Decaying remind death metal followers of the value of the riff

DECAYING from Finland are a breath of fresh air in a death metal genre obsessed with copycats or overt technical wizardry. By nature of the sounds and the sound, Decaying hold true the traditional death metal “old school” of European music, ‘Encirclement’ is the groups second release, a masterstroke of death metal mite, lyrically interesting and laden with bone crushing death metal physiology. I had the chance to put question to Matias Nastolin, the groups mastermind, and this is what he had to say about this wonderful new find…Decaying….

How did you form and what was the inspiration to play classic death metal? Where did your journey begin?
Decaying was formed in late summer 2010 by me and Otu. Initially we wanted to focus more on the slower aspects of death doom and make something very old school and crushing. The first song composed was “…To Decay” and the second one was “The Aftermath” – so you perhaps get the picture… Few months after the formation I discovered this Van Drunen (Asphyx/Hail of Bullets) like howl and the music started evolving more towards “faster” stuff, yet still having distinct doom elements in the mix. The group was formed in Helsinki and there have been some line-up changes lately.

Big thumbs up for you recent release ‘Encirclement’, what do you make of the promising press reaction so far?
Thanks! The press reaction has been indeed positive. Although nearly every reviewer criticizes the length of the album, we aren’t very concerned about that. Of course it can be pretty demanding to listen to the album from start to finish in one session, but all of the songs work very well and we think there aren’t any bad songs on the album. Also some people have said we don’t sound original and, well… I’m sorry; it’s just the way it is when new bands want to play the true form of death metal instead of this modern crap. Anyway, apart from those points we have got much praises and we are happy with the response so far.

When writing and recording, how important was it for you to stay true to your influences, was there ever a moment when you thought that you may have done things different?
Hard question… I don’t think we have focused to stay true to our influences in particular. It is just that we listen mainly to old school metal and we avoid making anything that sounds stupid. When we make songs they seem to naturally come together and sound like our favourite acts… Of course there are some things we might have done different, but all in all I think Decaying hasn’t released a single distinctly bad song and won’t do that in the future either.

Do you think the current healthy old school death metal scene in Europe has been a major factor in the bands quality and output, a particular positive influence? I refer to what I see as the US scene being very brash and technical, whereas the European scene is more organic, more “honest” for want of a better word!
Probably yes. There are some old bands left and touring and many young bands emerging. We listen to European style death metal the most. Some technical DM bands are OK but there is only handful of them… More simple, in-your-face stuff works the best!

‘Encirclement’ is in part, based in part on the First World War in Europe. Is this a period of history that is close to the band? Or is it just that it was in fact an interesting, if not the most bloody, period of recent European history?
Yes, Encirclement focuses on WW1 and WW2 mainly, although there are couple of bit different themes too. I write all of the lyrics and these wars fascinate me without a doubt. The period of the First World War isn’t “close to the band” – it is just a good theme and fits our music.

‘The Hell of Verdun’ is based upon that brutal battle in France, some say one of the most brutal and on equal terms to the Somme, primarily an artillery battle, is there a particular reason why this battle was something that you felt Decaying had to write a song about?
The Battle Of Verdun is an event every person should at least know by name. It was such a bloody event and one of the most important battles of World War One. It indeed started with a massive artillery bombardment but didn’t take long to turn into another trench warfare mess. The song itself was the hardest one ever for me to write lyrics on… Took me some time to figure out what the theme would be. Verdun crossed my mind and eventually fit very well.

How did that concept and final result by Bartlomiej Kurzok come to be? What did you want to depict in the album cover? It appears to me to be a depiction of “death-like figure fighting a losing battle after being surrounded by enemy tanks and his comrades already have been killed”. Is that close?!
I haven’t spoken directly to the artist – only through Hellthrasher. He did fantastic job with the earlier release “Devastate” and I am happy what he made for “Encirclement” as well. I see the picture as some kind of mix of WW1 and WW2. A dead soldier lying in the trenches (clearly in WW1) while tanks (WW2) manoeuvre on top of the picture. The sky burns and the album cover reeks of death metal.

What was it like in the studio where you recorded the albums drum tracks? You recorded the rest of the instruments at a home studio; do you feel most comfortable recording by this method? Did you already have the songs prepared or did you work on them in the studio?
The studio went well but took twice as long as it should have. We didn’t have any equipment to record professional drum tracks so of course we went to studio. All of the rest – vocals, bass, guitars, mixing & mastering – were done with home equipment. I saved many thousands of euros this way and got a result I wanted. It isn’t perfect but sounds fine! The songs were prepared before the studio.

How do Decaying handle the writing process? As individuals, as a group? Do you start with the music or the lyrical content then build each track from there? Do you all live close to each other (the other band members)?
We all live in Helsinki and close to each other. All of the songs got their lyrics afterwards, so the riffs came first. The writing process is pretty much done as individuals but we share the results very often with all of the band members so everyone is happy and bad parts get sorted out. I think there isn’t a single song which has formed up in our rehearsal place to be honest.

Your previous release, ‘Devastate’ was a powerful debut, were you conscious that you must take things to the next level with ‘Encirclement’ or was it a natural writing process progression? Did the addition of Henri and Benjam make a big difference?
It’s probably both. Definitely we tried to improve our songs, but there was only half a year difference at most between the old and new songs. Without a doubt there is some natural progression – we are still a very new band and evolve all the time. Before Henri and Benjam joined, I made all the songs myself completely and Decaying was more of a solo project than a band. Henri brought in some ideas and composed couple of tracks for “Encirclement”. Benjam hasn’t composed songs, and he is a drummer in the band after all. But he has often good opinions which have had effect on many songs.

For the music itself, I can pick out a number of musical influences, but if you had to choose 3 only, who would they be? i.e. Your 3 major musical influences for Decaying?
Not a surprise: Asphyx, Bolt Thrower and Death.

“Death Metal” is a very wide spectrum, sub-genres, styles, themes, vocals, technical or bare bones brutal, do you have any particular likes or dislikes within the whole genre, anything that bugs you?
Yeah, well… There are so many genres. I don’t like most of the modern death metal. It is often too technical and lacks balls. Also these “metalcore” influences on death metal suck very badly. “Inhales” sound terrible too but I’m not sure if you can count them to be death… I think many bands have also forgot what riffs are.

Do you have any touring plans? Or any band merchandise planned in the near future?
We don’t have any touring plans right now because I and Henri are, as we speak, going through the Finnish military conscription. Benjam will go to the army next summer. We don’t have enough time at the moment to rehearse properly or play gigs because of that. Of course T-shirts and vinyl releases would be great and will be released when the time comes.

How long have you been playing guitar? I noticed you also played bass on both releases, what do you feel is different (if anything) from both instruments in relation to your style?
I have played guitar for about two and half years now. I started with bass guitar in 2008. Bass guitar is easier to play in this genre but brings the strength and power to the songs; also it is pretty high in the mix on our albums. Guitar, on the other hand, gives the riffs and aggressiveness. Both are important – but I prefer playing guitar.

Did you go through a period of learning, or are you self-taught? What made you pick up your instrument, any particular person or band/song?
I am fully self-taught. I got interested in bass playing because I thought it was the right instrument for me and a great hobby. The biggest influence for me was Peavy Wagner – the singer & bass player of German power / heavy metal band Rage. After a while I decided to start playing guitar as my main instrument – that was also the time I got more into death metal.

Outside of Decaying, what are your main interests?
Well, music is my main interest. I don’t have any other hobbies. Maybe reading some history & watching politics.

Finally, What is your favourite alcoholic beverage?
Damn, that’s a tricky question. It is of course going to be a beer…. Perhaps the Finnish lager “Karhu”.

Thank you so much for your time, I am still in admiration of the quality of ‘Encirclement’, congratulations and I look forward to hearing more from Decaying in the future.
Hails & thanks for the support!

Interviewer: Paul Maddison

Feb 8, 2012

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