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Contaminated

Last June, we got our death metal loving hands on a pretty damn neat album of rabid, blunt, rotten to the core Australian earth shattering death. It was the debut of Contaminated, titled ’Final Man’. A very pretty little piece of chamber music for death metal gourmets, so we thought, well, let’s see if we can get a hold of those antipodeans for a good conversation on death metal, death metal and death metal. Oh, and, well, death metal, of course. Allergy alert: this interview may contain traces of death metal.

By: Sicktus | Archive under death metal / grindcore

Hi there! Congratulations on your debut, 'Final Man'! We'll get to the album in a second, but could you please introduce yourself/yourselves and the band to our readers first?
Lachy: Hey Sicktus, thanks for getting in touch. I'm glad you dig our record, I'm very happy with it. Alright, so Contaminated formed as a solo project in late 2013 after many frustrated years of attempting to put together a proper lineup without any luck. In mid 2014 after putting out the Pestilential Decay demo and handling on that everything myself, Christoph joined on drums and then by the end of the year our current lineup of mismatched gronks had been established with Matt on second guitar, Nick on bass and Zev doing vocals. Originally the objective for the band was Finnish death metal worship as clearly evidenced by the Pestilential Decay demo, but since then the band has become a lot faster, more churning and chaotic, with a hefty amount of influence from old dark US death metal like Morpheus Descends, Incantation, Deteriorot, Immortal Fate etc.

Alright. So, on to 'Final Man'.... Do you know it is actually a felony to attack and maim people? Even if it is just an attack on people's eardrums... In other words: wow, that is some seriously crushing stuff you guys recorded! Was that what you were aiming for, to be as crushing as possible, while still writing actual songs? Or did this sound just sort of evolve?
Lachy: Haha, cheers man, glad you think so. I was kind of sick of the rush of Portal-esque cavernous DM bands that were cropping up all over the place five-six years ago, and while some of that stuff is cool, many of them lacked any kind of force to them whatsoever. I've always felt that the most of the Australian scene here was often too preoccupied with cosplaying up in spikes and leather, or alternatively, too focused on writing widdly guitar teacher-type riffs to write anything real mean and punishing too. Basically, I wanted to write a DM album that was dark and crushing while also sounding real fucking tough and abrasive. Having a great bunch of wankers with the same outlook in the band and getting the ultimate recording and mix team of Fuller and Xavier made it all happen.

Talk us through the recording process. How did you manage to get that awesome, crushing sound? It is a thin line between crushing and muddy, murky chaos... Was this the sound you wanted, when you started?
Zev: I'm not sure that there was a specific sound we wanted, but it's definitely the sound we liked. The band sounds the way it does pretty organically, in that everyone brings their own idea of how they want their instrument to sound, and the sum total is Contaminated. It's not very co-ordinated in that sense but it seems to work. Based on past recording experiences, I think it really takes a fan of the genre to understand how far you can push the sound with this sort of stuff, and for the album we were lucky to be able to record and mix with people who had the triple threat of engineering skill, nuanced understanding of the genre, and familiarity with our band. That combination made it easy for us to communicate how we wanted it to sound, and for Fuller and Xavier to translate our incoherent hand-waving into actual recording and mixing decisions.

Christoph: I think something that's often lacking in a lot of recordings for death metal is a sense of physicality and tangible force. In my opinion at least I feel like you want to be able to hear the physical exertion, the force that creates an impact with a drum or a cymbal, and the reverberations that creates in a room. I think it's important to 'hear' the space that the sound exists in, so you can feel like as a listener you also exist within that space/room and you can get a sense of the sound as it would exist around you, and not just sounding like every cleaned up processed/triggered drum hit and guitar sound is emanating from an instrument or an amp that exists two inches from your ear. Our style of death metal especially benefits from being able to hear a liveness and feeling like there is an energy captured, not just audio. Slick tech death obviously might require a different approach I suppose, but if the aim is heaviness and power to the sound I much prefer to feel like you can step into the space with the music.

Speaking of sound / style: the sound on 'Final Man' obviously has its roots firmly planted in the more putrid kind of '90s death metal. You guys are from the early '80s, if I'm not mistaken, so I'm guessing that sound is what you grew up with? You have been (and are) active in other bands, has this style always played a part in those other acts as well?
Lachy: Funny you ask that - I formed this band, am 27 and am also the youngest member by about five or six years haha. As for growing up with 90s death metal, I happened to get a good start on DM as I managed to find the early US albums at fifteen or so and then a few years later found out about the old Finnish scene when I moved to a city with usable internet. There was no one else around to point me in the right direction where I grew up (small country town) so I'm pretty glad I lucked out on the good stuff early on. I'd been trying to get a death metal band going for a long time but I'd also drummed in Terror Strike (grind) before this band fleshed out with a full line-up.

Christoph: I think we all grew up with death metal as a pretty sizeable piece of our listening habits, and the other guys had spent a good deal of time playing death metal with their previous bands/projects, but I'd only ever really played grind and could never figure out how to drum a death metal style. I wanted to join because I really liked the first demo and I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. And it's been a hard road, I still can't play fast double kick and this style of drumming still makes no sense to my natural instincts, and I've driven everyone in the band crazy with my endless threats to quit ‘cause it's too hard haha. I nearly didn't play on the album but I'm glad I did because apart from being proud of what we made together it's a good personal milestone for me having finally made a death metal record which I never thought I'd be able to. Although that said, when I joined a bunch of people complained that we now sounded too grindy haha. Nerds.

So, 'Severed Survival' and 'Scream Bloody Gore' are walking down the road and are about to be crushed by, I don't know, a giant boulder. Let's go with boulder. You're in the vicinity, but you can only save one of them, which one do you save? And why?
Lachy: ‘Severed Survival’ for sure, but then again I'd take ‘Shitfun’ and ‘Retribution For The Dead’ over ‘Severed Survival’ any day! I've always felt that those early Death records were formative releases that while being pretty groundbreaking at the time, were quickly bettered by many other bands (like Autopsy once Reifert left Death, for example). Autopsy were always a lot rougher, dirtier and their sense of songwriting always appealed to me much more – way more dynamic and straight up a lot more exciting to listen to. I generally not give too much of a shit about lyrical themes, but their tongue-in-cheek gore themes and dark humour also certainly wins out against Death's (admittedly) amateur fumblings.

What other (early youth) influences are present in Contaminated, besides a ton of gruesome death and grind – if any? And do you find yourself adding new stuff to your palette with age, reinventing yourselves, or is it "back to the oldschool" more and more?
Lachy: Hmm, I'd say that on the LP there is a greater leaning towards dark US grinding death metal like Rottrevore, Deteriorot, etc. in the new songs that weren't on either of the previous releases, while still retaining a fairly heavy Finnish flavour. Since recording the album (May 2016) we've written a couple of new ones and are working on another couple, and they're a little different. By no means would you mistake them for being written by another band but there are a couple of different types of grooves and on the other side of the coin, one channels a bit more Disembowelment than in the past too. I'd also like to write another song that's straight Abhorrence/Demigod Finnish death as I still really enjoy playing the songs from the first demo and wouldn't mind something fresh there too.

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How have reactions been so far to 'Final Man'? And are you guys yourselves happy with the result?
Lachy: I'm very pleased with and very proud of the album we managed to come up with. I couldn't have asked for a better recording, mix and master job and am lucky to have dragged in the right guys for the job. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and the few mixed reactions I've read or been given are mostly down to a difference in taste, which is to be expected and certainly fine as I'm definitely a picky fucker when it comes to death metal in 2017. I'm surprised that it’s got the amount of attention that it has already, actually, but I imagine a fair chunk of that has to do with Blood Harvest's promotion contacts.

Let's talk a bit about your cover art. I have no fucking clue whatsoever that thing is, but I get an otherworldly, Chtulhu meets scifi-ish kind of vibe... And it looks disgusting, putrid, dark and menacing, so I'd say: that's a damn fitting piece of cover art you've got there, guys! But in all seriousness: what is that thing!? Who came up with the concept and what does it stand for – if anything? And who did the artwork?
Zev: Stew Cole is the artist and he did the whole thing based on our not-very-detailed directions, which were something like "Draw a fucked-up cyborg wandering around a depressing wasteland". He did a great job and really captured the feeling of a "final man" – ruined, dehumanised and totally alone. The submerged landscape was all from him too, and it really gives the cover a grim and psychological quality. At one point, elements of the band were lobbying to call the record ‘Mechanical Clown Hand’, and it's cool that Stu worked that detail into the art as well!

Speaking of concept, is there a lyrical theme to 'Final Man'?
Zev: Well, thematically a lot of metal is a power fantasy of one sort or another, whether that's through violence, mysticism, dramatic and horrible events or whatever. We kind of used those themes but took the power out of the fantasy. So ‘Final Man’ is about a world where the only noteworthy life events are utterly humiliating, death is a boring slog, and you are a faceless scrub getting washed down the gutter with the rest of the rubbish.

Before 'Final Man', you released a demo entitled 'Pestilential Decay'. How does that compare musically to 'Final Man'? And is that still available somewhere, whether hardcopy or digital?
Lachy: Pestilential Decay is certainly a primitive and basic homage to old Finnish DM, as it was meant to be at the time. I'm pretty happy with it still as it achieved the goal I set out to accomplish with it. Of course, it could do with a better mix and it could have been better had I been less anxious to simply get something out at the time but all things considered I think it came out pretty good and is an ok listen three years on. The cassette is still available on Discogs but is long sold out elsewhere. You can find a digital version of it at the Contaminated bandcamp page.

Lachlan did all the instruments and vocals on the demo, was Contaminated originally meant to be a one man band? And if so. what changed that?
Lachy: Contaminated was always meant to be a full band and I had some early fumblings with other people back in high school (2006-07 or so). After then due to a combination of not knowing many others into the same stuff, laziness, perpetual self-doubt and hesitation, it took a long time for me to kick myself into gear and finally record something myself, which resulted in the first demo. I'd known Christoph for a while leading up to him joining, which in retrospect I could have handed the drums over to him in the first place, haha. Anyway, he contacted me a few months after the demo came out, we had a few jams, wrote tracks 1 and 3 on the Promo '15 tape and then the rest joined in late 2014/early 2015.

You recently played a gig with Fetid and another one with Grave Miasma. After speaking with a bunch of Aussie metalheads over the years, I was under the impression that Australia didn't get much (extreme) bands from abroad over, mainly due to costs. Is this changing? And if so, why? Or, you know, I might have been completely wrong about you guys not getting a ton of metal bands over...
Christoph: Nah you're right, we don't get a huge amount of underground death metal bands touring here. Fetid came basically ‘cause Sewercide brought them over to tour with them which was sick, and they totally destroyed, by the way. Grave Miasma came over as part of a metal night at a big weird arts/music festival in Tasmania which has a huge array of different stuff, and the bands that played the metal night did a couple of other shows in a few states here but didn't do full tours. Same deal as Dead Congregation who we played with last year when they did that festival. Undergang toured here, and one of my other bands Internal Rot brought out Innumerable Forms to tour here and that went well. Angelcorpse are playing here soon too, and they are kind of a bigger name but definitely still pretty underground. But for the most part a death metal band that functions in a more underground level than someone of Angelcorpse's (for example) popularity is still a surprise down here. It's just so far to travel to, and so far to travel between cities that for it to be viable for a really underground/fairly unknown death metal band they have to be willing to basically do the tour in a totally DIY punk fashion.

While on the subject of live gigs... Any gigs planned on this side of the globe?
Lachy: We'd love to tour Europe but I think a few weeks in the US next year is looking more likely at this stage. We'll definitely get over there one day!

I've seen that there is a couple of different vinyl (final, har!) versions of 'Final Man', where should people who want to get their grubby hands on a copy go to – especially people who live on this side of the planet...
Lachy: For EU distribution I can certainly recommend hitting up Blood Harvest or any big distro like Iron Bonehead or even Nuclear Blast. I've seen it crop up in some funny places, like Kmart or Target online hahah, obviously as the result of some content list being uploaded somewhere or something. I'd say Google is your friend here, it's getting around a good few places which is nice to see. Don't be tricked by the stupid pricey eBay listings though!

Some of you guys are also active in Derailment. I checked the EP on the bandcamp page, that's stuff I really enjoy too. Sludgy, doomy grind with a nasty Napalm Death '90s vibe to it, if I had to describe it in one sentence. Well, those first three tracks anyway. Any plans of releasing something new with Derailment anytime soon?
Zev: Yeah we have an LP mostly recorded, but given our record of gross inefficiency I don't think it'll be out "soon", by most people's understanding of that word. We might call it ‘Mechanical Clown Hand’ so if that happens it'll be worth the wait regardless.

Right, almost there: what plans do you have for Contaminated for the next, say, couple of years? And do you have any long term goals?
Christoph: At the moment we don't have any terribly concrete plans for the band. We are all really keen on touring the US mid 2018 so I think that will happen, but until then we are working on some new songs for shorter releases, one of which will be a split 7" with another great Melbourne death/grind band called Kutabare who just got back together which has 2 dudes from Undinism and they kinda sound like Autopsy, Impetigo and Gut rolled into one. We are also HOPING that Innumerable Forms are gonna tour here again soon with Contaminated and Faceless Burial (also great new Melbourne death metal with an album out soon via Iron Lung records and Blood Harvest) and if we do that I really want to get a 3 way split 12" done of those 3 bands for the tour. It's far from a reality yet though. We won't be doing much for the rest of this year though as Zev and I's grind band Headless Death is touring the US in November and we need to prepare for that and teach the songs to a new member. We are all in tons of bands so it kind of rotates which band will have a really 'busy' six months, which while is logistically a bit of a headfuck it sort of works out somehow as long as we don't get too lazy.

Alright, that wraps it up. Any last words? Since this interview is also a promotional vehicle for you guys, please feel free to mention anything I might have missed and you want to have in the interview. I will try to work it in somewhere above.
Christoph: Denim and leather blows! Cut-off cargo shorts and fat guys wearing sportswear is what death metal means to me!

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