For our first interview on the relaunched Rebel Extravaganza, who better than PULCHRA MORTE, an entity which, though newly formed, harks back to those few formative but oh, so important years when both death and doom were colliding, and bands were creating something heretofore unheard within the realm of metal. Lord Randall recently sat down with guitarists Jarrett Pritchard and Jeff Breden, drummer Clayton Gore and vocalist Jason Barron to discuss the band’s debut offering, Divina Autem Et Aniles.
Rebel Extravaganza: Did you approach the songwriting of the new album with conscious thought as to PULCHRA MORTE being a different sort of animal than the rest of the multitude of projects the members are involved with? Conversely, did you just look around at a certain point and realize “We’re really doing this band thing”, or was there a plan in place from the start?
Jarrett: I feel like I joined an intact band, although Dylan [Kilgore, bass] was yet to be snatched up. The songs were in the demo stage, and I knew from being told and listening to it what we were up to from the start. In truth – I won’t speak for anyone else although I think they would agree – we liked how the record came out, so one more step comes and then the next. Now we have shows booked. We rehearse as a live unit, although not super frequently. [The] album is coming out February 1st. Looks like we are doing it whether we meant to or not!!!!!!
Clayton: Yeah, metal – and music in general – is kind of weird, in that the en vogue style kind of comes in waves. Like, a monumental album comes out, then you get a bunch of other bands that essentially copy that style. People get tired of that, then some other band puts out a different-sounding monumental album and the cycle continues. It just felt like the doom/death of the early Peaceville days had been unjustly passed over. So Jason went on a mission to find people that agreed, and were capable of putting something together that wasn’t just a copycat but understood the feeling of those albums. And, as Jarrett said, it just kind of went from there. So, to answer your question – yes, there was a core idea and conscious decision to do something none of us had done before, and to pay tribute to what felt like a very under-appreciated brand of music.
RX: What was the recording setup like at New Constellation, there in Orlando? Analog/digital? Also, how much did the studio itself and location factor into what would become Divina Autem Et Aniles?
Jarrett: Well, New Constellation is my studio business with my friend, producer/engineer Jeremy Miller. We are both a ProTools (Logic if needed) house and analog via a very nice Studer A820. This last record, I didn’t have the tape machine yet, so we did it with ProTools – good preamps, good gear, and plenty of time, although we did all the basic tracks in about a week because people came into town just specifically to record. Then, of course I went out on tour first with SIRENIA, and then with TYR, so two months passed after I tracked it before beginning to mix. That was our whole reasoning for releasing a single first – just to give people a taste of it, without putting out home demos – while we were waiting to wrap it up. As far as our location, it was written before they came down, but I came up, musically speaking, in Tampa and so did Clayton in our early 20s. So whatever part of that is us, and whatever part of that we contributed to that scene and sound is still us – I feel we all came from our own common ground, but each bringing a different flavor to the mix. Really an excellent-feeing collaboration.Clayton: I had done some recording there with Jarrett before and really enjoyed it. It’s a pretty unique studio, really. Briefly, it’s a fully professional recording studio that also happens to be attached to a very nice house in Orlando. That type of environment makes the entire process as comfortable as possible. Recording can be a very arduous, clinical ordeal, but New Constellation makes it a pleasure.
RX: Was it beneficial, do you feel, to keep production “in house” due to Jarrett’s resume and familiarity with the material, at least for the debut? Do you see yourselves ever reaching out for another set of ears, as it were?
Jarrett: I’m going to let someone else handle most of that question but I would be the first to tell you that, budget permitting, I’m extremely into using other people. I’d like to just play sometime, you know? But given the chance? I work regularly with Chris Common. I would love to do an album with Joe Barresi, but a proper one – budget would have to be right on. I wouldn’t want to rush that process. If we are going to blow through it and not be able to give someone the time to do their best, I would rather take it and do it myself. But Martin Birch? Immediately, without question. Or Keith Andrews, who made Heartwork with Colin Richardson and worked on more crazy records you would never believe than anyone I know? Without a doubt. Collaborating with people I respect and admire is the best part. In a second. I learn everyday. That’s the whole point.
Clayton: Jarrett knows exactly what to expect from me, and we have our own communication, musically speaking. That shorthand also helped everyone get the album done as quickly and smoothly as we did. We all came in well prepared, having done full pre-production demos, so it just really was probably my favorite studio experience thus far. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
RX: The album features contributions by Heather Dysktra, Naarah Strokosch and (of 1349) Seidemann. When in the writing stages, were you already aware that you wanted to add the elements these could provide to the finished product, or when the foundations of certain songs were laid, did those specific songs just “call for more”?
Jarrett: I feel like there were light discussions about strings and things prior. Heather was in there from the minute we decided to cover ‘The Painless’. We had always been good friends, and having worked together on ‘The Essence’, obviously I knew what to expect. In general, I like what she does a lot. We laid it out, arranged, got it done and really liked what happened.
As far as the cello, it was just basically an idea that grew. I knew a computer wouldn’t cut it – I meant for that part to sound like plague quarantine poverty death rain. Despair. Imagining in my mind a metaphor for seeing death in every corner. Also, the natural intonation of a human is important to me. I don’t want music to be perfect. I want it to speak. Emotion is a moving, changing, breathing concept. They aren’t locked to a grid. That’s never an excuse for not playing well, but feeling first, always. Always. Always. Naarah was a friend. I got in touch, sent some chord progressions and a demo, and she went to work. When she ultimately tracked, she did, I believe, 10-12 parts. We just sat down and built it from there, letting things evolve and take a natural process. Clayton had a lot to do with the cello arrangement, once it was all tracked. Once we sat down and looked at what we had, we put it in place where it was going to be in the song and he really brought it to the next level when he assembled it with me.
Tor? Siedmann? That was easy. Those guys are very good friends of mine and I love both he and Ravn’s vocals. I work on other projects with Tor and like his vocals and really wanted to add him to the mix.
The thing that is most important to realize – we made this record for us. A lot of this was just creating with our friends. We had the means, the songs, the equipment, etc. Of course, I want people to like it and listen and come see us play, but like I was saying before – we made a record we wanted to listen to.
RX: Of course, this hybrid style harks back to the early days of death/doom, back when OBITUARY and ENTOMBED could slow down to a near-backwards crawl, but then rip your face off the next minute. You’ve kept things fairly mid-paced on Divina Auten Et Aniles, but managed to do so without sacrificing heaviness or seeming one-dimensional. I’m reminded of Novembers Doom in parts of the album, which is a good thing. I know you’re working on new material, and was wondering if you intend on exploring more straightforwardly “fast” tempos in the future.
Jeff: As far as the new stuff, I think it is very important to preserve what we have established by not going too fast, though we do have that option on the table if we ever wanted to use it since everyone in the band has played in super fast bands in the past.
RX: The B-side to the ‘Soulstench’ 7″ is a cover of ‘The Painless’ from PARADISE LOST’s 1991 album Gothic. What led you to choosing that cover specifically? Did you choose the band, then banter back and forth about which song/era to spotlight, or was it pretty much unanimous?
Jarrett: Clayton said, “Let’s do a PARADISE LOST cover.” There was no question about what album, ever. I said ‘The Painless’, because it’s probably my favorite song on that album. Jeff learned it immediately and sent vids to us of the parts. Heather got called, and it was a done deal. That process was almost like guided hands. I think that one was just meant to be done. I actually toured mixing SOLSTAFIR in the fall of 2018 supporting PARADISE LOST. A few of the PARADISE LOST guys said they heard it and liked it, approved if you will, and that meant a lot to me. I’m very proud of that one. I feel like we did it justice while staying true to the spirit of the original.
RX: Speak a bit, if you would, about the lyrical inspiration behind ‘When Legends Die’. Also, how important was song order important when it came to the album layout?
Jason: ‘When Legends Die’ is somewhat different. This is basically a prelude to everyone who relies on a savior. Ultimately, we are the ultimate salvation, sacrifice, and divine. Not so much in a religious sense, but in a practical sense. I mean, the universe is full of powerful minds, and we drive this universe as a whole. The shining light is burning out and a portion of mankind is taking up our own light, if you catch what I’m saying.As far as the track list, I myself had no particular order. I feel it’s the best arrangement for each story and song for the listeners.
Clayton: We tried a few different track orders, but this was the one that worked best. There were two considerations – one, the feel of how the tracks flow, the sonic story they tell, and two, the math problem of space on a side of vinyl. We wanted to make sure the order would work on vinyl how we wanted. The order we decided on meets both criteria.
RX: What do you think it was about that early Peaceville era, late ’80s-early ’90s that captivates doom fans so? The blending of death metal, which was also just really finding its sound? I mean, even now, PARADISE LOST, MY DYING BRIDE and ANATHEMA are regarded as the (un)holy trinity of death/doom. I’d add CATHEDRAL, at least for Forest Of Equilibrium – and despite them being on Earache – but…
Jarrett: For me, it was just another sound from a time when, thankfully, bands were very different but still all considered “death metal”. It’s also, in some ways, more cold. Dark but beautiful. I personally always loved the first few CHRISTIAN DEATH records, as well as Bauhaus, in addition to movie soundtracks – so it combined all of these things to me. It was also a matter of being able to make melodies haunting while heavy. Most of the music I love has somewhat of a haunted feel to it. Altars Of Madness, for instance. Dawn Of Possession. Onward To Golgotha. Despite being brutal, all have this…thing. It’s almost hard to describe. It’s also courageous, in its way, to do exactly what you want to do in the midst of everyone else doing whatever the norm is. To go completely the opposite direction is respectable. Look at BLACK FLAG and My War, particularly side 2. I think when people step out and do it their own way and set precedence, something special happens. When it hits that emotional nerve, it just stays with you.
RX: Plans for the remainder of the year?
Jarrett: We have some live shows booked. We are looking forward to the record coming out and really hoping to get back into the studio for the next one by next fall. Obviously, since we handle a good bit of our record’s business and band business, we want to continue to get it as far as possible to as many people as want to hear it. Hoping to do well enough to do vinyl of the first record. Continuing to work on new music. Hoping to do more live shows. If luck is with us, get into doing some things overseas. Hoping to do some festivals and whatnot. Most of all keep being stoked to be a band. Keep producing music we approve of…doing it the right way. Being a team and creating something cool.