Out July 10, we caught up with SpiritWorld frontman Stu Folsom about their latest record, “Pagan Rhythms.
When I wrote the demos for the album, my brother, Lord Beezus, sent me the sample for the intro. The term ‘Pagan Rhythms’ was just perfect. I knew immediately that was going to be the title of the record and sat down and wrote the title track. I love the breakdown riff after the ‘Pagan Rhythms’ break. I originally had more of a bendy riff with an evil, Slayer thing happening, but Randy Moore played the riff between takes of some of the solos he tracked, and he was making it squeal, and it just added this great Dimebag feel that we went back and overdubbed. So good.
This is a concept album based on Western horror short stories I wrote that will accompany the vinyl pressing. I really wanted to kick off the album with the title track and have the imagery and sense of foreboding that I created in the fiction captured in the first lines. ‘Crimson moonlight drenches the night, howling wolves under a blood-stained sky, the short hairs on the back of your neck, slowly start to rise.’
Bringer of Light
This was one of the first songs that I wrote for the album. This is the perfect example of why working with a producer who can take your vision and then elevate it can be so magical. Sam came in clutch with some amazing layering, guitar harmonies and subtle hi-hat changes that add so much tension to the track.
There is not a wasted second on this track, ride-part groove and pummeling riffs. My pal Ben Verhoek doubled up on the Lucifer whisper vocal with his best Peter Steele impression while we tracked the gang vocals, and we had to blend it in. Short, sweet, and rad.
I was traveling a lot when I wrote this record. Jen and I were lucky enough to make the first Avail reunion show in Richmond, VA, and I remember sitting on the flight back to Las Vegas listening to ‘Head Cage’ by Pig Destroyer on repeat. Scrunched up in a shitty airplane, I decided I am putting the most obnoxious blast beat I can write on this song to break up the Clevo-style fast parts and that thrashy, triplet riff.
It was pretty special, sitting in the live room at Panda while Pridgen smoked a blunt and pounded through this song. Super rad to watch somebody so talented make a song come to life. His timing and groove are hard to believe, and I am so stoked to share this with people. When you start off writing punk and metal, and you teach yourself how to play guitar, you never really have that confidence that the band kids that go to music schools have.
It just goes to show, if you make enough racket and work on your craft, even a fuck-up, self-taught punker can make up songs that legit, world-class players will be feeling.
This song started out with a bouncy, Bad Religion-style riff that I have had around so long I don’t remember writing it. I revisited that riff, sped it up, and added in the death metal picking, and the rest of the song just poured out. Lyrically, I rewrote the first verse and the hook in the studio at the last minute, and it transformed into such a ferocious track. Randy’s solo was so killer I rearranged the last half of the song to bring it back around one more again.
I tried to avoid swearing on this album, but when inspiration delivers you such classic venom, what can you do?
‘Witness the end of the world through hate filled eyes. Annihilate the cross. Fuck your Christ. It’s the end, the end of times. The kings of man will kneel before Satan’s might.’
The Demon Storm
Everything in this song was built around the riff at the 0:55 second mark. Sometimes, when you try and bite the vibe of something, you butcher it so bad that you end up with something totally different, that can be super rad.
I was shooting for a cinematic piece, maybe as an intro or an interlude in the ballpark of Francis Haines’ theme for Return of the Living Dead. Hard to believe one could lead to the other, but art is strange and brilliant like that. When the riff comes back again later in the song, I dropped it after a Constantine sample and layered some field recordings of a thunderstorm and some hard guttural growls. Not quite what I originally set out to do, but ended up being one of my favorite moments on the album.
Armageddon Honkytonk & Saloon
This song is everything I love about hardcore and metal churned up in a blender with a country-western murder ballad. I took out the pronouns at the last second, but the main character in this song is a woman, hell bent on dishing out revenge. I wish that I would have left the pronouns in now. I think the scene would have been more impactful if listeners knew the torture was being committed by a woman.
‘I made her watch as I cut off his manhood. Rolled a smoke and made him eat it alive. Flipped her two bits and stepped into the night. They never should have left me alive.’
That’s the way it goes though, when you second-guess yourself and empower the evil critic in your head. I love the way the build-up at the end turned out. I’m still a sucker for a good Merauder bounce. I’m proud to keep the spirit of the Master Killer alive in 2020, and hopefully, some young ‘un will be inspired and dig into all the classic death metal and hardcore influences on this album.
I tried to write a few different songs for the B side of this full-length that would be a slower, mid-tempo feel and ended up finding Godless in my telecaster after a while. I knew that Comancheria and Ritual Human Sacrifice were super thrashy and would close out the album, so I felt like the record just needed something with a different color to break it up. I pulled from the well of Dismember, Entombed, and Gatecreeper on this one.
I brought my made in Japan HM-2 up to Panda with me but we ended up not going the Swede route with the guitar tone. What can I say? I love that style and Gatecreeper is the best live death metal band in the world right now. I mixed it up with a cool, d-beat riff I wrote a few years ago and I think it almost came out killer.
I fucked up one of the lyrics when I recorded it though, and now I can’t listen to it without it driving me insane. I was supposed to say, “There’s a Godlessness inside of me now, an empty whole where faith and love used to be.” Probably the most important lyric of the song that ties everything together, using dialogue from a short story, and I totally said emptiness, and empty and spaced the word Godlessness. I blew out my voice before I noticed and by then I had nothing in the pipes left to do a punch. God damnit.
This was one of the first couple of songs that I wrote for this album. I wanted to have a jamming, down-picked ripper that I could drop into a heavy, ringing groove, and it pretty much wrote itself. Sometimes, you get lucky and have an idea, and all the parts come together in one sitting, and its badass.
I struggled with the lyrics to this and wrote different verses and didn’t repeat anything originally. I ended up cutting and cutting and finally settled on repeating the meat of the lyrics several times. Since I wrote this one so early in the process, I think I burned myself out on hearing it. When folks hear the cool little stop, ‘KILL! Part I,’ hope they bang their head as much as I did when I first came up with it.
Ritual Human Sacrifice
I had the sample of the gospel choir and knew that I had to write a fast, thrashy song that somehow rang out into it to close the album. I completely redid the vocals and rewrote the lyrics to this in the studio as well. The first version was all super guttural death metal screams.
It was kind of cool, but I am glad that I followed my gut and redid it. The assault of thrash, with rapid-fire vocals in the beginning of this is another one of my favorite moments off the record. The high-pitched screaming backups on this were done by Sam Pura. Little known fact, Sam is a fucking metal head. If it wasn’t for metal and the dark arts, he would not be a record producer.