pondělí 18. září 2023

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Interview - SORROW - Death doom metal from the old cursed burial grounds!

Interview with doom death metal band SORROW from New York.

Answered drummer Mike, thank you!

Translated Duzl, thank you!

Questions prepared Jakub Asphyx.

Recenze/review - SORROW - Death of Sorrow (2023):

Ave SORROW! Hello to the underground. I must admit I was very surprised when I heard you guys released a new album. It's taken you 31 long years. The first question that comes to mind is. What have you been doing during that long time? How was the comeback? Was it difficult to make arrangements?

MIKE: Too much to list. People got married-had kids-had careers-bought houses-blah blah blah. We always stayed in touch and remained friendly. There was no bad blood. The band was originally together for about 5 years and we tried to achieve a certain level of success...and I don’t think we by the end of our run, we were pretty frustrated and burned out. We all tried making music in different projects...too many to list-and most of them not having anything to do with death metal at all. But every few years, Andy would bring up the idea of some kind of reunion/comeback/regrouping. Brett and I kind of laughed at the idea-until we didn’t. The pandemic meant that people were going to be stuck in their houses for months on end-so that made this thing seem more like a real possibility than it did before. Sorry, there’s no easy answer to this question. We all got to record at our homes-because of technology/computers...and we all had plenty of time-due to the pandemic. And on top of all that, Andy was just more insistant than usual. It worked out and I‘m glad we did it. But I would have never predicted it.

I took the job and went down to the basement. I looked for a really long time, but I found it. The cassette "Hatred and Disgust" from 1992 (it was available here but much longer) from Roadrunner Records. And it's still playing! When I compare it with the new "Death and Sorrow" (2023), I think the sound is very similar. I love it that way! Was that the purpose? Where did you record and who is signed for mixing and mastering?

MIKE: After H&D came out-and didn’t sell that much-we got dropped from Roadrunner-who never really believed in us anyway. So we had written a batch of new songs to put out as an album in 1993. We always reheased and wrote back then. So we did a very raw boombox recording of that album-and tried to get 2 labels to sign us based on that recording. One was Relapse-the other was a label called Hellhound Records. We had connections at both labels. Both labels wound up not wanting to do it. But that raw recording and those songs were all written and reheased and ready to go. So we just left them on that tape for 30 years...literally. And when we decided to get back together for one last project-we all knew what it had to be. We had to properly record ‚The Final Album‘ (Sing it with me like ‚The Final Countdown‘ by Europe) So this album should have come out the year after H&D did. 1993. That’s why it has that ‚old school‘ feel to it.

I was totally blown away by the motif on the cover. The author is my favorite Daemorph. Why did you choose this artist and cover? How did you guys even get together?

MIKE: He works with Xtreem Music-who put out the album. So we hooked up with him through the label. We love the cover. It turned out great. We would have loved to use Hiro-the artist who did the H&D cover-but sadly, he died many years ago. Like I said, this album is really kind of H&D part 2...just with a slightly more advanced and modern production.

What are the lyrics on "Death and Sorrow" about? If I remember correctly, the theme of your lyrics was politics, social issues, anti-Christianity. Who is the author of the lyrics and where did you draw inspiration this time?

MIKE: There are 4 guys in Sorrow who can all write pretty good lyrics. We all write mostly about real life rather than fantasy. Fantasy shit is great in a movie-but not so much in a song. That’s how we look at it-at least. We do write about social issues-rather than straight up politics. We certainly don’t endorse certain politicians or even certain political parties. But the real world is full of poverty, war, pollution, bigotry, etc-and we do write about those things from an egalitarian perspective. And there are always going to be 1 or 2 anti religious sentiments found on an album of ours as well...haha. There’s a song on the album about how the justice system (or to quote Sick Of It All-the Injustice System) is fucked in the US (and elsewhere). So it’s not that we watch the news 24/7 and take notes-but we live in reality and just day in and day out-you hear stories about everything from immigration to abortion-and it would be odd to just say ‚I have no opinion on anything that’s hapening in the world right now.‘ So we speak our mind-and you can take that in-or ignore it and just enjoy the heavy riffs. We’re cool with however you want to listen. This time around, there are a few songs with an obvious anti war sentiment running through them-because of Russia/The Ukraine/The US. But I should say that most of the lyrics were written in 1992-93...just like the riffs. We actually couldn’t find all the lyrics from back then. So some songs are like 50% lyrics from 30 years ago and 50% lyrics from now. It was a strange way to write things-but we made it happen. And as I said, we all write Bill can show me half written lyrics from decades ago...I can add in the missing pieces...and then Andy will do a final pass because he’s got to sing/growl them-and some phrases are awkward to say-even though they look good on the page.

You guys have always been interesting in that several metal directions met in your work. Death metal and thrash metal I can understand, in the 90s in New York these styles must have been popular, but what about doom metal? How did you get into it? I interviewed Stephen Flam of WINTER and more recently GÖDEN and I admit I don't know too many other doom bands from New York.

MIKE: Long island/NY/New Jersey was not a hotbed of doom back in the late 80s/early 90s. Basically, at that time on LI-there was Suffocation, Apparition (that was Sorrow before the name change) and Winter. We were the 3 local bands that would open up for the Death or Sepultura or Obituary or Napalm Death type shows that came through. Suffo was obviously very fast. Winter was obviously very slow. And we were kind of the middle ground. Shortly after that first wave of the three of us-Internal Bleeding and Pyrexia starting playing out and they were the next wave. Basically, they were doing stuff similar to Suffo. And there were never any bands on LI that followed after Winter or us. We did not influence the next wave-at all. I don’t really know why...other than to say that Sufo had the right sound for the right time-and when they hit-they kind of took over LI (and even NY) and never looked back. So yeah, we had some slow parts-mainly influenced by Autopsy/Trouble/Candlemass...but Winter really took things to the umtimate extreme with the sludge. I loved it. I definitely saw them live back in the day at that inspired me (as the drummer) to make our slow parts even slower. I don’t know that you could say that doom really took off, maybe in the UK because of Paradise Lost and Cathedral...but NY and LI were not very doom friendly. Think of the other NY/NJ bands from that time doing extreme metal...Immolation/Prime Evil/Mortician/Incantation/Ripping Corpse/Revenant/Human Remains/Brutal Truth. Those bands had some slow parts-but most of what they did was speed oriented. Even Cannibal Corpse was still in Buffalo, NY during this time.

Let's go even further back in history. Before SORROW you played in the band APPARITION. By the way, this band would definitely be worth some new release, compilation, what do you think? How did SORROW come about? If I'm not mistaken, you were joined only by Billy Rogan on guitar. Please reminisce for us.

MIKE: Brett and I went to high school together. We were friends and tried to get a thrash band happening in 1986...but it just didn’t work out. Then in 1988-we decided to try again-but do it in a more serious and professional manner. We put an ad in a local music paper for a bass player. Brett played guitar and I played drums. The first guy than answered our ad was a bass player named Rich Figlia. Rich came down with his friend, Andy. Now the crazy part of the story is that Andy went to HS with Brett and myself...but we didn’t really know him. It was one of those weird moments where we were like ‚Wait, do we hate each there some kind of beef here?‘ Then we decided that there wasn’t-we just had different groups of we started jamming together. We got a singer named Rob Hernandez-and we were off to the thrash metal races. This was all happening in 1988. By 1989, we wanted to get heavier and doomier. So we had to switch up the group a bit. It was still Brett, me and Andy...but Andy started doing vocals...and we had Chris Richards in the band playing bass. Eventually, a lot of bands from our scene (death metal from the east coast of the US) started getting signed and Chris wound up playing bass in Suffocation. So by the time Bill joined the band...he was playing guitar and Andy moved over to bass and vocals. By the time we were ready to record H&D, Bill was in the band, but the songs on that record were already written, so Bill didn’t really get to write full songs and have them on an album until now. I mean, he wrote them in 1993-but they weren’t recorded until now. I feel like I’m trying to explain the plot of ‚Back To The Future‘ after drinking 3 beers...I’m not sure if any of this made sense...but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Oh, one more thing...we changed the name from Apparition to Sorrow because Monte is a dick. Just kidding...I mean, he is a dick, but not becaue of that. When we signed to Roadrunner, we were still called Apparition, but Monte Conner from Roadrunner thought the name was kind of bad because it didn’t have any relation to the music we were doing. So we came up with ‚Sorrow‘-and changed our name to that right before the ‚Forgotten Sunrise‘ EP came out.

When you say New York, you think of skyscrapers and lots of movies. But what about the metal underground? Do you follow it at all? I still have this city pegged as a hardcore base. Do you go to clubs, events?

MIKE: We’re all in our 50s the answer is no. When we were younger, there were all types of shows going on. Yes, CBGB’s had the classic hardcore matinees on Sunday and those were always a big deal. There was a club in Brooklyn called L’amour...this was kind of the home club of Type O Negative/Biohazard/Life Of Agony...but before that, and before our time, it was the home club of Anthrax/ they had a lot of thrash metal/death metal shows. The first underground show I ever saw was in that club...Slayer and D.R.I. in 1985. There was a place on LI called Sundance. They had all the thrash metal/death metal shows...and they had some hardcore shows as well. After Sundance closed, the same owner opened a club called ‚The Roxy‘-so there were plenty of thrash metal/death metal shows there as well. And in NYC-there was ‚The Ritz‘ which had thrash and hardcore shows. So there were always shows going on in the 80s/90s...and if you were hip to like 4 or 5 clubs, you could probably catch any band you wanted to see. But I know what you’re saying...if you are a 100% metal person who doesn’t like punk or hardcore...NY is not a good place for you...haha...especially not back then. The way the European Black Metal people want everything to be ‚pure‘ (and you can interpret that however you like-haha)...NY is 100% the opposite of that...everything from here is a hybrid or mix or mash up and nothing is pure. I like it this way, but I guess it’s not for everyone.

When you started out as a musician, who were your role models? Which bands did you admire and to this day you still can't get enough of? I wonder how you got into music in the first place. What about your first gig? And the first gig?

MIKE: When I started playing drums, I wanted Tama drums. Do you know why? Because in 1985, Lombardo, Lars and Charlie Benante played Tama. Glamboys like Tommy Lee played Pearl Drums. No thank you...haha. So when I started to play drums, those were the 3 guys I wanted to be like...Lars, Benante, and expecially Lombardo. As far as bands...pretty much ths standard thrash bands of the day. When we started the band, I’d say that Slayer/Possessed/Kreator/Exodus/Testament were influences. Over time, those influences turned into Death/Autopsy/Morbid Angel...and because of a desire to be a little more musical or prog than just an average primtiive death metal band...Rush/Fates Warning. Our slower parts were influnced by Trouble/Candlemass/Sabbath. The first couple of gigs were small...that’s what I mainly remember about them. We played well, but hardly anyone was there. Just family and friends.

I must admit that I am very happy that SORROW is back. I've been listening to your new album over and over and "can't get rid of it". It's honest, real. How's it going with the gigs? How about some touring? Are you planning any? How about Europe? I'd love to see you live.

MIKE: I’m pretty sure that there will be no shows or tours to promote this album. This album is us closing a chapter and finishing a book that we started a long, long time ago.

What are SORROW's plans in the next few months? I can't help but ask. Are you making any new songs yet? I hope we won't have to wait over 30 years for a new album again:)

MIKE: I’m 99% sure that this is it for us. But I also would have said that in 1993. Give Andy a call...he might have a whole different plan that I’m not aware of. The drummer is always the last to know.

I wish you all the best not only for the new album "Death and Sorrow". Thank you very much for the interview, I appreciate it. May you have a good personal life as well. Have the best of luck and I'm going to listen to some of your music again.

MIKE: Thanks for the interview. It’s nice to know that people enjoyed our older releases-and our new one as well. If you have to end things-you want to end on a high note. To anyone who reads this...If you liked ‚Hatred And Disgust‘-you will like ‚ Death Of Sorrow.‘ If you never heard us before, but like Death/Obituary/Autopsy/Bolt Thrower-you will like‚ Death Of Sorrow.‘ So check us’ve already listened to ‚Leprosy‘ 5,000 times...haha...give someone else a chance.

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