Charging up their batteries for an imminent European tour, Matthew Skarajew and Paul Mazziotta of diSEMBOWELMENT, er… d.USK, er… Inverloch take a brief respite from their musical activities and reminisce about their early days, introduce their new homies, and ponder about the current state of doom metal.
No, the name isn’t a reference to Agalloch (that blessed American metal band from which 2010’s critically acclaimed Marrow Of The Spirit spawned). As both founding members of Relapse’s latest death/doom signing will reveal later on in this interview, Inverloch is a completely original name—and it has a really nice ring to it too.
Despite the simple font and clean look of the band logo, Inverloch is anything but a new entrant to the extreme metal community. Hell, don’t even think for a second that they are your run-of-the-mill “djent” band. This “new” band is really the reincarnation of the legendary underground Australian death/doom group, diSEMBOWELMENT; a band that is generally uncredited for probably being the earliest pioneer of the ‘90s funeral doom metal movement (most people remember Norway’s Funeral as the one responsible, for obvious reasons).
Hello guys, how was Bastardfest last year? Was it good warmup?
Matthew Skarajew: Yeah, Bastardfest was a lot of fun for us. We had never played in Brisbane before, so it was quite interesting and a lot of fun. It was really well organized, and had a great crowd—which seemed like a young audience. I’m not sure too many people knew what we were about, but that’s okay; it seemed like they were having a really good time, and we had some good feedback.
Paul Mazziotta: Personally, I thought it was one of our stronger performances considering it was our 3rd show ever. Bastardfest was a very cool metal festival. With all the bands playing, the night went very quickly. As far as warm-up goes, well we only performed the Brisbane leg of the Bastardfest tour. The Brisbane crowd were very supportive. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of it. I’d love to play there again soon.
It has been more than 6 years since the release of that ultimate collection of diSEMBOWELMENT’s entire discography in a limited edition boxset via Relapse Records. Is there still a high demand for diSEMBOWELMENT’s work today seeing as how many metalheads still regard you all as an underground legacy that was influential in propelling the funeral doom metal movement two decades ago?
Matthew Skarajew: Continued high interest? You know I really don’t know! I wouldn’t have thought so—I expect those with any interest might’ve gotten their copies by now. It’s music from a long time ago.
Paul Mazziotta: Surprisingly, I’d say there is still some level of interest in diSEMBOWELMENT nowadays; but not a high demand that’s for sure. I really appreciate that there is any interest at all. It is amazing a lot of the younger metalheads out there have a fair interest in more ‘old school’ death metal these days whether it is music from 20 years ago or today’s music which has that underground vibe. It’s pleasantly surprising that some people mention diSEMBOWELMENT being an influence for propelling ‘funeral doom’ when in the end, we enjoyed listening to and creating death metal, doom metal and ambient/atmospheric styles of music.
Is it tough being a doom metal band from Australia? Which leads me to this related question: Did diSEMBOWELMENT split up so quickly due to such difficulties (if any)?
Matthew Skarajew: Not at all! The scene here is generally strong, it’s always re-invigorating itself through generations over the years. At the moment, death & doom metal are very strong. Australia is not as isolated as it seemed back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. diSEMBOWELMENT predominantly split up so that we could all focus on getting on with other aspects of our lives, e.g. careers, education etc.
Paul Mazziotta: I feel like we were more a ‘death/doom’ band rather than a ‘doom’ band, but either way, when you ask if it is “tough being a doom metal band from Australia”? Well, back when we created the music, there certainly weren’t too many bands doing this style here in Australia. So yes, it was a little tough and there was more interest overseas than here in Australia at that time. Nowadays, there are more bands in Australia which either come under that ‘death/doom’ or ‘doom’ category in which there is much more interest/demand as well. Having said all this, it wasn’t a factor as to why we broke up.
What prompted the latest name change from “d.USK” to “Inverloch”? Is there any special meaning behind the name “Inverloch” apart from the possible reference to Agalloch?
Matthew Skarajew: Ah. Well, d.USK seemed like an appropriate name for the series of shows that were highlighting the old songs of diSEMBOWELMENT. We actually very nearly used Inverloch—perhaps in hindsight, we should have. In all honesty though, I wasn’t even sure we’d go beyond one show, so I had hoped to make it clear that there was a strong link to diSEMBOWELMENT with Paul Mazziotta and I. Inverloch is the name of a track I wrote many years ago for Trial of the Bow (released in 1994), and I always thought it would make a good band name. It was a very slow, doomy, dreamy track. There’s no special meaning at all.
Until you suggested it, I’d never considered it’s grammatic similarity to Agalloch! I hope they don’t mind… [Cyber-laughs] At least musically, we’re pretty different…
Paul Mazziotta: d.USK is more a tribute band to diSEMBOWELMENT, and which we used to play diSEMBOWELMENT tunes live. Inverloch is a new band (with all d.USK members) which we have come up with new material for that is unrelated to diSEMBOWELMENT. Inverloch has an EP out on Relapse soon (this coming April). The Inverloch name has nothing to do with Agalloch. Matt came up with the name. It was a name of a tune he wrote for Trail Of The Bow and he was keen to use it for this band.
Does the inclusion of a full stop and the capitalisation of the last three alphabets of “d.USK” hold any significance?
Matthew Skarajew: It was purely to identify a relationship to the past and nothing more. The name “Dusk” has been used before and they were a very cool band. We figured this would be only a fleeting project and so we thought it would be okay to use the name. It kind of grew bigger than expected eventually…
Paul Mazziotta: Because the d.USK band is effectively a diSEMBOWELMENT tribute band, we thought we’d use the ‘d.’ as this is similar to what is seen in diSEMBOWELMENT’s logo.
As for the capitalisation after the lowercase ‘d’, if you recall, diSEMBOWELMENT’s LP (Transcendence Into The Peripheral) had its song titles all in UPPERCASE except for the letter ‘d’ to keep it in theme. We incorporated that concept as a simple link.
Why does the new band name “Inverloch” contain no such awkward capitalization of alphabets and punctuation marks?
Matthew Skarajew: Well, that capitalization was more of Renato’s graphic trip at the time. I like the idea of the Inverloch logo being transient enough to change it’s look as and when we feel it is appropriate to do so. Design and branding are really of no great interest to me—I’ll stick to music. Having said that, Orion Landou did a magic job with the design on our latest release, and we’re really happy about it.
Paul Mazziotta: It is a totally new band and has no relevance to diSEMBOWELMENT other than having ex-members. New band, new members, new music and new logo; we believe Inverloch should be judged as a band that has a totally new identity because it has little relevance to past bands.
Can you tell us how this new deal with Relapse was inked out?
Matthew Skarajew: It was very easy, because we still have a solid working relationship with Relapse. Relapse and us go back such a long way. They understand our perspective and we understand theirs, so we are always able to find a positive outcome. Personally, I feel that they have been brilliant to me over the years, as they always treat me like an extension of the musical family. It was a no-brainer to go with them.
Paul Mazziotta: While we were dealing with Relapse Europe, discussing the d.USK performance at Roadburn, we mentioned that we had new music under a new band called “Inverloch”. They sampled the music and were very interested in releasing it.
How has fan response been to Inverloch so far?
Matthew Skarajew: Still growing, and it seems very positive. I’m really curious to see how different age-groups will react. In all truth, this first release was not really intended. They (the songs) were approached more as demos intially, but we really love the old-school vibe. It’s completely honest—real drums, no triggering or sampling or anything else. Just honest performance captured.
Joel Taylor, our engineer, did a brilliant job, considering the relaxed approach he took. Each song was recorded much like how we did back in the old days. We pretty much did one song in one day, over time. Each song has a unique feel, and they lay out, interestingly, in a chronological order on the disc. You can feel the music and sound develop as you listen to it.
Paul Mazziotta: The response has been fairly supportive so far considering that we don’t have anything released just yet (although there are already some references to the upcoming EP on the web). There’s been a little anticipation but we don’t expect any true response until the EP is released this coming April.
How different was d.USK from diSEMBOWELMENT in terms of playing and composing styles? Does the name get its derivation from the first EP released by diSEMBOWELMENT in 1992?
Matthew Skarajew: Yes, that was exactly where the name came from. I considered song title-type names which had all kinds of links to diSEMBOWELMENT. We wanted something that would indicate where we were from, but it was never a consideration to use the old band name. The d.USK band was far more capable of playing the songs live, and that was the entire premise of the project. diSEMBOWELMENT was not a live band, believe me!
Compositionally, well, it was different as it was all ideas from Paul and I. We never really started composing with the intention of releasing anything, certainly not for d.USK, anyway. We wrote two tracks to simply augment the live set and add variation to the playlist.
It’s inevitable that the old sound is lurking about in Inverloch, though. Of course, there is also all that ambience that was a big part of Trial Of The Bow. I really enjoyed putting that together, and it totally unified the record. Even the intro/outro riff to “Within Frozen Beauty” is an old Trial Of The Bow riff that I never got to use. It was originally written on my Oud (a Middle Eastern lute).
Paul Mazziotta: As we were finally bringing diSEMBOWELMENT tunes to a live format, we wanted to keep the link there with the EP. One main reason for the name change was that when we released the “Transcendence Into The Peripheral” LP on Relapse, we were about to change our name from diSEMBOWELMENT to Dusk anyway. At that time, we felt our music was not just straight-up death/doom metal anymore, so we were hoping to steer clear of the cliché death metal band names, but Relapse were opposed to this as they feared we would not have the same impact due to the status we had in the underground scene at the time and how people out there knew of our demos.
So why didn’t Jason (ex-guitar) and Renato (ex-vocals, ex-guitar) rejoin you guys for d.USK/Inverloch?
Matthew Skarajew: It was simply circumstantial. Renato has moved on from extreme music, and unfortunately, Jason is about 4 hours away—I’d lost touch with him for a bit, too. We have invited Jay to play with us at Roadburn and/or Hellfest, but it’s a fairly tall order so we’ll wait and see if he can do it. I really hope he can play some old d. songs with us sometime, even with Inverloch. That would be killer! It would be a blast to play with them both, and we would do it in a heartbeat… but I know it will never happen.
Paul Mazziotta: Renato has no interest in this project or anything metal-wise. He has well and truly moved on from this. As for Jason, well, he still has an interest here and has been an incredible supporter of us. As he now lives in Cairns (4-hour flight from where we are – Melbourne), it is difficult to arrange any rehearsals with him. I personally feel like he is spiritually part of the band because of our continued relationship with him and the fact that we are playing diSEMBOWELMENT tunes live. Maybe one day he’ll join us for a song or two down the track?
Can you tell us about the musical backgrounds of Ben, Tony, and Mark (the other members of Inverloch) and how they got into the band?
Matthew Skarajew: Tony Bryant was reccomended to us to play bass guitar. At that time, I wasn’t even sure if we’d get the band up and running. He’d been a fan of diSEMBOWELMENT from way back and has been a part of the local scene for a long time. He actually plays drums in La Haine, and also plays the bass guitar in a large jazz ensemble. He's ultra enthusiastic and positive.
After trying a few vocalists, it was actually Tony that suggested we give Ben James a shot. He and Tony had played in an experimental grind project together before, so he came in and was really good, straight away. I think this has been his first major vocal role, which is great as his voice is in good shape and he has worked his ass off to develop his range and variation. We’ve been really impressed with what he has achieved over the last year and he’s a great frontman.
Mark Cullen, who plays the guitar, was the last piece in the puzzle. I love having him there—we’ve been mates for over 20 years—as he’s part of the old Melbourne scene and has been gigging for years, so he has a lot of experience and confidence and we can totally depend on him and his playing.
Tony, Ben and Mark have all been so cool with their attitude towards the old material. They approached the project with a great deal of respect and busted their asses to try to get the live sound and performances as near to the recorded sound and vibe as possible. We’ve been so lucky, as they all happen to be great people and the band has gelled beautifully. It was that positivity that has inspired the new music, in many ways, and it’s fitting that they can all enjoy a new band profile and take ownership. It’s well deserved.
There was one song up on d.USK’s MySpace some time back, entitled “Within Frozen Beauty Demo 2010”. Will a finalized version of it appear in the upcoming Inverloch album?
Matthew Skarajew: Yep. Ben has re-recorded the vocals as he sounds SO much stronger now, and we finally mixed it properly. In hindsight, I kind of wished we had never posted it up as it really misconstrued our intentions. We didn’t explain it very well. It was written purely to augment the dynamic flow of the (then) current set-list, which had a very medium-tempo middle section. Live-wise, it sits beautifully amongst the old songs and adds some variety to them.
Paul Mazziotta: Yes it will. The version which was on the d.USK MySpace page was not fully mixed at the time and more of a demo track. Now, it has been fully mixed and mastered, and the vocal arrangements are different as well. It is ready for release.
The title of the upcoming Inverloch debut full-length is Dusk… Subside. Is it a thematic continuation of the Dusk EP from many years ago (which you guys did as diSEMBOWELMENT)?
Matthew Skarajew: That title was Paul’s idea. It effectively spells out the end of the d.USK project and bids farewell to the past. We all felt that it was very appropriate. There is no thematic content linking it to the old EP. Ironically, though, the Dusk EP was a collection of demo’s, and this EP is effectively the same, although the sound quality is far superior! And we really wanted to maintain an underground/old-school vibe. We wanted to avoid the overly-processed sound of Transcendence Into The Peripheral a bit, and I know that we sonically landed it on this record—just where we wanted it.
Paul Mazziotta: No, it’s not. Totally the opposite, to be honest. It has nothing to do with the Dusk EP. I guess it was our way of saying the live band we played in, d.USK, will end or subside and Inverloch will continue as a new identity.
Will Inverloch see you guys trying out a new style or returning to the death/doom days of diSEMBOWELMENT?
Matthew Skarajew: No dramatic stylistic changes. At the risk of sounding contrived, ambient death/doom is very much our musical language, if you like (at least with respect to Paul and I). Paul’s drumming really stylizes the music—when you hear the new release, it should be instantly recognizable. I’m absolutely certain that the musical language of diSEMBOWELMENT is so ingrained in all four original members, that if Jason and Paul were to write and record today, you’d get a similar resultant sound too. I like to squeeze some more technical playing into the faster parts—keeps us on our toes—but never at the expense of the songs.
Paul Mazziotta: We all love death/doom, so I don’t think that will change much. Matthew and I have been jamming on the old school death/thrash/grind styles for a number of years before d.USK/Inverloch so I believe we will always explore those faster energetic moments. Ambience and atmosphere is something which sits in nicely with our style and balances our moods from the chaos at times. With three fresh members (Ben, Tony and Mark), who knows what they can bring to the table? It should be interesting. I am looking forward to the challenges, headaches, and moments of blood boiling in my system from the music we create.
Let’s go back in time a little bit. How did you guys get into doom metal in the first place?
Matthew Skarajew: Exposure to bands like Trouble and Candlemass. That really kicked it off for me. I always adored the slower, heavier aspects of Venom and Celtic Frost too. Notice that all of those bands have distinctly unique sounds and strong melodic and dynamic variation. I like to try to carry that concept through everything I do, whether it’s metal or music like Trial Of The Bow. I’ve listened to dark ambient sounds since I was very young, and in many respects, there are great similarities to doom.
Paul Mazziotta: Bands like Black Sabbath, Cathedral, Witchfinder General, some Autopsy parts, some (early) Therion parts, Winter and (early) Paradise Lost were the bands I got into from a doom metal perspective.
The doom metal scene has developed a lot ever since diSEMBOWELMENT’s demise in 1993. Nowadays, we see many bands from other genres trying their hand at incorporating doom elements into other sub-genres of metal or trying their hand at doom metal with a very novel approach; such as Insomnium with their brand of plodding melodic death metal and 40 Watt Sun with their lovey-dovey lyrics. Do you all think of this as a good development for doom metal?
Matthew Skarajew: Pushing to find your own voice is always a positive thing. I respect that, even if it doesn’t readliy appeal to me.
Paul Mazziotta: As much as I love doom metal, I don’t really follow this genre of music as close as other forms of metal (such as death, black, grind). As long as the tunes have a good vibe, whether it be powerful, brutal or even something with cool riffs/grooves, I am okay with what other bands are doing with the usage of any type of doom elements. Doom does break up tunes and lets them breath sometimes rather than blast, speed, blast again etc. Listen to bands like Nile, Autopsy and Incantation. I believe they capture this principle really well.
On the other side of the coin, we have seen some bands elevate the doom metal sub-genre to an even more extreme spectrum, like Sunn O))) and their experimental brand of drone doom metal that has been jokingly called “fridgecore” by some. Do you think these guys are even making dreadful and despairing music anymore?
Matthew Skarajew: Dreadful? That’s not my call—it’s all so subjective. Each artist has every right to follow their own path.
Paul Mazziotta: I believe this is another way of pushing the envelope with heavy guitar sounds. Parts of Sunn O))) remind me of sounds we were experimenting with while we were still diSEMBOWELMENT. As long as there is a way you can record stuff to a point where the sound is heavier than anything possible, but in such a way you can still (even slightly) understand the riffs, it makes it even heavier (to me).
What are some of the non-metal bands and artistes that you all enjoying listening to?
Matthew Skarajew: We all have unique tastes with non-metal music. I go in cycles: At the moment I’m listening to a lot of Classical guitar repertoire – stuff that I was engrossed with from back in my college days. Also, music of the Court of Eleanor of Aquitaine (music of the 12th Century), and lots of early choral music; really dark choral stuff. It’s all so ambient and evocative.
Paul Mazziotta: Mostly jazz, especially rock/fusion jazz. Ambient/Atmospheric music. Some artists include Virgil Donati, Tony MacAlpine, Chick Corea, David Jones, John Patitucci.
What kind of non-musical sources do you guys draw inspiration from in composing and arranging your music, and as for the musical sources, are you all influenced by any non-death/doom bands or musicians?
Matthew Skarajew: All the early music (as mentioned above) and lots of dark ambient music inspire me to write. I’m a big fan of visual art and photography that challenge me to think about its aesthetic inner “voice”, if you like. Intense and moody textures, dramatic contrasts, these are all the things I love about music. Aesthetic art is all about taking the time to contemplate and consider—that is its inherent value— and not instant gratification. It bothers me that so many people miss that point and expect immediate fulfilment.
Paul Mazziotta: I am mostly influenced by music or metal bands/musicians. My main non-death/doom metal influence is Virgil Donati.
Any good doom metal bands you guys have high hopes for this year?
Matthew Skarajew: Mournful Congregation are killer. There’s an amazing record to check out by WURMS (from Melbourne). I played as a guest musician for a few shows with them. Their Natives Are Getting Restless album is enormously heavy and very unique, I hope they can keep it rolling this year and consolidate their line-up. Highly recommended.
Paul Mazziotta: The Nihilistic Front and Mournful Congregation.
Which lucky countries will be first to see you guys touring as Inverloch this year?
Matthew Skarajew: The first Inverloch shows are happening here in Melbourne. Our European visit in April is kind of a double-bill of sorts, because we will be visiting as both d.USK and Inverloch. We want to give people the chance to hear a good chunk of the old songs as it will be a one-off of sorts. So there will be the d.USK tribute set (exclusively for Roadburn), and at other European cities, we will mix it up a little with Inverloch seeing as how there seems to be a lot of interest in the new songs.
We expect to be in Holland, Finland, Belgium and the UK; hopefully/possibly Scotland and France as well, we’ll see. The economic climate is pretty rough in Europe right now, and as we will be coming from a long way around the world, it gets enormously expensive. We’re trying to keep it low-key though… it’s more fun that way.
Paul Mazziotta: Well technically, Australia is first to see Inverloch live with two shows before we head off to Europe.
From there (at this stage), it is: d.USK playing at Roadburn (Tilburg, Holland), Finland, back to Holland, Belgium, the UK and two other shows. All is going well, we will be mostly performing as Inverloch in Europe.