Interview: Simon Dower of ABRAMELIN
Words/Interview by Brady Irwin
Death metal vanguards Abramelin are so institutional they need no introduction. Hailing back into the fold with recent reformation, rejoining the live circuit and completing their first album in two decades, the abrasively good time opus ‘Never Enough Snuff’, the band find themselves as an interesting juncture to be back in the limelight. Eager anticipation has given way to fanfare as hordes of ravenous Australian (and international) death metal freaks, yours truly included, celebrate the release to great acclaim.
Catching up on a crisp Victorian autumn morning via the social distancing offered via telephone, and generally in agreeance about the weirdness of the present environment the band find themselves in, I caught up with longtime frontman and death metal aficionado Simon Dower over the span of a few suburbs and a mobile network.
I’ll start with the obvious, now-almost stereotypical question for the current environment. How does it feel to be releasing an album and gearing up for promotion, release and (eventually) touring under the current circumstances?
Yeah, not going to lie, it’s obviously a bit weird! Like, it’s an absolutely fucking fantastic feeling getting ‘Never Enough Snuff’ out there in the wild. But, again, it’s also not like this has been brewing for that entire time either. We did have a break from 2003 to 2017 where we were essentially on hiatus. Had someone told me in, say, 2013, that we were going to be releasing a new album in seven years’ time I would’ve laughed at them and said ‘the band doesn’t even exist at the moment, how are we meant to release an album?!’
But since we did come back together and started writing new material, we realised it was on the table that ‘Hey, we’ve actually got enough stuff for an album, here’, and we realised we had enough to begin producing a new album which was really exciting.
Also, it didn’t come together as easily as you might think, but that was mostly with the recording process and the way everything was organised. Nowhere was there a falling out or anything, just an awkward process.
Back in the day, you’d have everyone coming together in the same studio and it felt a lot more live, sometimes we’d even have multiple band members recording and tracking instruments at the same time. Same engineers, producer, what have you, do the tracks back-to-back.
This day and age is very different, it got very ‘into the weeds’ – people going to different studios, tracking different sessions individually with different sounds, different edits, different pacing, etc. We’d have the guys held up on doing say, takes for solos in one studio and tracking in another. But we got there eventually!
You sure did, and it seems with the help of quite the mastering by a renowned engineer and producer, too.
Yeah, mate, Dan (Swanö). Dan is the man. We are massive fans of Dan from back in the day, as far as we’re concerned he is one of the best death metal producers in the entire world. We wanted him in particular for some of the stuff we had pegged for the new album.
To be brutally honest, I’d previously never been one hundred percent with the end product of our prior recordings, more just sat back and thought ‘Hey, the fans want it, it sounds alright from the back end, why not?’ Whereas now, I’m seriously pleased with it, the way it was all packaged, handled and put together as a finished product, we were all really chuffed.
Dan was so good to work with, too. It was like ‘pick whichever albums you like and want the sound for’, and we’d be like ‘we like this, this, and this band, song, tone’, whatever. He’d come back with questions about particulars of what we liked about this drum sound, that guitar sound, we’d okay it, send off a recording. Bang! He comes back within twenty-four hours with something that has that sound, or something we’d need an adjustment on – no problems, same deal, guy is back on it and back to us within a day with tweaks.
He was just a pleasure to work with.
And the end product is great! I mean, you guys have retained that classic, early Swedish-styled death metal sound with a huge production. Sounds crisp.
Which is also why we went with Dan. He helped us retain that quote-unquote ‘old-school’ sound, which was important to us, but also not sounding like we'd just been recorded on a 4-track using a VHS (laughs)! It’s like yeah, we want it old-school but we’re gunning for that Blu-Ray quality, too. Dan provided both. We’re stoked.
Speaking of modern, 2020 is obviously an…. interesting time to be coming back into the fold. You’ve got death metal bands like Ulcerate pushing the envelope at one end of the spectrum and old-school worship happening at the other. What’s your take on the death metal scene you guys find yourself in, in 2020?
I guess I need to be perfectly honest with you here mate, apart from when we’re out and doing live shows, I’m not following the scene that closely at the moment. Other band members do, and it’s definitely not for a lack of trying to keep up nor have my head in the sand, it’s more that the live scene is usually where I’ll check out new bands doing the rounds. I’m not one for us to be hanging backstage ignoring the supports/other bands on a bill we play, I’m out there scoping out the other bands, enjoying their sets.
Matt and Dave probably have a better take than me, seeing as they’re well involved in other bands in the scene. Me, I’m more finding out about new bands in their live environment, seeing how they vibe with the audience and vice versa.
Speaking of live, we were recently able to catch you performing at the Direct Underground Fest dates in 2019, and your live set was almost unmatched in intensity, energy and ferocity even by the headliners!
Oh, come on now! (laughs)
Seriously – there was this sincerity, energy and ferocity from both the super-keen crowd and yourselves, the whole venue came alive at Max Watt’s for the Melbourne leg. People were obviously chomping at the bit for your set, and everyone on both sides of the stage unleashed. Seems like a real reinvigoration for your return to form?
Well I mean, a break always helps for that fresh perspective, but really the intensity was always, always there. It never died. I’ve always felt that with Abramelin, we’re very much a live band foremost, as much as we love recording. Live is where we shine, and recording is just about us trying to capture and bottle that onstage intensity.
For me its’ all about that intensity. When I get up there and get onstage, I’m thinking ‘extreme death metal’, and that manifests in my energy and performance at a show. I think it’s the same for the rest of the band, we want to push our intensity beyond capacity in a live setting. I love playing live and I’m keen to get that energy out into the crowds again.
And we’re just as keen to have that energy directed at us in a live situation and vice versa. For now, though… (a bit of silence with the interviewers’ aural equivalent of a shrug).
It is what it is at the moment, I mean right now it’s writing and practicing time for us while we patiently await the whole thing to blow over. We were in a situation where we could have waited to release the album a bit longer, but who knows? Things change, it can be easy to get distracted, you never know what can happen.
I mean, this pandemic bullshit situation has its’ pros and cons, yeah? It’s hard for us to not get out there, play live, meet the fans, etc. From a perspective of a band as a financial unit, too, it means it’s harder for us to get our merch and albums out there as distro is a little bit more difficult in the current situation. The good side is, everyone’s really engaged with it on social media, the fans interact regularly and give us good and immediate feedback on ‘Never Enough Snuff’. The rest is rubbish, but you’ve gotta do what you can both to protect the community and stay positive, you know?
Absolutely. Once it’s back on, it’s on. I cannot wait to catch you guys in the pit – tickets will sell like hotcakes and it will be on for young and old. Congrats on the incredible new release, it’s a belter!
No worries, appreciated. We can’t wait to cave your skulls in live when we next get the chance.
'Never Enough Snuff' is out now iTunes, Spotify & Bandcamp.
Listen to "Knife Play" below: