VOICES FROM THE UK UNDERGROUND: OBLIVIONIZED on booking shows and saying yes to DIY misanthropy

Sitting in on rehearsals when London (-ish) death-grind crew Oblivionized first started it was kind of hard to see where they were going. Powered by former drummer Jonathan Rushforth’s hyper beats, with guitarist Sammy Urwin riffing under the creative direction of vocalist Zac Broughton, it was technical death metal at a time when technical death metal had practiced itself into self-parody. But, shit, that was the real early days. Broughton was known then for his work with Iconic Destruction, a solo production of Xasthur-esque misery, but he was scheming on a sound that’d take in more of extreme music’s inhospitable textures, chiefly grindcore, en route to finding themselves as one of UK underground’s most brutal, inventive and potentially explosive bands, at a time when the scene is enjoying a renaissance.
Oblivionized don’t sit on a riff and ride it till it it’s dead, or disappear into a tech ghetto of clickety-clack sterility. And, shit, even though Broughton wasn’t wholly happy with the recording, debut EP Abhorrent Evolution still caused structural damage at Decibel HQ towards the end of 2011. It’s high time we caught up with vocalist Broughton to see what’s up.

You played last night with Wormrot. It was a show you put on, how did it go?
Yeah, me and Sammy put it on. We had the Atrocity Exhibit come down, Atomck, Human Cull, and of course we played as well. It was a really great night. We thought if we were going to put it on, best make it a free event and we got a lot more people than we expected. It went really well. You know you can’t really make money putting on a band like that, usually you have to lose a bit of money, but we did a deal with the Unicorn where they paid the headlining act and all the supports come for free. It was all built-in [the deal] so the bar paid Wormrot.

Is that the way forward for booking underground shows, getting the bar to pay the headliners?
Yeah, well to not lose money. We [Malignant Manifestation, Broughton and Urwin’s promotion outfit] used to put on shows at the Purple Turtle and always go short and lose money just to actually have the bands play. Like, I always think there needs to be some money when putting on some gigs because, as a promoter, you end up losing out. It’s a bit of a sad situation, for most gigs— well, if you do a gig in London at a gig where you’ve got to pay the venue, you have to pay them, pay for the band and as a promoter you always lose money. But if you’ve got the venue paying the headliner from the bar and the rest of us playing for free, it’s a bit of a no-brainer. I think it’s the way forward.

Well it means that more underground bands can play to a full house.
Exactly, it was heaving last night. I think the Atrocity Exhibit came on at 8pm, and it was packed already, like a full venue, and by the time we went on it was twice as full. For Wormrot it was ridiculous, there was hardly any room to stand.
Oblivionized as a live band—I remember when you were just a three-piece and playing live was never really something you only ever talked about.
When we started off, it was Iconic Destruction, which was just me, but Geoff [Bradley] used to do guitar solos on it. But then we thought just to start a band to do some more technical stuff. We had a demo, and we had some interest, people talking to us, but it was just a project. Then we finally got a line-up together; we had Jon [Rushforth] from Gorerotted, and Sammy [Urwin] from Regurgitate Life… We had a five-piece by the end of 2010, and that was cool—we started gigging. But now it’s all changed. We did Abhorrent Evolution, the EP, and then did another promo/demo. We played a gig in Leeds, and we had a bit of a falling out with our drummer at the gig, we’d been pushing him a bit hard lately, played Italy, and drove to Leeds as a four-piece. I thought the band would have ended back then, but Lordaeron, a Derby based death metal band were falling apart at the same time so we got their drummer. We’ve still no bassist but that’s what it’s been like all year. We did a tour with Human Cull in March, another tour in the UK during April and played a European Tour with Black Veins, playing France and Belgium… It was pretty cool

Have your expectations for the band changed? Considering at first it was just a project, but you’ve been playing more shows and building a name.

It’s hard. You get a bit disenfranchised ‘cos you’re pushing yourself really hard to play something really hard, really challenging and technical, but then there is so little reward for it. Usually, the more simple music is, the more popular it is, so I guess what we do is looking for unpopularity. We’ve got quite a lot of followers on the Internet, a lot of people are talking about us. But being technical doesn’t really give you much of a fanbase. We keep on getting gig offers, though, and you don’t want to let anyone down. We’ve got to push ourselves harder. Once you put out an EP, everybody wants and album. And we want to get to that stage, like when we lost our drummer we could have jacked it all in but it would have been a shame after putting so much work into it.
What about your sound? You’ve labeled yourselves as technical death-grind, but where does the death metal stop and the grind come in?
When we started we didn’t really call it anything but then all of the reviews were saying, “Oh, it’s like technical death metal with elements of grindcore.” We hadn’t given it much thought. I mean, when I write music I don’t listen to anything. I try to focus on what I am writing instead, because if I listen to a great album you get influenced by it just like everyone else, and you get really into what they other band sounds like. For me, I want to sound like myself, so I just really have to focus on what I am doing rather than borrowing ideas.

What made you go technical though? Iconic Destruction was more Xasthur-style and then Oblivionized came at it from somewhere like Origin…
Cryptopsy was the main influence. It was like we thought, “Let’s be really fast, really technical, but do it our own way.” Reviewers said technical death-grind and we thought, “cool!” It’s definitely technical death metal but the vocals aren’t death metal. Our ethic more than anything is more like a grind band. We get a long a lot more with grind bands, personality-wise, and have played a lot of shows with grindcore bands. And even hardcore bands, like Black Veins.

Is that just because of your ethic and world-view?
Vocally, I am not really interested in singing as a guy in my mid-20s singing about decapitating woman. It feels a bit immature to me, and personally I’d rather sing about something that is relevant to myself. I do a lot of metaphorical stuff, like the imagery, that’s a bit more stark and bleak, just to make it a bit more interesting. That’s really something we try; I try to have something to say rather than just doing what Cannibal Corpse do but much meaner.

That sort of sexual violence in lyrics means that cheap shocks come at the expense of inclusiveness. And it’s a small enough scene with (even unintentional) misogyny deterring half your potential audience.
I’m not comfortable with misogyny, racism or homophobia in any way—it feels really repugnant to me. When I hear bands like Prostitute Disfigurement, who’ve got a song “It’s Better to Rot Away Than Be Gay”, it’s just… immature, and then all the brutal death metal bands singing about decapitating woman, fucking stumps, and all this, it just seems a bit childish. It’s a shame, because sometimes I’ll listen to a band’s music and it’s awesome, but then I’ll read the lyrics, look at the album cover and it’s got a guy with his head up someone’s vagina—that’s all a bit silly to me.

It makes it really difficult to justify as an art-form; some bands put all the effort into being technical and brutal and then undo it all by coming across like a fart joke.
Exactly, it’s toilet humor. You read the lyrics and it’s like a fart joke when there could be so much more there, so much more depth. I want people to read my lyrics and get something out of it. I am not trying to give anyone an opinion through the lyrics or anything. I don’t set out to be like “This is what you should think.” With a lot of punk bands it’s like hearing one side of an argument but I try to be more open, like here is something that you can interpret how you want. I like to something a bit more interesting. Like Discordance Axis, I like reading their lyrics. People want to know what they are listening to. I think it’s more important for someone to get an emotional attachment to something rather than to have something that’s sort of throwaway. I mean, everyday I get introduced to another slam band, called Fuck Stump or something, and it’s all a bit… I dunno, I have heard it all before, it’s immature and it’s playing it safe. You get that in every scene, though, people playing it safe.

Well there are a lot of bands that don’t really engage in the scene, there’s that detachment from a lot of those slam bands that kind of cheapens the music with irony.

It makes it such a boys’ club too. Every time I go to one of those shows it’s just Nikes and guys and a few terrified looking girlfriends. I find that a bit of a shame. I think if you look at the Wormrot show last night, it was good to see that it wasn’t some total sausage fest. I mean, if I went to a gig where there’s five girls on stage singing about chopping my cock off I’d be a bit put out. I think that is what has happened [with brutal death metal].

What have you got on the go at the moment?
We’re going to be recording soon for a split with Plague Widow, then we’ve got plans for three other splits, one with Human Cull and the other with Fuck the Facts. I want to do a few splits with bands that I really like.

It helps introduce you to new audiences.
It’s good. I like having a cross-section of stuff, where you get a split where the bands are quite different from each other, a bit varied in style. I hope people appreciate it, because a lot of people are asking us to put out a full-length, and I don’t think we are really ready. I think full-length albums have become a bit throwaway. A lot of bands have come out of nowhere and released an album through some label and it’s a bit, like, I look at them and they haven’t even done an EP, they’ve done a demo and re-recorded some of the songs for the album—I think that it’s important for bands to cut their teeth a bit, do some releases, do some touring before releasing an album. You want to make an album that is really what you wanted. We did our EP last year, Abhorrent Evolution, and our album is definitely not going to sound like that at all.

What didn’t you like about the EP?
There were a lot of good things about it; I thought the songs were pretty good, and Scott Hull mastered it, but like the last track’s a bit long, all the tracks are a bit long. I wouldn’t do low growls, I’d have stuck to high screams. We hadn’t really gigged much when we did that and when we played live, the low bits were damaging my voice. I think the gutturals slow down the music. If you listen to a band like Converge, and you’ve got high shouts and screams, or a band like Pig Destroyer, it feels really fast. It sounds more passionate. But there’s a lot of growth that needs to be done. If we had jumped straight into doing an album there would have been elements that I wouldn’t have liked about it. We’re going to wait until we’re really 100 per cent sure, really confident that it’s going to work.

Oblivionized are:
Vocals: Zac Broughton
Guitar: Geoff Bradley
Guitar/Vocals: Sammy Urwin
Drums: Richard Grindon

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