Yorkshire newcomers Nihil Eyes have just released their explosive debut album Black Path. Paul Castles speaks with vocalist/guitarist Casey Jones who gives us a view into the workings of the energetic trio who are proving a welcome addition to the UK Death Metal scene.
ZT: For those not yet familiar with Nihil Eyes can you just give us an introduction to the band, how long have the three of you been together?
We’re a British Death Metal band based in Bradford. Our main influences are old British bands like Carcass, Bolt Thrower, Napalm Death and Paradise Lost but we love many other bands too from lots of different genres of metal. Myself and Szymon have been together since October 2016 and Max joined us in May this year so we’re still very new as a band but we’ve got big ambitions and we’re working hard to achieve them.
ZT:Your debut album Black Path came out recently, how pleased are you with it?
We’re really pleased with it, we worked really hard to get it where we wanted in a short space of time and we think it stands up to the best of the death metal albums this year. We think it stands out style-wise from a lot of releases at this point in time and we’re really looking forward to playing more gigs and seeing people’s reaction to it. We also learned a lot making it so we’re very hopeful we’ll make the next one even better!
ZT: Did you approach the songwriting with any particular theme in mind?
Themes include egotism, murder, suicide, mental instability and political corruption. Sometimes the songs are first person sometimes from the point of view of an outsider, sometimes satire, sometimes metaphor, sometimes stream of consciousness. I suppose it’s a bit like Black Mirror as music. I don’t really feel the need to look at serial killers or anything obviously dark. I think everyday people’s minds can be the darkest places to be and you can find quite disturbing inspiration examining almost anyone’s behaviour and thoughts. I live round the corner from a Catholic church for instance and there is probably nothing more sinister than examining the motivations of a person to be a priest in that organisation.
ZT: Is the writing process a joint affair or does someone take the lead?
I think the best stuff comes out when you inspire each other and although I start the writing process, the songs would be almost unrecognisable and far worse off without the input of the others. I tend to write the initial draft of the music to fit the atmosphere of the lyrics and once that’s done I send it to Szymon so he can write the drum parts. Then when we get together to practice, we play it, see how it feels, fill in the blanks and make adjustments. We have very similar taste in music so we tend to agree on what feels right and what doesn’t and we don’t try to overcomplicate things. We don’t add anything in if the song doesn’t feel like it needs it and I think that gives the songs a good flow so that nothing feels forced or contrived for us when we play it.
ZT: How personal is the songwriting process to you?
Most of the songs started as short stories and evolve into being lyrics. I tend to only write about personal things, something has to have some meaning for me to want to write about it in the first place. For the concepts of the songs I try to really get into the head space and write the story as a thought experiment, to try and really feel the emotion and motivations of the character and that can take quite a bit of alcohol. Even with songs about wider subject matter such as war I’d rather focus on one individual within that scenario and examine them and their mental state rather than say write a song about a particular battle or war. It’s then an interesting challenge to put that story into a song format as I want to keep the feeling that it is a song and should have a structure and hooks. It’s not a poetry reading which is what some bands tend to get into as the lyrics take on more meaning. At the same time there is nothing worse for me than when a band has no meaning to the songs and the lyrics read like they’ve read through a dictionary and gone Big word, Tough word, Big word, Tough word.
ZT: You worked with Dan Swano in the studio – how influential and helpful was he?
Dan was amazing he was only meant to be mastering the record but we had some difficulties at the mixing stage, we’d recorded all the parts separately with different engineers and it wasn’t coming together right. So I had a short email conversation with him asking him if he was available to mix and describing what we wanted and two days later the first track came back sounding better than I’d hoped for. I’ve always been a fan of his work and he just gets metal which I think is just as important as his considerable engineering skill.
ZT: The album seems to have been well received?
The magazines and blogs who have taken the time to review the album have given it really good scores so we’re pretty happy with the response. And the vast majority of feedback we’ve had so far from other bands and metal fans has ranged from good to very positive, some people have taken the time to send us messages to congratulate us on the album which was really nice.
ZT: Although Nihil Eyes are a death metal band you’re clearly open to some experimentation with the likes of Paradise Lost being mentioned in the same breath?
To be honest musically we just play what we enjoy we’re definitely not against experimentation but its never planned we just play according to our taste. Sometimes something weird comes out and it’s cool sometimes we just love to bite down on a simple riff and let it take its course. It’s more about what the song needs to get the point across than trying to force musical invention which I don’t think would work well for us anyway. Paradise Lost have definitely been a big influence though so I suppose it’s natural that some of that will come out. There was actually one song I was writing that I played to my mate, I was really stoked with it and he pointed out that it was actually pretty much ‘Internal Torment’ II so that had to be scrapped!
ZT: How busy have you been on the live front this year?
Nowhere near as busy as we would have liked. Me and Szymon have been working together since last October but Max didn’t join till three weeks before we recorded the album in June so we weren’t really ready to play live until recently. We’ve also been looking for a second guitarist for some time now and we’ve had a lot of people just not work out so that’s taken up too much of our time. We’re hoping that we’ll have a second guitarist ready to go at the start of next year though and looking forward to a much more active one gig wise.
ZT: Are there any bands in particular that you would be keen to go on the road with?
Any bands that don’t charge a huge fee to buy onto the tour, ha ha! But on a more serious note, I’d love to play with Napalm Death and Carcass one day – They were the best gigs I went to when I was a kid and they still kick ass.
ZT: Are any of you involved in other projects at the moment or is the focus purely on Nihil Eyes?
Szymon has an EP with a band called Asterian which will be coming out early next year. I’ve done some guest vocals which was really cool as I didn’t have the stress of writing the lyrics myself. I’ve got some other things in the works but my main focus at this time is Nihil Eyes and writing the next album which is starting to come together now, but we’ll see how much spare time presents itself.