“Come Hither O Herald of Death” is the latest and third release from Singaporean band Absence of the Sacred. To learn some more about the band, the new release and other matters, Andrew Doherty interviewed guitarist, vocalist and lead member Mike Priest.
AN: Hi Mike. It’s been a while. Thanks for agreeing to take part in this interview. I’d like to start by giving readers an idea of what Absence of the Sacred are like, as many people in the UK and elsewhere won’t know your band. My own impression from listening to your recent material is there’s a mix of old school Metal values with a modern technical approach. What would you say are the principal ingredients of Absence of the Sacred’s music?
MP: No problem Andrew, thank you for conducting this interview. Well I would say that we are predominantly Death Metal, but there are elements of Thrash, Black Metal, Doom and even a slight fusion with Jazz but nothing too experimental.
AN: Four years passed between your previous work “Era of the Apostate” and the recently released album “Come Hither O Herald of Death”. What was the reason for the time lapse between releases?
MP: To be completely honest, “Come Hither O Herald Of Death” was scheduled to be released on the 9th of September, 2009. However we encountered unforeseen circumstances which led to the delay of releasing the album, mainly financial difficulties and work commitments. Everything was already recorded back in 2009, from the drums in theUS to the guest spots on the album. It was the mixing that really jeopardised the release date and caused the entire album to be delayed for almost three years.
AN: “Come Hither O Herald of Death” seems to come from a turbulent, chaotic world captured within a tight and extreme but varied musical framework. Is that the way you intended it?
MP: Yes, the musicality of the record is definitely a progression, something much more technical and aggressive than the previous records. This was not intentionally written to be as such but more of a natural progression. Some of the songs were written in 2007, in-between our debut and sophomore releases. We did change some parts of the structure and improved on the songs as a whole before deciding to include it in “Come Hither O Herald Of Death”.
AN: Much of “Come Hither O Herald of Death” is in a bludgeoning Death Metal style and mostly fast like an express train, yet you found space for a mellow passage at the end of “The Necropolitan”. I didn’t realise you did mellow passages. What prompted the idea for such a change of ambiance?
MP: Actually we do have mellow passages on our previous releases, even our debut “Atrocities That Birthed Abominations”! A good example would be the middle-section of the self-titled track as well as the ending of “Our Glorious Dead”. We also have a mellow passage on “These Hollow Graves” from our sophomore release “Era of the Apostate” as well. This is a trait of ours that has persevered throughout the years.
AN: How has the sound of Absence of the Sacred developed since you started out in 2005?
MP: We started out as Death/Thrash Metal band with Melodic influences but we evolved into a more extreme form of what we once were, which is evident on our latest release. I think we have captured the essence and vitriol of what Absence Of The Sacred is and built upon it.
AN: I’m impressed that in common with the likes of Behemoth, Vader and Decapitated your latest album “Come Hither O Herald of Death” was mastered in Poland at the Hertz studio. How did you establish this link?
MP: I got the contact from our friends in Oshiego. To be honest it was not difficult at all, just simple e-mail correspondence and paying them through a bank transfer. They have their own FTP server so you can upload your mixed tracks for them to master without the need of sending a physical CD copy of the mixes to their studio in Poland.
AN: Speaking of links, I see that your drummer Kevin Talley worked with Chimaira, Dying Fetus and Misery Index amongst others. How did this collaboration come about? And what contribution has he made?
MP: Well I messaged him on Myspace in late 2008 as I thought he really suited our current direction and he asked for samples of our music. He liked what he heard and we agreed on his participation in the album for a nominal fee. I wrote most of the drum patterns on the album but I told him that I trusted his artistic contributions so he was free to change any parts he wanted, which he did by changing certain rhythms. He also improvised many fills that were different from the programmed drum patterns sent and it was definitely an exciting time for us to hear how he laid the tracks down.
AN: You’re not without connections yourself, having operated in numerous bands including Impiety since 2000. The bands you’ve played with all have different styles. It reminds me of some Norwegian band members who make music and play in different bands according to their musical mood. Does this describe you?
MP: Yes, I would say that I’m similar in that aspect. I do have side-projects that reflect different musical interests, especially those that are drastically different from my main bands.
AN: Do you enlist other people’s help when composing music or do you just rely on your own experiences and ideas?
MP: I normally compose music on my own, and when it comes to a band as a whole, I let the others contribute their talents and ideas to what I’ve written and see how a song clicks together, such as for Absence Of The Sacred and Blood Division.
AN: When and how did you first discover that you were committed to Heavy Metal?
MP: I first got into Metal when I was around eleven years old. I first heard Metallica’s “Metallica” from my cousin and got my first Metallica album which was “Master of Puppets” from an MPH outlet in a shopping centre. From there I got into bands such as Slayer, Iron Maiden, Venom, Sodom, Sepultura, Mercyful Fate, The Misfits, etc. I fell in love with the music as it was a catharsis for many of my emotions as life was not going very well for me at all, even at an adolescent stage. I got into Death Metal from a friend of mine in secondary school when he first played Morbid Angel’s “Altars of Madness” on his walkman and told me to check it out. I was blown away and from then on I got into heavier and darker bands such as Incantation, Acheron, Deicide, Sinister, etc.
AN: Do you have any other artistic interests beside music?
MP: I love to travel and explore the world and I have an avid interest in Asiatic and European cultures. I am very into film; I watch at least ten movies a week. I also do graphic design for bands and events, from CD artwork to t-shirts to banners.
AN: I was lucky enough to get a small glimpse into the Singaporean Metal scene last year. What does Singapore and South East Asia in general have to offer the rest of the world in terms of Metal music?
MP: The South-east Asian scene basically offers raw and ‘bestial’ Black Metal, Grindcore, Brutal Death, Thrash and Progressive Metal. Each country has bands to offer as well as a dominant subgenre in each scene.South-east Asiais often overlooked but I believe that the awareness of the bands/scenes here is growing from the international community.
AN: Do you see extreme music as relating to everyday life or escapism from it?
MP: I have to say that it is a part of me and that I love the music. It does not help me ‘escape’ from anything (alcohol does that job well) but it does fill out the mundane periods on a daily basis and it keeps me occupied.
AN: It’s obvious that you’re very active. In terms of your music, which gives you the most pleasure: composing, recording or playing live?
MP: Playing live with great sound and turnout is practically orgasmic. Seeing the audience go wild and really enjoying the show puts a smile to my face and it is times like those when I feel that it is all worthwhile.
AN: What do you consider to be your biggest achievement in music so far?
AN: How have you been promoting “Come Hither O Herald of Death”?
MP: Our label Sonic Blast Media has been in charge of that, although we have been advertising on forums and through Myspace and Facebook on the release as well. We are being featured on Zero Tolerance Magazine (UK), Legacy Magazine (Germany) and Karisma Magazine (Malaysia) in April and currently being advertised on Metalinjection.net. We have put up the entire album for streaming via Bandcamp and the people can hear the product for themselves rather than relying on conflicting reviews. The best reviewer is always yourself.
AN: What further plans and projects do you have for Absence of the Sacred?
MP: We are currently planning live shows, hopefully some dates in Europe but we will definitely be touringAsiato support the new album.
AN: In an ideal world, what would you like to happen in the future to take Absence of the Sacred further forward?
MP: Getting a proper management and marketing agency, along with a full-time manager and backline with crew. It is possible, but money is always an issue.
AN: To finish, is there anything you would like to say to readers of Ave Noctum?
MP: Thanks for reading and do purchase a copy of our album at http://www.sonicblastmedia.com if you like what you hear over at http://absenceofthesacred.bandcamp.com ! Hope to see all of you at a city near you soon!
AN: Once again, thanks very much for taking the time to answer these questions and giving gain insight into your world. Good luck with the promotion of the album, and I look forward to seeing you again somewhere soon!