Photo by Ester Segarra

Interview with vocalist/guitarist Nick “Necroskull” Ruskell | By Hutch

In 2005, Nick Ruskell stated writing music with his now wife, bassist Emily Witch, and Hampshire, England’s Witchsorrow was born. They soon added drummer, Dave Wilbrahammer, who loved the idea of a band who would stick to their mission statement of doom. Ruskell calls the music that spawned from this trio “Puritan doom,” gloomy and full of dark wonder, in the vein of Black Sabbath, Witchfinder General, Saint Vitus, and Reverend Bizarre. Inspired by the ominous power trios of doom metal, they turned quickly from being an unknown band to triggering the interest of Lee Dorrain from Rise Above Records.

Ruskell created three rules: “[First], we would be slow and heavy. We wanted to be a three piece like Saint Vitus and Black Sabbath. The second guitar changes the dynamic. Second, we would write about graveyards, rain, castles, and old churches. I wanted to depict visions that were like where I live. The third rule was to use classic, hammy doom imagery.”

That idea is pervasive throughout their new full-length No Light, Only Fire, which came out Aug. 8 via Candlelight Records. While reverb drenched riffs ring and linger over plodding rhythms, Tony Iommi-esque guitar flutters tickle the soul. Long, sinister riffs paint opaque visuals of treachery. Witchsorrow’s Satanic tapestries are cemented with thick, heavy guitars and powerful drums. Ruskell’s vocals and lyrics solidify the terror-tinted imagery. Song titles like “The Gallows,” “Made of the Void,” and “Negative Utopia” clearly convey his intentions. For No Light, Only Fire, these intentions were entrusted to a master of doom metal production, Chris Fielding. When he is not writing and playing classic doom with sludge serpents Conan, Fielding produces heavy records for bands such as Primordial, SSS, The Wounded Kings, and Winterfylleth. Ruskell recalls, “We recorded very quickly and had a couple days to let Chris sit and tinker. We went away and left him. We came back and heard new aspects.”

As opposed to 2012’s God Curse Us, Ruskell says Witchsorrow entered the studio with confidence. “This time, we took more time to write,” he explains. “If we had something good, we were wary. We would play a song for two months. We would take a small part of it to keep and rewrite whole new song around it. We were more demanding. I honed the lyrics and did brutal editing on myself. The whole album is a lot better.” Ruskell continues his praise of Fielding, saying, “Chris’ knowledge of a studio is amazing. He is good, smart, and patient. We felt no stress. Emily said, ‘I was surprised. Chris is only person you let tell you what to do.’”

Fielding has created his own studio called Skyhammer. “It’s Conan’s practice space,” Ruskell relates. “It is equipped with all of their pedals and equipment.” Delighted at the arsenal, Ruskell revels in the wide range of sound one can attain with Fielding: “He knows how to get that certain darkness. When we were mastering, he was recording a brutal German black metal band. I was amazed. He knew to make the sound big and cavernous and dark. So, we asked, ‘Can you get that sound for us?’” Witchsorrow bask in doom for the impact. Ruskell explains, “I want to hit a note real hard without thinking after to the next second. I love slow bits that let the riff hang. There are fast songs. But, hammering on a chord, dragging the riff; that is what the essence of doom is.”

On No Light, Only Fire, Ruskell focused his lyrics.The hopelessness is directed,” he explains. “This is more hostile than ‘waiting.’ It’s like taking revenge. ‘The Gallows’ is a story of a murderer proud to be hanged, because he murdered a bad person. [These] songs are more than hate for everyone. In real life, we have to be reasonable and polite. That makes it fun to have this outlet with lyrics. Some of it is ridiculously misanthropic. I hate corrupt business people and politicians, racism and homophobia. These are horrible people driven by greed who accept the public’s negative view of them and continue. They are not pulling wool over eyes. They are content being dicks.”

Witchsorrow plan to take their new songs to the stage very soon. “I am getting antsy. I want to play gigs,” Ruskell assures. “This weekend, we have three, opening for Electric Wizard and Satan’s Satyrs. We have only played one gig this year, so as to focus on this record. But, we couldn’t say no to Electric Wizard. Our absence made people forget, and now, they are excited that we are back. I really like travelling and even just playing my guitar, playing loud heavy metal in front people.”

Pick up No Light, Only Fire here.

Author

Tim Anderl is an American journalist from Dayton, Ohio, whose work has been published in Alternative Press, Strength Skateboarding Magazine, and Substream Music Press. He was previously the web editor of GhettoblasterMagazine.com and is currently the editor of YouIndie.com, a host of Sound Check Chat Podcast, and a contributing writer for New Noise Magazine, Ghettoblaster Magazine and Dayton City Paper.

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