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Funeral-paced Sludge/Doom band Beneath Oblivion have already had a 15-year career, resulting in three full-length albums, the latest coming out in 2018. Time for Comrade Aleks to take a deeper look into their history...

Interview with Beneath Oblivion.
"Cincinnati-based unit Beneath Oblivion have been spreading their sludgy Doom vibe since 2003. They record albums steadily rather than often, so now we have the third full-length, 'The Wayward And The Lost', slightly changing direction towards accepting more influences from the depressive and lightless legacy of Funeral Doom. This updated sound still fits the band's concept well…it could be described as antisocial, or even misanthropical, but why not ask Beneath Oblivion themselves about the details? All the more so, since we have here today the original guitarist and vocalist Scotty T. Simpson, and second guitarist Allen L. Scott II, who joined the band in 2009."

Beneath Oblivion: Scott Simpson (guitars, vocals), Allen Scott (guitars, samples), Keith Messerle (bass), James Rose (drums).

Hello gents! Thanks for your time, and please accept my belated congratulations for the new Beneath Oblivion album, 'The Wayward And The Lost'. It saw the light of day in March, what kind of feedback have you received since then?

A.S.II: Likewise Aleksey, thanks for taking the time to speak with us, appreciate it. The feedback has been interesting, with opinions all over the spectrum... we knew from the start we were making a album that was a love or hate proposition, and a difficult listen. So be it.

STS: Thanks Aleksey, I personally haven't seen much feedback at all. I'm not very social, I don't like people, I stopped going out, and I don't ever look to see what people say online. With the exception of some folks who've liked the band for several years, a few people who've been into Allen's band before this, past band members, and Jason Pate at Everybody's Records in Cincinnati, I never hear a word about The Wayward And The Lost. I think it's because the magazines who used to give us lots of love have either missed or ignored it this time around. We don't have nearly as much distribution, we didn't hire a publicist, and we don't have any outside promotion here in the United States, so it's already pretty obscure. That's not on purpose to try and be as underground KVLT as possible, it just wasn't meant to be commercialized. Also there is a new generation of reviewer and new generation of doom fan out there who have a tough time with bands that aren't easily classified or marketed… I have no regrets on that, we play what we feel, and this isn't exactly feel-good music.

Your previous album 'From Man To Dust' was released in 2011: how did you spend the last seven years? Is some of the band involved in other musical projects?

A.S.II: We spent three Summers and a few Winters touring for that album, then started to sculpt the songs that became The Wayward and the Lost. We did a 30+ date tour to the Western part of the USA in late 2015 and laid down the tracks for the album in Portland, OR. After that, we took a bit of time off but worked on the album all that time, adding drones, keys, etc... Years can pass without much activity it seems, but it's doom metal, so patience is a virtue.

STS: We hit the road pretty hard for From Man To Dust, and then as Allen stated, we spent some time getting ready for a record with Billy. In between we had a couple super- limited tour-only cassette releases, we did some compilations, we recorded an entire EP at Northern Kentucky University that will probably never see the light of day, and we had some splits lined up that never came out. Sometimes we've all played or recorded in other projects, so maybe we've not been as unengaged as it may seem. We really didn't add a bunch of layers to The Wayward And The Lost after the session in Portland, it just happened to take a long time afterward because we'd wait several weeks, sometimes even months, every time we made another change, or got another mix. I think it paid off whenever I listen to the album on some loud speakers.

A.S.II: We worked long distance with Billy, who of course is in high demand, hence the gaps of time, but not from lack of effort or passion for the music.

Main discography: Existence Without Purpose (Self-Released, 2006), Beneath Oblivion EP (The Mylene Sheath, 2009), From Man To Dust (The Mylene Sheath, 2011), The Wayward And The Lost (Weird Truth, 2018).

What kind of stuff did you record for that unreleased EP? And why did you bury it alive?

A.S.II: Some early versions of the The Wayward And The Lost songs, but with our former drummer Nate. They're very similar to the album versions, but a song like "Liar's Cross" was combined with another song and saw many variations. We buried it, because by the time we changed drummers, we knew recording with Mr. Anderson was imminent so what we had was not going to compare. We wanted something greater still, so you have to be able to self edit, even throw out good ideas/riffs and strive for something better.

STS: A couple songs from those sessions were early versions of what would be released on The Wayward And The Lost, but with our longtime drummer Nate Bidwell on the kit, before James joined up with us. One song was going to be released on a split with Fister, another with Mouth of the Architect, and another with Before the Eyewall, but the Mylene Sheath was too busy for any more vinyl releases that year so we respectfully explored other options. A different label offered then flaked, and a second label completely flaked on the Fister split so they used their song for something else, and the other two bands disbanded before they could finish recording their songs, so it just never happened. A year or so passed with the songs hanging in limbo, Nate could no longer balance tour and rehearsal with his schedule, so James took over on drums, and at that point we didn't even sound the same because we went full-blast with our funeral doom and death-doom ambitions, going slower and heavier. It wasn't intentionally buried, its just that the songs were simply never released, we had a very tough and disastrous year when our gear was stolen while out on the road, the cost of vinyl went up, and all of our zeal for those releases had been drained after having been let down by two labels in a short period of time... We moved on with our focus toward getting ready for Billy Anderson's studio since the unreleased material was, in our view, no longer indicative of our sound. So we treated it instead as a demo for the next stage.

Speaking about the tour – how did you organize it? Can you judge whether it was successful? Or, to put it another way – did you have enough positive experiences to make it counts? Was it smooth?

A.S.II: I'll let Scotty speak to the struggles of booking a DIY tour of that length, but considering that, anytime you survive a tour is a good one. We played shows with Amarok, CHRCH, UN, Usnea, Unearthly Trance, Forn, and many more, so in that regard you can't ask for more. No one died, we didn't get robbed (this time), and the van didn't break down after several thousand miles.

b>STS: Haha, I don't think anything we've ever done has been smooth. It's the most noncommercial, unpretentious subcategory of doom metal there is, so getting around in the United States as an underground band where everyone expects some kind of gimmick, or at the very least something which sounds like something else is hard to do. Every tour except for one, was booked by me, the one time we did use a booking agent it didn't make things any better or easier on us, so I went right back to booking myself. The major flaw within the industry I can see is that somehow a band or artist who doesn't have a bunch of paid publicists/agents/managers touting their name gets no cooperation from the larger music press, concert promoters, etc, and is seen as less legitimate when it should be the opposite. Such a system gives far too much power to non-music and money entities who'd rather see many bands buried for political or petty personal reasons. It takes about 6-8 months of planning, and emailing everyday, researching, routing, getting mechanical work done to your vehicle, asking around, and waiting for people to get back to you. I don't think I'll miss touring or booking. I'd say the last couple tours were definitely successful, especially the last West Coast run, but I don't feel a need to ever do that again. I did my time. It comes with a lot of hard living, and its hard on the body when you still do everything yourselves. I now consider myself retired from all of that... I suppose unless there was an offer I couldn't refuse or it just felt like the right thing to do.

I'm not making fun or picking on any bands in particular. I bet most of the people I know who play in bands will read my rant about the industry and think "what a dick," even though they secretly agree. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with hiring help to push your new album or tour, especially when starting out, I'm just not going to bother with that because I don't need to, and frankly can't afford it either. I'd like to see a day where the merit is from the music, originality and hard work, not just because their promo sheet comes from an industry person.

Beneath Oblivion - 'The Wayward And The Lost' (Official, 2018):

Weird Truth Productions specialize in tortured Doom metal, besides some other genres. They work with Ataraxie, Funeralium and Loss, amongst others - ideal company for Beneath Oblivion. Do you feel yourself a part of something bigger? Did it become easier to promote the band with this label?

STS: I couldn't tell you anything about the promotion, because there really is none I can see here in the States and we just don't care anymore whether that many people like us or not; the album is out for them to crank full-blast if they want. Makoto at Weird Truth really knows his doom and death and all sorts of extreme music. He's close to us in age, and I can tell he has a lot of similar 90's death-doom / funeral doom influences we do. I trust Makoto's judgement and like his taste in music. You won't find any run-of-the-mill bands on his label, which is important to me, because the worst thing a band can be is derivative. All of the WT bands are unique, mostly boundary pushing, and I'm proud to have our latest effort amongst them.

'The Wayward And The Lost' was produced by Billy Anderson - how did you collaborate with him at the studio? Did he accept all of your ideas, and how many of his own went into these songs?

A.S.II: For me personally, working with Billy was an honor and I felt like we worked really well together. He mastered the From Man to Dust album so he was already familiar with our sound. He was on the road with Agalloch when we performed with them in late 2014, and he offered to record the album if we toured out West. He loved the theremin like sensor on my Roland SP808 that I use for sub drops and triggering samples. He incorporated a lot of his own ideas into this album, like the caustic drones in the song Satyr overlapping the opening riff. His ear for tone is impeccable, and pushed me to make everything even more sad, haha.

STS: It was a real pleasure to work with Billy, to have his energy in the room, to have his constant joking, to hear his stories, to stay at his house and throw all kinds of axes, tomahawks, knives and throwing stars at a stump in the backyard, and to hear what he could do with our sound. I'd say he was very accepting of our ideas, and allowed us to go all out with it.

In studio with Billy Anderson (centre).

Did you use any new equipment for your instruments this time, in order to increase the effectiveness of delivery? Did you know from the start how you wanted this stuff to sound?

STS: We used our custom made 6x12 guitar and bass cabinets made by a company which used to be in Cincinnati, now located in Detroit, called Omega Enclosures. Omega put quite a bit of time into making sure our cabs had the biggest, beefy sound with good tone for low tunings and massive distortion. These babies deliver a punch, and we had not used them on a recording prior to the Billy Anderson sessions, so it was really something when we wheeled them into his studio and started dialing in the sounds.

Beneath Oblivion's line-up is the same as when you recorded the previous album, but the band's sound has slightly changed towards a more Funeral direction, though keeping the sludgy shouting vocals. What affected these changes?

A.S.II: We did make a lineup chance in late 2014 with Jim Rose on drums, and his style played a huge part in the change of pace. But I would say the sound is a natural progression, our only deliberate motive was to strip these songs down to their base elements and melody.

STS: Life became much darker and heavier, and so the music did too. We always had a funeral and death doom influence, but mixed it with equal parts of other doom, sludge, metal, and even a little crust, but with this one we were going for the jugular to make the doomiest record to ruin all other doom records.

Beneath Oblivion - 'Savior Nemesis Redeemer' (Official, 2018):

There are a lot of serene acoustic passages in the songs, which build good contrast with the general crushing sound. How did you put all these pieces in one solid album?

A.S.II: You can't be afraid to edit yourself, lose the ego, and be willing to make changes with an eye towards the song but also the overall atmosphere of the album. Arrangements are important, and with such slow riffs you have to be as effective as possible, one passage can be several minutes long. The clean, acoustic parts have to feel right, and serve a purpose in the mood of the song. Ugliness with brief glimpses of beauty.

I remember that 'From Man To Dust' has a kind of concept which deals with social diseases and human flaws: how does this topic reflect in 'The Wayward And The Lost?

A.S.II: Absolutely, and the new album is a continuation of those notions, but on a more personal level than a grander, bigger picture type scale. My lyric "None of your sadness can save the doomed" from the title track off From Man to Dust inspired me towards The Wayward and the Lost both musically and lyrically. This album represents life in all its naked corruption, addiction, loss, greed, gentrification, human frailty, depression, cruelty and the city life.

STS: I'd like to add that both albums deal with depression, mental illness, grief, loss, planetary disaster, etc. but I have to say The Wayward And The Lost is far more political, much deeper, and more personal, as in, more related to present day issues and everyday life, where as From Man to Dust was based on a down & out character forced to deal with their demons under newly worsened conditions of nuclear winter in a post-apocalyptic future. Somewhat of a glimpse at micro meets macro catastrophe. The Wayward And The Lost is about things going on right now. The opiate epidemic, city gentrification, climate change, authoritarian regimes, climbing suicide rates, and the new generation of badly educated citizens. It's all there.

Live in 2015.

Were there some specific events that influenced the band's lyrics? A lot of shit happens every day, so there should be enough inspiration when you play such misanthropic kind of music.

A.S.II: Some landscape painters use their talents to paint idyllic, beautiful scenes and meadows. I use a different palette with darker shades and I express myself with horrible scorched Earth paintings. This is a catharsis first and foremost, a selfish endeavor, a means to an end. I can't say a specific event inspired the lyrics, other than the culmination of a hard life for a long time, just honesty in what I see and feel. A song like "Savior, Nemesis, Redeemer" I wrote in a few hours, sitting on the stoop with an acoustic guitar tuned down exorcising bad times. That song is the closest I've written from the initial point of inspiration to the finished, recorded version. With the kind of doom metal we play, there isn't much to hide behind sound wise, it's brutally honest lyrically and musically.

STS: For me it comes from all of my aches, pains, fears, anxieties, and constantly telling myself that humans are not decent to themselves or each other. There is no point in ever putting any kind of faith in mankind. We have desecrated everything, and I'm just glad I don't have any children to leave behind in this mess. Like Allen, I only do this to release all of my negative energy into a productive outlet so I can go on with life, more pleasant and clear headed, able to shrug everything off that shouldn't concern me. Our only competition is with ourselves, we don't do it for other people. I always respected artists who did that, and I think other people who want something as authentic as it is original do the same. I also find inspiration in the fact that there are a lot of incredibly bad bands called doom, with no substance to their sound, and nothing dark or depressing about them. No feeling, nothing in the lyrics, just singing about drinking PBR and smoking weed with bros at a party while playing tired stoner rock riffs. That just doesn't cut it, I need real doom.

How would you describe the dominant mood of this material?

A.S.II: A suffocating and hopeless darkness.

STS: The darkest gloom slowly overtaking everything there is to take.

A.S.II: In the end, I hope we made a album that speaks to different people in many ways, with many moods. Overall, I think this material is an absolutely honest representation of our lives, this rust belt existence and I hope it sounds like that despair.

Thanks for your time gentlemen! I guess that Beneath Oblivion's message is now clear, so one more question left: what are your plans for 2019?

A.S.II: Thank you sir. I don't know what the future holds, I'd personally like to write another album and record in 2019, but that depends on demand, and life. Something about 3 albums in a decade seems proper, like an ugly doom trilogy.

STS: In 2019 I'll be incredibly busy, but I don't think you'll be hearing much, if anything, from Beneath Oblivion. I plan on doing a lot of writing and recording from the comforts of home, without the headache of booking shows or any other static that interferes with my love of music. I've been accepted into a grad school program, which is going to take priority for much of the year. Just a few days ago Allen and I recorded a ton of new material at a local studio for our project Opium Doom Cult, in which I play drums, so you can probably expect some releases under that name in the near future. Other than that I can't see very far ahead because these last 3 years have really put a whooping on me. Whatever happens, happens. I assume if anyone gives a damn, they'll say it loud and let us know. I really only care about making music for myself, doing it for the public doesn't matter to me anymore. Thank you Aleksey, and doom-metal.com, and everyone else who has shown us support for The Wayward And The Lost, release. Nasdarovje!

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Interviewed on 2019-01-03 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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