Cemetery Filth: Band Of The Day

By on 24 April 2015

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The USA has always had a strong death metal scene both underground and more mainstream, being home over the years to many classic bands who have had a huge impact on the worldwide extreme metal scene as well as those achieving a lot of respect and cult status in the more murky, darker depths of the worldwide death metal underground. With the old school death metal revival showing no signs of losing momentum, I thought it would be a perfect time to shine the spotlight deeper into the American death metal underground scene in the unlikely location of Tennessee and interview this great up-and-coming band who mix up classic old school USA death metal with the classic European sound.

Words: Kat Gillham

WHO ARE THEY:  Cemetery Filth
WHERE ARE THEY FROM: Johnson City, Tennessee, USA
FOR FANS OF: Morbid Angel, Autopsy, Death, Obituary, Morgoth, Dismember, Entombed, Grave, Benediction, early Pestilence
LATEST RELEASE: ‘Screams From The Catacombs’ (Unspeakable Axe)
WEBSITE: Facebook, Bandcamp

Hi, please give me background on the band and who does what?
Neal: “The idea of Cemetery Filth came about between myself and the vocalist of my other band – Alex (Manic Scum) in very late 2013. At this time, Matt had recently been introduced to me through David Prae (Haunting/Living Decay) to help with the new Manic Scum EP layout. Turns out he didn’t live too far away, so the idea to jam with each other came up pretty quickly, and Cemetery Filth seemed like the perfect opportunity. We got Jonah, also in Manic Scum, to drum and a guitarist I had known for a while named Ryan Guinn. We met up for the first time in January 2014, things clicked, and it just went from there.”

Matt: “I met Neal through Filth and Manic Scum’s producer, David Prae since he knew I had done some layout stuff for other bands. Neal and I hit it off instantly and joined forces to create a project to demonstrate the shared love for old death metal classics, while taking a simpler, but balls to the wall and catchy approach.”

You recently released a CD titled ‘Screams From The Catacombs’, please tell the readers a bit about this release in your own words and what they can expect.
N: “We wrote the title track over the first two practices, and it really set the tone for the direction we took – dark, atmospheric death metal influenced by the classic bands of the genre. We took, and continue to take, influence from many different bands rather than just our favourite band or two. As a result, we’ve had a lot of reviewers pick out different things in regards to our sound. We’ve had some people think we sound Swedish/Finnish and others think we sound American/Floridian. At the end of the day, we have many influences. You just probably won’t like us if you only listen to sterile modern death metal.”

M: “‘Gateway Among the Graves’ was actually mostly written by Neal a few months before the band ever met. He sent a rough version of it to me and the song structures and riffs instantly brought me out of a deep funk and hibernation from guitar. I felt fresh and was reminded how much I loved to play this style of music. The dude can write riffs like a madman and we completed it not long after the first song. ‘Cemetery Filth’ came about as just a flow of riffs. It evolved continually even during the recording process. We like to think all three songs show a creative and fresh approach to the old styles in their own unique structures and individuality.”

Is this CD still available, any plans to release it on any other formats?
N: “The CDs sold out very quickly. Matt made them for friends and attendees of our first show (Mountains of Madness Fest), primarily. Unspeakable Axe Records released a cassette version of the EP in September 2014.”

M: “We’d love to see it released on CD officially. I hand-made the first limited run of 45 and they sold pretty quickly. Eric of Unspeakable Axe Records saw us at Mountains of Madness Fest and we talked closely afterwards about the tape release from there. Vinyl would be sweet to see some day too! But that all depends on if it will stand through the decay of time.”

Where was it recorded?
N: “Drums were recorded at Jonah’s – with one mic, might I add. The vocals and rhythm guitars were recorded in Atlanta with David Prae. I recorded my bass tracks at home, and solos/leads were also recorded at Jonah’s. We thought it turned out well, all things considered.”

M: “We recorded the drums in Johnson City, TN at Jonah’s place in an embarrassingly unprofessional fashion. But we were careful so things turned out surprisingly well. I went back to my hometown of Atlanta, GA to record the rhythm guitar and vocal tracks with our amigo, David Prae at White Ship Studios.”

What is the lyrical inspiration for the EP/demo songs? Please tell us about the lyrics of each song.
N: “There’s definitely a Lovecraftian theme throughout the songs on the EP. Matt wrote the lyrics, so I’ll leave it to him to get more in-depth.”

M: “I remember when Neal and I first started talking we mentioned a mutual appreciation for Lovecraft’s works, but even more so the strange horror of his mythos. We both really liked how some bands (Morbid Angel most notably) included some of his stuff in lyrics and wanted to expand on that. The lyrics of ‘Screams…’ are about a creature of darkness that lures lost travelers deep into the depths where it feeds on their souls for centuries. The second track, ‘Gateway…’ is actually a tale depicting a backpacker’s encounter with Lovecraft’s all-seeing “god”, Yog-Sothoth. My habitual hiking definitely played a role in the creation of that one. Lastly, ‘Cemetery Filth’ is about another Lovecraft creature, Shub-Niggurath (the Angel of Disease) summoning her children in the forms of the undead to release her from the void.”

Who designed the cover of the CD?
N: “Raul Gonzalez designed the EP artwork. We were fans of his other work, which was primarily done in color. Contact was made, and we asked him about doing a black and white piece based on the title song.”

M: “Raul did a great job creating this piece. As much as I would have liked a color piece, I’m not sure if color could capture the same symbolism of the songs contained within. The imagery is Raul’s take on my lyrics for ‘Screams From The Catacombs’.

Why the name Cemetery Filth? What kind of images do you want to conjure up with this band name?
N: “This comes back to when Alex and I thought of starting the band. At that point, the idea for the band was to be more primitive and more gore-based, lyrically. What we ended up being gave a different outlook on the name. I think the lyrics for the songs on the EP, particularly ‘Gateway Among the Graves’, embody exactly the kind of imagery we hoped to conjure.”

M: “Neal had the name when he first started talking about the idea of jamming. I thought it was awesome and soon after our first few practices, it seemed to stick, so I drew up the logo.”

What’s a typical live show like? What can people expect?
N: “It’s simply us, no theatrics. That being said, we aim to deliver a loud, crushing performance when we take the stage.”

M: “It’s an even louder, more intense, and heavier version of what you hear from the studio stuff. We’ve been told we’re tight and have definitely gotten some of the best crowd response at the shows we’ve played. We were told by quite a few people that they couldn’t believe that Mountains of Madness was our first show – especially it being my first ever performance. That was a very humbling experience and definitely assured we were on the right path.”

Which bands shape and influence your sound and made you want to play this kind of music in the first place?
N: “I’ll just say that the classic death metal scene in general inspires us. As I said earlier, we have so many influences that we can’t really narrow it down to just a couple in regards to our sound. There’s so much that influences Cemetery Filth, ranging from American death metal, especially the Floridian bands, to the European and Scandinavian scenes. Our goal is to have a distinct sound within the context of what we play, and the fact that so many people have picked out different influences by listening to the EP tells me we’re heading in the right direction. When it comes down to it, we want people to hear Cemetery Filth when they listen to us.”

M: “Neal said it all. We’re influenced by the entirety of the old school genre. I remember picking Neal up for practice on numerous days and just rocking different classics and saying “we need riffs like these!” …the influential pool is ever-circulating but we all have our favourites.”

Any new material written? What will the next release be?
N: “We have three new songs that will be on an upcoming split with Trench Rot, Ectovoid, and Sabbatory entitled ‘Four Doors To Death’. Unspeakable Axe Records will release it on CD in early 2015.”

M: “The three new tracks coming out on ‘Four Doors To Death’ will unfortunately be my last with the band. I know that we’re all very proud of these three tracks and that they stand as an evolutionary culmination of the founding Cemetery Filth line-up. We’re extra excited because we’re lucky enough to have an old school vocal god contributing some guest vocals on one of the songs.”

What’s your thoughts on the current USA death metal underground scene? Which USA bands do you feel an affinity with musically, lyrically and generally?
N: “There are some promising bands in the current U.S. underground scene, such as Trench Rot, Haunting, Ectovoid, Horrendous, Act Of Impalement, and others. As a whole, though, I feel that memorable riffs and songwriting have taken a backseat to having a “cavernous” atmosphere, which is fine if that’s what you’re looking for, but it doesn’t do much for me.”

M: “There are tons of guys out there showing their love for the music and the influences, but the bands that actually bring something ear-catching and truly passion-filled are definitely scattered. There’s the East coast bands like Neal mentioned and then there are bands like Rude and Morfin out West that really get your head banging.”

Describe the band’s sound in 5 words only.
N: “Foreboding, Ominous, Atmospheric, Lethal, Uncompromising”

M: “Deadly, Ancient, Vicious, Riff-driven, Filthy”

Plug merch and say your last words before going into the grave…
N: “What few ‘Screams From The Catacombs’ cassettes that are still available can be purchased from Unspeakable Axe Records. They may also have a couple of our longsleeves left – we sold out of the few we had pretty quickly. Aside from that, expect to see and hear more from us very soon.”

M: “Grab a tape while they’re still available! Almost every thing sounds better on a well-made tape (if it’s not on vinyl). I’m beyond honoured to have helped shape this band and will most likely always feel a part of it, whether they like it or not. I know I’m excited for what’s to come. Let the Filth flow from beyond the grave. Thanks for having us, Kat, and cheers!”

About Kez Whelan

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