Interview with Succumb vocalist Cheri Musrasrik and guitarist Derek Webster | By Nicholas Senior
San Francisco’s Succumb beautifully embrace the grotesque on their staggeringly impressive self-titled debut. The record – released May 5 via The Flenser – was recorded by Jack Shirley, the producer who had a hand in two of the most lauded blackened metal releases of the past few years: Deafheaven’s Sunbather and Oathbreaker’s Rheia. The latest record to bear his name is no less laudatory.
Succumb’s black/death hybrid is a rabid beast; it’s the type of album that you need a thesaurus to properly describe. Mixing Canadian war metal, grindcore, New York dissonant death, and a type of ritualistic and cavernous black metal, Succumb is as original as it is impressive. Like anything coming out of The Flenser, it’s a challenging listen, but like a trip to the bottom of the ocean, the depth reveals true beauty and horror in equal measure. It’s also strikingly lyrical and literary.
Like a poetic prodigy, Succumb honed in on their sound, and like a carefully constructed poem in iambic pentameter, the early results are stunning. Guitarist Derek Webster explains, “It almost seems by accident how our style was birthed. When we started as Cloak a few years back, we were giving our take on bands like Teitanblood and Cultes Des Ghoules, but it wasn’t long before it started to evolve beyond that. When [drummer] Harry [Cantwell] joined the band, it allowed us to expand on our approach towards the writing process. We all come from relatively different musical backgrounds, with a love for black/death metal being the common thread here. As far as naming specific influences, I could go on forever; however, the vitriolic attack of Canadian black/death metal as well as the left-of-center riffing found in the New York [and] New Jersey style of death metal and grindcore serve as an endless source of inspiration for our sound.”
Vocalist Cheri Musrasrik’s lyrics touch on familiar subjects in a uniquely literary manner; her use of language is akin to the works of famous poets that 90 percent of high school graduates “read,” but still don’t understand. Like a funhouse mirror, death’s many reflections and the ways in which we succumb to it are laid bare by her evocative words. Musrasrik expands, “The album talks about all aspects of death: annihilation by pleasure, merciless oblivion, the bleakness of reality, surviving that reality or escape at all costs.”
How and why did Musrasrik learn to write in such poetic verse? “I worked in a couple bookshops as well as the library and archive at The Center for Sex & Culture in San Francisco—essentially a sex library,” she explains. “The latter would explain a few of my proclivities regarding subject matter. ‘The Flood’ is about autoerotic asphyxiation. ‘Bedchambers’ refers to S&M prostitution and is inspired by Jean Genet’s ‘The Balcony.’ Time and again, I have found myself most attracted to writers from the 19th to early 20th century, their language being a bit more formal and immersive.”