaboration that Tommy and Ethan did together. Tommy also had some synths that he was doing in that song. When I heard the final product with everything together and everything mixed, it was mind-blowing. I felt like two different creative minds made something that flowed so well together and really did make me pause and appreciate the final product.
I'm finding lately that most of the best heavy music coming out now is not influenced by heavy music. A lot of people I talk to have a lot of influence from other things.
You have mentioned hip-hop and some ambient music before. There's a lot of people who I've talked to who are really into classic, 80's synthwave stuff and that. It's cool seeing these external influences breathe some really interesting light into heavy music as a whole. You stated that and it does kind of bring it together because this album is by far the best thing that Oryx has done.
TOMMY DAVIS: We listen to a lot of hip-hop and a lot of soundtracks and a ton of ambient music. One of my big inspirations over the past couple of years is Johann Johansson. He was an incredible composer for Mandy, Sicario, Arrival—amazing movies. I really took a lot of inspiration from him and from the level of darkness you can achieve with synths as well. We employed it in "Lamenting…" I think it's also an attempt to really let the riff speak for itself.
Tying everything together that we've talked about already. You've had plenty of time to sit, write music, and construct this album. That's been the case for a lot of other musical projects and bands during this pandemic. In your opinion, what sets Lamenting A Dead World apart from other albums and other records that have been written during this time?
ABBEY DAVIS: I'll tell you what, we're a weird band. We are not very fitting in most genres. I think any of our releases–us as a band, as a whole—especially Lamenting… is weird and it's hard to pin down exactly what the hell we're doing because we have different influences. We have always sounded like we can't really be pinned down to one thing.
I think what sets us apart is being that. We are not necessarily just stoner doom, we're not just sludge. We're a mix of different things. Tommy comes from a punk background. I come from a mixed background too. I think that comes out on record for us, but this one really makes a statement.
I think when you want to find something that's different than what you're used to hearing—when you want to hear how other people interpret their frustration, their pain, their feelings in the way that we do—then I say give it a listen because we communicate those emotions in our own style in this album. We're not necessarily just one genre and we take pride in that, too, because we draw from different places for our music and every album sounds different because of that.
I think even just this album, in particular, is special because we had a third voice writing in it, so it's going to be a different Oryx sound in general. We were able to add other voices, too, with our guests’ contributions. So, I think what sets us apart is just we're fucking genuine. We kind of haven't changed from being weird this entire nine years of being a band and I am proud of that.
That's awesome. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
ABBEY DAVIS: Pick up the album and listen to the whole thing, that's all I can say to everyone.
TOMMY DAVIS: We have a lot of love for Translation Loss. We think they're fantastic and they've treated us very well and we're happy to feel at home with them.
ABBEY DAVIS: They helped us realize the visual representation of this album. We had an amazing artist that we were able to purchase art from, but also Translation Loss was able to help us make this come to life. When you buy it, open it up, and you see the poster and everything in there, it just completes the full vision of the album. I feel like you can sit there, listen to the record, and get what we're saying.
TOMMY DAVIS: I'd like to give our infinite eternal praise to Ettore Aldo del Vigo. He's the artist that we worked with and we had a great experience working with him and really felt a huge connection to his artwork and what we were trying to articulate as a band. I think that's pretty unique to be able to find an artist that we really had such a strong collaboration with. I really think he's probably one of the top surrealist artists of our time right now and I'm super, super honored to work with him