Suffering Hour Interview

Last month Minnesota’s Suffering Hour released their excellent second album “The Cyclic Reckoning” on Profound Lore Records. Is it Black Metal? Is it Death Metal? Some of both, but the band have their own unique sound, with a ton of dark atmosphere and great playing.

According to the band’s Bandcamp page DgS provides Verbal Anguish & Wormhole Summoning, YhA Diabolical Phosphene Sorcery and IsN Astronomical War Detonations. So now you know who does what. The band kindly took the time to talk to me. Enjoy the interview.

It’s been four years since your first album “In Passing Ascension” came out. What’s been happening with the band between then and now?

DgS: It’s been a crazy last four years. Things really took off for us more than we expected after IPA came out. We’ve played a ton of shows and fests all over, as well as a European tour. We recorded and released the Dwell EP sometime in between all that and wrote and recorded this new one right before everything came to a screeching halt last March. Since then we just took our time putting this record out and started recording another new release that will be coming out later this year.

You named the new album “The Cyclic Reckoning”. What’s the story behind the title and what were the main ideas you wanted to present?

DgS: The title is related to the ideas of being stuck in an endless cycle, repeating the same futile actions in life and is closely tied into obsessive compulsions. The title came to me actually from hearing that little guitar phrase at the beginning and very end of the song “Foundations of Servitude”. Most of the ideas on this album are coming from a very personal inward reflection, mostly focusing on mental struggles and the path to enlightenment with some underlying contempt for existence and humanity.

The band comes from thrash metal origins, which by your first album had shifted more into black and death metal. These elements are still clear on your new album, but something that stood out to me from the first listen was that the guitars often play ringing arpeggios on top of the bass and drum rhythms. It reminds me of Killing Joke and I think it adds a great dimension to the music that I rarely hear in extreme metal. Has Geordie’s guitar style been an influence at all? Have there been other new influences since the first album?

YhA: I fuckin love the Geordie references, every time I get one it makes my day.  I’ve always tried to listen to a lot of non-metal type stuff, but between the thrash material/first album and now I’ve gone from being primarily a metalhead to barely listening to any metal anymore.  I still love a lot of the stuff I did listen to, in fact nowadays if I am listening to metal it’s usually 80’s/90’s tech thrash type stuff, but I think I just wore myself out.  I’d assume I’m primarily inspired by non metal stuff nowadays, but honestly when I write it’s a lot more introspective than it used to be so it’s hard to say.  If I had to try and think of some more direct influences I’d have to say Wovenhand since they’re my favorite contemporary band, surf rock in general (Dick Dale, Link Wray, The Ventures, plenty more), any sort of guitar-fueled Americana, old school hard rock like Thin Lizzy and early Dire Straits, it’s all over the place.

How is living in Minnesota? What’s the metal scene like where you are? Do you think where you are has much of an impact on your music?

IsN: The “metal scene” in Minneapolis has been a joke for some time now. It was fine when we were kids coming up, and it was nice that older bands accepted us and put us on shows. But so many of the people in these bands are beyond toxic. Over the summer it came out that multiple people within the scene were accused of sexual assault. Some were people I even considered good friends. Besides that, a lot of bands in the midwest are just fucking boring. It’s hard to make a name for yourself out here, but that’s why you need to focus on doing something different. Too many bands around here just play the same stupid slam death metal and cop riffs from all the obvious bands. I’m not necessarily bashing that either. If that’s what floats your boat, then great. But for some of us, that’s just not good enough and we’d like to leave more of an impact on music as a whole. I couldn’t imagine playing shitty dive bars every weekend well into my 40s. We made a conscious decision to distance ourselves from any sort of local affiliation very early on when In Passing Ascension came out. I can say with confidence that we are not influenced one single bit by what is going on in the Twin Cities.

What’s your songwriting and recording process like? Did the Covid situation have much of an impact on making the new album?

YhA: Honestly Covid’s has zero impact on how we work.  I write the songs from home with input and changes from Dylan and Jay, and then I send them demos with programmed drums and scratch bass so they can rewrite their parts.  Then when we track we’ll either do drums in a studio or at Dylan’s place, and then Dylan and I track our parts from home.  That’s how we’ve done it since In Passing, so working on projects during Covid times has been totally seamless.

Your first album came out on Blood Harvest. You’ve since moved to Profound Lore Records for the latest release. What brought about the change and how has your experience been on the new label so far?

YhA: Just the need to move on to the next level.  Blood Harvest did us justice with our first album and for Dwell, but we had to keep our eyes fixated on the future.  Being on Profound Lore has been fantastic, I don’t think we’ve ever had a more relaxed and stress-free time doing band business with anybody as we’ve had with Chris.  You can tell he cares a lot about what he does.

The artwork for both your albums is very striking and you seem to have fixed on a recognisable visual style. What’s the story behind the latest cover art?

DgS: The cover for this one was done by Artem Grigoryev and was his take on my ideas I presented to him. If I may, I’m going to link a another interview I did recently where I went very in depth on all the art and visual aspects of the album that I think is worth checking out for those interested: (click here)

It’s a hard time for bands at the moment with less opportunities to play live. Are there any upcoming plans to play together and how are you promoting the album?

IsN: Right now the plan is to just hone our skills and become more proficient at our craft. When we do come back to playing live shows, we want our performance to be better than it ever was before.

Finally do you have anything else you’d like to mention or promote?

DgS: Thanks to everyone for the continued support. A second pressing of Cyclic will be coming soon as well a cassette edition through Desiccated Productions. Merch available on our bandcamp. Keep an eye out later in the year for our split release with Malthusian on Invictus Productions. Cheers!

Interview by Tom Boatman

Band photos courtesy of Alvino Salcedo

Thanks again to Suffering Hour for the interview. Check out “The Cyclic Reckoning” on Profound Lore Records and follow the band for updates.

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