Los Angeles, California’s Abhoria know what they like and that’s primo 90s black metal. The band channels this musical love through their own aggressive, modern style on their debut self-titled album. With the album’s release coming just over a week ago, on Prosthetic Records, I caught up with guitarist Vor to find out more about the band.
Thanks for agreeing to this interview for Blessed Altar Zine. First of all, who is Abhoria and what does each member contribute to the band?
Vor (guitar): Hello and thanks for having us!
Abhoria is a black metal band from the US. We play dystopian black metal inspired by the late ‘90s scene, though through a modern filter. We err on the more aggressive side of the genre, rather than the atmospheric side. The band consists of Walthrax (ex-Catheter) on vocals, Koszmar (Nightwraith, Vimana) on bass, and Vor (that’s me–I’m also in Ashen Horde) on guitar. (Drums on the album were performed by our buddy Jaud.) I write the music, and Walthrax and I share lyric duties.
I’ve been enjoying your forthcoming album and I expect it’s going to make a big impact with fans of extreme metal. How was the process of making the album and how happy are you with the results?
Vor: I hope you’re right! We worked very hard on this album, and got very close to what I initially heard in my head when I had the idea for Abhoria; I hope it connects with people and gets to the right ears.
The process was actually not too painful. The ability to self-track takes the stress down significantly, since you don’t have to be on the clock for every mistake and artistic meltdown. Of course, it can be a bad enabler when it comes to perfectionism, but ultimately it’s a positive! We learned a lot about what works for us when it comes to pre-production, however, and will apply that to the next album sessions.
I’m very satisfied with the final result. Shane did an amazing job of pulling it altogether. It’s polished, but still retains a sort of raw intensity. As with any album I’ve ever been involved with, I could spend days identifying everything I would like to change, but I’d rather put that energy into the next one! But bottom line, I’m very happy with how it turned out.
I know there’s some experience between you of playing in other bands. How has your time in other bands contributed to your approach and aims in Abhoria?
Vor: The impetus for me to start Abhoria was my other band, Ashen Horde. While still black metal at its core, Ashen Horde has adopted a number of styles over the years, becoming much more progressive and technical. While that’s exactly what I wanted to do with it, a part of me longed to get back to the black metal music that inspired me to play this kind of music in the first place. Thus, Abhoria was born. I wanted to tap into everything about black metal that first got me into the scene in the late ‘90s–the aggression, coldness, viciousness and intensity, but with a melodic thread as well. It’s been a lot of work, but ultimately I believe we found the sound I was aiming for.
Of course, the other guys bring their own wealth of musical experience to the table, which further shaped the songs. Walthrax loves experimenting with all sorts of different vocal styles and sounds, and I feel like he brings a very chaotic, grindcore feel to the vocals, which I love. He likes to find the right style not only for each song, but for each part of each song, which adds a whole other layer to our sound. Koszmar is a brilliant bassist who knows exactly when to lock in with the guitars, and when to go into weird jazz territory to add another level of depth to the songs. What we do is pretty different from what Vimana and Nightwraith do, so I think Abhoria gives him a chance to tap into a different side of his playing.
The other aspect I wanted to do differently with Abhoria was to ensure it was a full band. Ashen Horde began as a solo project, and has gradually expanded to be a full band, but we’re spread across different countries. Stevie (vocals), in particular, is very busy with Inferi. So I wanted a band that could actually do shows and be everyone’s focus. That said, we live in different states, but considering Ashen Horde’s drummer lives in Australia, it’s a step in the right direction! Of course, just like it did for most every other band out there, Covid derailed our plans. But hopefully we’ll be able to hit the road sooner than later.
What lyrical ideas are you exploring on the album? Did the lyrical themes of the songs shape the music, or vice versa?
Vor: The lyrics focus primarily on people and events that exist in a fictional dystopian wasteland. While writing the music, I pictured this vast, unrelenting world where the environment itself was essentially the enemy, and every moment is a fight to survive. (Adam Burke’s cover art perfectly captured the image I was seeing.) To steal a bit from Brutal Truth, when thrust into such extreme conditions, you get very extreme responses. That gave us a lot of lyrical fodder. I really tried to put myself into the minds of people in these awful situations, and consider what they’d think about and feel; how they’d attempt to cope. So whether the song is about opportunists taking advantage of those on the verge (“Mountebank,” “Unevangelized”), someone who has literally lost all hope and feels like little more than an empty husk (“Hollow”) or just someone who has become detached from reality and believes they’re being devoured by an invisible parasite (“The Thorn”), Walthrax and I delved into the minds of the people in this brutal world.
For me, music always comes first. I may occasionally have a song name or lyrical theme in mind, but I generally write music that I feel fits an overall vibe, feeling, or emotion. It’s whatever sounds right to me–that just tends to be a bit dark and grim. Of course, music like that lends itself to similarly dark lyrics. I definitely tap into the darker side of my personality and the darkness I see all around, channelling those things into lyrics, even if they’re not obviously personal. But if anything, it ends up being rather cathartic!
I’m always fascinated how musicians build their chops up to play such fast and intense music. Who in the band had the hardest task playing these songs and were there any tracks that were particularly challenging to nail down in the recording sessions?
Vor: I’m not sure who had the hardest time playing the songs, but I’m going to make the assumption it was me! I don’t consider myself a “natural” guitarist. I have to work extremely hard to play what I hear in my head, and our music isn’t even close to the level of complexity of what some of these tech death dudes play. But I always try to push myself when I write and play. I love incorporating weird jazz chords and unconventional riffs, despite the fact that I know I’ll be pissed when I can’t get them right without a shitload of practice, haha.
Two tracks stand out as particularly challenging for me: “The Thorn” and “Unevangelized.” The former just never relents–it’s essentially 5 minutes of high-speed trem picking, so my picking arm is on fire by the end. The latter uses a couple of “strange” chords that are tricky to move between, so it takes a lot of focus. Several of them stretch across an excessive number of frets, too, so it’s easy to miss and play the wrong notes if my fingers don’t feel like spreading out enough.
On the band’s bandcamp page you reference 90s black metal as your key influence. What is it about this period and branch of the extreme metal tree that you find so inspiring?
Vor: Quite simply, that’s the era of black metal that first got me into the scene. I’d made my way through various levels of extremeness–starting with the classic rock my parents played, then into the ‘80s glam scene, thrash and power metal, death metal and grindcore, and ultimately black metal. For whatever reason, black metal had the biggest impact on me and my playing. Surely the whole “danger” element that came with it worked on some level for an impressionable teenager. I mean, these guys were literally doing the terrifying things death metal bands sang about, which was equal parts horrifying and fascinating. But behind all that were songs that really hit me. I loved the melodic aspects of bands like Enslaved, Emperor and Satyricon. It was as intense as death metal and grind, but the vibe was completely different–it wasn’t about pummeling brutality, but about creating an atmosphere and tapping into melodies that triggered different emotions. On a base level, I suppose I just love fast-moving dissonant chords and blast beats!
So while my tastes have continued to expand and evolve over the years, I’ve longed to do something that was directly inspired by that period, as it was so impactful to me as a fan, writer and player.
If I understand right, Abhoria came into existence not long before this Covid pandemic started. How have the Covid restrictions impacted on the members of the band personally and in what you want to do with the band?
Vor: Yeah, it was pretty bad timing! We’d actually finished the album already, and were getting ready to talk about promoting it. But before we even started working through plans, Covid hit and everything stopped! That definitely wasn’t something anyone saw coming. At first, I was convinced it would be a couple weeks or maybe a month; I definitely wouldn’t have guessed we’d still be talking about it and impacted by it two years later! But since we don’t live near each other, regular practices were never really in the cards; it just meant we jumped into working on the next album instead of rehearsing the first one.
Besides derailing tour plans, the biggest impact to me was the inability to travel. My wife and I travel a lot, aiming to visit several new countries every year. We were slated to go to Thailand and Cambodia in April of 2020, and have yet to reschedule that one… So we’ve fallen severely behind in our globe-trotting. That said, we were able to do a number of road trips to places we may not have otherwise visited, so I can’t say it was all bad. Besides that, the restrictions haven’t been too crippling. I’m fortunate to be able to work from home, and most of my favorite activities tend to take place in my house or outside–writing music, hiking, biking–so those really weren’t impacted.
As for the other guys, Koszmar in particular had a very stressful time. He and his wife run a successful restaurant business in Denver, so they certainly felt the strain of lockdowns. But they’re persistent and managed to come out of it relatively unscathed.
Have you had the opportunity to perform live together yet and what plans for shows do you have for the coming year?
Vor: We’ve rehearsed, but that’s as far as it’s gone! We’re definitely keen to do some shows, but are reluctant to book anything until we’re confident they’ll actually happen. It seems like every day I’m reading about a show or tour getting cancelled… Like I mentioned, we don’t live in the same state, so regardless of where we play, someone will be travelling. We need a guarantee that we won’t get through the effort of getting ready only to postpone!
But just because we aren’t doing shows, we’re certainly not sitting around. The second album is written and demoed, and we begin tracking it in early Feb. Once that’s done, we’ll start trying to figure out if fall shows are a possibility.
For our readers, what’s one book and one record they might not be familiar with that you’d recommend they check out?
Vor: Great question! For books, I’d recommend the Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. It’s an epic science fiction series that I found absolutely captivating. It’s not dystopian, per se, but it will appeal to fans of that genre (of which I clearly am one!). It’s quite dense and science-heavy, but touches on a number of interesting topics, including the mix of science and superstition, caste systems, and the ability for people to persist despite the most agonising conditions, whether physical or mental.
As for a record, that’s so hard. I feel like there are so many brilliant releases out there from a number of genres, most of which don’t get the respect they deserve! I’m going to cheat a little and suggest two very different albums that I think are worthy of everyone’s attention.
First, I’ll mention Slegest (Ese from Vreid’s current band), and their most-recent album, “Introvert.” It’s almost like AC/DC and Black Sabbath decided to make a black metal album. Very much in the black n’ roll vein, but a bit doomier, and insanely cool. Honestly, all three of their albums are amazing, so you can’t go wrong with anything they’ve released.
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s “Hit on All Sixxes” by DeadCuts. In this case, it’s goth-tinged Brit rock with fantastic melodies and dark themes. DeadCuts was created by Mark Keds, formerly of ‘80s/’90s punkers Senseless Things, and Jerome Alexandre. I was fortunate enough to chat online with Mark on several occasions about all sorts of things. He’d watched “Until the Light Takes Us” and was fascinated by the black metal scene. We swapped demos, and I’d planted the seed for us to collaborate at some point. Sadly, Mark passed away early last year, but I’m happy he left so much great music behind. I’m remaining hopeful that their unfinished third album will eventually be released in some form. Anyway, highly recommended!
And finally, is there anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
I’ll just throw out once more that our self-titled album will be out worldwide on Feb. 4th via Prosthetic Records. It’s 42 minutes of high-energy black metal inspired by the golden age of the scene. It’s been a long wait to get it out, but we couldn’t be more excited to finally get it into everyone’s hands and ears. Whether you buy an LP, a cd, a download or a shirt, or just stream it and tell everyone you know, we’ll fucking appreciate it. If all goes well, we’ll see you on the road in the near future!
Interview: Tom Osman
Photos: Taeleen Woodard
Thanks to Vor for his time. The self-titled debut album by Abhoria is out now on Prosthetic Records. Pick up a copy from the links below and follow the band on social media to stay up to date with future news and releases.
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