Dwelling in the isolated underground of Victoria, British Columbia, Altered Dead play unpasteurized, raw death metal, completely free of blackened-ness, or any other such additives. The kind of death metal that should come with a warning, like: Warning: If you are nursing, pregnant, or posing, this product may make you violently ill. Because Altered Dead’s eponymous debut album is twelve tracks (and zero interludes) of turbid, riff-centric morbidity that never lets up. At several points Altered Dead slows down—and how!—but not once does it relent in its dedication to thrashing and flogging. Rather than reinvent the wheel, the Canadian duo seem content, instead, to construct a twelve-spoke rolling thing out of rotting corpses. And they do so with such skill and aplomb that they make crafting exemplary death metal look easy. Which begs the question: then why are there so few bands capable of executing paradigm death metal?
To better understand what makes Altered Dead so good at killing it, we went straight to the source for an exclusive interview with the band’s guitarist/bassist/vocalist, Mic. We also managed to procure a full album stream of their self-titled debut, out now on Cavernous Records. The stream is available nowhere else on the internet, and, at Altered Dead’s request, it will last only one week exactly. So hear it gratis while you can!
Jam Altered Dead while you read the interview below!
(Stream no longer available, as of 9/20/2016, per the band’s request.)
First of all, with whom am I speaking, and what do you do in Altered Dead?
Hey, this is Mic, and I play guitar and do vocals in AD.
Who else is in Altered Dead, and what are their duties?
Julian is on drums and does vocals as well.
What does the name Altered Dead mean to you? I ask because so far you’ve released a self-titled demo tape, and now a self-titled full length. I appreciate that you’re getting so much mileage out of what’s honestly a pretty killer name. So I’m interested in what the name means to you, and how it came to you.
When we started the band a few years ago, we had another name in mind, I believe it was intended to be called Marut. As the original name didn’t seem to fit, we came up with Altered Dead. To our surprise the name had not been taken (as far as we know). I believe it fits with what we talk about in [our] songs, so it represents the sick side of human nature, and what people are capable of doing to one another.
Regarding the songs that appear on both the tape and the full length, those were re-recorded, right? Some of the songs don’t sound very different, but with others, like “Marut,” for example, it seems like you and Julian have gotten better at playing these songs. Would you agree that the musicianship on the full length is, overall, “tighter?”
So basically the tape was re-recorded with the addition of 5 new songs to create a full album. We have been working on those songs for a while now, and to us they seem old, but as with anything the more you practice the better you’ll get, and the happier you feel when you finally finish the music. We made very few changes to the original 7 songs aside from changing a part in the song “Immundimure: and some of the vocal approaches. But I’d have to agree, we have been tightening up as a band as we continue down this path.
The tape had a different line-up, from what I can tell from the liner notes. Is that correct? What happened to your bassist?
We started as a 2 piece, guitar and drums, and played a bunch of shows as such. A little later we asked our friend Brynne to play with us, and with him we went about playing some shows and doing the cassette. After a while we parted ways, it just seemed we could do it as a 2 piece, and it actually helped our live sound (in our opinion) not having bass. everything seems a little more raw. And as we’d like to create more of a classic sound (not sure if we achieved that) it just works.
Both the tape and the full length were recorded at Circle A Studios, correct? Can you tell our readers a little bit about that studio, and your recording process?
Circle A Studios is our friend Cody (Iskra/Storm of Sedition) who has been doing recordings for years now, and for a list of of killer acts. I’ve just always gone to him. Every time he does a recording they just get better and better.
When we go into record we typically start with the drums, I’ll be playing guitar in a separate room while Julian will be listening through headphones as he records. One thing we do a little different (I think) is that we don’t use a metronome. Click tracks take away from the overall flow of the music (in our band at least). So that just makes it harder on Julian to nail his performance, hahaha. After the drums comes bass, then guitar, and yup, you guessed it, vocals last. We spend a lot of time mixing with Cody, and tried not to rush any aspect of the process. We’d take it home and listen to it through all kinds of stereos/cell phones, and once we were happy we sent it over to Topon (Fuck The Facts) at Apartment 2 studios for the finishing touch. He’s pretty excellent as well, and has done great work for our masters in the past.
For the gearheads out there, what kind of equipment were you using on these recordings?
For the demo recording, my set-up was a Marshall JCM2000 head through an Olde Crow 2×12, mids at 10, bass and treble around 3.5. and the gain dropped to 4. The bass amp was an old Ampeg power amp (I think) through an Ampeg fridge, bass was a Warwick 5 string through a Big Muff pedal.
For the CD [recording], I used a Marshall JCM800 through a Marshall 1960b. The EQ settings were the same, but I drove the gain up a bit more. I play through an Ibanez RG8A with EMG 808s a friend pulled from his Ibanez Prestige 8 string.
And I rented an Ibanez 6 string bass which had Bartolini pick ups, and tuned it down. It actually managed to hold the tuning. And I ran it through a Peavey MK IV and an Ampeg fridge cab. Drums were Yamaha stage customs on both albums.
There are no guitar solos to be found anywhere, unless I’m mistaken. While they’re not necessarily a prerequisite for metal, it’s something that struck me as an aberration. It works, though. I think solos would sound out of place given how otherwise dark and putrid the atmosphere is. So was that a conscious decision? Because you strike me as a guitarist who could definitely pull off some shreddage if he wanted to.
We don’t write music with leads in mind. I’m not really a lead player anyways. I like the idea of writing a song as if it were a story, with as little repetition as possible. Start with a opening statement, and then keep creating until you come to a conclusion. I just like to keep it interesting and fun for us to play.
Can you tell me a little bit more about the songwriting process? Is it you showing full songs to Julian, or is it more collaborative than that?
We usually take our time writing songs, and it goes riff by riff. Once the structure is there, we voice the songs, and work on the idea of lyrics based on how the song feels. I play an 8 string for this band, which is often affiliated with other forms of music, but it’s what allows me to play those songs and still keep a solid low tuning. and adds a different dimension to how I play death metal.
Would you reveal which bands are your biggest influences?
The usual stuff I’d say. Autopsy, Grave, Celtic Frost, also Death Breath needs a new album already.
You’ve got a song called “Scaphism,” based, I presume, on the ancient method of torture. Where does the inspiration for your lyrics come from? Are you, or is Julian, a big reader, a film buff, a history major?
Scaphism was a method of torture, yes, but quite a bit of our influence comes from our interests in a variety of things, from war history to horror films etc. We form the lyrics based off the way the song feels as well. Or sometimes [we] have a lyric theme in mind before the songs even written.
Cavernous Records is a fairly new label. How’d the deal with them come about?
Cavernous reached out to us and had tried reaching us through our Bandcamp email (which we never check). After finally reaching us, we took some time to get to know each other a little better, and as a result we felt he genuinely liked our music and wanted to help us out. We are the first band to be released under Cavernous Records CD catalogue, and soon we will have LPs available as well.
How often does Altered Dead play live?
We play every so often in the region. We’re on a island so it’s a long trip to go anywhere for anything, but we do leave and hit Vancouver here and there. It’s usually unique venues and line-ups we tend to play with so that’s been fun for us to be a part of.
You’re from (roughly) the same area as a newer band called Graveolence. Do you know them?
We are in Victoria, BC, and ya, we know Graveolence. played a show in Nanaimo with them, must’ve been 1 year or more ago. Good kids, they were really stoked on the grind scene that’s happening in Victoria. But O think they went more towards death metal. I see you know them. There’s a lot of good music coming from this area. It’s pretty nice to be involved with it too.
What’s next for Altered Dead?
Working towards a new album, and continuing to play music is the focus always, so we can keep moving forward.
Thanks again to Mic for agreeing to the interview. Altered Dead just came out on CD, and will soon be out on LP. through Cavernous Records.