The War Inside My Head: An Interview with Heretical Sect

The War Inside My Head, our interview series focusing on the musical inspirations and influences of some of the best and most exciting voices in the contemporary extreme music scene is back, to the cheers and jeers of the crowd. This time we're honored to welcome American death metal project Heretical Sect, who have an incredible new album due to be released via the great Gilead Media next month, and who boast members from other great Santa Fe bands such as Predatory Light and Superstition. I first encountered their black-infused death metal last year when they released Rotting Cosmic Grief, a wonderful EP vinyl via Vendetta Records) of punchy, atmospheric, and crushing songs.

However, as great as that was, and it was that good, the new batch of music is even better, more atmospheric, and just wonderfully recorded and executed. Without a doubt one of the best death metal albums of the year, and a rare instance where the blackened death angle is used in such a way as to enhance both the atmospheric and heavy aspects of the music as opposed to muddling them past the point of intense frustration. Yeah.

All of which is more than ample reason to pick their death-ridden minds for some of the music that had inspired them along the way, thus presented via a short interview with Crypt Hammer (Bass, Synth) and Death Warg (Vocals, Drums). Before we get to that this is just to say that you can check out our other interview series (Albums of the Decade, Pillars of the 90s) and, you haven't already, please follow follow us on FacebookInstagramSpotify and support whatever it is that we do on Patreon, and check out our kinda-sorta podcast, MATEKHET (YouTubeSpotify and all that). On to our conversation with the Heretical Sect.

What was the first album you bought with your own money, and where did you buy it?

CH: All my first cassettes are a blur but there was a distinct overlap of embarrassing taste: Technotronic, Bobby Brown, Vanilla Ice, 0U812 by Van Halen (a notably unimpressive album), and Hysteria by Def Leppard. I like to think my early inspirations are evident in my songwriting today. I found my first tapes at Tower Records.

DW: When I was 10 I got a Queen: Greatest Hits CD from a friend and I also got a Foo Fighters tape. That was the only stuff I listened to for a couple years straight. My next door neighbor was one year older than me and he was allowed to go to the music store, which I wasn't old enough to do. So I must have been nine years old? I gave him money and asked him to get me something "good."

What two albums taught you the most about making music (mixing, production, performance)?

CH: Nothing's Shocking by Jane's Addiction is one of the few albums from my youth that has staying power. Not stellar in production but in raw in energy. I heard this album and I knew for the first time that magic had taken place recording those songs, and it was a massive eye opener considering the P.M. Dawn cassette stuck in the other side of my tape deck. Jane's had the power. Sorry, Snap. Second album: Necrot, Blood Offering. Heavy. Having grown up with more polished recordings I was not familiar with this style of recording. This album is so dirty that sometimes I wonder if they intended it to sound that way, and the riffs are often buried in the wall of sound. You get a nice lead every once in a while. Every time I listen to this album I am deciphering something new. 

DW: I have always had an idea of how I wanted to sound but have not been able to articulate the references well. I think the first Misþyrming album had many of the ingredients that I consider ideal. Cacophonous, live-sounding drums, spacious and dense at the same time. I like music that is a little off the rails and not polished too much. I like the sound of a band sort of playing beyond themselves and just barely getting by. Also, I think Mizmor's Yodh sort of perfected the marriage of doom and black metal. The mix is so massive and detailed and I find myself able to listen and relisten and discover new things. The vocal performance is so impassioned and insane but the music is completely self assured. I think that album is a monolith to admire, sonically speaking. 

What is the last album that absolutely shocked you?

CH: Grave of a Dog by Sightless Pit. This album was the soundtrack to the summer of fire. I was in Portland when it began, and it was one of the most apocalyptic things I've ever seen. Days of thick, grey skies, of a deep red sun, of tent cities where people had nowhere to go. The shock came from hearing an album I'd wanted to hear for years and finally finding it during a somewhat traumatic experience, for which it was the perfect score. It is the album of a burning world. A runner up though would have to be Milli Vanilli, who only get more shocking with hindsight. 

DW: I think Tchornobog's S/T really fucked my mind up for a while. It just seemed so extreme and so listenable at the same time. I found myself consumed in that world. There are a lot of passages that are music I imagine existing but have not heard. Bands that find a way to be death and black metal at the same time but do not sound like blackened death metal- Instead they have their own powerful vision. Atramentus, Stygian struck me pretty hard. I thought I was sort of growing bored with the idea of funeral doom. But here is three songs at 45 minutes that has me engaged every second. There is so much layering and depth to this record. It is a deep trip into sorrow and stagnation that seems fresh as exciting despite crawling the entire time. 

What album relaxes you or centers you the most?

CH: It's a tie: Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol. II or Dragging a Dead Dear Up A Hill by Grouper. Without exaggeration, I have listened to the former over a thousand times, and it is the only album I can sleep to. The latter by Liz Harris just kills it. When it came out I lived in San Francisco and I had this ridiculous job with the park service, where I'd stand on the beach in the Presidio for seven hours and keep people off this one area for a remediation project. The project was on half of the nude beach though, and a lot of the beachgoers were convinced their beach was getting taken away, and it was frequented by dudes on meth with the shirt only vibe. Standing out in the cold under grey skies talking with angry, half naked meth heads for seven hours can really take it out of you, and every day that summer I'd get home and lay in bed and stare at the ceiling absorbing that album. It was better than drugs. 

DW: OM, Advaitic Songs is a go to around the house for me. I can listen to this anytime and have it in the background in a relaxing way or getting work done. 

What are the 2-3 albums you’ve listened to the most recently?

CH: Patricidal Lust by Vastum, Gregorian Chant by Monks of the Abbey of Notre Dame, and The Money Store by Death Grips.

DW: NONE, Life Has Gone On Long Enough, Infera Bruo's Rites of the Nameless, Thorns, Thorns, and Holy Death's Deus Mortis

7. What album is grossly underrated?

CH: Sentenced to Life by Black Breath may not be underrated but I don't meet a lot of people who were as obsessed with it as I was. The songwriting is super intelligent, it has immense depth but it still flows and is extremely punishing. Each of their albums is a distinct vibe and they're all good. 

DW: My all time underrated album is High On Fire's Surrounded by Thieves. Because of the stoner metal legacy of Sleep and HOF the music is sort of seen through that context. But this album has so many interesting extreme metal ideas baked into it. It is actually so furious, rabid and thrashing. The drumming is the most interesting and pummeling performance I can think of. And the soloing of Matt Pike is nuts! This album has an energy and brutality and uniqueness that stands apart from most of everything else the band did, which became more predictably metallic. Even though they are just a three piece the performances for this album were the best live experiences I have ever had. 

As far as releases from the past few years, Slidhr's The Futile Fires of Man is a near perfect black metal album. Seriously, this album does everything right. Consuming blackness with seriously sharp riffs and endless atmosphere. It is like a much more interesting version of Mgla, but the album doesn’t even have a single review in The Metal Archive. So I think it is vastly underrated. 

What album would you recommend from your local scene?

DW: Santa Fe has a very active scene for its size. My favorite Santa Fe related bands are Vanum (only one member lives here), Infera Bruo (recently relocated here), Street Tombs and Predatory Light. The newest album from each band is stellar. 

CH: That's tough because we share members with my favorite bands from the local scene. Check out Valac and Snot Goblin.