Monday, October 8, 2012

Darkness Descends: An interview with Matt of Dark Descent

Can you tell me a little about the formation of Dark Descent. What were your initial intentions?

The formation of the label is fairly simple.  It began as a way to release the second Cosmic Atrophy album.  Cory, who made up the band, was looking for a label and was having a tough time finding someone despite getting some great feedback on the first album.  I offered to fund it for him.  The idea struck to start a label…things started off slowly at first but then I was approaching bands.  The album never did get released as Cory has since totally disappeared (haven’t heard from him in two years) and this is the reason the catalog DDR001 remains unused. 

Being an "older guy", I'm always a bit leery about all of these "OSDM" bands that have been cropping up on the constant as of late. I understand that the intentions are sincere, but my problem is that a lot of these bands just plain suck. I am thankful that Dark Descent appears to have carefully selected the bands for its roster as the majority of the "newer" bands that have been currently kicking my ass are on DD. Could you explain to me the process of picking out bands to include on the label?

The most important thing for me is I have to connect with it.  Music is a personal thing for everyone.  Of course there are more factors involved but at the basic level, I have to like it.  I certainly don’t want to put my name on something I don’t like.  I would have a real hard time promoting something it. 
I also look for albums and bands which I feel fit the aesthetic of the label.  Dark and punishing is very important.  I think that if you look at bands such as Adversarial, Corpsessed, Maveth and a host of other “newer” bands, you will get my point. 

Going back a bit, what was your first interaction with "metal", death metal in particular? Who was the band that pretty much sealed the deal for you?

This one is tough as some of my real early years are a bit hazy, you know.  I had a great time indulging when I was younger but you lose a few of those early memories.  My brother was a big influence on my metal listening as he had quite a few metal LPs.  He is seven years older than me (and I’m in my early 40s), so there was no shortage of stuff like Judas Priest, early Ozzy, Sabbath, Dio and the rest.  Those were the bands that I cut my metal teeth on.  In the early days, we were fortunate enough not to have shitty gateways like most do now (yeah, glam was popular in the 80s but I’d rather listen to the first Motley Crue album than deathcore and all that other horseshit).   It was a little easier for us…you learned through heavy metal then when the newer extreme scenes started, you gradually started looking at heavier bands.  Obvious bands were Slayer, Metallica, etc. before moving onto early death metal like Morbid Angel, Bolt Thrower and the like.  Now my tastes are just more obscure but those classics always have a place with me.

I noticed that a goodly sum of bands on your label have a "doomy" slant to the music. Has the selection of these types of bands been a conscious endeavor on your part or is it purely circumstantial?

Yeah, there are a few bands that add doomy elements into their music.  I really like the dynamics of it when added with death metal.  I think the same thing applies to blackened death.  This is how the best music is made…combining different styles.  We wouldn’t have thrash metal if it wasn’t for the combination of early hardcore punk with metal.  I also like to keep the label’s bands varied to a degree…while most work under the death metal realm, there is a lot of variation involved.  Of course, Dark Descent is not a strict death metal label as many people have heard from bands like Anguish, Thantifaxath, Emptiness and more.  I’d be stupid to pigeon-hole the label.

I am assuming that the DD logo was constructed in homage to 'Conan the Barbarian'. Am I right here?

Well, it may have been an influence but that wasn’t the intention.  My friend helped with the original design (poor Photoshop version) before I ultimately asked Seth Bennett to draw me a black/white version.  You aren’t the first to ask me if this was the case though.

A few of the bands on your label have been accused of blatantly ripping off Incantation. What are your thoughts on these accusations?

I know that Father Befouled has worn the “Incantation worship” badge on their sleeve for a while and they will be the first to admit that the band is their major influence.  We live in a wonderful age.  We are lucky to have things at our disposal.  However, this has led to a society which is filled with instant gratification types.  They want to be able to fit things into a little box.  Everything has to compare to everything.  Then when you offer them something a little unique (take Emptiness’ new album for example), they don’t know how to critique it or what to call it and it’s much harder to convey to people the unique sound. 

There are a number of bands that have been named as Incantation “rip offs” but is this a bad thing?  I’d certainly rather hear alleged Incantation rip offs like  Dead Congregation, Ignivomous or Father Befouled than some wanky nonsense or the newest gimmicky occult rock band that a bigger label wants to tell me is the next big thing.  I don’t care if it is “fresh and different.”  I want to hear good songs. 

Could you shed some light on the release off Coffin Texts' long awaited sophmore LP, 'Tomb of Infinite Ritual'. How come they ended up signing with Sweden's 'Blood Harvest' after the release of TOIR?

Actually, you may be a little mistaken here.  Coffin Texts is signed to Blood Harvest.  I licensed the CD version of the album from Blood Harvest.  Rodrigo approached me some time ago and it was easy having dealt with Blood Harvest basically since the label’s inception.  I have worked with the band to promote the album as well…it’s a team effort.  The release had been in the works for many years and I think most will tell you that it’s a fucking crushing album.  I’m very happy to be a part of that release and to be able to bring it to the masses.  Let’s just hope there’s not another extended break before the next one is released.

glassesDeath metal has always been filled to the brim with a bunch of whiny twats (hey, it's true). Either 
everyone's bitching about "br00tal" death metal or Incantation wannabes, or whatever... This has only gotten worse with the advent of the internet and everyone's "urgent" need to express their opinions on every conceivable topic. What are your thoughts on the current state of the genre and would you say that the pros outweigh the cons in terms of internet accessibility?

Yeah, I think the pros outweigh the cons for sure.  I don’t mind if people check out an album before purchasing.  If I did, I wouldn’t have created a label Band Camp page.  I feel this is important.  I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from people who said they’ve heard an album and they loved it and came back to buy the physical product.  I know not everyone will buy…there are some that don’t buy at all.  I don’t cater to those net bangers.  These are the people that think supporting the scene is buying some shitty bootleg t-shirt and taking Instagram pics of them wearing it. 

For as much as people complain about trends and the lack of creativity in metal, there is a lot of lost creativity in the “journalism” realm.  I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve read that contain the phrase “we’ve heard this before” or “this is Entombed/Incantation worship” (I read one review where a person called Corpsessed a Swedish clone…c’mon)…to me, this is an easy cop out.  I usually tune those out because it’s obvious the writer may not have put much time or thought into things.   They usually just want to be the first to comment or they don’t really have anything important to say to begin with.

In the end, I really like where the scene is at right now.  Ten years ago it was about the slams or the tech stuff.  Give me just plain old death metal any time of the day.  I don’t need a bunch of descriptors in front of the word metal.  Any older metal head that tells you there is nothing good out there is missing the boat.  I’m happy enough to continue doing this as long as people are supportive.  Since Dark Descent Records is made up of one person (I have some loyal supporters who help from time to time), it can be a reflection of my taste.  I don’t have to pander to people and sign the latest band with a five or six word sentence for a name.

Three albums that you cannot live without:

Judas Priest – Sad Wings of Destiny
Bolt Thrower – Realm of Chaos
Mercyful Fate – Don’t Break the Oath
It’s tough to pick just three.

What does DD have in store for the immediate future?

Well, three new releases were just sent to press including the new Diocletian/Weregoat split CD, the new full-length from Canadian’s Paroxsihzem and a Vassafor early material compilation CD.  We’re working on layouts right now for the debut from Finland’s Maveth, the sophomore Desolate Shrine album and the debut from Lantern.  Yes, the rest of 2012 will be heavy on the Finnish side.  The New Year will bring us full-lengths from Krypts, Swallowed and more.  Mixed in will be some 7”s from Mitochondrion, Anatomia/Living Decay and a double 7” featuring Pentacle and Eternal Solstice.  Other label bands are working on albums such as Corpsessed, Thantifaxath, Gravehill and Grave Ritual but these will likely be in stock sometime during 2013.  I stay busy for sure…

Alright Matt, many thanks for taking time out to do this. Any final words for the damned?

I think I’ve said quite enough but I do want to thank you for taking the time out to put together some great questions and I do wish to thank all of those who show support to the bands and the label.  Without them I certainly cannot continue at this pace and bring what I feel is one great roster of extreme metal to the forefront.  I look forward to see what the future brings.  


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