SALLOW is another good band to come from America. They hail from Albany, New York and they’re going to release their new tape with the suggestive name “I: The Great Work”, mixing good old black metal with doses of doom, melancholy and more. Check it out the interview with members Edimmu and Kottgott!
Please, describe the music and aesthetics of Sallow.
Edimmu: I see Sallow as an exploration of the will to destruction inspired by an experience of loss. This is not always a loss of something once held, but is also a loss of a possible future. While this sometimes invokes a kind of sadness, it is more often felt with rage.
“I: The Great Work” is going to be released on tape and digital formats only. Why the decision of not releasing it on CD. Do you think compact discs are not a suitable media anymore for this kind of underground, niche music?
Edimmu: “The Great Work” was recorded at the same sessions as two long EPs, “Corpses & Ruins” and “Tend The Fire.” These will also be self-released on cassette. We wanted to guide the process of recording and presenting these albums under our own direction. We hope to find a label or labels that have a comparable aesthetic and ethos that will re-issue these on other formats. I think CD is a great format because it’s compact, durable, and faithfully replicates the recording on a wider array of stereo systems. Vinyl is a great medium, especially because it best accommodates ritual listening. I grew up listening to metal on my walkman, so I have a special place in my heart for tapes and always will.
It was recorded in September but it’s only going to be released by April. Why did you take so long between the recordings and the release?
Edimmu: We spent many days in the studio, and then returning to make adjustments to the mix. This was a considerable investment of time in a busy studio. When we were unsatisfied with something in the mix, that meant finding another hole in the schedule to return to the studio. It was also difficult funding the project. We’re just a few poor proles, and we had to save up for several daylong mixing sessions. When it was done, we had to save up for mastering and then wait for the master to be completed. We had to commission the artwork and wait for that to be finished. All of this takes time. But we were conditioned to be patient. We spent a lot of time writing and honing these songs, so by the time we made it into the studio, we didn’t want to rush the recording. As much as we wanted to share these songs, we wanted it all done right by our own standards. We wanted recordings that satisfied our vision. Everything happens so fast with music. I remember the days of print catalogs and mailorder with 4-6 week turnaround. I’ve never really conditioned myself for the expectations of speed that the internet has helped accommodate.
Is this your first record? Could you tell a little bit more about the history of Sallow?
Edimmu: Yes, this is our first album. I met Kotgott a couple years back when we were both thinking of starting a new black metal band. We spent a little over a year writing these songs. We were months into writing before we met up with Pugna and decided he was a perfect fit for the band. We had five songs mostly finalized before Pugna joined Sallow, but all the songs took on a new feeling with his involvement, and this will be apparent when people hear “Corpses & Ruins”. Still, even the earlier songs were reconfigured to have the drums play a critical role in driving or cohering the songs.
Listening to the record, I can listen to a nice fast and heavy black metal, but mixed with good melodies and harmonies beneath that also some level of melancholy that used to be so powerful on some melodic doom bands. Do you like this mix of melody and aggressiveness on black metal?
Kotgott: There was never any amount of restriction of our songs to make them better suit one sound or another. Sometimes a riff sounded better fast, sometimes slow, sometimes one than the other. I think all these sub-genre classifications are mostly bullshit. We play black metal.
Edimmu: Also, I think we tend to avoid rational approaches to music in Sallow. And because Kotgott and I collaborated on all the songs, feeding off one another’s guitar parts, we drove the composition in affective directions that are very difficult to express in language. Because our music is not very rational, it took awhile to really nail down and finalize each song. We just kept experimenting until things felt right. So, it’s not so much that we mixed different influences, at least not intentionally. There was no plan with our songs. Kotgott would usually just come in with two or three parts of a song that fit together nicely in different ways, and we would just work through variations. There was a lot of mutual adjustment going on. I think that’s why it’s hard to find a good sub-genre label to attach to what we’re doing. I’m glad that you hear doom elements, and that you pick up on the melancholy atmospheres. But the aggressiveness is there, too. There’s a lot of anger in these songs. Much of this is about loss, encountered through a cosmically pessimistic view of the world and humanity. We encounter so much of what we love being destroyed, and sometimes all there is to do with this is to allow it all to slip away, but to take those things with them that destroyed them.
Still speaking of melody and harmony, this is something that has been very present on some bands of the recent wave, especially on the so called USBM. Do you agree with that? Besides, what kind of music are you listening nowadays? Any non-BM stuff got your attention lately?
Edimmu: I listen to a lot of Polish, French and Quebecois black metal, these days. But I think Dissection and Rotting Christ are long-standing touchstones for me. That’s where a lot of the appreciation for melody and harmony comes from. I’m very moved by the NWOBH influence on Swedish black metal and death metal. I haven’t paid much attention to USBM in a consistent way. I’m not out on it, really, just that there are only a few bands that really caught and maintained my attention. Then again, I could say that about most things. Anyway, I don’t know that I could comment on USBM in any general way because I’m not sure I’d know what was being referred to well enough to speak in such generalities.
On the USBM subject, there’s also a lot of bands that take their landscape and nature as elements of their music, most of them comes from the Appalachian area as well as the Cascadian. Do you think your surroundings takes a big part on your music?
Kotgott: For me urban disgust has always been a major theme in Sallow as well. Albany, and the surrounding cities, are pretty awful overall: plagued by high crime rates, brutal police, failing economies and infrastructure, corrupt politics, and neighborhoods displaced through eminent domain, just to name a few; the problem with litter also cannot be understated. Of course these are hardly unique to Albany, but that doesn’t make it any better to live there. The fact of the matter is over 80% of the US population lives in urban areas. These are highly unnatural, nauseating environments, and this is often on my mind.
Edimmu: I lived in the mountains for a while, and when I moved to upstate New York, I felt a loss of that, especially living in a city now. We’ve also had some long, cold winters, and the sun rarely shines. It’s a dark, cold place most of the year. But the region where I live is filled with some awe-inspiring landscapes. The Adirondacks and Catskills have left a mark on me. But, for me, a lot of my feelings about nature have to do with the loss of places that have been dear to me, either because of distance or because they were destroyed by development or natural disaster.
What’s the plans for 2015? Any touring in sight?
Kotgott: I wouldn’t rule anything out. It would be great to tour and spread our particular strain of filth wherever we can. There’s also plenty of material we had to put on the backburner that might get recorded someday.
Edimmu: We’re most focused on getting these three releases out, and hopefully re-released on other formats and on other labels. Touring is a possibility.
Thanks for the interview, now you can have your word. Cheers!
Edimmu: Thank you for the conversation and sharing our music with your readers.
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