ZT EXCLUSIVE STREAM OF THUS DEFILED’S UPCOMING ALBUM PLUS AN INTERROGATION INTO THEIR DARK MUSICAL LEGACY
Zero Tolerance have teamed up with Thus Defiled to present an exclusive stream of their upcoming album in full. We also took this opportunity to have a few words on what has been happening behind the scenes.
From the darkened vaults of the UK’s extreme metal badlands, the widely respected Thus Defiled have re-emerged with a highly collectable album that brings together two of their finest EPs. The band’s singer and figurehead Paul C tells ZT’s Paul Castles why it was time to dust down these battleworn blasts of narcissism and reflects on more than 20 years at the helm of one of the UK’s most innovative and most admired black metal outfits.
ZT: Hi guys, many thanks for talking with Zero Tolerance. It’s been a busy six months for Thus Defiled with the release of two digitally remastered EPs (A Darker Beauty and Fire Serpent Dawn) and a new EP (A Return to the Shadows) – followed by the album An Unhallowed Legacy. Does this feel like some kind of rebirth for Thus Defiled? PC: Not so much a rebirth; much more taking care of some unfinished business.
ZT: What prompted you to bring the two early Thus Defiled EPs out from the back of the wardrobe and release them in one package under the banner of An Unhallowed Legacy? PC: It’s been something in the back of my mind for a long time. I’ve had so many messages over the years from people asking for a download of the EPs as they’re almost impossible to get hold of thesedays. I’ve always been happy to just fire out a download link to anyone who asked, but a nagging feeling of them deserving to be remastered started to grow, slowly at first, but finally over the years it became an itch that needed to be scratched. As they were released chronologically and nicely separate the four full length albums, a combined package seemed the right way to go.
ZT: It must have been quite an interesting exercise revisiting these tracks after such a long time? PC: It really was. I spent many hours of blood, sweat and tears working on them. Well, in truth no blood was actually spilled, and I don’t recall bursting into tears at any stage, though there was probably a little sweat here and there. But I won’t let facts ruin a perfectly good cliché! It brought back many good memories from those days too.
ZT: They have had a little remastering since their original recordings (2000-2002), so would you say the sound is significantly different? PC: In the case of A Darker Beauty – very much so! We recorded that one ourselves over a couple of sessions, so the sound was, understandably, not the same as a true studio recording. It was a huge challenge to tear through the veil that has always obscured some of the textures, but the end result is genuinely impressive – a total turnaround and the full fire and fury has now finally been unleashed. The Fire Serpent Dawn half was a much easier job as that one was recorded with Dave Chang (Napalm Death, Orange Goblin, Desecration etc…) so it was more a bit of audio restoration work and just a few tweaks here and there.
ZT: Did you have to guard against over producing so as not to lose the authentic rawness and primal black metal sound for which you’re renowned? PC: Yes – it would have been a self-defeating exercise to end up with something that has only the most cursory connection to the original source. In fact, I sent secret downloads out to a couple of people I used to tape trade with back in the ’90s for their opinions, people that were there at the time and actively involved in the black metal scene. I was completely open to any criticisms that may have come back – after all, I may have just missed the point and become more snagged up in the technicalities than the actual organic feel of the pieces. Fortunately, the feedback was uniformly excellent, so it was great to have an external confirmation that I was indeed heading in the right direction with the project. Though I wouldn’t say our sound was particularly primal beyond the first album.
ZT: Thus Defiled have been fairly dormant for the last few years. Is there any reason for that? PC: Yes, it was simply time for a hiatus after our second visit to the USA to record and play some shows. It’s important to know when to take a step back rather than just go through the motions and end up putting out poor albums.
ZT: Was it always the intention to return to the frontline of UK black metal? PC: Our only intention is to continue doing what we have always done, putting things out when the time is right for us.
ZT: What’s been the response from some of the fans who remember you from the 90s? PC: The response so far has been awesome based on the samples we have released online. A lot of people thought that the flame was all but extinguished, so it’s been great to hear from so many people recently now the news of the release is out, many of them sharing stories from the old days of the band.
ZT: Are all the band members involved in the An Unhallowed Legacy project? PC: No, it’s just something I’ve done myself, quietly, at a pace that suited the project. No expectations, no pressure. When doing something like this, opening it up to a more committee style of working just wouldn’t have worked. Especially when considering half of the current band didn’t actually join until long after these recordings were done. I wanted an entirely clean slate and a clear focus to work with, and to create something that defines the middle era of the Thus Defiled oeuvre. So crafting something along those lines required experience from all of the albums, not just the newer releases.
ZT: The album is released on 6/6/16 – I guess you felt it was a date worth waiting for! PC: Well, the project dictated the time of completion to me, rather than the other way around. An infernal providence perhaps, or simply a coincidence.
ZT: The physical package is stunning. Did you decide from the get-go that you wanted this release to be something fans would really treasure?
PC: Initially, it was just going to be a digital only release. But as the hours piled up and the results became more and more magickal, there was no doubt it needed to be available in a physical format. And not a dull, standard package – it needed to be something that befitted the project. So, the grimoire style A5 digi packaging was designed to envelop the finished article in a style the complemented the music perfectly.
ZT:Did you work with anyone in particular on the artwork? PC: I came up with the concept and did the layout myself. It all came together naturally over a very short space of time through being involved with the music for so long. It was almost presented to me internally as a visual extension of the energies held within the music.
ZT: Have there been any gigs planned to mark the release of An Unhallowed Legacy? PC: No, there are absolutely no plans to return to the live arena any time soon, and perhaps not at all.
ZT: When you released A Return to the Shadows you recruited Mike Browning of Morbid Angel to assist with vocals. You must have been delighted to have his support? PC: Of course! He was involved in two of the greatest albums of all time in my humble opinion: Abominations Of Desolation from Morbid Angel and The Key from Nocturnus. Mike has done all the vocals on our cover version of Morbid Angel’s DemonSeed – an honour indeed.
ZT: Are there any plans to write new any material? PC: There is actually a new track coming on the A Return To The Shadows EP (along with four cover versions). This will be released later in the year.
ZT: As a genre, how do you feel the UK black metal community has evolved over the past couple of decades? PC: That’s quite a big question as so much has happened over the last couple of decades, and it’s almost impossible to isolate a music community from the changes surrounding it in society and technology, the way people interact with music now, the perceived value of music etc… But, as a general rule, I’ve always thought the UK has had, at heart, an enigmatic uniqueness when it comes to black metal. And, after all, black metal is at its root a British genre thanks to the mighty Venom (from whose Possessed lyrics our band name came). A lot of the early ’90s bands over here were all totally different – it was a really interesting time for music. Once the Norway thing broke to the masses, it of course attracted a lot of new people to black metal that had only heard that particular sound, and the ultimate end result, as with any exploding scene, was a slew of bands with a relatively homogeneous sound (not just here, literally everywhere). All exacerbated by labels chasing sound-a-like bands for their rosters. But through it all, our quirky little island has somehow managed to have enough bands that are unbowed by trends and dictates that could carve their own niche, and that still holds strong today.
ZT: Do you view the band itself in a different way now you’re a little older? PC: Of course. I was a kid when we started, and if I saw both the band and indeed life in general in the same way now there would be something very wrong indeed. But the passion for music burns as strongly as ever.
ZT: Are you viewing the return of Thus Defiled as a long term investment or are you going to quietly slip away into the shadows once more? PC: Well, the final part of the triptych of EPs is entitled A Return To The Shadows. The title is no coincidence. This will be coming a little later (as a free download) and features a new Thus Defiled song as well as four cover songs that we did as a tribute to some of the bands we grew up listening to. When we chose the songs together we were all agreed that there is no point doing any black metal covers, so we cast the net wide taking in Morbid Angel (DemonSeed), W.A.S.P. (Hellion), Metallica (Creeping Death) and Death (Evil Dead); all great bands, all very varied, all done in the Thus Defiled style. Then, as the title suggests, the shadows will beckon once more. There will be more to come in the future, and there are some more rarities that I have in the vaults. But there is no schedule – we won’t ever be a band that has a timescale dictated to us.
ZT: Is it possible that at some point in the future you will embark on an entirely new project/band working with a new group of musicians? PC: Well, there have been a couple of pub table conversations on this very topic. Though I have yet to commit to anything.
ZT: Thanks for sharing your thoughts with ZT readers, Paul – Final question, do you still have a hunger to perform on stage in front of a live audience? PC: We have had some amazing gigs together as Thus Defiled over the years from supporting the cult legends Blasphemy in London way back in 1993 and Dissection in 1995 to setting a venue on fire with our over the top fire-breathing antics to getting to play to a full house at the legendary Astoria in London, and pretty much everything in between, both at home and abroad. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss it from time to time.