"carnal altar" the debut album from english doomsters SERPENT VENOM is one of the few absolutely essentialreleases of the year. Just like their label mates Orchid, their ep had already shown great promises, but in one year, the quartet has worked hard to present some of the best psychedelic occult doom that you could expect.
Pretty much opened to all the catchiest and gloomiest forms of doom, from the early proto years to the "dopethrone" period of Electric Wizard, while not forgeting at all the late 80's renaissance wave, Gaz (ex vocalist in the mighty Sloth) and his guys have succeeded to create an overall atmosphere that is brillantly suffocating, incantatory and mesmerizing, perfectly represented by the cover and the special book-style packaging full of creepy illustrations.
This masterpiece pleasantly digested, I thought it was time to know more about this band that really has the potencial to take the place of the future retired Cathedral, a few days ago Gaz (and bassist Nick for a part) kindly answered the following questions :
* So, « carnal altar » is out for about 2 months now, it gets good critics everywhere, expect the weather that I imagine in England even more shitty than here (which seems hardly possible) ain't life great ? I suppose you're satisfied with the way things are turning out ?
Gaz : We're really happy with how things are turning out and people like yourself, Hellridemusic, D.F.F.D, Doommetal.com and so on have been so supportive of us, we've had some great reviews and some real positive feedback from most people who've heard it. Also the fact it's been released on such a cool label with a great stable of bands is definately a bonus! And trust me the weather here is probably a lot more shit!
* Bands like Cathedral and Electric Wizard have been under the highlights for a very long time now but it seems to be just recent that the english doom scene reveal quite a number of great new bands, how could you explain it and do you feel there's a real fresh and new breath ?
Gaz : Definitely, Cathedral and Wizard are rightfully held in high esteem and over the past couple of years there's really been a real emergence of killer bands here in the UK, bands like Conan, Groan, Age of Taurus and Jackal headed guard of the dead to name but a few. I think the UK has always produced good doom bands going way back to the early 90's and hopefully the bands of today are helping to carry on the tradition.
Nick : I agree with Gaz whole-heartedly. Not only is the doom scene alive and very much well within the UK, but the world. there's plenty of podcasts and review sites cropping up such as blood or love and the Soggy Bog show that consistently shows us all new bands all of the time. regarding British metal music, it's not just doom, but sludge, thrash, death you name it, new bands are pushing their way through all of the time. Never have we all been so well off in terms of musical entertainment.
*I don't agree with that, considering this is your first album and you guys got a flawless sense of composition, but the rare critics I have read or heard about your album focus on some kind of linearity, you know like playing always at the same tempo with the same general atmosphere, are you sensible to that ? could new songs show some evolution towards this ? Gaz: I've read the same thing and thats cool, everyones got their own opinion on stuff, i don't really agree myself, as songs like The Outsider and Devilshire are quite uptempo in parts as opposed to Blood of Serpents and Carnal Atar which are pure slow doom, you have to take criticism constructively and use it to take you forward, we're all really proud of this album and hopefully we'll take what we've learned this time around and make the next one even better. With regards to new stuff we're just starting the process of putting ideas together for new songs so its too early to say what direction they may take.
Nick: You have to take the rough with the smooth at the end of the day.... then ignore it and do what you want to haha. You can't please everyone all of the time.
* You cite influences like Sabbath, Blue Cheer, italian prog, horror soundtracks, krautrock and psychedelic stuff, but no « modern » bands like Electric Wizard, Candlemass or Cathedral which can in my opinion be heard too in your sound... is it because you like to make the list short and not just cite names or maybe you think that (some of) those bands just have common influences ?
Gaz: Those bands have had a huge impact on all of us, i wouldn't say we were directly influenced by them though because as you say i think there's common influences there, we couldn't have listed all the bands we're into or the list would have gone on forever.
Nick: Well I could write you a list of bands if you really want but you'll die of old age or boredom reading through it all.
* You seem to follow closely what's happening in the doom scene and necessarily have heard about other retro 70's bands like Blood Ceremony, Orchid, Graveyard, Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats, Jex Thoth... sometimes more or less doom ok but do you feel anything common musically or in the identity with any of these bands or others ? More generally which albums did you particularly enjoy this year so far ?
Gaz: Well we share a label with Orchid and they're a great band with a real classic sound, i got the first Blood ceremony album which was awesome and need to get hold of their new one, i've heard of the others but i've been too skint to buy much new music lately!
* The production of the album sounds very vintage, did you record it in Wales because the studio had some special 70's material and/or was it your producer's « home » ?
Gaz: The recording experience was brilliant we went to Foel which is owned by Dave Anderson(ex hawkwind, groundhogs) they've got analogue equipment and the engineer Chris Fielding is into alot of the same stuff as us he really knew what we were after, and the production was spot on! The whole place has a really good vibe about it and it's literally in the middle of nowhere so you can really knuckle down and get the best out of everything on offer. We did the whole thing over a 4 day period which was quite intense, it was hard work but well worth it. I couldn't recommend the place highly enough!
* Your songs are generally quite long, do you think there's limits to fix for the length of a song? Did you guys ever played covers that you extended « improperly » ?
Gaz: The songs just came out that way,we never have a time limit on anything, once a song is done it's done, when Pete brings a song in he nearly always says "this will be a 5 minute long song", its only once we've taped it we're like "shit its over 10 minutes again"! We haven't done any covers yet as we'd been concentrating on writing the album, but i'm sure there'll be some interesting ones in the future.
* The CD has been released by Church Within in a very original special book format, it's you who made all the artwork and illustrations but was it all your idea or did you get help from Olli or someone else ?
Gaz: We were all taken aback when we saw the final result, Pete's the one to thank for that, he's massively into his old horror and wanted to create something that emulated the old paperback beat ,horror and occult pulp novels , the whole concept was his vision and Oli was happy to run with that, i'm not sure any other label would have let us do something as bold for our first album, but Oli's really cool and as you can see from his other releases he believes in going the extra mile for people buying stuff from Church Within, we also need to thank our friend Roland Scriver for all his help.
* There's a tour with Orchid and Seamount planed for October in Europe, Theo Mindell told me about Germany, France, Holland and Swittzeralnd, did he forget UK ?!!! the poster is ready but wihtout dates for the moment, do you have more infos about that?
Gaz: Not at the moment as we haven't had dates through yet, i know its over 9 days, unfortunately there's no UK dates but it would be great to get them both over at some point in the future as i'm sure the UK crowd would lap them up, i can't tell you how excited we are to be a part of this, both Orchid and Seamount are amazing bands, we've never played Europe before, we're opening so hopefully there'll be a few people out.
* Ok, thanx a lot for your time, all the best to you, à bientôt en concert j'espère ;)
Gaz: Take it easy ! Hopefully you can make the French date of the tour I'll get you a pint in !!