Interview with Ian J. | By Hutch
As “The Awakening” ushers in Death Velour with its horror film score elements—slow tripwire drums, chilling and sparse piano, offbeat low tones—the mood is set for a descent into a tortured landscape. Mixing mood with the ferocity of key influences such as Dismember, Nihilist, Autopsy, and Darkthrone, Tampere, Finland’s Ghastly create a netherworld of gripping death metal. Signatures of doom and black metal swirl in a typhoon of morbid smog. Ghastly bore the severely punishing Death Velour on April 20 via 20 Buck Spin, who have shared such modern death metal classics as Abyss, Acephalix, Daeva, and Vastum.
Ghastly became a band in 2011, and instrumentalist Ian J. reports of his beginnings with vocalist Gassy Sam, “We had a 4-track cassette recorder, so we decided to do a demo, Death Is Present, and see how things would go from that. It gave me a boost to do more and explore my musical path.” The path is forged with flames as J. handles guitars, drums, and bass and Gassy Sam slays on the mic. Now, Johnny Urnripper adds guitars and vocals. This culminates in a cacophony of vocal approaches, especially in the final third of “The Magic of Severed Limbs,” as rasps and growls swirl amongst the dense riffing with scathing enmity.
From the harsh winter of Finland, J. unveils his feelings regarding his growth on Death Velour, hailing the production. “Funny enough, both [2015’s Carrion of Time and Death Velour] were done almost a similar way, but you learn while exploring the world of recording,” he relates. “Once again, I had my good friend Mark Murky to help me with recording gear, keyboards, intro, and mixing. Comparing the music on both albums, Death Velour is more advanced than Carrion of Time. It has more depth to it.”
That depth results in a plodding pace yet yields a triumphant feel. The simmering black metal staccato guitars and reticent drums announce the music much like a warrior march declaring victory. This is layered death metal. “The Magic of Severed Limbs” offers charging riffs, but Ghastly never rely on a riff to carry a track. “Death By Meditation” has a piercing guitar that adds tension upon itself with caustic repetition. Swiftly, Death Velour moves into the following track, “Whispers Through the Aether.” The crashing riffs sway for a few measures until plummeting tones rip and tear downward. The tempo changes a few times, like a skilled boxer pulling an opponent into his control. The songs are skillfully crafted on this album. Arduous sculpting reigns, but it’s celebrated with an exposed, live feel.
Damian Herring of Horrendous mastered Death Velour after Ghastly utilized their rehearsal space to record. “Mark helped with microphones and knowledge once again with this record,” J. explains. “I controlled the record button, and mixing we did with Mark. Recording Death Velour wasn’t easy; for example, equipment didn’t work well and crashed down many times. On the other hand, you cannot have a decent product of art without suffering. Damian has mastered both albums and has done a good job once again.”
J. knows what he likes. Just as he returned to Herring, he also revisited the same artist, Riikka Pesonen, for both LPs. Death metal relies on its visuals as much as amps and guitars. Death Velour’s cover depicts a female corpse carried to death in an icy sea, and J. lauds the work. “Both album covers are top notch,” he asserts. “They go hand in hand with the music on each album and create an atmosphere that’s unique.”
The image evoked by velour, the fabric, may belie the visceral, grating aggression of death metal, but J. accepts that and checks the thought. “I get so many ideas while watching films, and Death Velour has lots of those kinds of ideas in it. That name stayed in my head for days,” he relates. “It became clear that I needed to use this unique name. The most generic death metal album titles with some putrid cadavers would have changed the whole atmosphere of the record to something that I wouldn’t have been 100 percent OK with.”
“I like to hear people’s interpretations of the title,” he adds. “It’s something that is not set in stone and gives your imagination room to develop ideas. On the other hand, wouldn’t you like to be shrouded in the comfort of a dark velour, rather than the basic white silk, when the energy has left your body?”
Touché. I’ll preorder the casket now.
Photo by Saara Kujansuu