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Comrade Aleks spoke to inverloch co-founder Matt about a variety of in-depth topics, and of course that had to include his membership of legendary Death/Doom pioneers diSEMBOWELMENT and how inverloch continue that legacy...

Interview with Inverloch.
"Today our guest is Matthew Skarajew. The man who played bass in legendary Australian Death Doom band diSEMBOWELMENT and who elaborates some of its aspects today, in the band Inverloch formed by him and former diSEMBOWELMENT drummer Paul Mazziotta in around 2011. Inverloch are still far from their second full-length, but this retrospective and deep interview about the days of one of the most experimental Death Doom band of early '90s and its modern incarnation (actually, not!) is something worth reading! I'm grateful to Matthew for this great story he found time to tell."

Inverloch current line-up: Chris Jordon (bass), Paul Mazziotta (drums), Ben James (vocals), Matt Skarajew (guitars), Mark Cullen (guitars).

Hello Matt! Thanks for your time, much appreciated! This story started almost 25 years ago, so let's take a look back, if you don't mind. You joined Disembowelment in 1992: how did it happen? What did you find when you became a part of the band?

Hello Aleksey! Thanks so much for the invitation to chat about disembowelment and INVERLOCH. Ok, so a little history. Back in '91 I was gigging a lot here in Melbourne with a tech-thrash band called Sanctum (playing lead guitar). We were kinda heavier than a lot of thrash bands, and as such often gigged with bands like Necrotomy, Archeron (Ambramelin), Christbait and Damnatory. I think we played at Sadistik Executions' first show, too. Anyway, our scene then was really strong. I got to know Paul and Renato as they were often at the shows and we would often discuss tape-trading etc, just hanging out and stuff. I got a copy of the Deep Sensory demo off Paul and loved it immediately! I loved the dark, oppressive vibe and the drone-y, almost industrial aspect. Jason had already joined the band of course and really helped focus the material and give it that dark intensity. It matured a great deal after Mourning September. He complimented Renato's angular writing style very well.

So, knowing that Tim (Abramelin) had moved on from 'Bass duties to focus on Acheron, I offered to play Bass. I really wanted to play guitar, but thought Bass was a good way into the band and to be involved, and kinda figured I'd find my way onto guitar eventually haha. Renato and I had become friends discussing ambient artists we both liked - and I could see that d. was the perfect vehicle to get involved with contribute to. I thought it was highly original, musically and aesthetically, and just ultra heavy!

Back then the guys had already formed the band's style and worked on the EP 'Dusk', how did you spend that recording session? Did you join in time to contribute your own ideas to the material?

That is true - both 'Tree and 'Burial were complete. We started jamming as a quartet late in '91 and recorded 'Cerulean… for Relapse early '92. Originally we were only going to do a 7" but in the end Relapse decided to re-release the demo and fit it up with Cerulean, so that became the d.USK EP. We got the recording of Cerulean together pretty quickly and it came out so cold and heavy, we loved it. At that stage I was really just learning what made the songs work. We would jam and work on things like any other band. I think my best contributions were still to come, when we recorded the full length.

diSEMBOWELMENT circa 1992: Jason Kells (guitars), Paul Mazziotta (drums), Renato Gallina (vocals, guitars), Matt Skarajew (guitars).

Did 'Dusk' bring the band any recognition? How did you solve the matter of its distribution? I mean, didn't you feel yourselves isolated back then being from Australia?

Underground recognition, certainly. We were all pretty prolific tape-traders, at the time (particularly Renato & Paul) and I think disembowelment already had a bit of a vibe going on the underground circuit, for sure. That's how we came to the attention of Relapse. Of course, even though they were just starting out, Relapse were smart and promoted the 'Underground Series' of releases. I suppose we were more isolated then, than today, as the internet was still many years away. I don't think though that we ever felt enormously isolated though, except for a period of time when we considered going to the US and maybe playing a few shows. All our contact with Relapse was over the phone in those days - and the idea of getting to the U.S back then was just to big & expensive for us to consider - the costs were very high, and of course we all had our lives happening here in Melbourne, so perhaps in that way, we felt very far away… I recall feeling a bit disappointed that we would not follow up the record with any shows.

What's the story of 'Transcendence Into The Peripheral'? How did you see the entire album's concept? Did you want to continue on the linse of 'Dusk' or did you have some new influences which you wanted to express through this material?

'Transcendence is not so much a concept, rather than the collection of all the music we had at that time. It was very much a continuation to develop the sound that had been growing. I think the band as a whole were very united on that - we seemed to have a collective intuition as to how disembowelment should sound and we never wavered from that. We wanted to develop our own sound, and certainly did so. At the stage of completing the album Renato was very much aware of wanting to develop the juxtaposition of light and dark - we all loved that. The Ambient aspects of the band were very interesting and I loved that so much - we encouraged each other to work on that. The studio we were in was very modern at the time and had some excellent outboard gear that may have been more suited to other genre of music, but we utilized the equipment and the engineer to our advantage. We all really liked blending exotic type sounds with ambience and of course, the crushing riffs and tones. Renato was also reaching out into other areas to get inspiration for his graphic design and the visual aesthetic of the band. We were proud of his work, it helped us feel we were moving away from cliché ethos at the time. I think the track Nightside of Eden was a bold attempt to push the boundaries at that time. When you are that young you are fearless and we thought it was kinda cool and different. Personally (though I played all the acoustic guitars on it) I'm not terribly fond of it - it seems a bit pretentious to me now. At the time however, it felt right.

diSEMBOWELMENT - 'The Tree Of Life And Death':

As I understand it, the album was self-produced, how did you reach that distorted crushing sound? Were you satisfied with the result?

We were satisfied for the most-part. Yes, we self-produced. I feel that is one aspect that I was very useful and added to the confidence within the band. I was studying music at college, and had strong feelings as to how I felt the band could/should sound. I was able to oversee technical aspects of the recording, our performances and help refine the music. At the time, the house engineer (Doug Saunders) had recorded and produced two early Death/Thrash bands - Persecution (whom we were huge fans of) and Christian Death Metal band Mortification. They were great sounding records but not at all what we wanted to emulate - we were chasing our own sound!

It's a funny story now, but at the time, we were tracking 'Tree of Life and Death' and poor Doug simply could not grasp what it was we were trying to achieve, and kept telling us our approach was wrong and that it didn't make any sense. Eventually he got so frustrated he freaked out and yelled " I can't do this anymore!!" We were all silent for a moment. He apologized and said none of it made any sense and that it won't simply won't work. We were a little shocked, but thankfully Jason Kells was such a strong personality, he told Doug " Listen - we are paying for this studio - so sit the f*#k down there and just do what we tell you, we know what sound we want …" hahaha

Anyway Doug went very quiet and did just that for the rest of the time. Jason can be a very intense fellow and I think Doug was a bit scared haha. So we soldiered on and worked our asses off and did the best we could. To his credit, Doug agreed as he heard the final mixes evolving he started to see what we were trying to achieve and became quite enthused about it. We were terribly naïve, but again - young and fearless, and very self assured.

The amps and pedals we used were interesting too - not so typical, really. I think that is evident! I'd love to explain the recording process of the amps, as I doubt it is commonly done anymore but perhaps it is not my place to say just now. One small hint is that yes, we used the classic BOSS HM-2 on 'Trancsendence' for the low-end gain, and I paired that with a stock BOSS SD-1 that handled the top-end. It was nuts! I've never told anyone that before!

Why did you split up Disembowelment soon after the album's release? Didn't you see the prospects for the band, or were you disenchanted with the genre itself?

I think at the time all of us were moving into different professional directions with work & school - Renato had finished studying, Paul was involved in a large finance company and Jason was very involved with his family business. For me I was accepted at a fairly prestigious music school and was very focused on classical guitar. I think too, we were all a little tired of the scene at the time, a bit fatigued and felt that it was getting a little repetitive. So, once Renato made a decision to move away from playing Death Metal we all just got on with our lives I guess.

Around this time, I showed some ambient-type demos I had been working on at home to Renato and he got really enthusiastic about that, so we started working on new music together and called the project Trial of the Bow. That project was our focus through the mid-90's. It was a fresh change from death/doom metal, although I personally feel that the compositional aspect was not so different, just the instrumentation and the vocals, of course. We were really getting into exotic music from different cultures and different periods of time back then.

I don't think we ever saw any major prospects for disembowelment, to be honest. I think we were all just humble and proud of what we'd achieved. I think disembowelments' recognition has been a slow-burn with an air of mystique, to some extent. Maybe that's why fans of the genre are captivated by it? If I knew then what I know now I might have encouraged a different pathway, At the time we felt we'd achieved enough. From talking to many fans, many are glad the flame was bright but fleeting, you know? I respect that.

Even today when I interview modern bands or bands that are rooted in the mid or late '90s, some still name Disembowelment as one of their influences. Why do you think people still remember the band? How do you value your legacy?

That's amazing to hear you say that! I think disembowelment is/was VERY time/context significant to many people. The music and aesthetic were unique at the time. It is worthy of note that at the time I'd say there was a fair amount of people that were equally turned off by our sound and found it a bit too challenging back then. Over time, those more unique textures and sounds get absorbed by the mainstream and it sounds 'right' nowadays. I guess it has proven itself and stood the test of time. Importantly, underground fans are very loyal too, and they deserve credit for keeping the interest alive, keeping the fire burning as it were.

Songs like Tree of life and Death and Cerulean Transience…. Those songs are still so strong. If we play one of them for fun at an INVERLOCH show, the feeling on stage and in the room is very intense! They are great compositions and a credit to Renato and Paul and Jason. In the past 7-8 years it's been really nice to meet people around the world who remember those days and like to come and say hi when we play with INVERLOCH. I have always been comfortable to say that I never imagine INVERLOCH to be as significant as disembowelment was - simply because of time and context. It is a widely understood musical language now, a genre that is well established. INVERLOCH is simply a vehicle for us to enjoy playing that style of music again. We have no significant interest in breaking new ground. It's up to the younger musicians to seek out their own voice now.

diSEMBOWELMENT - 'Cerulean Transience Of All My Imagined Shores':

You formed d.USK/Inverloch in 2011. Why didn't Renato Gallina and Jason Kells join you? How did you meet Ben James, Tony Bryant and Mark Cullen?

Simply put, Renato and Jason were, at that time very distant from us and had shown little or no interest in the music or re-visiting disembowelment (at that time). When Paul and Relapse put the re-release together in 2003 he basically pulled it all together himself as a labor of love. And to go out and play live - well, we kind of knew that would be a huge ask of both of them.

Admittedly we were not even really sure the songs would translate live, so the 2010-11 period was very much a trial to see if it (the project) worked at all? That's why we respectfully named the project after the EP and never pretended that it was disembowelment re-forming. Maybe the media and the internet forums talked that way - but we never did. Thankfully, along the way it became clear who we were and what we were about.

The guys that came in to help play the music were so awesome about it all, very respectful and worked damned hard. As a result, the band worked really quite well. So well in fact, that rather than end it after a limited run of tribute shows, we formed INVERLOCH so that we could just keep playing Death/Doom together. We had been having an amazing time, and that has continued to the present. Paul and I started in 2010 to plan out how the songs might work. We were introduced to Tony Bryant (Bass) who had been a fan back in his younger days and was a phenomenal help getting it together. He introduced us to Ben (James) on vocals. Mark (Cullen) on guitar. I had known Mark for like 25 years so he was my go-to guy to come in and help with the project on guitars. At that stage, we had only ever planned to play one show! Haha

After a couple of years it became clear that Tony needed a break and we asked Chris Jordon to help fill in on Bass. He was a great addition with encyclopedic DM knowledge, a solid musician and a hell of a nice guy too, so we asked him to stay on.

Original Inverloch line-up, with Tony Bryant (bass).

I see that you also collaborate with two more vocalists - Kris Stanley and Arne Vandenhoeck. Do I have it right that Ben doesn't take part in Inverloch's live activity?

Unfortunately, in the past with both MDF in the U.S and then the European tour with Usnea, Ben was unable to join us for personal reasons. Despite our disappointment we understood and support him - he is our brother, though I must admit it placed us in a very difficult situation at the time. So, whilst we had to pull out of participating in MDF (which we were so disappointed to do) - a great friend of ours in Belgium connected us with Arne Vandenhoek from the awesome Belgian Doom band Marche Funebre. Arne was unbelievable, he learned our entire set in like 3 weeks, we sent him rehearsal tapes (well, files hahaha) and he and I Skyped and discussed the songs etc. The amazing thing is that we had the total of ONE (!) rehearsal before we hit the stage at Roadburn!

We flew 26 hrs to Holland from Melbourne, got picked up and delivered to Belgium immediately, and that evening we jammed the set for the first time! We were totally anxious but we knew how hard Arne had worked on our stuff, and he is such an awesome guy - anyway 18 hrs later our Intro-music rolled at Roadburn and we hit the first chords and Arne was just unbelievable man - he owned the stage and just gave us the confidence that everything was gonna be fine. So we did the tour with him and he was just brilliant and we feel we have shared something really special - the audience really loved him too.

We've been very lucky, I must say.

Later, we came back to Australia with 2 other shows booked. Chris Jordan was friends with Kris Stanley back in New Zealand (Chris is also a NZer) - it's not too far away from Melbourne - maybe a 5 hour flight or something - anyway, Kris agreed after Europe, to come and do a couple of shows here in Australia, one with Mournful Congregation, and one for the Dark MoFo Arts festival in Tasmania with Cult of Fire and Dead Congregation. Once more, we had ONE rehearsal, and the next day played a show together!

Now Kris is totally different to Arne - he is like pure underground and brutal - his vocals are insanely evil and he really took INVERLOCH into new, dark territory where the doom was so crushing the the grind was insane! From his very first roar in the rehearsal room, I had this crazy smile as I just knew he was perfect for us. The Aussie crowds seem to really like his style and approach too, it was fantastic. Kris is an awesome guy - we love playing with him and feel we would like to continue that into the future - I think he can really add something to the band. On top of this - he writes some killer music so I hope to collaborate more with him in the future …

We had a show with Cough and Windhand lined up last year, we reconnected with Ben to do that show, but alas he had to pull out once more, this time like 2 days before the show - it was kind of embarrassing for us - so we've decided it's best if we probably do less local shows now, and simply work with Kris in the future. We are currently working on new demos via long distance but it looks very promising!

The band is named after the seaside town in Victoria. How are you connected with Inverloch town?

Well, I live right near INVERLOCH and my wife and I spend time there a lot. I think Mark and his family do, also. The name however, was drawn from a song I wrote for Trial of The Bow back in 1994 - it's the project Renato and I had after disembowelment. Anyways - its essentially a doom song with very different elements. I always thought it would be a cool band name. We may do a cover version for fun, one day - we'll see… its kind of art-y … but it might be cool!

Trial Of The Bow - 'Inverloch' (Official):

Inverloch very precisely transferred the Disembowelment spirit and developed some of its original ideas further with the EP 'Dusk | Subside'. Was that your initial goal or just the result of jamming some old songs?

I really appreciate the fact that you feel the spirit of the old band is there - that's great! Honestly - we never intended to try to simply replicate disembowelment, but we are so strongly connected to the old music that the spirit does inevitably seep through. Paul and I love the Death/Doom genre, so we write the music the way we hear it in our heads and from our heart - and what comes out is what comes out. It's a bit more technical than d. on some levels, but we just love old school Death-Doom to be honest. The Dusk | Subside E.P was a result of us jamming on new ideas and trying to balance out a live set as not all the disembowelment music translates so well on stage. So, we had Within Frozen Beauty and then a pure doom track - Menin Road to help even the dynamic flow of the live set. That's when we realized we should keep the project going, but felt it should start over with a new name and identity, and we could let go of the past somewhat …

However Inverloch and Disembowelment aren't the same, so how do you see the general conceptual differences between these bands from inside, as the songwriter?

You're quite right - the two bands are not the same! I think the conceptual differences are quite clear. INVERLOCH is music written principally by myself and developed as a band in this century, so it will inevitably have a very different feel. Then, we write the songs with the intention to play them live - so that also impacts greatly on the outcome. The music is at times more technical, and I like to explore old-world compositional techniques which may not be readily apparent to many people. It's nothing too high-brow, but it's what I enjoy. I also like for INVERLOCH to have the option of transitional visual aesthetic - and to not be too rooted into a singular look or feel.

The context is the main thing that separates the two entities, however.

Again, Disembowelment is what it is due to time & context. If you use the analogy of jazz or blues, at this time and in this place, INVERLOCH is stylized just as certain different genre of jazz or blues bands are - it is now a well understood musical language and genre. We are playing the music we love and have always loved.

By the way how do you share duties in the band concerning songwriting?

Well, it has generally evolved that I tend to write most of it - I demo fairly elaborate demos, and then we all get together and tear the songs apart and argue until we find the right feel and 'fit' hahaha. I must admit, I would love another collaborator though - I worry the music could become too repetitive at times. I love to be inspired by other peoples' great raw ideas. The other guys have all contributed though and they are invaluable contributors - they all deserve credit for making INVERLOCH what it is. I have strong feelings in that. All members are credited in some way and share a split of the credits. Bands are made up of people working together and yes, one may always carry the lion's share but all deserve recognition in some way. For example I was always disappointed that Jay Kells never received greater recognition for his work in disembowelment. That is an injustice, in my opinion, and I hope that fans of the underground will remember his significant contribution to the genre …

You and Ben James write Inverloch's lyrics, and it's said that the 'Distance | Collapsed' texts were inspired by the poetry of Anna Akhmatova. Can you tell how you learned about her and why you chose her poems as an inspiration? What's the connection between Akhmatova and the Death Doom Inverloch brings?

Well, Distance Collapsed (in rubble) is a lyric inspired by the beautiful poem of Anna Akhmatova. It is a very deep, solemn and reflective poem looking back in both realistic and metaphoric contexts to a persons' life - so there is the visual descriptions of a war-torn place, and leaving it behind. Then there is the metaphor for leaving ones' own scars and battlegrounds in the past, and letting the past collapse, in the distance. I found it very evocative. It was published in a book of contemporary poetry and I simply came upon it a number of years ago.

What was on your mind when you start the work over 'Distance | Collapsed'? How does the final result of this recording session differ from your initial vision?

I wanted Distance Collapsed to be a singular, massive statement. I wanted it to have that immense, high quality production, too. I know it is not so fashionable these days too for high quality recordings in this genre and I respect that - it really helps create a deep, dark vibe when it's lo-fi. For this record however, I wanted the music to stand proud and we worked so hard to produce a record that we could really be proud of, sonically. We had a very limited budget, but we had Joel Taylor whom I believe is one of the best heavy music engineers currently active. I come from a time where bands strived to make a record that sounded amazing even if you had a small budget. It's funny when I hear bands trying to sound like they are in a garage now hahaha. I can appreciate why they do it, but for this record I wanted it to blow people away with the quality and heaviness. No triggers or tech-y bullshit, just a heavy, deep, precise & beautiful sounding record. Joel continuously reminded me that our record was being heard against other amazing bands and artists, and as such we should strive for the best sound we can achieve. He was right, and it absolutely came out that way, and I'm very proud of it.

Inverloch - 'Shadows Of The Flame':

Inverloch combines both the extremely aggressive side of Death Doom and its low mournful aspects, why do you feel these both extremities of human negative experience entwine together so well in such music?

That's a great question! I've contemplated that a lot. It seems almost intangible, really. The juxtaposition of light and dark. Perhaps it is some unconscious metaphor for our own existence? Maybe that is why we identify with the extremes so much? We all know there is great beauty in the pathos of great music. Look at the Russian Easter Liturgies - so powerful, so dark and mournful, yet so, so beautiful! I was brought up hearing that music, and I really do believe it has left a subconscious impression inside me. When we play live I believe it gives us the chance to explore the best of both worlds, too. To create an atmosphere and a feeling in the room - to have subtle, spacious moments, and then moments of pure intensity. It (hopefully) means we never 'flat-line' live - there are dynamic peaks and troughs. I think there are fans of that, for sure. I know some are happy with pure doom or pure outright chaos … but for me, I like the ebb & flow.

I would say that Inverloch started right where Disembowelment ends, and taking in account 18 long years between the bands… Well, you and Paul aren't the same people you were in 1993, how did it happen that you managed to return almost to the same point? Can you say whether you returned to the same mood or state of mind working on Inverloch songs or did you return just to the same artistic, musical settings consciously?

You are right - after so long, Paul & me … in fact the whole metal community is all very different and evolved. I think the feel or 'spirit' as you mentioned earlier, of the old band is intact with INVERLOCH because of a number of factors. Principally because half of the original band is present, and the iconic feel of disembowelment is well and truly inside of us. You have Paul's drumming - he is a classic, old-school drummer with a unique style that certainly gives the riffs & music as a whole a definitive feel. In 2010-2011 we re-immersed ourselves in the old music, got 'inside of it' once more, if you like. Once we realized that the flame for us still burned for this genre, we simply carried on, as we always would have. We honestly have no desire to play extreme music any other way; it's what we love. High contrast, light & shade, contrasting tempi and extreme juxtaposition of elegance with chaos. I think it's a little more refined now, but this is the music that has evolved subconsciously for us. It's what we hear in our heads, and what feels right when we play. There are no preconceived ideas - it simply evolves that way.

How did you feel when 'Distance | Collapsed' was released by Relapse? A few different editions, proper promotion, tours… Wasn't that a heady feeling?

It was! We were very excited for the record to come out and the excellent reviews blew us away! I was very humbled and proud because we had worked so hard. Relapse have been really good to us over the years, they promoted it well, they released some killer looking vinyl and we did a really fun tour across Europe with USNEA (Relapse label-mates) - they are simply crushing and so cool! It was a really cool time in general and I was proud to see our record critically recognized along with bands that I have great admiration for. On a personal level it was also special as it was a significant statement to any listeners that had reservations about this band - that INVERLOCH was for real and was it's own animal, not merely a shadow of the past. I think also, perhaps it was a relief for fans of the old band to know that we had no intention to mess with the past any longer (even though we stopped back in 2011). I think people understand what INVERLOCH is now, and are satisfied. That feels great.

Matt, the album was released less than two years ago, but you know - I can't skip this question: what about new songs?

Well we are working on new material - it is slow as we do this around our family & work-lives, but it is slowly coming together and we are so keen to at least get another EP or mini-album out, and get back to Europe or maybe even the U.S. Even playing local shows is hard as Kris is a little far away, but we feel getting back to Europe can be done. I would love to go back with maybe Ignivomous or Whitehorse from here in Aus, so we will see what we can do so that we can get back out there and hang out with our friends far and wide once more!

Cheers for the interview Aleksey!

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Interviewed on 2018-04-10 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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