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Early US Death/Doom band Sorrow began as Apparition and had a brief career spanning the late '80s/early '90s. Guitarist Brett and drummer Mike relive that history with Comrade Aleks.

Interview with Sorrow.
"It's always exciting to discover bands you've never heard of before, and which represent a certain period of the scene - the internet helps to dig deeper in those underground catacombs and gather more intelligence about such artifacts. So, Sorrow is one of the American Death/Doom scene's forgotten pioneers: they started under the moniker Apparition in 1988, and changed their name in 1991. The rest of the story was fast and short: the band was signed by Roadrunner, who released their full-length 'Hatred And Disgust' in 1992, and the year after that Sorrow was disbanded. Lady Luck and the web were on my side, so we've managed to organize this great interview with Sorrow's guitarist Brett Clarin and drummer Mike Hymson."

The longest-lived Sorrow line-up: Andy Marchione (Bass, Vocals), Brett Clarin (Guitars), Mike Hymson (Drums), Bill Rogan (Guitars).

Hi Brett! Pre-Sorrow band Apparition was formed in 1988: how was that started? What was on your mind when you first gathered as a band?

Brett: Mike and I met in high school and bonded over Slayer, DRI, hardcore, thrash, etc. Mike graduated one year after me (1987) and we decided to start a band. The first incarnation was called 'Cyanic Death' and was straight up thrash, and really bad! We had no singer at the time but it gave us some experience playing our instruments. I don't recall the exact timeline, it's been almost 30 years, but we met Rich (bass) and Rob (singer) I think through an ad we took out in a local music paper. They were into basically the same music we were, which was unusual at the time. Rich brought along Andy, which was funny since Andy went to the same high school as Mike and I but we never bothered to ask him to play with us because: 1. He was more into glam metal 2. He was 1000 times better than we were! Surprisingly Andy was willing to play with us and ended up writing some great thrash songs. That was the line up for Apparition. We definitely were excited and took it very serious and rehearsed as much as possible.

In the three years of Apparition's existence you managed to record two demos and one single. This material is tagged as "Thrash/Death/Doom Metal": what were your influences back then? What kind of sound did you search for?

Mike: When we first started the band our thrash influences were Slayer, Possessed, Kreator and the first Testament record. After the first demo, Brett definitely pushed for the band to be heavier, slower, darker. The death metal influences were Death and Autopsy. The doom metal influences were Black Sabbath and Trouble. I just want to clarify that we listened to a lot of other underground bands during this time frame (Morbid Angel, Immolation, Sepultura, etc) but most bands we listened to were not actually influencing our music. There were even prog rock influences. Brett loved (early) Rush and Andy loved Fates Warning. That explains why some of our songs were longer and more 'epic' than other bands from our 'scene'. Basically, we knew that we were not interested in creating music that had blast beats or mosh parts. In addition, we didn't want to write lyrics about horror movies or Satanism. We were more interested in what was happening in the world than in Dungeons and Dragons. Based on all our quirky tastes, interests and personalities, we were able to successfully alienate most of the people who should have liked our band.

The band was renamed Sorrow in 1991 - what drove you to change the name, since the line-up and the music remained the same?

Mike: We signed to Roadrunner records and our A&R guy, Monte Conner, wanted us to change the band name. Honestly, it was a good move. It's the only thing I'll ever give Monte credit for (more on that later). He thought the band name should reflect the sound of the band. He encouraged us to come up with a better name than Apparition. We came up with Sorrow - Monte liked it - end of story. Just to clarify for those interested, the later era line up of Apparition had Chris Richards on bass for a little while before he went on to join Suffocation. And then by the time we were going to record 'Hatred and Disgust' we added Bill Rogan on guitar.

At least two of Apparition's songs appeared on the Sorrow EP 'Forgotten Sunrise'. What do you think about this material today? Would you change anything on this record?

Mike: There was no substantial change between the late era Apparition stuff and the Sorrow stuff. By 1990, our sound was set in stone and the band name didn't have anything to do with the riffs Brett and Andy were writing. I like the EP and the LP equally. The song that defines the EP for me is 'A Wasted Cry For Hope'. It's long, has many different parts, in sections it's doomy as hell, and the lyrics contain a very bleak view of the world. I can't think of anything songwriting-wise that I would change on the EP. We recorded it so long ago that I wish the production was a little different. Not much, just a little. But people that like music from that era seem to despise the 'modern production' so it's probably best to just leave it as it is. I get it. I like records from the 70's to sound like the 70's and I don't think an updated production would improve those songs. Looking back, the EP is a little more thrashy, aggressive and 'to the point' and the LP is a little more doomy and we're sonically torturing you in a more drawn out, painful way as opposed to just punching you in the face. How's that for a Paul Baloff style description?

Sorrow - 'Forgotten Sunrise' (Full EP, 1991):

What kind of sound did you want to create on Hatred And Disgust? What kind of difficulties did you have with the songs?

Brett: We were looking for a production where you can hear the melodies but still be heavy and crushing. At the time, a lot of bands productions were heavily distorted and the guitars had a lot of presence, I used to say it sounded like someone was frying eggs. So we tried to mix it up a little, my guitar was more mid to low end, whereas Bill and Andy's guitars were more presence and high end. We tuned down 3 or 4 keys to get a more heavy sound, although now it's common to go a full octave lower.

You wrote lyrics for Apparition; who was the lyric writer in Sorrow? Did you have a special message for your listeners?

Mike: When Brett wrote a song, he presented it to the band with the music and lyrics complete. He even had the vocal patterns pretty much fleshed out. When Andy wrote songs, sometimes he would use his lyrics. This was the case on the EP. For the LP, I wrote the lyrics for the 'Andy songs'. Believe it or not, I wrote the lyrics first and gave them to Andy. He would get a 'vibe' from my lyrics and write the riffs based on his emotional reaction to them. I only include this because it was a unique way of writing a song. Andy requested the lyrics first and to this day I don't know why. I never heard of another metal guitar player writing this way. It was always music first and then get the lyrics to fit into the structure of the song. Like I said earlier, we were all pretty quirky people and I think there was a certain unorthodox quality that Sorrow had that wouldn't have been there if we were just four dudes who smoked pounds of weed and watched Cannibal Holocaust 24/7.

As far as a special message in the lyrics, not really. Each song is different. Some songs are anti-religion and some songs are anti-corporation. Brett and I both liked a lot of older punk/hardcore bands so perhaps the overall message throughout the lyrics is to think for yourself; and dig deeper than the surface analysis of what you're told by powerful forces that don't have your best interest at heart. As people, we were skeptical of religion, government and business. Our lyrics reflect that - especially on the LP. Some of Brett's lyrics have a little bit more of an emotional edge to them. On a deeper level, he's saying, 'Here's the problem - and here's why we're doomed.' On the other hand, I might just be identifying the problem without adding the emotional context to it. But that's because I'm dead inside. At the time, we just knew so many death metal bands that were writing about Hellraiser. We definitely wanted to be an alternative to that. I'll also add that no one in the band was really into drugs or alcohol - which was different for a death metal band from our era. As people, we were dealing with reality, not numb to it, and I think our lyrics were influenced by us thinking that the world was an inhospitable place-run by madmen. Sorry if any of that came off pompous. We're not pretentious - but we're not brain dead either.

The album was released by Roadrunner Records, how did you manage to get on the label? How did you work with them?

Mike: I was friends with two guys who worked at Roadrunner. They invited me to a Roadrunner Christmas party. I went there with a bunch of demos. At one point in the party, I walked up to the stereo and put on our demo. Surprisingly, no one took it off and it played all the way through. I gave a copy to Monte Conner and we talked for a bit. About a week later, we got a call that he wanted to sign us. The following is not endorsed by Brett, Andy or Bill - who are all very nice guys. I'm only speaking for myself here. Roadrunner fucking sucked. Monte is a dick. I wish we stayed on Relapse. At the time, we were all excited to be on a big and legendary label. Shit, they put out King Diamond and Carnivore - and now they wanted to deal with us? Decades later, I'm older and slightly wiser. I realize that it's better to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. At that time, Relapse had Incantation and Deceased. I love those bands, but we were probably going to sell an amount of records that was similar to those bands. However, we were on a label with Deicide and Obituary. Those guys were selling huge amounts of records back then. They were made priorities and we were ignored - and eventually dropped.

But like with all information - don't just go to one source. Maybe I'm the asshole and Monte/Roadrunner are/were awesome. Do yourself a favor and interview Immolation, Gorguts, Skin Chamber, Malevolent Creation and Suffocation about their experiences with that label during the early '90s. I think the philosophy of the label was, 'We'll put out 4 releases this month. The one that sells the best right out of the gate is the one that we will focus on and promote. The other 3 bands can go back to delivering pizzas'. To be fair, I think a lot of record labels used that philosophy in the '80s and '90s.

How intensive was your gigs' schedule? How often did you play in this period and with what kind of bands did you share the stage? Was it fun after all?

Brett: Unfortunately, we did not play out that much and most gigs were closer to home. Honestly, we loved to play shows, but it gets disheartening when you drive 6 hours to play a show and only 20 people show up. At the time, Mike and I were going to college so we didn't think it was worth taking time off to tour. Plus, RoadRunner certainly did not help at all getting shows. We did manage to play with Kronos, Death, Immolation, Winter, and a lot of smaller local thrash and death metal bands. It was fun to play out and we have a lot of memories from the road trips we did take. But the road trips never went smooth. On one trip, Rich got into a car accident and broke his hand. On another trip overnight we ran over some steel plates that a truck dropped in the middle of the highway and got 2 flat tires. The show with Kronos was in Boston and someone broke into our van and stole all our guitars. Looking back, we should have put the time into playing more shows, but other bands were getting much bigger crowds (Suffocation, Paradise Lost, Deicide, etc.) and we got discouraged after all the problems we had and it didn't seem worth it.

Sorrow - 'Insatiable' (1992):

What were the reasons for Sorrow disbanding in 1993? Did you ever try to return the band back to life?

Brett: There is a back-story I need to tell. The reason our first release was an e.p. and not a full length was Andy got into an unfortunate accident and was unable to play guitar for almost a year. This was right after we signed with Roadrunner and rather than wait for us to record new songs Roadrunner and our band decided to release the four songs that we recorded already (two of those songs were the Relapse 7"). Soon after we put out the Forgotten Sunrise e.p. Roadrunner actually wanted to drop us. We pressured them into putting out the Hatred and Disgust album since our contract did state at least one full length. But soon after that release came out they once again wanted to drop us. The worst part of this was we found out from Suffocation that Roadrunner has already decided to drop us a few months before. We had to call Roadrunner and confirm, they never actually told us. So we called a few labels, including Relapse, and no one wanted to do a third release (we had all the songs already written). Mike had started playing with another totally different style band Dystopia1 (sort of Bauhaus meets Mr. Bungle) and decided he wanted to leave Sorrow. He told me he wanted to leave the band and at that point, I did not blame him and was starting to get fed up with the whole situation too. So I decided that it was time to end Sorrow and I told Andy and Bill. About ten years later Andy, Bill and I starting to talk about bringing the band back, but it just didn't happen. To sum it up, we put in so many hours, rehearsing for 5 years, 3 nights a week, countless hours trying to promote the band, all our energy into the band, only to have our label drop us immediately, no other label willing to put out our album and shows where less than 50 people would show up. It was just too depressing.

What about that unreleased material you mentioned? Do you have a full album gathering dust on a shelf?

Brett: We did have the material for a new record, six songs in total. Luckily, and also somewhat presciently, we recorded our last rehearsal (without knowing it would actually be our final rehearsal) in which we played what would have been the next release. The songs are similar to the H&D material, but the recording is in a basement so the quality is not too good. They are posted up on Soundcloud. Journey Into Darkness was a synth project I did after Sorrow, it's all synth and combines death and doom metal melodies like the intros and breaks on death metal albums. Soundcloud had Sorrow taken so I just posted up the unreleased tracks under my JID page.

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Visit the Sorrow bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-12-02 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Rotten Copper
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