Methods of the Abyss
CoC chats with James Jackson, Pete Olen and Scott Horne of Crimson Massacre
by: T. DePalma
In the last decade, and with increasing notoriety each year, death metal as a collective genre has both sought and unintentionally gained a wider acceptance of its art. For reasons that run several shades of monetary and egotistical, and due to the nature of its definable subject matter and high-decibel approach, the catalyst for this recognition is continually advanced as more technical and musical complexity. Puerility and gore can be overlooked if you're an "impressive" musician. Instant credibility -- don't you know that death metal is the hardest music to play? In contrast to black metal, which began to decline by fetishizing what is "un-listenable" in a minimal sense, death metal (in bands like Origin, Necrophagist, Cryptopsy and the entire Unique Leader roster with a few notable exceptions) emphasize proficiency and technique over atmosphere or purpose, overreaching to form shallow expositions for individual prowess.

Crimson Massacre began as a hybrid of the two genres' most easily assimilated traits. God-awful production spat embers of dissonant contradiction, as the band raised Iron Maiden melodies alongside guitar licks that recalled Samoth's brazen style as Emperor proceeded toward its own style transition. What the band didn't forget was that pomp in itself has little duration. A recessive influence from black metal: memorable writing need not require any technical skill, nor does the presence of such skill necessarily reward with something worth listening to. But here comes _The Luster of Pandemonium_, and the fruits of anomie bare an intriguing and calculated monster. Recently CoC got in touch with the band in an attempt to define their intentions and seek a more temporal understanding of their latest work.

CoC: Apparently the first pressing of the new album is nearly out of print.

Pete Olen:

CoC: What kind of reaction would you like to imagine someone has while listening to _The Luster of Pandemonium_?

James Jackson: This is a tough one to answer straight off the bat. It ultimately depends upon who the listener is and what their cognitive limits are. Anyone clear headed: a fully holistic sense of awareness that manifests a greater creativity or suggestion of action into whatever specialized realm the listener is in. Anyone else: I won't speculate.

PO: I would hope anyone initially listening to the album would be confused and overwhelmed.

CoC: How did the line-up for the new album come together?

JJ: Within two weeks after our ex-vocalist and second guitarist left in late 2003, Bill Ledgerwood and Sean Cook came in to the fold. Sean left the vocal slot later in 2004 after completing the 2004 promo with us and Pete took his place. Bill remained in the band for the completion of the album, in which he and I took hold of guitar and bass duties. Scott and I are the only original members from the Temple of Gore and pre-Temple of Gore time frame.

CoC: Have you found a full-time bassist yet?

Scott Horne: As of yet, no. It seems we have exhausted the resources in Texas... but Florida seems more promising. At the very least, we have acquired a sufficient group to tour.

JJ: Anyone who is confident in the challenge should contact us.

CoC: Now, Pete Olen lives in Florida, the rest of the band in Texas. What kind of stumbling blocks does that geography present right now?

PO: Since Crimson Massacre does not play local shows at the moment, none. We have several tours in the works as we speak, as well as a new recording, and I will fly out to Texas when the time comes.

CoC: There's a physicality to _Luster_ that escapes other blistering technical attempts at death metal. It's less mechanical, despite the length and complexity of some tracks. How did you go about putting the new material together? Did you work based on any specific models?

SH: This is the only way of expression appropriate for our thoughts.

JJ: I think it is fair to say that things are less "mechanical" in any sort of rhythmic sense, i.e. using rhythm as the primary emphasis of tonal idea. However, if you define mechanics as the component of assembly or impetus behind the structuring, then I'd say things were quite mechanical. When assembling fragmentary ideas, riffs, etc., a resurgence of fluidity occurred very often in any sense of texture we created, producing a very organic sound coupled with long and multi-dimensional guitar runs. For me personally, I'd approach the attempt of song assembly with a plethora of riff work or "micro songs / systems" already established. The next task would be to partition a skeleton of direction into movements, possibly in thirds or quarters. The strength of each idea or riff would determine what movement it would be placed in and where it would be within each movement. As a band, a consensus was always gained in what would go where in the decision process.

CoC: What are your thoughts on arrangement and improvisation -- do you see yourselves as being more classically or jazz-influenced? How do either of these manifest within the body of _Luster_?

JJ: There is a definite predominance of classical influence in the band. I personally listen to Bach, Wagner and Vivaldi quite frequently and observe their ideas of arrangement; and I know when Bill was in the band, he had an exponentially large influence and input based on classical music. As for jazz inspiration, we have a lot of modal fragments or bridge-like connectors that sound somewhat jazzy, but the main intentions of a lot of melodic phrases that we use usually have a classical inspiration behind them. Improvisation can serve its purpose in initially coming up with a line (and continually using it, essentially not improvisation) or maybe a last minute alteration, but I don't like it as a primary tool of structure in which the core of the music has no base purpose. I think my prior answer contains a bulk of how I view arrangement in how it pertains to us.

SH: On the discipline of arrangement, it is needed in order to complement the overall feel of the work. The process of arrangement is as important as writing. To simply cut and paste riffs and motives together in hopes of assembling an overall feel or purpose is futile. There is a more classical feel to the completed image of this CD.

CoC: Is there any personal distaste for guitar leads, or was that something that never felt pertinent to this particular album?

JJ: A majority of the riffs are a hybrid of lead and counter-lead, producing something in between rhythmic or lead emphasis; so I think any leads on top of them would have created some more than nasty results. Some of the simpler riffs tend to have some sort of a lead over them though. I may very well try and use a variation of solo-based lead work that ties into the riff for future material.

CoC: How would you contextualize the conceptual and musical shift between _Temple of Gore_ and the new record? What does it communicate that was absent before?

JJ: In my view, I think _Temple of Gore_ was an example of older style melodic death metal pushing towards a black metal framework. The musical ideology presented an interesting end result, but ultimately would have been limiting and self defeating had we decided to keep advancing within the same paradigm we were in. _The Luster of Pandemonium_ is advancing towards the summit by destroying _Temple of Gore_'s plateau and taking on the whole mountain.

CoC: What drew you toward the black metal aesthetic in the beginning?

JJ: We simply viewed the music as black metal at the time. The sooner I gained a better understanding of black metal ideology, I realized it was a conflict of progression by keeping the black metal aesthetic with music I soon actualized to be non-black metal. Out of respect for black metal, I felt it necessary to designate us as something other than such, which resulted in the departure of our former vocalist and second guitarist to form Gates of Enoch.

CoC: Even though you've shed the theatrics, there's a quasi-mythology and allegory that's gone into the album. There are a few sections, particularly the bottom half in "Of Perverted Hope and Fragmented Suffering", where the tone seems influenced by Eastern literature, that kind of epic pronouncement and illustrative metaphor -- and of course most of the album is drenched in hellfire and stamped with a pentagram on the front. How much input goes into the lyrics, and how would you define the style and substance in relation to your own points of view?

SH: The lyrics, album art and music all tell the same story, only through different mediums. This is a thesis addressing the points of arrogance, youth and conflict. To comment on the hellfire, pentagrams and my own point of view, icon / avatar worship is egotistical at best.

CoC: Texas and Florida have pounded their own history into metal and its development. How would you characterize the atmosphere today? What's the turnout like for local bands?

SH: Florida seems to be teeming with life and promise. Texas, on the other hand, is not what it used to be. Averse Sefira, Braced for Nails, and Bahimiron are the only bands worth mentioning. As far as the turnouts, there is humor in carrion.

PO: There are some amazing bands in Texas and Florida. In all honesty, I know a lot more about the Florida scene. Bands worth checking out include: Etheric Plague, Nailshitter, Vomit Spawn, Paths of Possession, Chaos, Blastmasters, Virexda 440, and a ton more I'm sure I have forgotten. As far as Texas goes: Hammerwhore and Scarabaeus are great live, but I have yet to hear recordings from them.

CoC: You guys also have a website under construction and a Myspace page that people can visit for samples in the meantime. Any idea how much longer till the website becomes fully operational?

SH: The website is becoming a bit of a hassle, with a web master that is apathetic until threatened with removal. Any interested should email us.

PO: You can contact me about Crimson Massacre or Dark Faith at this address.

CoC: Any tour plans for the future? Where would you like to go?

JJ: I would like to go back to Europe, maybe visiting Russia and conducting experiments on their audience in relation to our live display and riot initiation.

PO: I would like to see how violent the Japanese and South American crowds can really get...

SH: I believe there are talks of a two-week tour in May / June involving some insane driving. We are pumped nonetheless... more details to be released when they become more concrete. We are most likely going to Europe again in the summer for four to six weeks.

CoC: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. The final word is all yours.

JJ: Thank you for the well thought questions, and anyone who bothered to read this, and I hope anyone who would understand our album will give it a listen... as they need to in order to understand it... and BUY it! Also we need a second guitarist -- Texas residents preferable, though out of state residency doesn't bother us, obviously.

PO: Pay attention to these projects in the future: Virexda 440, Nailshitter, and anything released on Dichotomy or Deathgasm Records.

SH: Thanks for the interest and support; it is truly refreshing.

(article submitted 11/11/2005)

10/17/2005 T DePalma 9 Crimson Massacre - The Luster of Pandemonium
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