Since the mid-90s a number of bands on different branches of the metal tree have taken the name Thorn. Having heard none of them (bar today’s interviewee) I’m going to go out on a limb here and say with confidence that none of those other bands ever came close to delivering the gigantic, bowel-disturbing heaviness of Phoenix, Arizona’s Thorn.
A solo, extreme metal project combining death and doom metal (and general oppressive darkness) into a tar-black stew, Thorn is the creation of one Brennen Westermeyer. With the latest Thorn album, Yawning Depths due for release on February 4th on Chaos Records, I caught up with Brennen to learn more about Thorn and his other musical ventures.
Thanks for agreeing to this interview for Blessed Altar Zine. For the uninitiated how would you describe the music of Thorn?
Brennen: The pleasure’s all mine. Cavernous and brooding music, concocted by one man living in isolation. Anguished bellowing of otherworldly origins.
Your latest release Yawning Depths will be released next week. What was the process like making the album and how happy are you with the results?
Brennen: I tried a few new things on this album, such as using new equipment, new recording processes, and tying in some things I haven’t done before, like synth and using samples. It was fun, and good practice for the next full length that I plan on releasing later this year, after Yawning Depths.
As a solo project do you have a typical process for how you put these tracks together? What’s a typical starting point for what ends up a finished track?
Brennen: I usually will write a handful of songs, whittle them down to my favorites that are complementary to each other. For YD, I started with 10 songs, and cut out 2. I will usually write an album within a week or two, sit on the tracks for a few months to workshop, and then re-record everything once I’m satisfied with the drafts I’ve been working on.
What were the biggest influences for the latest album? At times in the dissonant to and fro of the guitar I feel like there might be traces of King Crimson or Meshuggah, but it might be my imagination?
Brennen: As a general rule, Cattle Decapitation is one of my biggest influences for all albums. I’m afraid no KC nor Meshuggah influences. I do enjoy death metal the most these days, but I take a lot of influence from other extreme genres, namely power-violence and grindcore. Along with heavy influences with melodic/atmospheric music. I try to draw influences from the entire spectrum, so I don’t constrain myself to a particular sound. When I start writing a song, I usually have no idea where it’ll end up until it’s been completed. I like keeping my options open, without worrying if it sounds “death-metal enough.”
As soon as I saw the cover art of the album I knew I wanted to hear this record. The image fits the music perfectly. How did the album artwork come together?
Brennen: As I was writing lyrics, I attempted to tell a linear story from the beginning to the end of the album. The descent down into hell, the torturous existence, rituals to escape, and finally acceptance of your fate, while still yearning for a corporeal body, now lost. I had the idea of making the artwork similar to medieval biblical paintings depicting Hellmouths, but with the added twist of resembling Kentaro Miura’s artwork from his manga, Berserk, which I am a big fan of. Namely, artwork from The Eclipse scene of the manga/anime. I came across some artwork from @Droll Meadow and I knew he was my guy to bring this idea to life. I couldn’t be happier with the artwork, and Mr. Meadow, another Arizonan, was an absolute pleasure to work with.
Fluids is another musical project you’re involved with. How did your involvement with that band come about?
Brennen: They approached me after the release of my first EP, “The Encompassing Nothing.” Cole was stepping down from vocals, and Jan asked if I’d be interested. To be honest, I thought they were messing with me at first, because I was dumbstruck that they would even consider me. I’m glad it worked out the way it did, because it’s been nothing but fun. Working with Jan and Walter has been a blast. They have some pretty kooky ideas and I just try to keep up with their kookiness. They’re great guys, and I still pinch myself that I’m part of that trifecta of madness.
What are the pros and cons for you of making music solo vs part of a group?
Pros: 100% creative control, the music is written and completed on my agenda, no outside pressure to do anything a certain way.
Cons: No one to share the glory of a well-received release with. No one to workshop ideas around with. And I’ll need to teach 4 musicians the songs if I ever want to play live shows.
How did you first get into extreme music? Which bands were your gateway into the underworld and what extreme music excites you as a listener these days?
Brennen: It’s been a long, expansive journey. For death metal, I was introduced to Deicide, The Black Dahlia Murder, Cattle Decapitation, and Job for a Cowboy when I was in high school. These days, I try to stay updated with all the newer, underground acts.
I’m not just saying so because I’ve made friends with these bands, but Fumes, Wharflurch, Maul, Perilaxe Occlusion, Celestial Sanctuary, Seep, and Writhing Shadows are all putting out phenomenal music and changing the landscape for the entire genre. I pity any uninitiated soul who is unfamiliar with these bands.
For our readers, what’s one book and one record they might not be familiar with that you’d recommend they check out?
Book: I don’t read a lot of fiction these days, but I am heavily interested in mythology, and pagan religions. With that being said, I’d recommend Bulfinch’s Mythology, or the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology. I get most lyrical inspiration from mythology and lore.
Album: One of my all-time favorite albums is “The Flesh Prevails” by Fallujah. In my opinion, it’s the perfect combination of relentless riffing, and haunting atmospheres. It’s been one of my favorite albums for years, and it’ll never wear out its welcome in these parts.
And finally, is there anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Brennen: Be on the lookout for new material from my side projects: Fluids, and Paranoia Apparition. Coming out early & mid 2022.
I’d also like to thank Gurgling Gore Records and Chaos Records for putting out Yawning Depths. This album has been a lot of fun to release into the ether, and it’s great to work with labels who are as enthused about the release as I am.
interview by Tom Osman
Thanks to Brennen for his time. Yawning Depths will be out on February 4th and available to buy on CD from Chaos Records. Follow Thorn on the links below to keep up to date with news and new releases.
**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre**