Back in 2013 we did an nterview when you just had released your album ‘Towards Eschaton’. Now you have just released your newest effort. Some things have changed though in the meantime when it comes to personnel. First of all you already mentioned your then drummer Volgard left while you were finishing up that debut full-length. You also mentioned you found a replacement. Can you tell a bit more about this change behind the kit?
Hi Pim, good to hear from you again! And also very glad to be featured in another issue of the mighty Lords Of Metal! Once Volgard left, we found ourselves without a drummer. Luckily Scourger is also a drummer, so we weren’t completely void of a rhythm section. But as Scourger identifies as a guitarist, we started our search for a replacement. Luckily for us, it took just the one audition to recruit new sticksman Heretic Blades into the fold. I’ve known Mr. Blades since 2012 from the gig organising circles (I used to put on concerts here in London from 2005-2014). His excellent Isengard Promotions got in touch with us for some gigs in the capital and we were stoked to participate. We eventually ended up organising a Mystifier show in 2014. At this point we put out a few feelers for drummers and I jammed with Blades and that was that. Drumming-wise Heretic Blades is the ideal hitter for Craven Idol. His influences are distinctly old school and he has a song-writing mind similar to mine. And whilst Volgard tended to merely play drums over the finalised tracks, I actually worked closely with Heretic Blades when writing ‘Shackles…’, spending hours in a tiny underground rehearsal room near Kentish Town.
Another change in the line-up happened in 2015 when Scourger left. He seemed to be an important factor in Craven Idol. So what happened there? Was it easy to replace him?
So whilst Scourger never “officially” left the band, his interests simply lay elsewhere – in particular with his then-band Solstice (as well as Deceptor and Lethean). Furthermore, he moved up to Nottinghamshire, and we haven’t really seen each other since. We started writing this record together, but didn’t go far. So when I eventually got into one of my bi-annual writing frenzies, I just couldn’t wait any longer, and cracked on with it. We also received a gig offer to play with Impaled Nazarene in Newcastle at the time so decided to look for an alternate line-up. We invited long-term friend and Crom Dubh frontman Obscenitor to cover Scourger on guitar – he later became a permanent member.
Now the new album is out I was wondering whether Scourger leaving had any impact on the creative process?
I don’t believe that replacing anyone creatively is truly possible. What you end up with is never the same thing. Yet I would’ve been damned for not trying. Interestingly enough, Heretic Blades has gone a long way to taking over from Scourger on the song-writing front. If anything, we are now writing more united as a band, and way faster too (and with a similar guitar-drummer line-up as in the beginning)! ‘Towards Eschaton’ is very much made out of Scourger or Vrath tracks (of course we worked on them together at length before completion). Of course, when a founding member leaves, there’s has to be a fair share of reflection done. I asked myself: Will it still be Craven Idol? Will the sound still be consistent with the older material? Will it sound like a different band? All the signs pointed to continuing with the band (and luckily I also still have about two albums worth of Scourger riffs in the storage, ha!).
To me ‘The Shackles Of Mammon’ comes across as a more varied album compared to ‘Towards Eschaton’. In our first interview we already talked about the wide variety of influences. I was wondering if you could tell how the new album came together. Did you have a solid idea how it should sound? Did you intentionally strive for a more epic overall sound?
I am glad you think the sound to be more epic and the music more varied! It’s definitely something we went for. The main goal was to write a more extreme and diverse album without limits. To my mind this further represents the old school ‘extreme metal’ genre/attitude, rather than any genre pigeonhole. So please excuse my pun when I say, I would regard it a more ‘unshackled’ than anything we’ve done before. Influence-, or shall we say inspiration-wise, we’ve always looked into the past – into the day when the genre was new and the rules unwritten. When it was extreme metal – not death metal, not black metal, not thrash metal – just heavy metal with goddamn balls. Be it Master’s Hammer, Manilla Road, Poison (Ger), Bathory, or Pagan Altar. Sure, everything we do is ultimately based on the ideas of others, we are not reinventing the steel, but we don’t seek to trudge a pre-written path as so many bands these days seem to. Me, you, and your uncle from the sawmill (who only likes the music at Joe & The Juice) is more than capable of playing a select group of low notes on an A-drop tuning and dump a shitton of reverb onto it. Oh, but I digress... The album came together relatively painlessly, as our goals were fully aligned. I wrote 95% of the riffs and brought them to Heretic Blades. Some in forms of full songs, some as unintelligible (or shall we say unintelligent) bundles or sections that made no sense at all. Through countless hours stuck in a tiny cellar, we somehow got there. Towards the end we didn’t even need to say a word to each other… we’d just click at once and the song would come kicking and screaming, covered in flames and bile, into existence on this morbid plane.
Since you are involved in multiple bands I was wondering how the composing of new material works for you? Are you able to focus writing songs for one of the bands or do you simply get an idea of which you can tell what band to use it for?
So I tend to fall into these writing frenzies and get completely obsessed by an idea or a concept. Said concepts will always have a unique character that connects them to the different projects (at least to these ears). At the moment, I mainly write music for Scythian and Craven Idol (whilst in Crom Dubh I simply do what I’m told! Ha!). So I’ve certainly stripped down the numbers of bands I write for. I find that being involved with a variety of projects actually helps and allows for more creative freedom if anything. I have a few mates who have only ever had the one band, and whilst the output of those is exemplary, I can’t help but wonder what they could have achieved. As an example, if you truly only have one sonic output, what do you do with ideas that you are possessed by, but that your band mates reject outright? Most of the times, you’ll try to adapt them for size… starting squeezing pieces of the puzzles when they evidently don’t fit. Ultimately, if you truly want to do something you find the time. Very much like in Bukowski’s poem ‘So You Want To Be A Writer?’ In most occasions, the answer is: ’Don’t do it’… don’t write.
Your previous album was mainly recorded in the studio of your former drummer Volgard. This time you went to the Priory Recordings Studios of Greg Chandler. How was it working with him and did the approach differ a lot from pervious recording sessions?
So NLE/Pulse Studios had very much become our go-to by the point we recorded ‘Towards Eschaton’. Whilst, I had been to Priory before, but for the rest of the band, it was a new experience.
A professional recording facility is very different to a home studio, as there are time constraints and the stakes just seem higher. ‘coz once that red light is on, you have to perform – there are no excuses, no place to hide... and certainly not infinite takes. Working with Greg Chandler is always a top notch experience and I can recommend Priory to all bands out there. As always, it was essential to get the ground work just right. I spoke to Greg at length about the sound we wanted to achieve, sent sample tracks, recorded demoes of every song. This process took around six months, I believe, so by the time we entered the studio we were ready to roll.
You had the album mastered by Dan Lowndes. Why did you choose working with him?
We’d known Dan for years from before the Cruciamentum days, so when Dark Descent Records suggested that he do the mastering, it was a no-brainer. Greg and Dan have also worked together in the past, which made things even easier. Of course, I’m also a fan of his work!
On your previous album you had the artwork done by Paolo Girardi. This time you had the artwork done by Daniel Corcuera. How did this come together? Can you also tell a bit about the concept and the original artwork it is based on?
The cover is loosely based on Sascha Schneider’s ‘Mammon And His Slave’ woodcarving dating back to 1896. It depicts mankind on its knees in front of the vulture that is Mammon – dangling the measure of man’s dreams above him, beyond reach. This clicked perfectly with the main themes on the album so we went from there. Of course, we didn’t want to just copy the image (not purely due to copyright matters, ha!), but added further elements into the mix. Working with Daniel was an amazing experience, and he provided us with a selection of stunning drafts (one of which will end up on a shirt, and the rest are featured in the CD sleeve).
Reading our previous interview again I noticed you mentioned you recorded a cover of Onslaught’s ‘Thermonuclear Devastation’. Will that recording ever see the light of day? Have you recorded additional stuff this time around too?
It appears that the Onslaught cover will finally be released as a bonus track on a limited 100-copy run of ‘Ethereal Altars’ tapes that we are releasing via Carvetii Productions later this year. It will also include our version of Poison’s (Ger) ‘Slaves Of The Crucifix’, as well as the 2006 demo. We didn’t record any additional tracks this time round due to time constraints, but have actually already started writing new material for a split 7” we are planning for the future. No hard facts to report on that front, though.
Leaves me with one more question. What are your current plans now the new album is out? Any touring or other interesting events?
We have a release show in London in April and then head to the North Of The Wall festival in Glasgow the week after. We are not really a touring band and prefer one of performances – where there’s demand there’s a way. Otherwise, as I mentioned, we are actually already writing for the next one and have skeletons for about half of it done! This is quite a revelation for us, as I usually spent at least two years procrastinating or writing for other projects after a record was done. The young blood in the group has definitely helped! Thank you for the interview. It was a pleasure, as always.
Stand strong against the raging tide!