Sea of Tranquility Staff Writer Carl Sederholm recently chatted with Sebastian Montesi from Auroch, a Death metal band that's getting ready to release their debut album From Forgotten Worlds at the end of October. They had a long and interesting conversation, packed with insights about Death metal, H. P. Lovecraft, and cosmic horror. Due to space limitations, we cut things back a little:
SoT: Where does the name Auroch come from?
Sebastian: When we chose the name it had less meaning than it does to us now. Initially, I and the other guitar player, Paul, played in a high school / garage / thrash metal band called Tusk. It was a totally different project than the one we have going now. The problem was that there were already too many bands called Tusk, or some derivate of that name, so we wanted to choose another one. We came to Auroch because of the fact that it was (a) obscure, meaning it was untaken and (b) because an Auroch is a tusked animal, one that also has horns. Our sixteen / seventeen year old selves thought the name was basically on the same track as we were with the name Tusk. As we grew and developed and our beliefs and interests changed, we began to find more relevance of the Auroch everywhere: in mythologies and stories and in paradigms that we were becoming interested in, particularly Sumerian mythology and also through later connections we found in writings by, and also related to, H. P. Lovecraft. In the end, we began to find the relevance of the Auroch everywhere. It also began to have more meaning to the lyrical themes we attached ourselves to than at the time when we chose the name, so the synchronicity of the whole thing is quite cool.
SoT: I read that you guys started out as a thrash band. When did you make the transition to Death metal?
Sebastian: Tusk was more of a thrash metal band. Some of the members of Tusk were early members of Auroch and so that's why we sometimes get confused as a thrash band or that we were at one point. The earlier Auroch material has some elements of thrash, if you will. The old singer, who we parted ways with a while ago, appears on a few of our demos and he did some more experimental vocals that may have some connections with thrash. But the band, in those days, wasn't as established as it is now. All the bands we've opened for in the past year and a half and all the touring that we've done is as the Death metal band that we are now.
SoT: When does the first album, From Forgotten Worlds, come out?
Sebastian: Initially the record was supposed to come out August 28 and we were going to self-release it, but we managed to work out a deal with the Polish record label Hellthrasher productions. They've been a joy to work with. We decided that it would be in the best interest of the band to work with them. Hellthrasher is helping us develop more anticipation for the record. We've postponed the release of the record until late October. There are currently two songs that are released, the title track and another one called "Slave to a Flame Undying." They've both been circulating very well, but the record isn't out yet. We know we've created something that we are extremely satisfied with and we also know that once it's out, it's out forever so we wanted to go with a good record label.
SoT: Some people tell me that Death metal all sounds the same. What do you think distinguishes Auroch from other Death metal acts?
Sebastian: I don't think anyone who really listens to Death metal, even fleetingly, really thinks that it always sounds the same. I'm not saying people don't have the perspective that it all sounds the same, but I think that comes mostly from an uneducated outsider perspective, people who don't really know the music. If we really want to look at the roots of it, just between the old school Death metal bands like Sarcophagal, with their pure rawness and Satanic nature, they were leaning toward Black metal. Then if you want to look at UK bands like Napalm Death, they are much closer to punk. Old school legends like those guys are playing raw, old school, metal and are totally different from one another. Nowadays, they don't sound anything like some of the newer bands which are doing much different things. In any event, I'm not one to endlessly masturbate these subgenres too much.
You asked where Auroch falls into all that. Well, we are fans of the genre at the very heart of it and we are making music that doesn't necessarily emulate anyone but want to make music in the vein that we idolize. For myself, I like old school Death metal and Black metal bands, things like old Morbid Angel, Arch Goat, and others. The drummer is mostly into technical death metal, like Spawn of Possession, Nile, and others. The other guitarist is into bands like Ishan and Emperor, some prog stuff as well. We basically stir the pot of influences without trying to sound like anyone in particular.
SoT: Let's talk about H. P. Lovecraft for a few minutes. Why do you identify Lovecraft as one of your major influences? What is it about him that interests you?
Sebastian: On the most exoteric level of it--and by that I mean, on the level that's most obvious--we like Lovecraft because of the fantastical nature of the stories and because of the dark, Gothic, 1920s, the country teetering on the Great Depression vibe, the pre-modern desolation, the entering of some strange new world, appeals to us. So does the tentacled, slimy, unthinkable, horror of it all.
On the more esoteric level, we relate to Lovecraft in our lyrics as a literary mirror for metaphors and paradigms that go against the modern world, things that strike out against the ills of modern society and the limitations of modern man. Our lyrics are not all about Lovecraft or his literary themes, but we use him as a bit of a mirror to reflect some of our thoughts. If you take any of his stories, even the most obvious, action-packed stories, there's always something else darker going on.
SoT: I really like Lovecraft's little book Supernatural Horror in Literature in which he defines what he means by weird. What are some of the stories by Lovecraft that really stand out to you or that are particularly important to you or the band?
Sebastian: There are two personal favorites that are important to our lyrics; I'm not sure they are as important to Lovecraft's legacy as others. They are "The Silver Key" and "Through the Gates of the Silver Key." These two stories, especially the latter, are gigantic in scope, even arrogant in the way they take on so much in so few pages. Yet they pull off what they do so well and demonstrate years of contemplation about strange things. They capture a lot about what's wrong with the modern world and what might be really relevant. Lovecraft deals with things like man's cosmic place in the world. He also deals with modern racial tensions. He also questions the core of human nature--including things like how physical matter is made up, the nature of mathematics, and so on.
SoT: It sounds to me that your band, along with Lovecraft, is really questioning the foundations of Western culture. Would that be a fair way to say it?
Sebastian: We question everything--particularly the nature of the ways modern man is trapped by things. More than any other culture, we question Western society and culture, but more importantly the kinds of restricting microcosms that we sometimes impose on ourselves. People are afraid to think outside of their little boxes.
SoT: Thank you. Good luck with From Forgotten Worlds.
(Click here to read our review of Forgotten Worlds)