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Interview

Mephistopheles Vocalist Chalky Explains The "Sounds Of The End"

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Band Photo: Mephistopheles (?)

After the 2006 debut full-length “Ascension Aborted,” the Mephistopheles machine lay dormant for several years, but as it turned out that was just an incubation period.

The Tasmanian technical death metal outfit is finally releasing new album “Sounds of the End,” which is exactly what it sounds like – a musical exploration of the utter destruction of humanity by forces far beyond our control.

If you are ready to experience the devastation, you can stream the full album right here.

Now Mephistopheles vocalist Matthew "Chalky" Chalk has checked in with Metalunderground.com to explain what went on in the intervening years between the albums and discuss the crazy cover artwork featuring avian-on-fish mayhem.

xFiruath: Tell me about your experience recording the new album at Red Planet Studio.

Chalky: Red Planet Studio is a great recording studio. I have recorded most albums I have been a part of there, and keep going back - it'd feel weird if I didn't!
This time was my first experience working with Jake Long, the son of Stew Long, who's recorded most of my stuff in the past. He's a relatively young guy, but very, VERY switched on, and well on his way to becoming an audio genius. Unfortunately, we weren't as prepared for the studio as we should have been, so the process took longer than desired, and yielded a result that wasn't exactly what we wanted, but the fault lies with us. All in all though, we're happy with the outcome, loved the experience, and it's given us a good foundation for the future.

xFiruath: It’s been seven years since the first album – what was happening with Mephistopheles in the intervening time?

Chalky: Well, seven years is a long time to recount...I'll try and keep it short, haha. I wasn't in the band when the last album came out, but I did help produce it, and released it on my own little label. So I knew the boys and the sound well, and was a fan of what they were doing. We'd talked about me joining around that time, but I'd just parted ways with Psycroptic, and wasn't ready to step into that role again so soon. Basically, the lads were all teenagers when that came out, and still in college. Soon after the release some touring around the country was embarked upon, but it wasn't long till one guy went to university, and the other two entered the workforce, so spare time for music was reduced. I joined the band in around 2008, and we started working on some new, more daring material. Shortly after, due to an injury and an ensuing lack of motivation, the bassist left, and was replaced quite quickly. So, a 50% new line-up brought about a welcome change, in a sonic sense, and strengthened the band in many ways.

The band began writing a new album, and had it essentially completed...and then 2011 happened. 2011 saw members getting caught up in other musical projects, work, study, and literally nothing happened during that 12 months, for Mepho. No gigs, no band practice, nothing. The beginning of 2012 rolled around, and the members all sat down and discussed whether to keep things going. If we were to keep going, we had to commit to stepping things up in terms of output, practice, touring and most importantly - we had to record an album. Unfortunately we'd forgotten 75% of the songs, never to be remembered, so we set about writing a whole heap of new ones. I think this was actually a blessing in disguise, as what we wrote between then and November that year, when we began recording “Sounds of the End,” was far stronger and more diverse than what we had written prior to our break.

xFiruath: How does this album differ from the last one in terms of sound and style?

Chalky: There are many differences, but I think there are enough parallels so that fans of the first album, for example, would still dig this one. But things have evolved, a lot. The music is more complex, structures are more linear and flow differently, and of course I am doing basically all the vocals, so that brings a fairly different sound also. But the guys are older, better at their instruments, etc, and have had seven years of aurally inhaling a vast variety of music, so things on this album really are, in my opinion, a big step up - in every way - compared to the first album. Also, I think it is far more daring. The first album did blend some jazzy, fusion type moments into it, but it was essentially a relatively straightforward tech/death album. The new one is pushing boundaries, and we're honestly trying to carve our own little niche. We have attempted to write music that is different to most things in the current scene, but all the while trying to keep one foot firmly rooted in established sounds. Because we love metal and music in general, and we don't want to be making some wacked-out alien future music, we want it to be somewhat listenable to the average metal head, but we also for it to be interesting to the ears of those who enjoy something a little more...um...bizarre?

xFiruath: Are there plans for any lyric clips or music videos for any of the “Sounds of the End” tracks?

Chalky: There is definitely a plan for a music video, for sure. The problem is attaining the finances to put it together, essentially. We've spent a lot on the new album, and new merchandise, and none of us are rich, haha. We have an idea for a clip well and truly waiting to be implemented, so I hope we can do it soon! I love film clips, and after playing in metal bands for 19 years, I've never, ever done one...and that is fairly disappointing!

xFiruath: Fill me in on the crazy artwork with the monster-on-monster mayhem.

Chalky: Well, the concept for the album cover was created by myself. It is based on a song from the album called “Battle Of The Sea And Sky.” The song is about a crazy occurrence where all these dark patches appear in the clouds, and also in the ocean. No one can get close to them, as they're surrounded by protective fields, so humans are basically just curiously watching, waiting. Eventually the spots in the clouds birth these giant flying beasts, and as they descend, these huge ocean born creatures rise from the seas, and an epic battle ensues. It is across the whole globe, and basically the battle is for ownership of the planet - so, whoever wins...we lose! The whole album is basically full of tales of apocalypse and the end of mankind, so I thought this picture was a good representation of the sentiment.

xFiruath: Will Mephistopheles be touring at all in support of “Sounds of the End?

Chalky: We already have a small national tour announced, and commencing soon. This will see us performing in Wollongong, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, and of course our home city of Hobart, Tasmania. We plan on getting to other states in the coming months, but we just have to see how this first leg of touring goes first. We also have plans of making our way overseas next year, hopefully to Europe and the U.S. Not only do we want to get into other countries to perform, but we think our product is finally good enough to do so. And with an awesome label like Willowtip Records behind us, and killer sites like yours interviewing us, I think the word is going to spread, and maybe 1 or 2 people outside of Australia might like to see us live, hehe. Seriously though, touring overseas has been my desire ever since beginning on my metal pathway, and it's the ultimate dream. 95% of my fave metal bands are from the U.S and Europe, those areas are the birthplaces of many sounds and scenes, and it'd be a huge honor and massively enjoyable to get over to those places and play some sick shows.

xFiruath: What’s happening in the local metal scene at your neck of Australia and have you seen any great live shows lately?

Chalky: The local metal scene here is a bit weird at the moment. There's many cool bands, lots of cool people, but there seems to be a bit of a lull in attendances to gigs, and a bit of a divide in the scene. I think this is in part related to the rise of the core based genres, and a lot of people on either side not wanting to unite. But it is still a sick scene, with killer bands like Intense Hammer Rage, Gape, Lacerta, Randomorder, Taberah, The Wizar'd, Nosce Tiepsum, Atra Vetosus, Redemption Denied, Departe and many others making waves - many of them receiving deserved international attention. It's a great place to be, in terms of the actual landscape and vibe of the city, and with all the killer local bands, it makes it even better. The local scene will find it's feet properly again soon, like everything in life, it's cyclical, and as long as people don't give up completely, things will rule again soon enough. As far as great live shows, the most recent gig that was particularly good was Ampocalypse, a local multi-band metal event held a few times a year at The Brisbane Hotel. It was pretty awesome, and all the bands ripped.

xFiruath: Are any of the Mephistopheles guys currently active with other projects?

Chalky: Yeah, we've always got other stuff on the boil. Ben Lawless (guitars) and Sam Dowson (drums) have a project called The Lawless Quartet. It's a sort of gypsy/folk/punk/metal/funk hybrid weird thing. Kind of like if you mixed Mr. Bungle with a folk band, that's how I usually describe them haha. They've got an album or EP coming out soon I believe. Sam, James Excell (bassist) and myself play in a black metal type band, a project of mine essentially, called Iciclan. We have one album out already, and another one on the way. James also has a band called Chi-Roh, which is a sort of prog rock outfit. I also drum in a non-metal band called Spiral Kites, which plays pop type music, original songs though, based on sounds of the 60's and 70's, and is very influenced by The Beach Boys, Paul Simon, and other great acts of the era - and we have an EP coming out in December. We all have other projects as well, metal, non metal, etc that aren't really as established, yet, at least, and therefore aren't worth mentioning, at this stage. But we all love music, and lots of different types, so one outlet simply isn't enough, for any of us.

xFiruath: Other than your own album, what’s in your personal musical rotation lately?

Chalky: Wow...I'll try and keep this short, because I listen to a lot of stuff, both old and new. The stuff I've really been cranking and digging lately is Alcest’s “Les Voyages de l'ame,” David Bowie’s “Hunky Dory,” Katalepsy’s “Autopsychosis,” Ihsahn’s “Eremita,” Dog Fashion Disco’s “Adultery,” Foo Fighters “One by One,” Gorgasm’s “Orgy of Murder,” Mayhem’s “Ordo ad Chao,” The Beatles “White Album,” Faith No More’s “The Real Thing,” Bolt Thrower’s “Tthose Once Loya,” and the list goes on...

xFiruath: Anything else you’d like to say?

Chalky: Firstly, thank you sincerely for the interview, and the chance to spread the Mephistopheles name. I also want to say thank you to all the people who have supported us so far on our journey, we appreciate you all - this includes the people who've simply just showed our music to someone else! It all helps, and means a great deal to us. And I would like to conclude by saying to all those people outside of Australia - keep your eye out for Aussie metal! There's some great talent in this country that often unfortunately gets a bit overlooked elsewhere in the world. I think bands are finally getting out there though, more than ever before, and it's always impressive to see Aussie bands on international events.

Here's a small list of excellent current Aussie bands to look out for: Alarum, Whoretopsy, Disentomb, Portal, Seminal Embalmment, Wardaemonic, Altars, Festering Drippage, The Day Everything Became Nothing, Belligerent Intent, Tzun Tzu, Mournful Congregation, Tortured, Inhuman Remnants, Kunvuk, Sarfaust, King Parrot, Hadal Maw, A Million Dead Birds Laughing...I better stop, or I'll be going for hours. These bands are just a taste of a very strong national scene, so as I said, keep an eye and ear out for them, and you may see some of them in your neck of the woods in the future!!

xFiruath's avatar

Ty Arthur is a freelance writer who writes for both entertainment and technical instruction sites. An avid fan of many different forms of metal, he has been involved in reviewing music for several years and is currently a contributing editor for Metalunderground.com

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