There is a certain kind of comfort that you feel when you listen to an album which follows the footsteps of the old guards that have been there when it all started. Not that this means every single new Bathory worship band should provide a comfort listening – far from it, most of the bands tend to be rehashed 80s riffs in an uninspired way – but some of the current black/thrash/speed acts that worship at the altar of old school still manage to bring something of their own to the table to be worthwhile. This year gave us a couple of those distinguishable albums – namely Eurynomos, Flame, Bütcher, Thesyre, or Reaper – and we still have some more to come and join the ranks of the best quality of their style, such as Occult Burial, Mongrel’s Cross, or Transilvania.
Soonest to be released amongst them is “Burning Eerie Lore”, second full-length of Occult Burial from Ontario, Canada. It is easy to see that there is a rising set of young, current heavy metal acts from Canada, mostly playing the old styles of 80s metal – loosely gathered around the banner of Temple of Mystery, one of the best current distro/labels in nowadays underground heavy metal – and Occult Burial are one of those bands, specifically following the path opened by the ones like Bathory or Venom.
With “Burning Eerie Lore”, Occult Burial stay faithful to their sound but still manage to create a new album with great replay value whenever you are in the mood for straightforward 80s riffs used in well written songs that are melodic and catchy while keeping it thrashy.
On the 30th of October, the album will be released from Invictus Productions, Temple of Mystery Records, Stygian Black Hand, and Electric Assault Records for different physical formats for different parts of the world. Invictus will release the album on CD and vinyl LP formats in Europe, Electric Assault Records and Stygian Black Hand will release the album on vinyl in the United States, and Temple of Mystery Records will be handling the CD and cassette tape versions for Canada. While waiting, you can now hear the full album here as a Ride Into Glory exclusive, and read our chat with Joel, vocalist/bassist of the Canadian trio.
Instead of a cliché opener question about how the writing process of the new album was – I would love to hear how you feel about the “old school metal sound” in the modern age (whatever modern age may entail to you). Is taking a simplistic and immediately catchy riff that sounds like BATHORY or VENOM from the 80s and writing strong, killer, pure heavy metal songs around it in 2020 (“Highway Through Borderland” if I must give an example…) traditionalism for you? Or a reaction against the modern world? Or just simply “we have grown up on this music and this is what we love to hear and what we love to play? Who gives a shit about the current times?” (Do feel free to talk about writing process if you have anything you’d like to say, though…)
If we decided to play the music we grew up on, we would be playing blastbeat-soaked black or death metal. I suppose in a way our stylistic choice was a reaction to getting sick of hearing blastbeats and overly technical metal all the time in the early 2000s – we wanted to retain extremity but bring back that (traditional as you say) element of catchiness that is lost when a record is an overproduced 45-minute blast with few hooks.
I feel like the particular style of metal you play (black/thrash metal if you will) can be based on two somewhat different points: the sleazy, almost fun, over-the-top rocking black/thrash or the more serious, occult, evil and colder black/thrash – not that they are musically different-sounding or anything. Would you agree with these opposites and are you drawn to one or the other?
Well I’d have to say that we draw elements from both sides. We’re not a party band but any band is bluffing if they say they’re not playing music for the fun of it, no matter how stern of an attitude they project, because at the end of the day music is entertainment. Our lyrics are playful at times but dark and no fun – no stupid shit about drinking at a party or rehashed Satan stuff, just death, demons, depression and violence with glimmers of joy and camp. So I’d say we’re wedged comfortably somewhere near the middle between the sleaze and the serious on this theoretical sliding scale of black thrash.
Instead of yourself in a blue fog and smoke, album cover this time features a KARMAZID piece. I assume this change isn’t simply because there were pandemic restrictions to gather with bandmates under blue fog and take new photos and you had to find another artwork – how did the cover come to be? Was the concept and design yours or did you give KARMAZID the music and let him create the imagery?
We debated whether to have the new album cover be another group photo, or an illustration. We’ve continued rehearsing weekly through the pandemic so that wasn’t the concern, an illustration just seemed the more fitting choice for this one. The concept is mine. I reworked it for a few weeks, trying to incorporate some of the lyrical themes. I avoided adding fire into the concept because it would have been too obvious considering the album title and cliché in general, so I focused on colder elements – skulls, claws, bricks, prisons, etc. Initially, instead of the gargoyles spitting out the heads, it was going to be two bodies of soldiers confronting each other across a bridge, with the bridge collapsing in the middle and skulls trickling down from there. But for technical reasons it had to be changed to the gargoyles, which in the end I liked much better. You would laugh if I showed you my pitiful sketch next to what Karmazid made of it. His level of talent is truly insane, and his style is perfect. He was the only artist I had in mind to realize my morbid vision. He said he used a new technique for this drawing so it took him longer than his average works, and it turned out great.
Between the full-lengths and a 7”, you also contributed to the Canadian heavy metal compilation “Trapped Under Ice” which highlighted a lot of current and modern local heavy metal acts. Do you feel there is a sense of strong local scene with all those bands and Temple of Mystery Records? Is that something you’d consider yourself a part of?
Well, yes and no. It’s hard to have a sense of a “strong local scene” when cities are as far apart as they are in Canada. Here in Ottawa I wouldn’t say there’s much of a scene to speak of if we’re talking about the old school metal sound – the gigs we play locally usually end up being more on the punk/hardcore side unless it’s a proper metal show that we are booking ourselves, like Malokarpatan or Outre-Tombe, which is something we hope to do more often after the pandemic to try to foster more of a scene in this bureaucratic bore of a town. We are great friends with the owners of Temple of Mystery so inevitably we share that bond with the other bands that deal with the label, but ultimately we’ve never strived to be part of a given scene, and our more extreme style does set us apart from a lot of them.
Four different labels all around the world (Temple of Mystery, Invictus, Stygian Black Hand, and Electric Assault) are involved in the release of the new album, all formats considered. And they are labels that you had worked with in the past for several things. Did the whole release process with everyone involved go smoothly?
It did go smoothly, it wasn’t as complex as it seems because each format was handled by one or two of the labels, not all four of them. Electric Assault and Stygian Black Hand operate basically as one label in this circumstance, so them and Invictus did the LP, Invictus and Temple of Mystery (the owners of which have worked together before) did the CD, and Temple of Mystery alone did the tape. We don’t have deals or anything with these labels; we financed the recording and the artwork ourselves, so they just had to deal with the post-production stuff which they do excellently.
As the album is coming out rather timely for this matter… Do you have any unusual Halloween activity suggestions besides giving “Burning Eerie Lore” a listen in that evening?
They could get their thrills by carrying on the ancient Irish tradition of the ritualistic murder of kings committed on Samhain. “If the year was a hard one, tormented by plagues or famines, the people would hold the kings responsible. The failed king would be sacrificed and replaced, and his body would be thrown into the bog.” Sounds suitable for 2020!
Any final words to Ride Into Glory readers about “Burning Eerie Lore”, OCCULT BURIAL, or otherwise?
Stay sane in the dark winter that lies ahead.
Temple of Mystery Records
Stygian Black Hand