Interview: Purgatory’s Matt Anderson on The Importance of Emphasizing Mood Through Their Sound

The Midwestern metallic hardcore crew Purgatory sound punishing on their latest album Lawless To Grave, out now on Unbeaten Records. 

The album feels like a filth-soaked musical chainsaw with a piercing metallic edge in the guitars amidst a formidably staggering weight in the overall sound. Ultimately, Lawless To Grave feels inwardly menacing and relentlessly pummeling, and the powerfully huge sound feels immersive, like getting hurled straight into the ominous musical portraits that Purgatory have crafted. 

“I would say that this record in general and most of the stuff that we write definitely gravitates towards a lot of the uglier, darker things that happen in people’s everyday lives, our everyday lives, and the lives of people that we’re associated with,” vocalist Matt Anderson explains. “Part of being involved in hardcore and the heavier music realm in general is being around and exposed to a lot of dirty and ugly things, but being aware of it and not just brushing it off or being ignorant towards it. We face a lot of things head-on, and I mean it’s a blessing and a curse because it doesn’t make anybody naive necessarily.” 

Ultimately, Lawless To Grave—which features the talents of Josh Mata and Brian Pilla on guitar, Tito Richmond on bass, and Collin St. Mary on drums alongside Anderson—is personal.  

“[The album] really focuses on a lot of the terrible things that we go through as people and are exposed to as people, personally as a band and just kind of generally speaking for everybody in general, people that we’re associated with and whatnot, and dealing with it in a way that we see fit to deal with it,” the vocalist explains. 

Anderson is conscientious of the feelings of the instrumentals on Lawless To Grave. Every element, ranging from the grueling guitars to his own roared vocals, feels fueled by a similarly devastating rage. 

“One thing that we really, really tried to hone-in on for this record was the lyrical themes of each individual song, and even just specific parts, and really, really trying to emphasize that feeling and that mood through the way that the music actually sounds,” Anderson says. “So, it is a sense of catharsis, because it allows us to express all of the things that we’re feeling about whatever I’m singing about. […] It’s become very important to us to really, really try and dive in and use everything that we’re feeling inside, and everything that is just affecting us personally, and just throw it outwards towards music, and hopefully have other people understand, and maybe even feel the same way.” 

Purgatory Lawless to Grave

Anderson—who’s been “involved in hardcore for a very long time,”— shares that he’s always inclined to take hardcore and related heavy music with a very personalized slant. 

“We don’t want to just write stuff that just sounds cool or sounds heavy. It’s got to have a purpose behind it and a meaning behind it,” he says. “So, having that be a driving force behind writing things to serve a certain purpose was definitely very important on this record. I think that heavy music shouldn’t be taken in vain. I just don’t see the purpose of playing this kind of music just so you can write a song that just sounds cool but doesn’t mean anything. I don’t understand that concept.” 

As for the sound of Lawless To Grave, Anderson is, on a similar note, interested in a personalized—albeit consistently hard-hitting—route.  

“We want, when you listen to it on record, for somebody to be able to be like: Man, this is raw as fuck; this is so aggressive; this is hard; I can’t wait to see this live,” Anderson says. “And then live, whatever part they felt like they were really feeling, hopefully they’ll be able to act on that as well. So, you write specific parts—I’d be a liar if I said that we weren’t writing specific parts to go off during. But it goes hand-in-hand with trying to capture whatever energy or mood or feeling is happening within the song at the same time. So, it’s almost like a catch-22—you’re trying to write stuff that’s real and personal, but you also want kids to be able to connect with it and move to it as well.” 

Purgatory’s songs definitely feel easily transferable to an exhilarating live concert experience. Throughout the rampaging Lawless To Grave, the roaring energy billows just about endlessly onward. 

Ultimately, Purgatory carve themselves a unique sonic space, although they’re eager fans of other hard-hitting greats like the metallic hardcore group Merauder and the hardcore/ hip-hop crossover group Biohazard, both of whom are from NYC. Anderson also cites hardcore trailblazers like Agnostic Front and Madball, lauding the “ideals and virtues” that drive classic hardcore. Specifically, he explains, Purgatory have taken cues for their DIY ethics from those classic groups. 

“We’ve kind of been playing our own brand of metallic hardcore since the inception of the band,” Anderson explains. “Everybody in the band, we all listen to a lot of metal on our own time too, and that kind of goes for most of the subgenres of it, whether it’s death metal or thrash or any of that stuff. […] We don’t want to define a certain necessarily specific genre. I know metallic hardcore technically is, but we’re not a beatdown band. We’re not a straight-up hardcore band. We’re not a straight-up metal band. We’re a good combination of all these kinds of things, so the intention is definitely to write very metallic-influenced hardcore because that’s all the stuff we love, but we don’t want to define one single sound out of it.” 

Anderson also finds captivatingly personalized elements within the sounds of classic bands.  

“When you listen to bands like Madball, even though they don’t sound like us, they still have those parts where it’s just in-your-face—like it’s constantly just in-your-face, and so much style behind it,” he shares. “As weird as it sounds to say, there are a lot of vibes behind it. You can’t watch those bands or listen to those records and not feel yourself moving in a certain way with it, because they have so much style. […] We try to keep that; you’ve got to have style in a band, otherwise I think you’re kind of missing the point, but that’s all just directly stemming from punk and hardcore.” 

The weight of Purgatory’s sound almost immediately summons images of intense club shows, but Anderson also remains very interested in the personal element of the band’s music. The sonic heaviness is not the entire point. 

“With our record, the thing that we hope to accomplish and succeed at is writing the kind of stuff that’s very real—even if it’s dark and gritty—and very raw to listen to,” the vocalist says. “Some of it might make you feel a little uncomfortable—there’s some pretty heavy themes on this record. It’s real. It’s real life, and it’s not just us that are going through it. There are so many other people that struggle with the things that we write about, and having the opportunity, and hopefully getting through to people and having them hear it, and feel like: Shit, like, I go through all of this stuff as well, and I know that there’s an end in sight with some of the things that I or these people are struggling with—that’s a huge thing for us.” 

Lawless To Grave doesn’t sound blindly heavy—the songs, even if blistering, clearly pack an emotive punch. 

“That doesn’t always get achieved, because our band isn’t super well known, and that just comes with the territory,” Anderson observes, discussing the band’s hoped-for emotional impact. “But that is something that I’m really, really hoping for on this record, for people to just pay attention to it and just listen to it, you know? And if you buy the record, just read the lyrics. None of it—there’s no frills on it. There’s no filter on it. It’s all just as real as it gets. None of it is faked, and none of it is forced. We’re just singing about everyday realities that we go through and our loved ones go through, and our friends go through, and one thing that I would love to accomplish with the record is having even if it’s just one person latch onto something and say: Okay, I’m not alone in the way that I feel.” 

Listen to Lawless To Grave below, and pick up a copy and merch here.

Follow Purgatory: Facebook/Twitter

Images courtesy of Purgatory.

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