Shroud of the Heretic is a crushing death metal band and after hearing their “Revelations in Alchemy” release I knew it was time for an interview and here is one with band member JT:
Tell me how the band was formed and what were the early days like for the band? Did you go through many member changes early on before you got a core line-up?
Shroud of the Heretic formed a couple of years before I joined. At the time the lineup was drastically different. Thom is the only remaining founding member and before I connected with the band, there was evidently a rotating cast of second guitarists. I joined shortly after the ‘Boiled to Death’ demo had been recorded and began playing shows. Eventually we parted ways with our other guitarist and drummer for different reasons. This was followed by a few nebulous weeks of looking for our current drummer, and we now remain a strongly connected 3-piece.
Were you in any other bands before Shroud of the Heretic and if you were what other bands? What got you into underground music and what were some of the 1st bands that you liked and got into?
We were all in other bands preceding Shroud of the Heretic, but they aren’t connected or relevant to what we are now engaged in. I can only speak for myself regarding the second question: I remember hearing stuff like Iron Maiden and Van Halen when I was in elementary school and being completely fascinated by it. It grew into a quest to just keep pushing the boundaries and discovering more and more extreme sounds. Eventually I discovered the death metal genre and, while feeling a little alienated at first, came to love it. Stuff like black metal and doom were made apparent much later.
How long was the band around before you went into the studio to record your “Boiled in Death” Ep? Had the band recorded anything prior to the release of that?
I wasn’t actually yet in the band during the recording of ‘Boiled TO Death,’ but no, there are no recordings preceding it.
Was this Ep self-released or did a label put it out? If it was a label, which label and is the release still available and what are your thoughts on this Ep nowadays?
According to Thom the recording was never meant to amount to much. It was more or less a demo to distribute at shows or to friends. No measures had been taken to gain label attention or seek a release of any kind, but shortly after I joined, Blood Harvest (Sweden) took notice and offered to release the LP. Craneo Negro (Mexico) was also incredibly supportive early on and released the CD version. There should still be copies and various distros, and probably the labels themselves.
How was it recording this Ep, did everything go pretty smooth? What was the feeling like having some recorded material in your hands and how as the response to the release been?
I can’t comment on this, as I wasn’t yet in the band. The response was unexpected, although not overwhelming.
Now 2 years later, in 2014, you just released a new full length called “Revelations in Alchemy”, which I have reviewed and it is one impressive release. How did the songs for this come together and tell me who writes the songs and lyrics and how does a song come together?
The conception of Revelations happened relatively quickly after the birth of our current incarnation. ‘Revelations in Alchemy’ is a huge album for us as a band and for me personally. After about a year of this new lineup - essentially a completely different band - we were growing increasingly weary performing material from Boiled to Death, and the new material we were writing was something very different in sound and essence; performing old material didn’t feel genuine anymore. When Revelations was finally complete, it was like shedding old skin. The lyrics and motifs are all manifestations of Thom’s, and there are instances of very deeply embedded symbolism and imagery that I don’t fully understand, myself.
Regarding the music, any detriments of being an individual guitarist in a death metal band are vastly out-shined by the ability to experiment with texture and sound, unfettered by another person’s notions of what should be happening with a riff or melody. Or dissonance. While I handle almost exclusively the songwriting of individual parts of songs, we as a band collaborate on composition and intention. I’m incredibly lucky to be involved with musicians that are actively involved in, and wholly devoted to, cultivating a specific sound. What makes it onto the record is a collective effort, and all songs are written in a rehearsal setting.
Did you do anything differently recording this time as opposed to last time?
Again, I wasn’t involved in recording the demo, but our process for recording Revelations was incredibly straight forward. We spend a total of 3 consecutive day’s in-studio for recording. All the songs are recorded live to 2” tape. The entire groundwork for the album was captured in a single 12-hour session, and most of the songs are first-takes. The second day was dedicated to layering 2nd and 3rd guitar tracks. If I remember correctly vocals began on day 2 as well. The third day was spent recording vocals. After this, we spend a couple more days mixing before receiving the final mix.
Now you released this album on you own. Did you contact any labels to see about them putting it out? How has the response been to it so far? How did you come up with the title for the album?
Actually, we didn’t self-release. ‘Revelations in Alchemy’ was very similar to the demo in this regard, with the LP co-released by Craneo Negro and Blood Harvest. There are plans for the CD to come out again on Craneo Negro, and a cassette release on Parasitic Records. The album title is simply a descriptor of the written and recorded aspects of the record.
Who came up with the name of the band and were any other ideas thrown around?
I believe there were other names tossed around early on, but I can’t say for sure.
How is the scene these days out in Portland, OR? Do many touring bands come through and what are some shows that you have seen over the past couple years?
The scene in Portland is fantastic. There are enough active bands that there are large schisms between different metal scenes, even. Of course, as with anything that exists, the majority is garbage and you have to put in some work to discover something great. Whatever your niche, there is something for you here.
Some shows that have stood out to me in the past couple of years would probably be opening for Grave Upheaval/Impetuous Ritual/Ritual Necromancy, the many Anhedonist shows I’ve witnessed, Dark Descent Records Showcase, Drawn and Quartered, any time Knelt Rote or Ritual Necromancy do a show. I’m sure there are many more that I’m forgetting about at the moment.
Do you hope with this release that some label will want to sign the band? Do you plan on sending the release to many labels?
Again, the album is being handled by three different labels. We don’t have plans to try to increase label involvement any more than what happens naturally.
Has the band played live a lot? How have you shared the stage with and do you think you’re a good live band and are there any live clips of the band on say You Tube?
We aren’t as active as some bands but we try to do a show every month or two, taking extended breaks to write or record when necessary. It’s not ever really possible to objectively criticize or speak about your own art but yes, I do think we are a good live band. In fact, I think there are some integral parts to our sound that haven’t been captured on an album yet. We are working on methods to do so.
Please plug any websites you have for the band?
In any given week, how much time is spent doing band related stuff and what are some things you like to do when you’re not doing band related stuff?
This varies quite a bit depending on what projects we have going on. We always practice once a week for 2-4 hours (again, depending on what’s going on). If we are rehearsing for a string of shows, or working on writing or recording, it could end up being much more time. It’s not easy to generalize.
Does the band have any goals at all?
Our goals don’t usually tend to make their selves apparent to us. Rather, we are compelled by some force to do what must be done.
For someone who has never heard the band, describe what you feel the band sounds like?
This would be a job for a reviewer. As I said, speaking about your own art is impossible to do subjectively. I’d rather hear from an unbiased source to describe to me what they feel the band sounds like. Aside from that aspect, sound is nearly impossible to explain or describe without making comparisons or using meaningless hyperbole. Especially when talking about metal. So for someone who’s never heard the band, I’d just let them know that it can be heard online for free.
Any last words and horns up for doing this interview?
Thanks for the support!
Interview by Chris Forbes
Answers by JT (guitar)