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The Joy One Wields: How GLACIAL TOMB's New Lineup and Ben Hutcherson's Renewed Mental Health Drove "Worldsflesh"

The Denver death metal group returns with their first new material in two years: a blistering new track loaded with dual-layered riffs, a more technical low-end, and more.

Glacial Tomb
Photo by Alvino Salcedo

"'Worldsflesh' represents the beginning of a new era for Glacial Tomb," Ben Hutcherson states. He's one of the band's founding members and now takes up the mantle as one of two guitarists and vocalists for the reconfigured Denver death metal band. "Since welcoming Dave (Small, bass) and Nico (Camacho-Logan, guitars/vocals) into the band last year, our creative drive is stronger than ever, and their unique influences have allowed for us to expand our sound in a number of ways."

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It's been a couple of years since anything has come from the Glacial Tomb camp, release-wise. The band released their self-titled debut back in 2018 to large critical acclaim. In the time since their proper debut, the band has gone through a bit of reconfiguration. The addition of Small and Camacho-Logan marks a sizable upgrade to the band's technical abilities and overall depth of sound. On their first single as a quartet, "Worldsflesh," marks the beginning of new endeavors, both physically and sonically.

"This song not only offers a glimpse at what's to come for us but puts the talents of our newest members on display," Hutcherson elaborates. "Dave's bass playing is simply ferocious and brings a new level of tasteful technicality to our music. Nico's black metal influences and incredible vocal range have further expanded the sonic possibilities available to us. Most importantly, both of them are phenomenal dudes that Mike (Salazar, drums) and I are proud to call friends and bandmates."

The Joy One Wields: How GLACIAL TOMB's New Lineup and Ben Hutcherson's Renewed Mental Health Drove "Worldsflesh"

Glacial Tomb delves into the misanthropic themes of life on Earth. It's been a cornerstone of the band's makeup since its inception. Given the more expansive nature of their sound—it's incredibly evident on their newest track, "Worldsflesh"—these themes are much more vivid in their delivery. Yet, the nature of their sound isn't the only thing that intensifies these themes. Hutcherson has spent a lot of time reading. His reading found its way to this new track.

"The lyrics are certainly some of the bleakest that I've ever written, drawing equally from Thomas Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race and Comte de Lautréamont's Les Chants de Maldoror. Both works offer unpleasant truths about mankind and the unavoidable suffering of existence," Hutcherson explains. "We are damned from the moment we first draw breath in this world, and our myopia and selfishness serve only to worsen our plight. We seek relief from this world in congregations that blind us to our responsibilities to one another and to this world. Meanwhile, the earth attempts to purge us like an infection, becoming less welcoming to human life by the day."

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That last part may hit home for some, given the current state of global affairs. It's something that Hutcherson notes carry some weight given the global crisis. "Though I wrote these lyrics months before the COVID-19 pandemic, they feel particularly salient given the current state of the world and the elite's blatant disregard for others' lives," he concludes.

Perhaps the greatest influence on Glacial Tomb's sound, beyond the new talents and deeper source material, is Hutcherson's fortified mental health. He's lived with depression most of his life, but it's only been recent that he's sought out help for it. He attributes a lot of his rediscovered joy to seeking out help and finding appropriate ways to manage it. As he puts it, it took his mental health going the wrong way to truly catalyze his efforts.

"I have depression and it’s the sort of thing where I knew I had depression for most of my life, but I didn’t realize it had it in the treatable, biomedical sense," he reveals. "Things started going downhill gradually in my mind towards the end of last summer. It got to the point earlier this year where I was in this quasi-catatonic state most of the time—it was debilitating. It was dark…"

As our interview unfolds, we delve deeper into some of the more specific moments and events in his recent life—his steps towards completing his Ph.D. in Sociology as well as life at home—and how his mental health had impacted those things. Ultimately, we arrive at how his re-energized mental health, as well as a reinvigorated Glacial Tomb, sets Hutcherson and company up for a bright future. "Worldsflesh" represents the marker for new beginnings and carries an air of positivity and hope, even with its extreme and deathly tone.

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Stream the band's newest single, "Worldsflesh," and read the rest of our in-depth interview with Ben Hutcherson now. Pick up a brand new shirt from the band as well. Ben's beautiful dog, Daisy Mae, has been undergoing cancer treatments. He and his partner have a GoFundMe established to help with the costs. Donate if you can, please.

Glacial Tomb is on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Cody Davis is on Twitter and Instagram

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Hutcherson: There are a couple of bigger studies people are familiar with that discuss the rate of mental illness among musicians and creatives. It’s something like three times higher than in the non-artistic population. Some estimates put it at three-quarters of people who are artists of some sort suffer from a form of mental illness.

I got help, and I understand how hard and scary it was to do that. There are so many people that can’t or won’t get help. Plus, the idea of what isolation does to someone in that headspace has really made me appreciate my access to healthcare and medication. I make sure to check in on my friends who are musicians or in the music industry at large. We’re all having a hard time of it, but for those of us who had our income yanked away because of the pandemic, it makes it even scarier and less likely for them to reach out for help.

Metal Injection: Past a certain point, you can only funnel that through your music so much.

Hutcherson: Yeah, a thing that is true for most people is: you are at your best when you are happy—or the least miserable. For creative folks, there is a pervasive myth that suffering breeds creativity, and pain will allow you to create amazing art. The opposite is true. From a physiological perspective, there are things that allow us to create the best when they’re not impeded by mental and physical health roadblocks.

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There’s also this more ephemeral side where creating things inherently is a way of connecting ourselves to other people. When we’re so thoroughly wrapped up in that blanket of depression, anxiety, or addiction, it cuts us off from other people and that sense of community that can remind you that you’re not the only person experiencing this. They can remind you there is joy to be had, even in creating the darkest art.

The idea of, “I have to hurt to make art that is dark,” is a really dangerous path that is not productive.

The Joy One Wields: How GLACIAL TOMB's New Lineup and Ben Hutcherson's Renewed Mental Health Drove "Worldsflesh"

Photo by Alvino Salcedo

That’s a lot to unpack and you’re right, you do hear of this myth a lot. What kind of challenges would you face in trying to convince people that “suffering breeds creativity” isn’t the way to go?

Hutcherson: That’s a tough question, right? On one hand, it sounds like a truth people have to understand for themselves. A thing that comes up a lot for me in therapy is: I know things, but when someone tells me something I know that I don’t want to hear, that’s what makes it real. I think people need to be willing to be open to that truth first of all.

Honestly, one of the most important people in me realizing this was Conan O’Brien. He was interviewed by Howard Stern a few years ago. It was a great interview because they dig into, not only emotions broadly, but emotions connected to mental health. Conan talks about how he has struggled with mental health issues his entire life and that he refused to get help for so long because he thought that is what made him funny.

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His struggle to remain in control with himself fueled his creative process. It wasn’t until he got the help that he realized, not only was that wrong, but he had been hampering his own creativity for decades. He was funnier when he was happier and in control and could mine whatever sort of emotional depth he was trying to tap into.

Is he trying to tap into joy? Well, there is no better way to get in touch with joy than to feel joy. When it came to mining the darker aspects of his experiences or some sort of shared, communal darkness the best way to tap into that was to be in control of his own mind, body, and emotions to be able to channel those influences in a particular way rather than have them override him.

It’s true in metal and it’s true in me. I’ve known since I was 17 or 18 that if I was mad or sad, I could not create anything worth a shit. I would pick up a guitar and I would be thinking about whatever was making me sad or mad and at the very least play the guitar worse. More often than not, I would not be present in what I was doing. Anything I created, I was going to associate with being mad or sad and throw it away.

I’ve known as a result of that: the better the headspace I’m in, the more honest I can be with what I’m trying to create. I can tap into the really deep moments of pain in my life. I can tap into those feelings of loss when I am more in control of myself and when they’re not trying to dictate how I feel. Then, I can wield them in a certain way, instead of being wielded by my feelings.

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I think that’s really interesting—I’ve not seen or heard that Conan O’Brien interview before.

Hutcherson: It’s a great interview across the board. It’s a rare moment of Howard Stern being a really compelling interviewer. I’ve always liked Conan O’Brien for a lot of reasons. He’s weird, he’s quirky, and for those of us who are weird and quirky, seeing someone be very successful in those ways in a very mainstream manner was always really inspiring to me.

At the same time, it wasn’t until the “podcast revolution” that there has been this discourse about humanizing people in the media. We might know about their drama, but we didn’t know them. I have found the people whose artistic endeavors I’m moved by, my appreciation for their art, and they are only intensified by learning more about them—unless they turn out to be a piece of garbage. Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with that.

Pete Holmes is another really good example. He’s made a career about being open about himself and his experiences and his religion and his first marriage. Marc Maron really comes to mind. I know I’m just talking about comedians at this point, but I think the same is true of musicians. Some degree of honesty—whether it’s being explicitly offered in the context of an interview about mental health—or just being honest in what you’re creating and not trying to put out this contrived bullshit. You don’t have to convince me of how evil you are. Let the music do the talking.

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However, people get to the creative part of their music is up to them, but I don’t need to be convinced of the worth of the music before I hear it. The music should do the convincing

Absolutely. I think the bridge to that convincing becomes easier when you have someone who is a little bit present in a more humanized or transparent light. It gives people better access to what goes into the music or some of the honesty that is actually involved.

Hutcherson: Absolutely. Thinking about music, this makes me immediately think about my buddy—or everyone’s buddy—Mike Scheidt from Yob. He’s been very open about who he is. Not just in the context of his illness a couple of years ago, but about what music means to him in a practical sense. He’s finding that balance between being a father and a touring musician or the struggles of when Yob wasn’t touring.

I love that dude. I have always been inspired by the way his music is an honest reflection of who he is and where he is. When you listen to Yob, you listen to those three men tell their stories. I think that can be true with any kind of music. With doom or doom-adjacent stuff, we’re more open to it. Their art feels honest and an honest reflection of their own struggles and victories.

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Being able to express that through lyrics, or more ephemerally through note selection and guitar tones really feel like the most authentic way your individual experiences and contribute to this larger notion of the human experience.

The Joy One Wields: How GLACIAL TOMB's New Lineup and Ben Hutcherson's Renewed Mental Health Drove "Worldsflesh"

Photo by Katie Rose

Of course. Do you feel that Khemmis and Glacial Tomb’s music to this point has expressed that level of honesty for you all, or is this something you’re still trying to achieve?

Hutcherson: I think it’s both. I’ll answer differently for both bands because both bands operate in different ways and mean different things to me and to the listener.

For Khemmis, I think our success has really come from being willing and able to be emotionally honest in what we do without making everything so literal and on the nose. This is only a thing we see in retrospect, though. We don’t get together and say, “Alright, we’re going to create this tapestry of human emotion that runs the gamut from suicidal depression to finding true joy in being present.” I think that’s so much of why we’ve achieved what we have and why we feel compelled to keep creating. We have been honest, and we trust each other to be honest in what we bring to the band.

We’re still changing—I’m a different dude when we wrote Absolution in 2014. I’m a fundamentally different now, even since we wrote Desolation. Because we don’t try to do anything or create anything other than what we find honest and compelling, I think that’s what makes Khemmis, Khemmis.

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For Glacial Tomb, it’s a bit different. It’s still absolutely about being authentic and honest. It is a little bit more narrowly defined in Glacial Tomb. I can only speak for myself, but when I write for Glacial Tomb, I write best when I am at peace with myself. It allows me to dig into those darker places and explore that frustration and disgust with the world. It’s not even in an overtly sociopolitical sense. It almost manifests as an anti-human life sentiment. Sometimes it’s more the disgust in the ways people have failed to fundamentally live up to their capabilities as humans.

I don’t expect myself to get everything right all the time and we should definitely offer that level of respect to everyone—give them the leeway to be wrong. But there is a difference between being wrong and being malicious and capitalizing on other peoples’ weaknesses or lack of access to support or care. That’s where more of the overtly misanthropic themes of Glacial Tomb come from.

For Glacial Tomb, the idea of being honest in what we do is incredibly important. In fact, I think it’s extra important given the extreme styles of music are maybe less accepting of… even this conversation. There are some death metal bands—Gorguts comes to mind—that can dive into the philosophical side of things. More often than not, the conversation revolves around whether or not it’s brutal or tough.

I’m not saying I don’t love a good tough, caveman riff, but that has to come from a real place. If I tried to write a riff that sounds like Dying Fetus or Cannibal Corpse, you can smell that bullshit from a mile away because that’s not how I think about playing guitar. No matter how much I love those bands, I would still sound like I am covering them.

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I think the same is true of lyrics. It’s important to push my boundaries and find different ways to tell stories. There will always be that important distinction in my mind—it has to come from that honest place. It doesn’t mean not pushing boundaries or not challenging yourself, but it does mean recognizing when you’re being disingenuous in any capacity.

That makes sense. It’s a very good point. Thinking about that, let’s use some foresight for this. Take your new track, “Worldsflesh.” Given, one, the new look—being a four-piece—but also this more overt honesty and how you’ve been over the past few months, what does the trajectory look like for Glacial Tomb over the next year or so?

Hutcherson: Well it was looking pretty, fucking good until we weren’t able to leave the house anymore! [laughs] We started writing this song not long after Nico and Dave joined the band. I feel like Glacial Tomb is in a place now where some of the raw material we have is so exciting. It doesn’t sound like anything we’ve ever done before, but it still retains the kind of feel that is important for this band while being better from a technical standpoint and being catchier.

We’ve all agreed that no matter how extreme this band is we’ve got to have a hook. I think in a lot of ways Gatecreeper has shown the underground that you don’t have to be afraid of hooks. Their albums are hooky as fuck and they’re blowing up because of it, right? Their riffs get in your head, their choruses get in your head.

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We have a chorus on this song. I had a bunch of lyrics written for it and Nico said, “let’s pare this down and make people feel like this can get in their head and they can scream along with at shows.” There’s nothing contrived about it. It’s not like we’re going to be on America’s Next Top Death Metal Band because of this. This is the kind of thing I want to hear. Don’t we all like it when we get to sing along to our favorite songs regardless of the style? Why would we deny death metal, black metal, and grind fans that for the sake of essentially posing—saying, “No, we’re too brutal for song structures.”

The Joy One Wields: How GLACIAL TOMB's New Lineup and Ben Hutcherson's Renewed Mental Health Drove "Worldsflesh"

That’s a huge point and it gives the material staying power. You mentioned Gatecreeper’s stuff. That stuff just sticks, and I noticed that the first time I listened to “Worldsflesh.” It almost sounds like a reinvigorated or refreshed sound for Glacial Tomb. There are more layers and you can feel it.

Hutcherson: Thank you for saying that. That is definitely the experience we were hoping to cultivate with this song. We are excited to put this out there. For the people that already know who we are, it’s to remind them that we’re still here and give them something to look forward to. It’s also to say to the people who haven’t heard us before or maybe just found us, “I’m really glad you found the self-titled or our old EP, but this is what we are now.”

I feel like this is Glacial Tomb 3.0. We skipped level two and went right to three. It feels tighter and I like the idea of it feeling reinvigorated. There is energy and excitement in the room that I didn’t know this band could have. Now that we have it, it’s just amazing. It makes me feel very grateful to be in this band.

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