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These days, veteran Speed/Thrash musician Tommy Stewart (originally of '80s pioneers Hallows Eve) seems more intent on exploring the boundaries of Doom, with his Bludy Gyres and Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf projects - and here he explains their similarities, differences and much more besides to Comrade Aleks.

Interview with Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf.
"Tommy Stewart is better known to Thrash/Speed Metal fans, as he started as the bass player for Hallows Eve in 1983! Later, he switched to vocals as well, but the band released their last full-length, 'The Neverending Sleep', in 2008 and officially split up in about 2013. Since then Tommy has been busy with at least two projects - Bludy Gyres and Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf. The former represents the progressive side of Doom Metal, while the latter tends more to its traditional side. How did Tommy manage to switch from Thrash to Doom? How is he able to run two bands at the same time? What's going on in Atlanta's Doom camp? I guess it's best to ask Tommy himself."

Tommy Stewart, veteran Thrash/Speed musician, more recently exploring his Doom side.

Hi Tommy! Thanks for your time, much appreciated! How are you? You had an operation, is your recovery going according to plan?

Hello! Yes, I had an operation to remove what turned out to be a benign tumor in the back of my head, that I'd had growing for years. The recovery has gone well. I only took the next day as rest and then went back to work in my studio as I'm in the middle of producing an album by a band called Murder Van as well as other projects.

Glad to hear that you've recovered fast! By the way, what is Murder Van?

Murder Van is a newly formed thrash band I'm producing at my studio here in Atlanta. I think people will like them very much if they give them a listen when they are released in the future. I consider them to be in the vein of Slayer and maybe a bit of Municipal Waste, yet one guitarist.

Tommy, you were in Thrash/Speed Metal band Hallows Eve for two lengthy periods from 1983 onwards. What made you change your mind and turn to the Doom path?

For me it was a conscious decision to create music that I found to be missing from thrash. I didn't want to spend my whole life doing any one style with constrictions. My overall catalogue has quite a variety.

Early '80s Hallows Eve: Tommy pictured far right.

Hallows Eve was disbanded a few years ago, but I see that there's the single release 'I'm Eighteen' dated 2017. Is it some older recording? The band celebrates its 35th birthday this year (damn…just like me!), wouldn't you like to play some reunion show?

I'm aware of the single, but it's actually a bootleg taken from the box set "History of Terror" which included several songs from an early rehearsal. In fact, I think we had only rehearsed a few times at that point. We had tossed around the idea of doing Eighteen, then decided to make Tales of Terror be thematic so we discarded the idea of any covers. That rehearsal was simply recorded with 2 mics set up in overhead and onto a cassette tape. We also covered Scream in the Night by Exciter and that is also an extra in the box set. To answer the rest, there are no plans for Hallows Eve to play. I have always been willing, but other members aren't interested for now and I don't want to do it alone with other musicians.

Doom isn't the fastest metal genre, that's for sure, was it technically easier to switch to this other train? And what attracted you to this kind of music?

The elements missing from thrash were more dynamics, light and shade so to speak, and more melody. These are things I found attractive to work. I feel free now to create anything. It was very easy to alter my path because, as theorized in your book Doom Metal Lexicanum, one could say doom has arguably always been around since the inception of Sabbath. Like the music itself, and unlike thrash, it simply had a very slow four decade growth and wasn't initially referred to as doom. To answer more straightforwardly, I've always listened to and been influenced by these styles, now I'm free to create outside of thrash.

Bludy Gyres - 'To Live Is To Bleed':

You started two new projects, Bludy Gyres and Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf, almost at the same time after the Hallows Eve split: why did you decide to work with two separate outfits as they are both rooted in Doom music?

I like this question! Bludy Gyres is more of a group project in which I write a good bit of it, but everyone contributes and the arrangements may lean more towards some harmony guitars. But, ah, Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf is my pet solo project, as the name implies! I have to write, arrange, and produce music made only using basses, drums, and vocals. So this presents technical as well as performance challenges! I not only have to perform by myself with only a drummer accompaniment, but also have to record rich layers of vocals and basses without the tones interrupting each other in the mix. And then reproduce all that live! I'm having a great time exploring this in my studio between other projects. I have to say that I've had a great drummer, Eric Vogt, who has stood by me through all this initial creation of Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf.

What's the essence of Doom Metal from your point of view? What kind of components do you tend to mix in your music?

The likable essence of doom metal is that it's expansive. Sure, slow tempos are an element of much of doom metal. But, I feel that it's evolving into an umbrella term to mean many styles that are not necessarily constricted by cultural rules within the genre. To me its music that allows variety so, and I've had some small criticism for this, I feel free to express myself in many ways using melody I feel, erratic tempo changes, and more emotion for lyrics.

Some would say that Doom is a kind of 'other state of mind': it has rules which are slightly different from the rules of other Metal genres. Do you accept that, or do you use both Bludy Gyres and Dyerwulf to express different sorts of feelings… something opposite to Hallows Eve?

For genre rules, I feel thrash is constrictive and doom is more open. For me, there are no rules of creativity. My friends and I talk about the difference in fans of different metal genres. When I was in Hallows Eve, we just wanted to have a good time thrashing and all is good if there's a pizza and a beer at the end of it. But with doom, there is more room for expression, dark and light, dynamics in the music, and I think the lyrics are sometimes more interesting. Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf was a very personal album for me. I think musically and lyrically it's the album that I have most shared my true self. The words may seem enigmatic to others, but they are clear to me and the music is how I feel with no one else's interruptions. It's just me. The cover art, by Jeff Grimal, is amazing and I chose it because to look at it makes me feel the emotions of what's inside me. I bought the painting and it hangs in my dining room at home.

Bludy Gyres: Tommy Stewart (Bass, vocals), Chris Abbamonte (Guitars), Isidore Herman (Guitars), Dennis Reid (Drums).

There are classic Prog Rock elements in Bludy Gyres' material: what drives you to combine those two things in one project?

I like to approach writing music as if I'm fearless of what others will think of it. I felt it may sound unique to have doom metal elements mix a little with other influences outside the box. I'm not only a fan of early seventies hard rock, but also of early prog, in particular English, such as ELP, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and so on. So I thought let's have a little fun with this and mix it up, shake it, see what happens. I suppose to answer directly I would say what drives me to do something different all the time is I create something, there, did it, let's do something else. I don't want to keep painting the same painting each day, I have more to say.

Does such a free approach to music writing create problems with finding bigger labels? It seems that your music demands wider exposure, and usually it's labels and promoters who do those kind of things for bands?

I suppose this is why I have finally started my own label, Black Doomba Records. There are some labels I would like to work with, and I'm friends with them, but I might not fit their goals or profile at the time I offered or applied. This year I finally decided, well fine, I'll just do it myself. As far as writing though, I have too many ideas and too much to share to sit still and wait for someone to decide to do an album with me. I understand business, but I'm an artist at heart and need to move along.

Bludy Gyres - 'Defy The Lie' (Live):

Bludy Gyres' debut full-length 'Echoes From A Distant Scream' was released a year ago: what was the feedback like? What kind of strong sides (and maybe weak ones) did people usually point out?

Mostly there was good feedback, some great. On the down side, maybe not so down, I was surprised at which songs were interesting or not to people. For instance the straightforward song "Discipline Man" was well received. I like it, of course, but felt like it was the one that didn't fit the overall album, the odd one though more accessible. Even though it was , for me, the darkest one on the album as I wrote it about my father, who has passed away. I put it in the middle of the album as a break from all the other songs that were 10 minutes long and had odd time signatures. By the way, I think "Defy the Lie" is the best stand out track by the end of the day.

I guess both songs represent slightly different sides of Doom, so that's okay in the end. How long did you spend writing this album? What kind of musical ideas did you have for it? Did you have in mind any special equipment you'd like to use for it in the studio? Some certain settings… pedals…?

In the case of Bludy Gyres, the songs were carefully crafted for about 2 years. The lyrical content is dark, but with a bit of humor as well, as in the case of "Kept Death Busy" in which the narrator bemoans and laments his lost hostage. "My best hostage is gone…" "Defy the Lie" borders on gothic in imagery and feel. Musically we made sure all the compositions were different. I did use some unusual bass gear. For instance an organ simulator, 2 distortions, a chorus, 2 delays, a reverb, and even a looper, in that order on the board. I've since added wah, which I find very expressive for bass if used gently. It's quite the opposite of playing thrash with a plug in and play, no effects technique. Interestingly, there are 2 minutes and 40 seconds of OOD in which there is no bass, I played piano and cello instead. However, Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf was an entirely different way of recording. A lot of experimenting went on for that one and I'm sure I could spend an entire article explaining that session. One example of difference, in brief, is that I spent 164 hours editing Bludy Gyres after tracking, whereas in TSDW we recorded bass and drums live in separate rooms, By the way we couldn't see each other, all the songs were only recorded three times each and we took the best take, mistakes and all, so TSDW is a very live album compared to Bludy Gyres' 'Echoes of a Distant Scream'.

Bludy Gyres live.

As Bludy Gyres is tagged as "progressive Doom Metal", have you set any borders for its development in the progressive direction? Can you see a perspective that one day it would turn into something like the Italian band The Black, and a year later into something like Magma, for example?

No. We don't have a plan per se, but I can hear that the next songs we're working on at this time are actually less proggy and more structured plus more guitar harmonies. We may continue to add more percussion as well.

Tommy, who's the author of the lyrics on 'Echoes From A Distant Scream'? What kind of concept did you choose for the album?

I'm the author of all the lyrics. There's no coherent theme for the album, but I can tell you I usually have a stronger autobiographical meaning for my lyrics. There are some words here that came from my past such as "Discipline Man" again, is about my father. Other parts are somewhat personal as well. The song "OOD (Ogre of Death)" is about my friend we called Skully who was twice a member of Hallows Eve. Or tongue in cheek; in the case of "To Live Is To Bleed", I'm taking an old ballad or story and re-writing it for metal. In this case, "John Barleycorn". I did the same on Hallows Eve's 'Evil Never Dies' with the song "Looking Glass" in which I musically tell the story "The Outsider" by H.P. Lovecraft.

Tommy, do you watch the modern Doom scene? Can you name a few bands you like or respect?

Of doom, I've lately been listening to Witch Mountain, Gallow God, Wolf Counsel, Dayglo Mourning, who I've recently signed for a split album on Black Doomba Records. And not necessarily doom but with elements, Doomstress, Oceans of Slumber and Triptykon. I was just on tour for the month of May and those were the bands I listened to all day during travel.

Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf: Tommy with drummer Eric Vogt.

Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf's self-titled debut album also appeared in 2017: do you feel that kind of straightforward Doom Metal is still in demand? It seems that the genre has reached its peak nowadays but the scene is still overcrowded… so how would you introduce this band to listeners?

True, I did use some of the standard elements on that album and that's because I had not gotten to explore it yet like everyone else! But, as it was pointed out to me critically, there are songs that do not fit, or so I'm told. These make me laugh as I explain it. Every song on the album has at one time been said to not fit the album. I find this very funny. It was also said Prince of Fools was "not written at the proper speed". Ha, ha, really? I didn't do what people want and didn't check with others to see how to express myself? How dare an artist express themself, the gall. I retire to Bedlam. Seriously, most say that "Porpoise Song" or "With Darkened Eyes" don't fit the overall album. I've imagined the album without one or two of the songs and, true, then it would be closer to a typical doom album. But, I'm not typical. Mostly, almost all the way, the self-titled 'Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf' has had nothing but great, fantastic reviews!

The second member of Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf is Eric Vogt - how did you find a like-minded person to fulfil your vision of Doom? Is it comfortable for you working in the duo format?

Yes, way comfortable. I find the less people the better. I'll tell how great Eric is, but first and to be crystal clear I'll say I'm a fairly nice guy socially, but I'm not very social. However, when it is about my art I have a very clear and definitive way I work. I'll describe it as this: I'm in a boat rowing to an island and if you get in my boat and don't row the same direction, we won't get there. So row the same way or get out of my boat! I make this very clear. If I do work in a coalition, then it needs to be clear what the goals are and how we're doing it. I work well with others if we're clear about what we're doing. Now for Eric, he is absolutely the best partner for this project! He understands what I'm doing, he graciously supports me recording in any crazy methods, he likes what I write, and has enjoyed his time doing it. I consider him to be a good friend as well. In his band, he has a much different role, maybe the opposite. He's mainly a thrash drummer, but in TSDW I asked him to keep it simple and use a lot of toms. Frankly, he is underplaying what he can do in a technical way, as I asked, but you see us live he has some good extra spots to show his real skills.

By the way, can you clarify this - are Bludy Gyres and Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf full time bands or just studio projects for you? What about the live aspects of the bands?

Both bands play live, TSDW is the one that tours. I will continue Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf for a long while. I'm the only one in the band so finally a band that no one quits. I intended to do bands longer than I have, but I can't control other band members and their interests or disinterests. But I can control me.

Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf - 'Through A Dead Man's Eye' (Official):

What are your plans for the near future? What will appear first - a new Bludy Gyres or Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf?

I'm glad you asked! There will be a second Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf album I hope to have out by the end of 2018, if not, it will be the beginning of 2019. We are recording it now! And it's going to be a good one! You can already hear an example by the digital and vinyl seven inch glow in the dark single we already released from it called "Shadow in the Well". You can hear his now at https://tommystewartsdyerwulf.bandcamp.com/album/shadow-in-the-well .In the meantime, I have a label called Black Doomba Records and an active commercial studio called Blue Ogre Noise Lab. Between those things I have several projects. I have a newer more blues based doom band I can't talk about yet, I'm producing a few by other bands, and it looks like I'm releasing a re-mix and re-master of 2015's Bludy Gyres' "Behold! Your World Now Burns" as first a digital release and then in a split album release with a band called Dayglo Mourning. The BG song takes up one whole side of the album. That split will be called 'Enough Rope for Two". I also just started being a distributer of Doomstress' 'Supernatural Kvlt Sounds – The Second Rite' so between producing, releasing, promoting and so on, it's easy to see I'm a busy man and have a lot out coming up out there! I think I'm most excited about my next pet Dyerwulf album so I may as well say it now for the first time. The name of the TSDW album will be 'Doomsday Deferred'.

So many plans… What's the secret of effective time management in your case?

Good question! I keep good old fashioned paper calendars, prioritize, make sure I consider other's time, and be insistent that no one wastes my time. I also make sure there are appointment, dates, times for everything including creative time. And including fun. Yep, I schedule fun time, too!

I see that 'Shadow In The Well' has artwork the same vein as the self-titled debut. Jeff Grimal has his own remarkable style: how do you describe to him what you want to see on a cover?

When I first saw the oil paintings of Jeff GrimaI (of the bands The Great old Ones and Spectrale), I could feel the look of inside me. A great connection was born! Since the Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf albums are very personal to me, I felt that Jeff's paintings were representative. What I do is explain the concept and then let the artist, Jeff, paint his impression of that concept. I don't tell artist's what to do, they'll do better if left to their own bag of tricks. Just give the concept. There are the two hounds on the cover of our definitive first album and then the figure looking in the well, feeling the presence of an entity nearby, but not seeing it on the single "Shadow in the Well". We're nearing the end of recording of the second album and I'll soon announce the title and explain the concept to Jeff. I'm sure he will paint something utterly fantastic!

The lyrics of 'Shadow In The Well' are strictly pessimistic, and that's okay when you play doom. However, what turns your train of thoughts this way? What role does society play in your inspiration?

Ah, "Shadow in the Well" is about an old legend, one my grandmother knew, about looking into a well and seeing your fate in the reflections. As for pessimistic, I am rather frustrated, often angry and hurt deep inside about personal issues. Does not an animal scream when it is hurt? That's what my music is doing. It's me roaring and it's cathartic when that roar is heard. The rest of the time I'm happy and gardening, painting, enjoying my solitude.

Okay, Tommy, I'd like to thank you for this interview, and I wish you all the best with producing, performing and recording music you love. Did we skip anything? I guess that we've covered all main questions, right?

Thank you for such a great interview. I feel like I've got to say a lot about my music and share what I've been doing. Cheers!

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Visit the Tommy Stewart's Dyerwulf bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-07-18 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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