The Members Of Hoarfrost Discuss Their Debut EP "The Cold Plains"
There's something about frozen wastelands that just seem to spawn black and death metal bands, and that again holds true with Canada's Hoarfrost. The band recently released their aptly titled "The Cold Plains," and are soon to go into hibernation to work on new material. Hoarfrost's vocalist Ryan Suche, bassist Craig Peeples, and guitarist Brett Goodchild all shared their thoughts with me on their recent record release show in a church and the evolution of their sound.
xFiruath: How did Hoarfrost originally come together as a band?
Ryan: It all started many years ago with a man called Bill Gates, haha. Or, in others words, the Internet. I was in a little band with some younger buddies who were still in high school and we had lost our guitarist. The drummer put up a post on a local music forum seeking a replacement, and we found Scott. Had a meeting with him, liked his personality, and asked him aboard. That band ended up losing its jam space, and a bit over a month later Scott messaged me back saying he was cooking up a new project and needed a vocalist and I should come jam and see if things would work out. And it did.
xFiruath: How would you describe Hoarfrost’s sound?
Craig: Heavy in-your-face metal. We got a few different kinds of sounds going on, hard to define us as one sound at the moment. There's some death metal, some black, a little folk. I'd say “Baldr's Doom” is folk sounding. Though in the future, we plan on going into a more black metal direction, which I'm very excited to have a more definitive sound.
Brett: There's early Hoarfrost which is the material on our EP. Then there is Hoarfrost now and what we've come to define as our sound and what we are going for. The Hoarfrost songs everyone has become accustomed to, our early sound, could be described as a blackened death metal. Early Amon Amarth mixed with more black metal influences and melodies. Hoarfrost now is what Mayhem and Gorgoroth's child would sound like.
Ryan: Yeah, when we started out, we just kind of took everything we dug, threw it in a blender, gave our personal twist to it, and we had the bastard love child of Satyricon, Amon Amarth, and Immortal, haha. I love all of our material, but the EP is a watershed for us. We're honing in with new material on a more "pure" black metal sound, not to say that we won't experiment, but we know as a full band more what we're going for now that we did almost two years ago. Plus Craig is our second bassist and has really helped shape our sound since he came in after much of the original material was written, so things are different now on many levels. We complement each other with music taste and style and personalities, so our writing experience is very fluid nowadays.
xFiruath: What bands are you involved with outside of Hoarfrost?
Brett: I'm currently working on a black metal project called Kuldakaust. Kind of a Burzum meets Immortal sound with a Canadian twist.
Craig: Currently in a side project, with members of my old band. It's got a grungy punk feel to it. Not nearly as heavy as Hoarfrost, but I enjoy it all the same.
Ryan: I have some plans for a side project, but still seeking the right musicians right now. I'll go as far as to saying my intentions are to create a monolithic Celtic dirge metal band. I have this crazy vision in my head, and am looking for the right players to help me put the pieces together. Scott and Kyle don't have anything going as far as I know.
xFiruath: Who would you describe as your biggest musical influences?
Brett: My biggest musical influences are Celtic Frost, Darkthrone, early Mayhem, Ontario's Woods of Ypres, Immortal, a local doom metal band that goes by the name of Psychotic Gardening, Emperor, and Burzum. I really like the rawness of all these bands, and the atmosphere they bring to their music.
Ryan: As a vocalist, I suppose I'm not as directly involved with writing the songs as our resident riff-factories, but I'm big on giving constructive criticism to the band to help us write the best music we can. On a vocal-style level, I'm influenced by, in no specific order: Attila of Mayhem, Mortuus of Marduk and Funeral Mist, Glen Benton of Deicide and Vital Remains, James Malone of Arsis, Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth, Jon Nödtveidt of Dissection, Mika Luttinen from Impaled Nazarene, Mikael Åkerfeldt from Bloodbath and Opeth, and Pest of Gorgoroth. Fuck, does this sound like a bad Pringles commercial to you too? Betcha can't name just one!. I listen to many bands, those are just the prominent ones I guess. As for what I like about the music, there are many draws but I'd have to say the main things is atmosphere. A band that plays with emotion, passion and gravitas is one which stays in regular rotation. That's probably why I like black metal so much.
Craig: My biggest musical influence would have to be Metallica or Iron Maiden. Pretty much everything about my playing is heavily influenced from either of those bands. For both bands, it's always been a very strong music, having damn good melodies, and being heavy at the same time. Also both bands have some of the best bass players around, past and present.
xFiruath: Tell me about your debut EP “The Cold Plains.” Where did you record and how were the recording sessions?
Brett: Our EP "The Cold Plains" is pretty much the first year of Hoarfrost. It's really the first 5 strong songs we've written. We recorded at Mother North Studios which is my home studio. The recording sessions were pretty easy going. Pretty much I sat down with each member and recorded them. I produced, mixed, and mastered the EP.
Ryan: As Brett said, we did a home studio dealie. My experience was okay; I was sick at one point which delayed the vocals for two weeks and almost made the CD release show a bust, so it was tad touch-and-go because of that. Otherwise, pretty laid back and straight-forward.
Craig: The recording sessions were done with Brett in his studio. For my section, we pretty much just sat down for 5 or 6 hours, and cranked them out, very easy going, and fun!
xFiruath: Who did the cover artwork and logo for the band?
Craig: Again, all done with, or through Brett.
Brett: The cover artwork was designed by myself and our logo was designed by Luciferium War Graphics.
xFiruath: Is there a continuing theme to the tracks and what do the lyrics deal with?
Craig: Not my place to really say, but I think Ryan is going for an old metal feel with the lyrics, telling more of a story, compared to other band which are politically, religiously, and emotionally influenced.
Ryan: As Craig implied, I'm the lyricist, so I guess this question is on me. Early on in the band, the lyrics were not unlike the sound: a tad unfocused. There are themes throughout, certainly, but we as a band were still trying to find our voice. What are we? What do we stand for? What can we bring to the table? As it goes, Norse, Greek and Aztec mythology are referenced on some songs, war, especially total, all-consuming war, is the central theme on another, and there is an undercurrent of the inevitability of death throughout the EP material. Now that that threshold has been crossed and the music has become a much more focused affair, so too are my lyrics. I'm planning on writing a loose concept album based upon the depravities, despair, and doom-mongering of the middle ages in Europe. I love history, it's my major in university, and I'm the resident poet and grammar Nazi in the band, so I'm combining all of my loves together. The first new track we've debuted live, entitled “Tenebrous Entombment,” is a story about the 6 million or more people buried beneath Paris in the catacombs; a vast mausoleum of plague victims and disinterred bodies and the tale of a would-be spelunker who goes in brazenly only to find his descent into darkness and adventure is a descent into madness and death. It's a dark song, and Brett wrote it with the Parisian Catacombs on his mind, so the lyrics came really naturally for me. And that's only the beginning.
xFiruath: You guys did an EP release party in a church, which seemed like an odd combination for your style of music. How was the show and was there any negative reaction?
Craig: We have played here a few times, and never has there been a problem. It's a great all age venue, and people seem to not mind it. The only problem I have with playing a venue like this, is the acoustics are subpar. But a place like that isn't really meant for performing bands! Still one of the best all age venues in town.
Brett: The show was absolutely great. Unlike most churches who wouldn't think twice about denying a metal show, CFR Church is a great place to play and Bill G who lets us put on the shows totally loves it. I myself would rather play at an all age show at a church and have more under age people come then play at a bar where there may be only a handful of people there to see you. From what I've seen the younger crowds enjoy live music so much more. The get so into it and really make playing a great experience.
Ryan: Building on what Brett was saying, Winnipeg is at an interesting point in its music scene. There are lots of very enthusiastic kids who want to come out to shows, but almost fuck-all for affordable, all ages-friendly venues. If there are venues to be found at all. Enter Bill Gillis and CFR Church. Bill's a great guy, and as it turns out, he knew my great grandmother over 20 years ago in a buttfuck town out here. He is fully behind supporting fledging artists and musicians of all stripes and types here in Winnipeg. They've had art shows, classical recitals, drama groups, metal, punk, rock etc. at this Church. Christian and secular shows alike. When an artist or band books the venue, he can do or say whatever he or she likes. Swearing, invoking "God" or "Satan,” whatever. It is simply a venue, a place to display something. Our thing is metal.
Bill's a cool guy. He actually really likes our music, and I've heard him name drop Goatwhore as a band he's a fan of. He's mentioned some other Church groups as getting their panties in a twist (my words, not his) over letting "Satanic" metal bands into the church, but at last head count, Hoarfrost consists of agnostics, atheists, and a nihilist, so not sure where they did their homework. Maybe Jack Chick strips? The only truly negative thing I heard about the show was a stupendously drunk dude I know who said that the church smelled like "musty paper and old people,” bailed out on the show and went down the street to a bar to "clear his head" if that counts for anything.
xFiruath: What is your upcoming schedule looking like as far as live shows?
Brett: We have one show on January 16th with our brothers-in-metal Psychotic Gardening, Arctic Circle from Brandon, Manitoba, and Percardium, a brutal death metal band. This also marks one year to the day that we've been playing live. After that we plan to take a break and write new material for after spring.
Craig: It's pretty barren, until sometime in January. We've planned on taking time off to get a new feel for our musical self's as a band. Then pull it all together, with a hopefully all new and shiny set list.
Ryan: Yeah, we were in hibernation mode writing new material until this show offer popped up, and it was too good not to say "Yes!" We're playing with some of the best Manitoba has to offer, as well as Regina's Pericardium. If we'd been able to add on Of Human Bondage to this bill, every extreme metal fan in Winnipeg would be walking around with a stiffy or a wet spot in their snow pants. We're keeping quiet until March or April though. Writing, writing, writing!
xFiruath: Tell me a bit about your local metal scene. What kinds of metal do you have represented there and is metal well received?
Craig: The local metal scene around here is actually pretty impressive. Seems like everyone is willing to support metal around here, not quite the same for other genres of music. There is pretty much any kind of metal you could ever want here, ranging from death bands, to hardcore punk-like bands.
Ryan: Winnipeg has a fantastic metal scene with regards to the quality of bands here. I don't think I could begin to emphasize that enough. There seems to be a large number of thrash and death metal, as well as a growing coven of sludge metal bands, here in Winnipeg, but literally all the major sub-genres are represented. I think the scene is definitely well received by the metalheads here, but not enough people come out to local shows it seems, though there is a strong core. Instead people all flock to the big tour packages rather than check out the awesome talent in their own backyard: Psychotic Gardening, Putrescence, Tyrants Demise, Evil Survives, Arctic Circle, Of Human Bondage, Besieged, Damascus etc. So many great talents, not enough people appreciating that talent!
xFiruath: What are your thoughts on where black and death metal are at today?
Craig: I'm too far away from either of these scenes to give a worth-while comment.
Ryan: As it ever has been, the innovation is in the underground scene, not to say that I don't enjoy more popular bands, too. I'm no kvlt kiddie, but there are tons of bands doing amazing things out there right now, and I seek out these bands as much as I can. Stuff like Funebrarum, Thy Flesh Consumed, Darkestrah, Woods of Ypres, The Amenta, Leper, Enochian Crescent, Winterfylleth. Some great music is out there! As for what most people who are into metal are aware of, this whole "tech-ier-than-thou" cockfest in death metal is, generally, boring as fuck. Origin are the only ones who seem to be going about that the right way, and even then they continually inspire all of these lesser imitators who write boring music. Black metal isn't really on most people's radar, but then again Behemoth was on the BIllboard Top 200 and had the #1 album in Poland, for fuck's sake. It'll be interesting to see where this all ends up, and relieving when this tech-death circle-jerk bubble bursts.
Brett: I don't really listen to death metal. I used to listen to it but now it just seems like everyone is trying to down tune lower and lower and play faster and faster with more technicality. I really just see it as a bunch of wankery. So when I do listen to it there are about 5 or 6 bands tops that I listen to that are death metal bands. I personally don't like where black metal is today. I'm a fan of 80's and early 90's black metal. Stuff like Celtic Frost, Darkthrone, Mayhem, Immortal, and Burzum to name a few. Today it's become too polished and commercial. It's losing the impact and what it once stood for.
xFiruath: Any parting words?
Brett: We are Hoarfrost. We're from the icy, plagued prairies of Manitoba Canada and we are here to play black metal the way it's meant to be played.
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