Intonate Interview

Formed in 2013 Montréal, QC, Canada’s Death Metal group Intonate have been making music together since 2008 (originally as Deathlehem). You might call the band Technical, or Atmospheric, or Progressive, but the main point is that their forthcoming album “Severed Within” is reaaaal heavy!

The band kindly agreed to answer some questions, so let’s get to it…

Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for Blessed Altar Zine. I’ve been really enjoying listening to “Severed Within” over the past days. This is your second album as Intonate, but it seems most of the band has been together for a long time (first as Deathlehem). How have things changed since you started out and what’s kept you together making music all this time?

Thank you for the interview! Glad to know you’re enjoying the new album.

Since the band’s early days, the biggest change has got to be our constant musical evolution. 13 years ago, when the band started jamming together, it had a blackened thrash metal sound. We then started to incorporate more melodic elements (as portrayed on Deathlehem’s “Epic of Creation” E.P.). After changing our band name to Intonate, we started writing more technical death metal riffs with a dark atmosphere to them. The songs that got written during that time period became our debut, “The Swerve”. “Severed Within”, as well as our newer songs that are in the works, shows the band writing in a more focused and intense death metal fashion, while remaining true to its roots and identity.

In terms of what’s kept us together for so long, it’s simply the passion which we all have for this kind of music, and our desire to see how the band will evolve through time. It’s our catharsis; it’s the most therapeutic way to set free our emotions.

The past year has been pretty tough for a lot of people. How has it been for the band?

It’s been quite difficult for us, just as it has been for a lot of people. The fear of having people close to us get sick, as well as adjusting to all the changes is no easy task.

To be honest, it has even watered down our excitement of releasing Severed Within a little bit. In this new reality, on some days, new music doesn’t feel as exciting or important as it used to, and it’s been a little hard to be motivated to keep up with new releases since the pandemic. But ultimately, it is important to remember how uplifting music can be, and if “Severed Within” can help people get by in any way, then that is what truly matters.

The title of the new album and tracks like “Yearn” and “Wander” suggest a process of internal struggle. What does the album title mean for you and what ideas were you exploring on these songs?

You’re definitely not far off the mark by suggesting that it’s about internal struggle: the lyrics try to explore different aspects of the human experience, and how these can oftentimes present two different sets of feelings or reactions. For instance, the mind sometimes strives for a certain ideal, but the flesh desires something completely opposite, and creates a conflict between the two. We have the dual capacity to feel both intense joy and sadness, and balancing the two can be tricky. Within each person is the capacity to be a great and virtuous person, or a terrible and ruthless one, and we try to explore the balance between these two as well. At the same time, some of the lyrics are purposefully more abstract so that the reader can hopefully derive their own meaning from it – hopefully we didn’t unveil too much information here.

There’s a definite change of feel on the new album from the band’s first “The Swerve”. I really enjoyed the prominent fretless bass on that release, but there’s something about the new record that feels more crushingly heavy (both sonically and emotionally). Were you intentionally going for something different this time around, or is this just the natural evolution of the band?

It’s a combination of both; we were intentionally going for something different (ex. using a distorted fretted bass instead of a fretless), as well as it simply being the natural evolution of the band. Since “The Swerve”, all 4 of us have grown a lot in our personal and musical lives. The combination of various life experiences is probably what caused the album to sound a lot heavier. We’re all very honest individuals; we’re not scared to use whatever’s inside to come out in the music. Anger and frustration are emotions that definitely come across. At times however, the music also expresses a triumphant feel. It’s a feeling that strengthens us in attempting to overcome our demons. Metal music has always been one of the best outlets for releasing various forms of pain and hardships.

What’s your songwriting process like in the band and how long did it take to write the material for the new album?

Our songwriting process is pretty old-school, in the sense that most of the songs’ arrangements are done at our practice space. Usually, an initial riff grows into an entire song’s skeleton. Once the flow and feel of the song is fluid and to our liking, we’ll start thinking about guitar layers. Bass and vocals are then added to complete the song. It’s a pretty organic process, though it certainly comes with its fair share of challenges. The material for “Severed Within” took 4 years to write (2016-2020).

I can’t imagine that anyone picks up an instrument and dives straight into technical death metal. What were your earliest musical inspirations and what made you first want to form a band?

Earliest musical inspirations easily include Metallica, Black Sabbath, Venom, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Death, Sepultura, and countless others. To this day, these bands continue to inspire us.

Like most teenagers getting into metal, watching live concerts from your favorite bands gives you that itch to want to create some magic of your own. Also just trying to find a platform with which we could express ourselves as younger people trying to find our voice.

What music is currently inspiring the band?

Nick:Sepultura, Vitriol, Hate Eternal, Morbid Angel, Meshuggah, Immolation, Metallica, Mastodon, Crowbar, too many to name.

Ulysses: Abyssal, Inter Arma, Krallice, Baroness, Isis, Black Sabbath

Dominic: The bands already mentioned by my bandmates, and also a lot of bands from our own scene here in Montreal: Vengeful, Phobocosm, Sutrah, Chthe’ilist, RGRSS, Akurion, Basalte, Entheos, etc.

It’s hard to make plans in the age of Covid, but how are you planning to promote the new album?

So far, our label, Willowtip Records have done a great job at promoting the new album. However, with COVID, it is a lot harder for bands to promote new music as we can’t play gigs to properly introduce the new material in a live setting. Playing live is definitely one of our strong points, and these new songs will definitely bring an intense energy on-stage. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that soon. For now, let’s simply hope that word of mouth will spread the new album.

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to mention or promote?

First off, we’d like to thank Tom and Blessed Altar Zine for this insightful interview. Great questions. We’d also like to thank all of our families, friends, and fans that support the band. We truly think you’ll dig the new album. We poured our hearts in this one. New material is already being written; let’s just say it’s going to be more menacing than ever. Stay true out there, we’ll hopefully see you on a stage real soon.

Interview by Tom Boatman

Thanks again to the band for their time. “Severed Within” is due for release on April 16th on Willowtip. You can pre-order the album now on Bandcamp.

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