A Grand Malevolence: How BLACK CURSE Crafted A Unique Evil of Their Own on Endless Wound
The Denver, Colorado black/death entity–at long last–unleashes their debut album. Read an in-depth interview with the band's members.
It's primordial darkness that Colorado's Black Curse siphons from. A kind of darkness that compounds the incorporeal matter of humanity and the sonic intensity of the earliest black and death metal. This kind of fusion is the foundation for what this trio has been looking to achieve years. Endless Wound, the band's proper debut, represents over five years of work meticulously crafting and refining that sinister darkness.
In that time, Black Curse has taken on various forms. Most notably as Maliblis, in which they released a one-song demo before ultimately scrapping the name. It was an early precursor for this current emanation; a rough draft of sorts. Though the writing process has been relatively slow—the band members are involved in other prolific projects based out of Denver that consume their time—it has not been unproductive.
Endless Wound is vicious; it does not quit. Moments like "Enraptured by Decay" and "Seared Eyes" showcase some of the more feral tendencies of the band. Guttural noises and spitting vocals over fiery, shifting riffs accentuate those and other tracks on the record. There are also some more metered and nuanced instances like "Lifeless Sanctum" and portions of the title track. They employ tense, building moments of volcanic proportions that erupt. It all sounds so chaotic and unruly on a recording, but truthfully, it feels tame when witnessing the band play live.
Recorded videos don't seem to do it justice. The band prides itself on taking this atmosphere of destruction to the stage on rare occurrences. They've built an aesthetic that mirrors and magnifies the essence of their vision and extreme music. It helps to build a bridge between not only themselves and their music, but they and their fans. All of this to ultimately build an idiosyncratic sound and unique identity. Black Curse is a culmination of talented musicians coming together to explore some of the darker facets of life and music.
Metal Injection caught up with the band's core members—Zach Coleman (drums), Eli Wendler (guitars/vocals) and Jon Campos (guitars)—to discuss Endless Wound as well as the time, energy, and inspirations that went into it. This album was originally intended to be released later this month, but, amid advancing concerns of COVID-19, the record's release date has been pushed up so physical copies could begin to reach the corners of the world.
Stream Endless Wound and read the in-depth interview now. It is also available today through Sepulchral Voice Records. Limited copies of the record are currently available through Dark Descent Records, The Ajna Offensive, and the band directly.
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Black Curse and Endless Wound have been over five years in the making. The band itself has taken on different forms over the years. How did you all initially come together for this idea and what has driven some of the changes to the band since its inception?
Eli Wendler: We spent probably four years writing and rewriting every song, changing parts, taking out parts, and just honing every aspect of the music until we had an entire album’s worth of material. Then, we started to think about other parts of the band—playing live, labels, and the actual recording of the record.
Zach Coleman: I think the formation of the band went through a few phases. It started out with us all jamming together and having a pretty solid idea of what we wanted the sound to be, to begin with—especially you [Wendler] and Jon. Then it kind of evolved a bit.
We recorded a one-song demo with Maliblis. That was the initial version of the band. Then as we continued to work on material, the sound and the ideas behind the band changed enough that we wanted to come up with a new name and give it a different identity. That came after a couple of years or something?
Wendler: Yeah, three years probably.
Jon Campos: Yeah, it was pretty late in the game.
Wendler: At that point, the influence of the band itself on all of us, as individuals, had taken precedent instead of any musical cues. We started to see those fires a little more seriously.
Coleman: We were figuring out what the sound was at first. Then, as we started figuring out what that was, it took on a different identity. Even though it’s not necessarily night and day, it became a more fully formed thought over time and we wanted to acknowledge that. Because we felt like it had become its own thing, we really wanted to make a distinction. That’s why we changed the name and logo.
Campos: The ideas in Maliblis weren’t really reflecting what we had done and actually formed. We dumped that song and name because the new sound of the majority of the material was just not that anymore.
Wendler: Yeah, everything was elevated to the next level.
Maliblis is this rough draft for what Black Curse is now.
Coleman: Yeah, definitely.
Wendler: Also, in Maliblis, I was playing bass and Morris [Kolontyrsky] was playing guitar. Then we switched.
Coleman: That was a big deal because that changed the sound quite a bit.
Coleman: I think Eli has a very distinct style for riff writing. The way he writes and thinks about riffs is different than Morris—obviously just a person to person kind of thing. He just brought that to the table. There were a lot of ideas out of the gate. Melding that with what Jon brings to the table, riff-wise, it was just a different creative dynamic.
Campos: I feel like once Eli made the switch over to guitar is when we really started taking the songwriting very seriously. The scheduling for him and I worked out really well. We were able to really find out what we were going to do with the guitars.
Wendler: Neither of us has any formal training playing guitars, so each of us has a very personalized approach to playing guitar and writing riffs. We started meeting up to really work off each other and understand each other’s musical languages. We meshed really well and things felt natural. There was still a lot of “one step forward, two steps back,” but it was at a much quicker pace.
Campos: You were writing riffs and I was writing riffs. I think the idea of the band’s sound early on was just not as defined. We got a good chunk of time where we actually could get together and hammer this out. When we were Maliblis, writing sessions and practice were so few and far between. I feel like even our inspiration has changed a bit.
That brings up an interesting point. You all mentioned time. Black Curse marks something very different and wholly unique from the other projects you three are a part of. It’s a lot more ferocious and barbaric than Khemmis, Primitive Man, or Spectral Voice. Those bands themselves take up a lot of your time. You already talked about the challenges of finding writing time. Were there any other challenges in trying to step away from those other projects to establish Black Curse’s own identity?
Wendler: For me, not really. I’ve always been in a lot of bands and always have a lot of musical projects going on. If I sit down and pick up a guitar or I have a concept lyrically, it’s always in the context of a certain project or band. It’s always been really easy to keep that kind of stuff separated because they are such separate outlets with their own identity.
Coleman: It’s fairly easy for me as well. I’ve played in black and death metal bands for 15 years. Playing with Khemmis is a newer thing for me than playing these styles. I was ready to get back to it and have ideas for—sonically what I thought would be cool—but also lyrically and holistically for a project. I love this world so much. They are so different, it’s easy enough for me to separate them. Drumming-wise, it’s just a separate set of chops.
Wendler: I think the biggest thing for this project was the time it took. There were times where we’d go four to six months without practicing because everyone had such demanding schedules. Even in those times, if two of us were here, we’d get together. The conversations never stopped. I think everyone was hungry to keep working on this material.
Campos: I think the vision of this final product was so important to the three of us that we just made it work however we could. We constantly had the "idea machine" rolling.
Coleman: There were stretches too where we were able to practice multiple times a week and really hammer down on it.
Wendler: Even in these long dry spells, this project was never anything that was just casual. Devotion has always been a huge element of why the band is what it is.
Coleman: Everybody is kicking around ideas at all times. Having the separation worked in this case as well to give us some space to look back on what we were doing and evaluate it.
Wendler: Those reflection periods were super critical. If we would have just recorded and the first two songs we wrote and then released them, then recorded the next three songs and released them, they would probably sound completely different.
Coleman: Even before that, you [Wendler] and I had a death metal band when I first moved to Denver that was more cryptic death metal. So, there was a background of that there—just to add to what you’re saying.
Wendler: Right. It’s less about specific bands and trying to emulate their sound. I think all three of us have a critical eye and a critical ear which is super important. When that becomes a filter, specific bands take a back seat to a specific vision you’re trying to create and dispel onto a listener.
Coleman: There are touchstones in terms of general ideas though. Second wave black metal, late first wave black metal—second wave mixed with evil death metal from the 90’s—and like, Goat bands.
Campos: I think we all have enough respect for metal to let our inspirations craft our sounds. We’re trying to add something new to the pot rather than just start another band. They don’t need another Demoncy or Sarcófago—we want to be Black Curse. We all like similar bands at the end of the day.
Coleman: There were elements of general styles, but it would never be, “it needs to sound like this style of death metal or this style of black metal.” It’s more, “does it have an atmosphere? Is it evil?”
Wendler: In general, the writing process has a lot of unspoken things between us. That leads to a lot of creative openness and places to explore. If we said, “it can only sound like this…” it would stifle that atmosphere we have in the rehearsal space. The undercurrents we all have made it so that we can explore a lot of different sounds.
I think that’s really apparent with the music and I’ve noticed this with a lot of the bands I’ve interviewed. It’s not so much a collection of bands, albums, or songs you like that you emulate. You take a holistic aesthetic idea or concept, funnel it into what you’re trying to do, and then whatever filters through is your product.
Coleman: It starts to take on a life of its own and then it pretty much becomes its own reference. That’s when you say, “Okay, we have a sound.”
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You mentioned recently Black Curse is a vehicle for various through-currents that revolve around chaotic or destructive forces. I was hoping to dive a little deeper into this. What forces in particular flow through this project?
Coleman: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been intrigued by things that can stereotypically be described as having a dark sound or image. There’s always been a natural pull to those kinds of things for me. As I got older, I explored that a lot more via a number of different methods. One thing that I came to know was a particular feeling or presence that when we’re working music and we’re hitting upon whatever that feeling is, then I know we’re tapping into something I know is really powerful, personally.
It’s always wanting to push whatever that thing is and try to bring that to the front as much as possible. In a way, it’s exploring the transgressive and darker aspects of your mind and humanity, in general. I think that’s important to do because it’s a balance at the end of the day. The thing that is also true—at least in my life, which may make me sound crazy—is that those things can be really destructive and chaotic.
What I mean is, if you’re talking about destructive or transgressive things, there’s a way those things become a part of your subconscious that influences the things around you and the way you perceive the world. It changes your way of thinking. So, it’s just trying to find a careful balance of that, but also trying to channel those things into a project. I do think that’s important to do.
I think there are certain through-currents that we each have or some version of that which we bring to the table and channel into this project. We’ve seen it manifest in insane ways.
Wendler: That’s a great way to put it. What Zach mentions is really hard to put into words. With the nature of those things being so personal, it’s hard to put that into some generalized statement that could be understood by everyone who may not have the same experiences. It’s a difficult question to answer.
Campos: We’re all trying to tap into darkness—not just trying to put together some riffs. It’s different than just a band. We all try to tap into the same energy when we play. People have felt that when we’ve played. The band has brought on a ton of chaos in our life and everything about this band has been pretty chaotic. I think that comes through with our intent.
Coleman: Especially bringing that to the live performance is tantamount. It’s a key part of us playing live. It’s why we don’t want to play live a lot because it’s a lot.
Campos: It would be a lot to recreate on tour.
Wendler: And it’s not really music you can play without those forces present.
Coleman: It’s not a fake intensity, you know what I mean?
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These chaotic or intangible concepts that—through immeasurable forces—find their way into you three. These are things that you all grapple with on various personal levels. Then, Black Curse, both in a recording and in a live setting, becomes this conduit or prism for the refraction of these forces.
Switching to the live performance itself. How did you all come up with the aesthetic or visual presentation of Black Curse?
Coleman: It’s a mix of things. On one level, actual practicality. I think that’s from all of us having experience playing in bands. The other side is wanting to present something that is dark and real—not forced. Some of those elements came up naturally.
Wendler: It was easy to figure out really. A lot of this stuff is a way to create some type of visual atmosphere or presence to set the tone. I’m super bored with the idea of a live rock band—big flashing lights and some dudes on stage playing guitar. I’m like not against it, but it’s not what we’re trying to do with this band.
Those things—incense, skulls, bones, and chains—they are classic heavy metal symbols for some undercurrents and undertones behind the music we’re presenting. Some of it is purely aesthetic and some of it is to get us in the mood to perform.
Coleman: So much of that is for us to get in the headspace. I think that’s what I want to emphasize. The stuff we bring on stage is secondary to what we want to do from a performance level. The performance isn’t about the props.
Campos: The props can get people in the same headspace too. That was part of it too—get everyone on the same page for the live act.
Wendler: We use an interlude that is really angular and chaotic. It’s very loud so if we need to take a moment to tune or fix something, we don’t want to drop the intensity we’re trying to achieve. Anything that is done is in the name of maintaining the intensity and the atmosphere.
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We’ve talked about the live presentation and the sound itself. Another fascinating aspect to the band, especially with Endless Wound, is the artwork and the layout of the record. What was the overall approach to the artwork for this album to convey the overall message of this band?
Coleman: I have been dreaming of working with Denis Forkas for years. I think his work is super evocative. I got to see some of his stuff in person a number of years back and it knocked me out. It was incredible. We were able to pull that together, which was amazing. We gave him lyrics and general concepts behind the band and more or less let him run.
Wendler: Layout wise, Patrick Tauch—he plays guitar in Venenum—is another contemporary artist that pulls from a lot of stuff. All of the Venenum stuff looks really unique. We just gave him all the pieces and he ran with it. It came together really naturally.
Coleman: Everything with the band is as analog as possible. We wanted to continue that with the look of the record. So even the other pieces of the layout are cut and paste or collage.
Are there things that Black Curse as a collective want to share about your music or identity that necessarily hasn’t been touched on or that is important for people to know?
Coleman: The thing that is important to all of us is there is so much stuff we pull into this—literary influences, ideas about themes and lyrics, even song structures—we all spend a lot of time thinking about this. To us, it really is its own thing. It has its own identity and I think it’s important to emphasize that.
The sound you have created on this very much speaks for itself. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s wholly unique from anything else you all are doing or have done in the past. This is a very powerful statement you all have made with your first official Black Curse record. I think the time you’ve put into this has made something really special.
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