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Founded by Thorns Of The Carrion's Allen L. Scott, Opium Doom Cult - after many years of consideration - have finally announced their presence with a highly individual Funeral-based debut. Comrade Aleks wanted to know more...

Interview with Opium Doom Cult.
"Allen L. Scott started his career in the US Extreme Metal underground in 1992 with Death Metal outfit Carrion Lord, later transformed into Thorns Of The Carrion, one of the first Gothic/Doom bands in this region. Then, after years of rest, he joined Sludge/Doom act Beneath Oblivion and, since then, started another project - Opium Doom Cult. This band consists of Allen, his mate Scotty T. Simpson from Beneath Oblivion, and former Thorns Of The Carrion live keyboard player Rinaldo Yulfo III. A few years of secret work has led them to the almost totally instrumental release 'Tremors To Signal The End' in June 2020, and that's the reason we got in touch with Allen."

Scotty T. Simpson: drums, percussion - Allen L. Scott II: guitars, bass, samples - Rinaldo Yulfo III: keyboards.

Hi Allen! How are you? How does the Covid situation go in Cincinnati now?

Hey Aleksey, thanks for taking the time to ask me a few questions on Opium Doom Cult and life in general. Thanks for asking, I'm ALIVE and breathing! Right now, as of September 2020, the situation in Cincinnati has improved a bit and as far as community spread the virus transmission is dropping, the death rate is on the decline. A lot of businesses though are still shut down, or operating on a curfew, so no large crowds or concerts. Like a lot of places in the USA, there's a general myopia when it comes to wearing a mask or trying to protect other people. We live in a Tri-State area, with Kentucky and Indiana just a handful of minutes away, so the lack of a National plan (and failed leadership) has made most kinds of regulations difficult to impose. This country should've never been in this situation, with over 6 million tested positive and over 185,000 dead (over 1,000 a day the last month). Our city is maintaining some sense of sanity despite the pandemic, though homicides and gun violence has spiked, but like I said, the lack of any kind of national mandate has made the situation worse. This American nightmare continues…

Your main occupation is in Sludge Doom outfit Beneath Oblivion, fitting a soundtrack to the life of an ordinary man in the modern world. What made you re-channel your creativity in the psychedelic direction of Opium Doom Cult?

Beneath Oblivion was founded by Scotty, he was just nice enough to lend me the creative space to express myself in his band. I've always considered Beneath Oblivion's sound to perfectly reflect the Rust Belt, endemic to our lives among the busted down remains of the Industrial Midwest. Opium Doom Cult isn't a conscious decision to stray from my work in Beneath Oblivion, nothing was planned. I just strapped on a guitar with Scotty on drums and Rinaldo on keyboards and we just jammed, what you hear is that spark we created together. Besides the improvisational nature of ODC, for me the main difference is in Beneath Oblivion tuning to A, and ODC tuned to B, which is what my first band Thorns of the Carrion used. From a song like "The Liars Cross" on the last Beneath Oblivion album, or "The Drifting Snow" on TOTC's "The Scarlet Tapestry" from 1997. To "The Plague of Our Lamentations" on the ODC album is not that far away from each other. I humbly think there is growth and maturity to my guitar and composing style over the years, but the author remains the same.

Didn't you ever consider that you could gain more with Thorns Of The Carrion? Though the line-up changed so fast there, I doubt it's possible to resurrect it as the band.

I started dreaming about Thorns of the Carrion when I was 15/16 years old, when I wrote "When the Sunlight Fades", and I put all of my heart into it. But it wasn't just me alone and there was a core group within the band that made it something truly unique. When the core of the band split up, I tried to resurrect it a few years later, but the heart of the band was dead. In the end, my heart wasn't into it anymore as well… at that point it was almost 12 years of my life.

With that said, I could've absolutely continued on with TOTC and used the status we had earned to further the band. That wouldn't have been fair to the fans, or honest to our music, and it wouldn't have been true to my heart. As hard as it was at the time, for my own sake I had to let the band go. Though I do regret we left so much music unfinished, not properly recorded. Sometimes, I do let myself think about what could be possible now, if Thorns of the Carrion was still creating music. At the level we are now as musicians, but the past is the past… I can't resurrect a dead heart.

Allen, do you have any news for Beneath Oblivion followers?

No news except the same hiatus of the last few years… the last album, "The Wayward and the Lost" is still available from Weird Truth Productions in Japan. The last band get together was shooting the video for "Savior-Nemesis-Redeemer" at a local theatre, which I'm quite proud of and recommend everyone to check out. The last show we did was in 2018 at the Blood of the Wolf IV fest, and if that was the last show we played then it's a fitting send off, crushing, if you were there then you know. Personally and a bit selfish creatively, I'd like to do another Beneath Oblivion album one day, to complete a trilogy of sorts along with "From Man to Dust", but time will tell. Besides Scotty and I doing Opium Doom Cult, James has a crushing war/black metal band called Ululatum Tollent that everyone should check out.

Never heard about Ululatum Tollent, is it completely new band?

We always joke about how with doom metal bands, you have to put ten years in and can still be considered a "new" band. No, they've been around for about 4 or 5 years, nothing new to repost from that camp as they're spread out over a few hundred miles from each other. They did put an album out on Invictus Productions, called "Quantum Noose of Usurpation" that's raw as fuck intense, you can find that CD and streaming on Bandcamp.

Opium Doom Cult - 'Tremors To Signal The End' (Full album, 2020):

Opium Doom Cult's debut, 'Tremors To Signal The End', was released in June, but it's said that some recordings were done back in 2009. What's the story behind the band's origin? How long was your road to this release?

In 2005, Jason McCash (RIP) from The Gates of Slumber asked Thorns of the Carrion to reform and play the Templars of Doom Fest in Indianapolis, IN. So I recruited Rinaldo Yulfo, who was a fan of TOTC and knew all of our songs, to join a re-formed band on keyboards. We played a warm up show with EyeHateGod at the infamous Sudsy Malone's here in Cincinnati before Templars, and afterwards I just let TOTC go on to be a memory, without regret. Over the next few years, Rinaldo and I would get together, smoke a ton of weed, and jam when we had the time. I started calling the jam sessions the Opium Doom Cult and the name stuck; in the back of my mind thinking one day it would lead to an album at the very least. Things really solidified as far as a band when Scotty started joining us on drums. We did a few shows over a few years when Beneath Oblivion wasn't available and after the "Wayward" album came out we devoted more time to ODC. After a few shows the songs started to write themselves and we went into a local studio at the end of 2018 to record and jammed for about 6 hours. In early 2019 I knocked out all the guitar overdubs, bass, and solos in a day and we set about getting it mixed and mastered over the next year.

Yes, some of those very first melodies we created in 2009 ended up on the album. The keyboard counter melody on the 2nd riff in "Seeking the Divine, Finding Emptiness" was from our very first jam session we recorded, improvised, where I played drums actually. The song "Elegies in Our Arms" was another improvisation from a jam/smoke session around the same time, the Winter of 2009/2010.

What's weed's role in Opium Doom Cult? And what do you think about the creative/destructive force besides harder substances?

I've smoked for over 30 years, though I don't drink alcohol or use nicotine. To me, I've always believed that psychedelics, like psilocybin mushrooms and LSD are a key to the mind. I can achieve that state of mind naturally, but with that key, I can unlock and step into the room of the mind faster and more freely. Do the work needed on myself, years of repair in mere hours if need be, and step away rejuvenated, and more in touch with my soul. I might only imbibe every few years now, but it's a great way to fight depression, and to confront fear or stress head on. Rarely is a trip ever about the music for me, it's the calm after the storm where I find my voice again.

There is a certain beauty, a ritualistic aspect to the swirling smoke and playing music, and Opium Doom Cult is an extension of that for sure. The ritual of lighting up, and letting go unafraid, free from worry is not that easy while playing music, to find that trance like state. Letting go, not thinking about the next note or the next phrase, that's not easy to achieve in improvisation. It's like dying in a way, you have to let go to understand life better, to let go of fear, and just let the music pour out from you. The creative part of the mind is in there, in all of us really, it's just about finding that connection. From the soul thru the heart to the fingertips thru the instrument to the amplifier, music is a catharsis, one that I don't take for granted. I've never considered marijuana a "drug"; it's like breathing, a natural substance and a natural way of life. To me the harder drugs take over the body and don't allow me the headspace or control to actually make music. When the drug becomes more important than the music, being a junkie doesn't allow for much productivity, or living for that matter.

Did you aim from the start to keep Opium Doom Cult as an instrumental project?

At the beginning we did make a decision to not have any vocals. Honestly the thought of writing pages of lyrics and arranging vocals for 20 minute songs had lost some of the appeal to me. However, if a song needed vocals, I felt the song would dictate that to us, tell us when it needed that instrument. After we recorded "The Plague of Our Lamentations" I knew that part of the song needed something more, and my first instinct was to recruit the original Thorns of the Carrion vocalist Matt Chapman. We talked about it for a year, and had even started mixing the album when I finally asked Matt if he was interested. He immediately said yes, and after a couple weeks of practicing, destroying his vocal chords (after 20+ years away from it) he recorded his part in the song. I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out! He didn't lose any of his power after so many years away from doing vocals and I think the song reveals that.

As only one of your songs has lyrics, can you say what kind of message or mood you tend to channel through them?

I hate to give my interpretation of what the songs mean or what mood it's trying to express, I'd rather leave that to the listener to decide. Everyone is going to take something different away from a song, or the album as a whole. As one fan wrote, there's "no false advertising" in what we are doing, with the band name to the album artwork, to the song titles… Opium Doom Cult is a doom metal band and "Tremors To Signal The End" is a doom metal album.

How do you see the strong sides of the album? Do you feel you've reached all the goals you set before you?

I'm pleased that overall we achieved what we set out to do, recording an emotionally freeing, raw, and heavy album that flows evenly and speaks with honesty. That retained that jam band feel without massive overdubs or tweaking… As far as goals, as with most artists with a severely critical eye, I'm never pleased. Still reaching, still striving for something new and feeling the need to express myself with some very powerful, yet melancholic music. There are some technical aspects and sounds, moods I wanted to explore that weren't achieved on this album, but that's why the appeal of a second album is there.

Have you already performed your music live on stage? Do you plan to do a little push for 'Tremors To Signal The End' with a few gigs?

Yes, ODC has played concerts with bands like Black Tar Prophet, Choking, USNEA, and Amarok to name a few… I think if we weren't in this pandemic lockdown, where only recently a couple small concerts have happened with very limited attendance. We probably would have done a few local concerts to promote the album, but until there's a vaccine, I don't see that happening for Opium Doom Cult. We all either have or live with someone, or have family with comorbidities or who are immunocompromised, so we wouldn't want to needlessly put them or ourselves at risk. Hopefully we are all alive and well next year and we can start to entertain that notion of performing this album live. This is the longest I've gone without playing on stage since I was 17 years old!

The album was released DIY with quite a limited run: do you plan to start searching for a label? Do you feel an urge to spread Opium Doom Cult's will further?

We've mostly done everything DIY since the start, I've worked in printing and design most of my adult life just so we don't have to rely on others to form our vision. One thing I'm definitely not is a mail order record company, so yeah I'd eventually like to get the album out there for labels to pick up and push, handle the distribution. After we finished the album, we didn't want to wait several months or years for it to finally see the light of day. Especially with the uncertainty of the Covid pandemic looming, the time frame didn't make sense to us. We want, and wanted, people to hear this album along with us. We went from the final master recordings to replicating the CD in just a few days. This style of music is for such a niche audience, and I've never thought anything I've done musically has mass appeal. So I think it'll get in front of the right people, who are searching for something new… pushing this style of music to the uninitiated seems a bit insincere.

How does current situation with Covid change your attitude towards music and life in general?

Honestly, I've always been somewhat of an isolationist, so as far as social distancing, not much has changed. I do miss going out to see live music, which is always my first preference, that's been difficult. I faced a near death time in my life several years ago, so since then I especially try to live every day with a carpe diem sense of purpose. As you get older, you realize you're closer to the end now than the beginning! With regards to Covid, I've lost some of that fire due to the ever narrowing window of what is even possible. So much is closed or locked down and travel is so limited, your dreams start to get a little smaller. Self-care has become more important, but survival day to day tends to negate any long term modes of thinking. Right now, I'm happy to be alive and I'm working on a new ODC release. We have some quite substantial jams from the "Tremors…" session that we haven't finished yet. I haven't played much guitar through the pandemic for instance, but I feel like when the time is right, all of those emotions are ready to be purged. Despite how it may seem, I'm a very hopeful person and I hope that life continues for all of us after Covid, and to anyone reading this! Stay healthy!

Thanks for the interview Aleksey and many thanks to you and all the contributors that have kept doom-metal.com going over the years. We appreciate the support!

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Visit the Opium Doom Cult bandpage.

Interviewed on 2020-09-14 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Aesthetic Death
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